Chickenpox (Varicella)

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Can a vaccine prevent chickenpox?

The current aim in the U.S. and many other countries is to achieve universal (or nearly universal) immunization of children with the chickenpox vaccine. The vaccination requires only two shots and is very safe and effective. The first vaccination is given at about 1 year of age, and the second (booster) is given at 4 years of age. If an older person has not had chickenpox, the shot may be given at any time. There have been very few vaccine side effects. All children, except those with a compromised immune system, should have the vaccination. Varicella vaccine is the most commonly refused childhood vaccine; parents may still view chickenpox as the least severe vaccine-preventable disease. Prior to varicella vaccine licensure in 1995, however, there were 4 million cases of chickenpox infection annually, resulting in more than 10,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths per year in the United States. Since licensure, universal immunization has reduced by 80% annual morbidity, mortality, and hospitalizations from chickenpox.

What is the prognosis of chickenpox?

The prognosis of uncomplicated chickenpox is generally good when acquired in childhood, and even in most adults, after the chickenpox rash goes away. Most people never experience chickenpox symptoms again after the first occurrence, and they are immune to other people's chickenpox. This is because the virus remains dormant in the nervous system; this also means that chickenpox can sometimes resurface later in life as shingles (zoster).

REFERENCES:

Marin, M., H.C. Meissner, and J.F. Seward. "Varicella Prevention in the United States: A Review of Successes and Challenges." Pediatrics 122.3 Sept. 1, 2008: e744-e751.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Chickenpox (Varicella)." <http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/index.html>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2016
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