Chickenpox ... A Second Time?

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Doctor's Responses Archive

Viewer Question

Can you get chickenpox a second time?

Doctor's Answer

That is a good question (and not at all an easy or simple one). To answer it, we would make three points:

  1. Normally you only get chickenpox once because the virus responsible for it elicits a powerful immune reaction that is highly protective against symptomatic reinfection, preventing another bout of chickenpox.
  2. Repeat bouts of chickenpox can, however, occur in persons with severe disease of their immune system. For examples, in children and adults who are being immunosuppressed for a transplant or who have AIDS.
  3. Shingles are a special story. The varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox (varicella) can later be reactivated and cause shingles (zoster). Shingles are rare in children and become more common in adults with age. (Please see our Shingles forum)

Thank you for your question.

Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004

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