PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus, a type of herpes virus, and is highly contagious.
How is it spread?
- 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.
- Contagious usually 1-2 days before rash onset until all blisters are crusted (usually 5 days).
How is it treated?
A child’s physician can recommend lotion or bath preparation to relieve itching and acetaminophen to control fever. Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin (VZIG) is effective in preventing or modifying disease if given within 96 hours after exposure. VZIG should be considered for high risk contacts such as immunodeficient persons and newborns of mothers who develop chickenpox within 5 days prior to or 48 hours after delivery.
How can we prevent Chickenpox?
Chickenpox vaccine (Varivax) is recommended for children, adolescents, and adults without a reliable history of chickenpox.
- Two doses of vaccine are recommended for children 12 months to 12 years of age.
- Adults and adolescents, 13 years of age and older need a single dose of vaccine followed by a second dose 4 weeks later.
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.