Chickenpox
(Varicella)

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Chickenpox facts

  • Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which also causes shingles.
  • Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads by contact with someone with chickenpox.
  • Fever, malaise, and a rash (red spots, blisters, and crusted lesions) are all symptoms and signs of chickenpox.
  • Treatment for chickenpox is basically supportive.
  • Although usually self-limited, chickenpox can also cause more serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and secondary skin infections.
  • The chickenpox vaccine has resulted in a decrease in chickenpox incidence by 90% in the United States.

What is chickenpox? What causes chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a common childhood skin disease caused by a viral infection. The virus involved is called the varicella-zoster virus. Today, chickenpox is less common in the United States due to universal vaccination with the varicella virus vaccine, though it still occurs in populations that are not routinely vaccinated. Varicella-zoster virus is often categorized with the other common so-called "viral exanthems" (viral rashes) such as measles (rubeola), German measles (rubella), fifth disease (parvovirus B19), mumps virus, and roseola (human herpesvirus 6), but these viruses are unrelated except for their tendency to cause rashes.

In unimmunized populations, most people contract chickenpox by age 15, the majority between ages 5 and 9, but all ages can contract it. Chickenpox is usually more severe in adults and very young infants than children. Winter and spring are the most common times of the year for chickenpox to occur.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/5/2013

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Chickenpox (Varicella) - Side Effects Question: Did your child experience any side effects from the chickenpox vaccine?
Chickenpox - Adult Experience Question: Please describe your experience with being infected with chickenpox as an adult.
Chickenpox - symptoms Question: How did you first notice you or your child was infected with chickenpox?
Chickenpox - Treatment Question: What did your doctor recommend to treat chickenpox?
Chickenpox - complications Question: Did you or your child experience complications from chickenpox? What happened?
Chickenpox - prevention Question: Were you or your child vaccinated against chickenpox? Why or why not did you decide to get the vaccine?
Learn about signs, symptoms and complications of chickenpox.

Chickenpox Vaccine for My Child?

My children were not vaccinated against chickenpox. When they were young, we were living in Europe, where the medical community does not encourage immunization against this disease. Consequently, my kids developed chickenpox at an early age, during one month in which over 30 children in our neighborhood became infected.


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