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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Chicken Pox Again
June 2002

Q. Our 3-year-old daughter had chicken pox a couple of weeks ago and my husband and I both found ourselves with what seems to be a mild case of it since. Is it possible for my husband and I, both who've had chicken pox as children, to have contracted it again?

A. Chicken pox (varicella), like most childhood illnesses, causes the immune system to make antibodies against that specific virus. Immunity usually lasts for a lifetime, but can become less potent with aging or the presence of other medical illness. A blood sample can be taken and the antibody level measured for many infectious diseases that will determine one's susceptibility. Ideally vaccination against childhood illness will give lifetime protection, but again, the immunity can wear off over time. In addition, certain other viruses can cause a rash that resembles that of varicella, and the antibodies formed would be only specific to that particular virus.

The incubation period is 2-3 weeks after exposure, and the disease is quite catching to close contacts. Anti-viral drugs are now available that can lessen the severity of illness.



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