Varicella-Zoster Virus

Overview of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. It is spread easily from those infected, to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. The most common cases of Chickenpox lasts about 5-10 days. Before the vaccine was introduced in 1995, about 4 million people would get chickenpox each year in the United States.

History of Chickenpox

Before the chickenpox vaccine came out in 1995, it is estimated that about 4 million people got chickenpox just in the early 90s. The incidence rate for chickenpox in the United States as of 2014 is approximately 1 in 2,254 or 0.04% or 120,624 people. Since the vaccination came out in 1995, the amount of deaths and outbreaks of chickenpox have decreased significantly. For example, in 1995 there was 124 deaths from chickenpox. As of 2007, there was only 6 deaths from chickenpox.

Chickenpox Vaccine

For the vaccine, it is recommended that you receive two doses of the vaccine. Children should receive the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. Two doses of the vaccine are known to be about 98% effective at preventing the chickenpox disease.

Recommended control measures:

The best way to prevent getting chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. It is recommended that children, adolescents, and adults have two doses of the chickenpox vaccine. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually a mild case with symptoms such as fewer blisters and mild to no fever.

Transmission of the chickenpox disease

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus can spread easily from those infected with chickenpox to others who have never had the disease or received the chickenpox vaccine.

-The virus is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes or by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.

Chickenpox can also be spread from people with shingles. Varicella-zoster virus also causes shingles. A person with shingles can spread the virus to others who have never had chickenpox or those that have not received the chickenpox vaccine.

- It is said to take anywhere from 10 to 21 days after exposure to a person with chickenpox or shingles for someone to develop chickenpox.

Signs and symptoms

The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters. These fluid filled blisters will eventually turn into scabs. The most common place the rash will first be seen is on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body. In severe cases, the chickenpox rash may end up inside the mouth, on the eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for the blisters to become scabs. Other symptoms that may begin to appear 1-2 days before rash include:

  • high fever
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • headache


Chicken pox complications are not very common in "healthy people" who may get the disease.

Some people who may have more severe symptoms and may be at a higher risk for complications include:

  • Infants
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Pregnant women
  • Or people with weakened immune systems because of illness or medications; for example, people with HIV/AIDS or cancer

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