The childhood viral disease caused at least two baseball players from the Kansas City Royals to be sent home to recover, according to the ballclub.  Right fielder Alex Rios and reliever Kelvin Herrera both contracted the chickenpox virus on the team’s weekend trip to play the Tampa Bay Rays.

This pustulovesicular rash represents a generalized herpes outbreak due to the Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) pathogen/CDC
This pustulovesicular rash represents a generalized herpes outbreak due to the Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) pathogen/CDC

Rios began showing small blister-like symptoms on his chest on Saturday and reported to Royals trainer Nick Kenney. The next day, Herrera started to show symptoms. A Tampa physician confirmed the diagnosis.

When they will return is unknown; however, Kenney notes, “They have to be completely healed before they can be brought back and integrated into a whole group.”

Other teammates say they contracted chickenpox as a child or were vaccinated.

Kenney also cautioned that just because one is vaccinated or has had chickenpox doesn’t completely rule them out from getting the virus.

“It’s a small chance, but there are no 100 percents,” Kenney said. “We’re still on alert. We’re telling our players, ‘If you see anything we need to inspect it.’ We’re still in heightened mode. Right now, we got two days in between our last incident. I feel good about it, but not about great.”

Chickenpox is a common, usually benign childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a member of the herpes family. This virus causes two distinct diseases; varicella (chickenpox) is the primary infection, and later when VSV reactivates,herpes zoster (shingles).

Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing, by direct contact and by aerosolization of the virus from skin lesions. You can also get it by contact with the vesicle secretions fromshingles.

The disease is characterized by fever and a red, itchy skin rash of that usually starts on the abdomen, back or face and then spreads to nearly all parts of the body. The rash begins as small red bumps that appear as pimples or insect bites. They then develop into thin-walled blisters that are filled with clear fluid which collapse on puncture. The blisters then breaks, crusts over, and leaves dry brown scabs.

What is smallpox and how does the clinical presentation differ from chickenpox?

The chickenpox lesions may be present in several stages of maturity and are more abundant on covered skin rather than exposed. Lesions may also be found in the mouth, upper respiratory tract and genitals.

Chickenpox is contagious from 1-2 days before the rash forms and continues until all the lesions are crusted over (usually about 5 days).

This disease is more serious in adults than in children. Complications of chickenpox are rare, but includepneumonia, encephalitis and secondary bacterial infections.

Infection with this virus usually gives lifelong immunity, although second attacks have been documented in immunocompromised people. The viral infection remains latent, and disease may recur years later as shingles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chickenpox vaccine is the best protection against chickenpox. The vaccine is made from weakened varicella virus that produces an immune response in your body that protects you against chickenpox. The chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today

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