Public Health Fact Sheet
What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral disease caused by the varicella zoster virus, a type of herpes virus. Typically the person experiences cold-like symptoms, a fever and a blister-like rash but can have very serious complications such as pneumonia, organ damage and sometimes death. Chickenpox is very contagious. A person of any age can get Chickenpox. The symptoms and complications of Chickenpox range from mild to severe.
How is Chickenpox spread?
Chickenpox can be spread in several different ways, including direct contact with fluid from blisters of an infected person, contact with articles soiled with discharge from blisters or mucous membranes of a person with Chickenpox, breathing in droplets projected into the air by an infected person through coughing, sneezing, etc.
How long after exposure until symptoms begin and how long is a person contagious?
Usually symptoms occur within 2-3 weeks after exposure. A person is contagious usually 1-2 days before rash onset until all blisters are crusted (usually five days).
What do I do if I am exposed or notice symptoms?
A person with Chickenpox should stay home and should be excluded from work or school for at least five days after the first appearance of the rash and until the entire rash has formed scabs. Avoid susceptible/immunosuppressed individuals and consult with your doctor for diagnosis and/or treatment. Antiviral medications can be used in certain situations.
How is Chickenpox Treated?
There is no cure for Chickenpox. Treatment is supportive care to relieve symptoms and address complications. Chickenpox
can be prevented by vaccine. The Chickenpox vaccine is a two dose series.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
- Symptoms include slight fever, flu or cold-like symptoms followed by crops of a pimple-like rash
- Pimple-like rash progresses to water filled blisters and blisters progress to scabs
- Rash can be present in all stages and causes itching
- Rash is concentrated on the central portion of the body, mostly on the trunk and face
- Can also occur on scalp and mucous membranes