Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is warning parents and caregivers of young children that cases of chickenpox are on the rise, primarily after exposure to a family member with shingles.

KGVO News spoke with Jessica Lopeman, Communicable Disease Nurse Consultant about the increase in chickenpox cases.

Unvaccinated Children Getting Chickenpox after Exposure to Adults with Shingles

“We've seen an uptick in cases recently of Varicella or chickenpox,” began Lopeman. “It's the same disease, but it just has a couple of different names. Specifically, we've seen chickenpox diagnoses after maybe a parent or grandparent had shingles. So really, we wanted to make sure that the Montana public knew that shingles can be transmitted to kids or other people who have never had chickenpox vaccine or have never had chickenpox disease.”

Tricia Gardner, DPHHS Immunization Section Supervisor, said getting young children fully immunized against chickenpox is the best way to protect them from someone with a painful case of shingles.

Montana Talks logo
Get our free mobile app

A Primer on Chickenpox Vaccinations

“As Jessica mentioned, I think one of the best things that we can do is make sure that children are up to date on their vaccinations for the chickenpox,” said Gardner. “It's a set of a series of two shots over a number of different years. So the first dose children should receive at age 12 months to 15 months, and then they should receive another one right before they start kindergarten or as they're starting kindergarten, so that four to six year range.”

Every mom knows what chickenpox looks like, but Lopeman provided the details of the virus.

“Chickenpox typically starts with a fever, a general malaise, or just not feeling well,” she said. “Then usually a few days later you start with the rash. The rash typically starts on the trunk, the middle of your body, and moves outwards. Those who are unvaccinated can get upwards of 500 separate spots from the chickenpox. They’re red and they become itchy if you scratch them, and they can open up and ooze. But usually after about five days, the rash starts to crust over.”

Complications from Chickenpox are Rare but they Can Occur

Gardner said the vast majority of children will come through chickenpox just fine, but there can be some complications.

“This last year we had two individuals hospitalized for chickenpox,” she said. “They actually had the chickenpox in their spinal fluid and they were quite sick actually. People can die from chickenpox. It is rare, but it does happen. The easiest, most simple thing is to get your child vaccinated. It can be given at the same time as other vaccines, so it's not even an extra appointment at the doctor's office, because you're already there.”

Chickenpox is an illness with a rash and a fever. Like shingles, chicken pox is also caused by the varicella virus. The rash usually appears 14 to 16 days following exposure to the varicella virus but can be as early as 10 days or as long as 21 days.

PHOTOS: Luxurious Historic Wilma Penthouse for Sale in Missoula, Montana

If you've ever wondered what the penthouse on the fourth floor of the Historic Wilma Theater looks like, here's a peek inside.

LOOK: States with the most people earning $1 million or more

Stacker examined Internal Revenue Service tax return data to see which states had the highest share of people who earned $1 million or more in 2019.

More From Montana Talks