New strain of highly contagious chickenpox virus found first time in India

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A new strain of varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox, known as clade 9, has been detected in India for the first time, according to health officials.

The National Institute of Virology (NIV) in India found clade 9 variants while conducting surveillance for monkeypox (mpox) cases.

“During the surveillance of mpox, we encountered cases of VZV in suspected mpox cases amongst children and adults,” the study said.

Out of 331 suspected cases of monkeypox, 28 were found to actually be triggered by VZV.

While other variants of this virus, including clade 1 and clade 5, have been previously found in India, this represents the first time that clade 9 has been detected.

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Clade 9 is the most common strain of the chickenpox-causing virus in countries such as Germany, the UK and the US. 

The World Health Organisation explains the virus causes highly contagious chickenpox.

Mainly passed on through contact with infected droplets, aerosols, or direct contact with respiratory secretions, the strain can cause mild symptoms in children but tends to be more severe in adults. 

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The tell-tale signs include an itchy rash that usually strikes on the scalp and face first, according to the WHO.

Other common symptoms of clade 9 infection include rashes, headache, loss of appetite, fever and overall sense of ill health.

These red flags tend to appear two or three weeks after you’ve been exposed to the virus.

In rare cases, VZV can spur on severe complications after progressing to the central nervous system.

The researchers concluded that it’s “critical” to distinguish chickenpox from measles, bacterial skin infections, scabies, syphilis, medication–associated allergies, and mpox.

Furthermore, they are calling for monitoring and surveillance of VZV infections in the country.

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