San Diego man dies from complications from chickenpox

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A San Diego man died of complications from chickenpox last week, county health officials reported Wednesday.

The 51-year-old man, who had an underlying medical condition, died Friday, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. His name was withheld.

The HHSA reported that the man got sick after he was exposed to someone with shingles, which is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that results in chickenpox.

This is the first reported death from chickenpox in San Diego County in four years, when a child — a non-resident — died of the disease at a hospital. The last San Diego County resident to die from chickenpox was a 50- year-old man in 2010, according to the HHSA.

"The best way to prevent illnesses caused by the varicella-zoster virus is for children to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine and adults to get the shingles vaccine when recommended,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. "These vaccines are very safe and effective.”

Chickenpox is not reportable to local public health departments unless it occurs in an outbreak or results in a hospitalization or death. There have been four outbreaks and 37 cases of chickenpox reported in San Diego County so far this year.

Chickenpox is spread by coughing, sneezing or being in contact with chickenpox blisters. Symptoms of chickenpox include a skin rash of blister-like lesions covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk.

The risk of complications increases after puberty and includes bacterial infection of skin lesions, dehydration and pneumonia.

Most, but not all, individuals with chickenpox have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, people who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash and mild or no fever. The illness lasts about five to 10 days.

Shingles is a painful rash that can develop in people who previously had chickenpox. Health officials say there is a small chance that a person with a shingles rash can spread the virus to another person who hasn’t had chickenpox and who hasn’t received the chickenpox vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a shingles vaccine for adults over 60 years old.

More information on chickenpox, shingles and immunizations in general, is available online at www.sdiz.org, or by calling the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966.

Categories: Local San Diego News