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Information about chickenpox

What Is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a rash illness caused by a virus. Once a person is exposed to the chickenpox virus, it takes between 2 and 3 weeks before the symptoms appear. Chickenpox usually occurs in childhood. Adults who contract chicken pox are usually more ill, especially with pneumonia. Chickenpox is very common and highly contagious. Approximately 3 million cases occur each year in the United States. More than 90% of Chickenpox cases occur in children less than 12 years of age.

Personal story about chickenpox.

Symptoms of Chickenpox

The symptoms of chickenpox vary from individual to individual. Some people may experience all of these symptoms while others experience one or two.

The most common symptoms of chickenpox are:

  • Mild fever. The fever varies between 101º F to 105º F and returns to normal when the blisters have disappeared.
  • backache
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • a rash (red spots)
  • blisters filled with fluid

How is Chickenpox Transmitted?

Chickenpox is transmitted through the air. When a patient with chickenpox coughs or sneezes, they expel tiny droplets that carry the chicken pox virus (varicella-zoster virus, VZV). If a person who has never had chicken pox inhales these particles, the virus enters the lungs and is carried through the blood to the skin where it causes the typical rash of chicken pox. The infected droplets cause an initial infection in the respiratory epithelium.

The incubation period of chickenpox is between 10 and 20 days.

Before the typical rash appears, patients often develop a fever, headache, swollen glands and other flu like symptoms.

Skin vesicles contain the virus but are not the primary sources. Scabs are not infectious. Patients are contagious from 2 days before onset of the rash until all lesions have crusted.

Can Chickenpox be prevented?

Chickenpox can be prevented . The easiest way to prevent catching chicken pox is to get vaccinated. However, vaccination is only successful in 70% to 90% of all vaccinations. Individuals who have been vaccinated but still acquire chickenpox, usually have a milder disease that heals more quickly than non vaccinated individuals.

Chickenpox and Pregnancy


Chickenpox can cause serious problems during pregnancy, especially when infection occurs early in the pregnancy or at the time of delivery. If chickenpox occurs early in pregnancy, several types of fetal abnormalities, including limb abnormalities, scarring of internal organs and neurological damage can occur. Pregnant women who suspect exposure to chickenpox should immediately contact their healthcare provider.

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