Chickenpox (Varicella) is a disease caused by infection with the varicella zoster virus. The symptoms include fever and an itchy, blister-like rash. Other more severe complications can occur, including bacterial infection of the skin, pneumonia, and swelling of the brain. Adults and adolescents are more at risk for severe disease. The following will help you recognize the symptoms of chickenpox.
Understand that chickenpox is highly contagious. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing, by direct contact, and by aerosolization of virus from skin lesions. Take the following precautions:
Keep your child at home until the blisters have formed scabs, there are no blisters present, or until no new spots are forming.
In the event of an outbreak, all susceptible children and adults should be vaccinated. Those who previously only received 1 dose of the vaccine should receive the second dose.
Look for the following symptoms if you suspect chickenpox:
The rash first appears on the face, scalp, and trunk
Get vaccinated. In about 70% to 75% of vaccinated children, chickenpox illness is typically mild, producing no symptoms at all other than a few red bumps.
Chickenpox vaccine is the best way to prevent chickenpox. 8 to 9 of every 10 people who are vaccinated are completely protected. The vaccine almost always prevents against severe disease.
Who should be vaccinated?:
People 13 years of age and older who do not have *evidence of immunity should get two doses of the vaccine 4 to 8 weeks apart.
Healthy children 12 months - 12 years of age should have two doses of chickenpox vaccine, administered at least 3 months apart.
Nonpregnant women of childbearing age.
Adults and adolescents living in households with children.
Persons who work or live in places where chickenpox transmission can occur (e.g., inmates and staff at correctional facilities, college students, military personnel).
Persons who work or live in environments in which chickenpox transmission is likely (e.g., day care workers, teachers, residents/staff at institutions).
Health care providers.
Household contacts of immunocompromised persons.
Evidence of immunity includes any of the following:
Receipt from a physician of a) a diagnosis of chickenpox or b) verification of a history of chickenpox.
Receipt from a physician of a) a diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles), or b) verification of a history of herpes zoster (shingles).
Blood tests that show the individual is immune to varicella or valid confirmation of prior disease.
If you were born in the U.S. before 1980 (excluding health-care workers, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons). These individuals need to meet one of the other criteria for evidence of immunity.
Documentation of two doses of varicella vaccine.
The majority of people who get the chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it. However, there are the rare few who may have an allergic reaction. The risk of chickenpox vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. A few problems that may occur include:
Swelling or soreness where the shot was given
Seizure caused by fever
Pneumonia (very rare)
15%–20% of people who have received one dose of chickenpox vaccine do still get chickenpox if they are exposed. If this happens, their disease is usually mild.
There can be serious complications from chickenpox. Including bacterial infections which can involve many sites of the body including the skin, tissues under the skin, lungs (pneumonia), bone, blood, and joints.
Other serious complications are due directly to infection with the varicella-zoster virus. This includes viral pneumonia, infection of the brain (encephalitis) and bleeding problems.
Chickenpox is highly contagious. It can be spread by coughing and sneezing, by direct contact, and by aerosolization of virus from skin lesions.