It is a mild disease. In appearance, the eruption is a sort of combination of measles and scarlet fever. The early symptoms are sore throat, a little headache, and low temperature before the eruption.
Patients should be quarantined until after the disappearance of the rash, but this rule is not strictly enforced. The patients are so mildly ill and the disease is so little dangerous that it is not treated with very much seriousness, and probably properly so.
The New York Department of Health excludes the patient with German measles from school for seven days, and this is about the average of most health department rules.
Chicken-pox is also usually a mild disease which, however, may be quite alarming in the early stages because it may be mistaken for smallpox. Besides that, the early symptoms of headache and pain in the back are extremely severe, and make the patient and parents think that a far graver disease is present.
The “pocks” of chicken-pox are widely scattered on the body, and are more liable to be present on the chest and back and abdomen than they are on the hands, feet and head, which latter distribution is characteristic of smallpox. However, few patients with chicken-pox escape a few pocks on the face, and almost invariably these leave slight scars. In fact, chicken-pox is more liable to leave a depressed scar than smallpox, and so far as I know, there is no way to prevent this scarring.
So far as treatment is concerned, chicken-pox needs little consideration. The disease is self-limited and the treatment is of slight importance. The patient need be kept in bed only about 24 hours, and aside from a light catharsis, the only treatment required is usually local treatment of the pocks. These should be softened with vaseline or some similar substance, and by all odds the patient should be kept from scratching them when they are healing. It is very difficult to prevent this because itching is frequently marked and very distressing.
Calomine or zinc oxide lotion have been recommended to stop this. Scratching these pocks almost invariably results in scarring.
The quarantine for chicken-pox is not very rigidly enforced, and quite properly so. Most school authorities allow children with chicken-pox to return to school 24 hours after the pocks have healed.
The disease is one of the most contagious in the world, but so mild that attempts to prevent epidemics are hardly worth the trouble that they require. In fact, all such attempts are usually entirely fruitless.