Monday, May 07, 2007

Chicken Varicella

Varicella is not, as you may have thought, a type of pasta. It is in fact more commonly known (in English at least) as chicken pox. Varicella is just the official name of the virus. Although to be more accurate the virus is actually known as "Varicella-Zoster" which sounds less like a pasta and more like a ski resort in Switzerland. Interestingly (or not), in Hungarian it is known as Bárányhimlő which means "lamb-pox". The reason it's called chicken pox in English is nothing to with chickens, just that it was perceived as a small and decidedly un-deadly version of smallpox, and the humble chicken seemed to fit the bill. I'm assuming it got named after a cuddly little fluffy lamb in Hungarian for the same reason. I'm afraid I have no idea as to what it is called in Romanian. Perhaps hamsterpox or something.

Anyway, cuddly and fluffy it may be by name, but cuddly and fluffy it isn't necessarily by nature. Paula has had it since Thursday and this weekend has been extremely unpleasant for all of us (her particularly). Not only does she have a raging fever, but she is covered from head to toe in itchy spots which are driving her mad (and, indirectly, us too). In my investigative reading of anything I can find on the internet which might suggest ways of reducing her irritation, I have discovered that there now exists a vaccination for Varicella, which she could have had from 9 months old. I bloody wish she had, and that we'd known about it. Let this post be a strong piece of advice for all parents to go ahead and get your child vaccinated. Even if it's not offered as a semi-compulsory jab in your state health system, it must be possible to buy the vaccine and have a nurse administer it. Do it. Believe me. It cannot be worth watching your own child attempt to tear her hair out in anger and frustration and exhaustion (did I mention she hasn't slept either?), and to actually wonder, in all seriousness, whether it is possible to buy a baby sized straightjacket to stop her scratching.

One of the more intriguing things about using the internet as your primary resource for health tips is that it throws up all sorts of contradictions - especially across languages. For example, all English language websites I have found recommend a cool bath as a way to ease the itching. Whereas Hungarian ones say you shouldn't have baths, only showers. We've noticed this before, but it seems particularly pronounced in the case of chicken/lamb pox. The most baffling thing is that apparently calamine lotion, which is used worldwide for the treatment of chicken pox sores (and many other dermatological needs), is actually banned in Hungary. There's something about it causing infection - even though everywhere else in the world people are slathering it all over their pus-y and blistered children. It's quite quite bizarre. (Fortunately it is not banned in Romania, so while Erika is nervous about putting it on - having read all this anti-calamine propaganda - we have managed to get some and are using it)


Anonymous said...

The Romanian name is "varsat de vant". A rough translation would be "wind barf". Varsat - the simple, non windy version - is the name for its'big and ugly sister disease, variola.

PS - get the beers cooling. We're hitting Csikszereda this weekend.

Angus said...

My sympathies! Jaime had it when I was in the UK and now Kezia over the last few days. The worts thing for Kezia is that she is hospitalised and in isolation. Seems this pissing her off more than the chickenpox itself. Hopefully, out tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for all of you. But I can tell that I have been vaccinated (as most of Romanian born childs were) and I still got varicella. More than 20 years later after the vaccination, but still got it. And having to refrain from scratching in places I never had nor suspected that an itch could occure was terrible.