New variant of chickenpox virus Symptoms and prevention

A new variant of the chickenpox-causing virus

The National Institute of Virology (NIV) has found the presence of Clade 9 variant of chickenpox-causing varicella-zoster virus (VZV) for the first time in India. A clade is a subtype, genotype or group arising from a common ancestor.

NIV scientist Dr Pragya Yadav, who is also one of the authors of the study, said, “The Clade 9 is the most common VZV strain in circulation in countries like Germany, UK and US. However, this is the first study reporting the circulation of VZV Clade 9 in India.”

What is Varicella Zoster virus?

Infection with varicella zoster virus can cause chickenpox, primarily in children and adolescents, and shingles in adults. It is one of nine known herpes viruses infecting humans.

In this new study, scientists found that of the 331 suspected cases of VZV, 28 with vesicular rashes were found positive for VZV. Their analyses confirmed the circulation of Clade 1, 5 and 9 in India. Clade 1 and Clade 5 were earlier detected in the country, however, it is for the first time that Clase 9 has been detected in India, the study showed.


Is it an excuse to be worried?

She said, “Despite the detection of VZV Clade 9 variant in India, there were no significant indications of heightened disease severity in the patients. Owing to the increased surveillance during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to detect the new clade.” The study was published in ‘Annals of Medicine’ on September 6.

Symptoms to be noted

According to health experts, symptoms of chicken-pox causing Clade 9 include rash, fever, loss of appetite, headache, fatigue and an overall sense of ill health.

The chicken-pox rash usually appears 2-3 weeks after exposure to the virus. The rash appears in the form of bumps called papules. After the rash develops, the patient may experience other symptoms like fever, body ache and headache. The entire process happens over a period of 2 weeks. The patient’s infectivity continues till scab formation.

Prevention strategies

While the situation is not of panic in the country, it is still important to be aware of how to not get infected in the first place. The most effective way to prevent chickenpox is by getting vaccinated. Consult your doctor for all necessary vaccinations.

Other prevention tips include practicing good hygiene to prevent your risk of catching the virus. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day using soap and water. Make sure you clean your hands of any potential infection-causing virus especially after coughing, sneezing, or if someone or something around you looks infected. Avoid close contact with patients who have chickenpox or shingles.

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