Chickenpox

(Varicella)

Definition

Chickenpox is a virus that spreads easily to others. It creates an itchy rash. The infection can also cause serious complications in some people.
Chickenpox
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It spreads from person to person through:
  • Airborne droplets of moisture containing the VZV virus
  • Direct contact with fluid from a chickenpox or zoster rash
A pregnant mother can transmit the virus to a fetus.

Risk Factors

Chickenpox is more common in children under 10 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of chickenpox include:
  • Close contact with an infected person, unless you have been vaccinated or have already had chickenpox
  • Conditions or medications that suppress your immune system, such as cancer , HIV infection, an organ transplant, or high-dose steroid use
  • Pregnancy
  • Time of year—late winter, early spring

Symptoms

Symptoms break out about 10-21 days after contact. They are more severe in adults than they are in children.Initial symptoms include:
  • Mild headache
  • Moderate fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Severe itch
  • Lack of appetite
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Abdominal pain
The rash appears within 1-2 days after the first symptoms. The rash:
  • Begins with small, flat, red spots:
    • Spots become raised and form a round, intensely itchy, fluid-filled blister
    • Blisters develop in clusters, with new clusters forming over 5-6 days
  • Usually develops into patches on the skin above the waist, including the scalp
  • May also appear on the eyelids, in the mouth, upper airway, voice box, or on the genitals
  • Typically crusts over by day 6 or 7 and disappears within 3 weeks

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