The History of Chicken Pox - Sarah Woodbury

The History of Chicken Pox

Sadly, this post is relevant because my youngest son, who is eight, came down with chicken pox two days ago.  I have no idea where he got it and even worse, he has had it before, though as a five month old child, which seems to be why he was able to get it again.  I’d hoped that having it a second time might mean a milder infection, but it’s not looking good right now.  He has spots in some VERY uncomfortable places.

Chicken Pox, so named, has been around for a long time.  From the CDC:  “Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is an infectious disease. Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected person’s coughing or sneezing. A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. It takes from 10-21 days after contact with an infected person for someone to develop chickenpox.”

My son exhibits the classic chicken pox blister, which his doctor describes as ‘a water droplet on a rose petal’.  That sounds better than it is.

Historically speaking:  “There was a description of an affliction similar to chicken pox more than 2,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia. In the late 800’s/early 900’s AD, Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi, also known as Razi, recorded some of the first known information on chicken pox and noted the differences between measles and small pox. Later in the 1500’s Giovanni Filippo was able to give a more detailed description of chicken pox.”

“Numerous explanations have been given on the emergence chicken pox, as the name. The English literary critique recommended that disease was not more dangerous than small pox. It got the name chicken pox because the blisters that appeared seemed like the skin that has been pecked by the chicken. Another theory is that the blistered that appeared looked like the chickpeas and was similar to the size of a seed. The term chicken pox is derived from an Old English term called “giccin”, meaning itching. During the medieval period, the word “pox” meant curse. People believed that chicken pox was a curse, which was brought down on children with black magic.”

“Giovanni Filippo (1510-1580) of Palermo gave the first description Chicken Pox. In 1600s, English Physician named Richard Morton mistook this disease with small pox he thought it was a milder form of smallpox.

In 1767, William Heberden, English physician became the first person demonstrated that small pox was different from chicken pox. Heberden showed how chicken pox was a mild disease and stressed that a person who has had chicken pox remained immune.

In 1875, a scientist discovered that chickenpox was caused by an infectious agent. Rudolf Steiner, took fluid from the chickenpox blisters of an infected person and rubbed it on the skin healthy volunteers. They too developed the itchy, bumpy rash.

In 1909, Von Bokay suggested that chickenpox and shingles were related infections, and idea that was confirmed in the 1920s and 1930s when children inoculated with fluid from zoster vesicles were shown to contract chickenpox.”

Update 1/11/2013:  as it turned out, all three of my boys came down with chicken pox, even though the middle one (15 years old) already had it, and we thought the 19 year old had as well. The 15 year old had been infected when he was 4 years old by a preschool classroom of vaccinated kids, every single one of whom came down with chicken pox. Guess it wasn’t a strong enough strain to provide a longer lasting immunity. My nineteen year old had such a serious case that he had upwards of fifty pox on each forearm. Hideous. Thankfully, they all recovered well.