Barbara Walters Has Chickenpox!

It is well known that Barbara Walters was hospitalized after hitting her head after a fall at the British Embassy 10 days ago. Apparently she sustained a cut to her forehead which required a few stitches, but was being kept in the hospital because she was running a “low fever.”

Now we know what was causing the fever. On today’s “The View” Whoopee Goldberg announced that Barbara had come down with the chickenpox!

25 Things to Know about Chickenpox

Varicela1.  Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).

2.  Most cases occur in children under age 15 but older children and adults can get it.

3.  Symptoms include an uncomfortable, itchy rash, fever and headache. The rash is like blisters and usually appears on the face, scalp or trunk.

4.  The disease is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days, but it sometimes causes serious problems (see #11).

5. Adults and older children tend to get sicker from it.

6.  Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.

7.  A person with chickenpox can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before they get the rash until all their chickenpox blisters have formed scabs.

chickenpox238.  It takes from 10 to 21 days after exposure to a person with chickenpox or shingles for someone to develop chickenpox.

9.  If a person vaccinated for chickenpox gets the disease, they can still spread it to others.

10.  For most people, getting chickenpox once provides immunity for life. However, for a few people, they can get chickenpox more than once, although this is not common.

11. Serious complications from chickenpox include

  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • bleeding problems
  • infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
  • blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • bone infections
  • joint infections

12. The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.

13. Chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox.

14. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild—with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease.

15. CDC recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults. Two doses of the vaccine are about 98% effective at preventing chickenpox.

16. Before the vaccine, about 4 million people would get chickenpox each year in the United States. Also, about 10,600 people were hospitalized and 100 to 150 died each year as a result of chickenpox.

17. There are several things that can be done at home to help relieve the symptoms and prevent skin infections. Calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.

18. Keeping fingernails trimmed short may help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters.

19. Use non-aspirin medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve fever from chickenpox.

20. Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products to relieve fever from chickenpox. Use of aspirin with chickenpox has been linked to Reyes Syndrome.

21. Antiviral medications are recommended for people with chickenpox who are more likely to develop serious disease including

  • otherwise healthy people older than 12 years of age
  • people with chronic skin or lung disease
  • people receiving steroid therapy
  • some groups of pregnant women

22. Acyclovir, an antiviral medication, is licensed for treatment of chickenpox.

23. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that certain groups at increased risk for moderate to severe varicella (see #22) be considered for oral acyclovir treatment.

24. For maximum benefit, oral acyclovir therapy should be given within the first 24 hours after the varicella rash starts.

25. Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body forever. You probably will not get chickenpox again, but the virus can cause shingles in adults.


Source: Centers for Disease Control







Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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