Communicable Diseases - Chickenpox (Varicella)

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

Chickenpox (Varicella) - Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Chickenpox (Varicella) is caused by a virus. It can cause a low fever and an itchy rash. The rash starts as small red bumps that become fluid-filled, break and form scabs. It usually takes 7-10 days from the beginning of chickenpox until the last of the rash crusts over.

Chickenpox is spread like a cold, by coughing and sneezing and also by contact with fluid from the chickenpox blisters. Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be more serious. It can lead to severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage or death.

Who can get Chickenpox?

Children most often get Chickenpox, however adults can get it too if they haven’t had it as a child. When adults get it, they can be very sick.

What are the symptoms?

The chickenpox virus lives in the nose and throat and in the blisters on the skin. It is spread by direct contact with infected fluids from these areas. The virus can be spread for about 1-2 days before a rash appears and up until the blisters are crusted over.

The symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Itchy rash that begins as small fluid filled blisters that dry and form scabs
  • Tiredness

These symptoms may start 2-3 weeks after the individual has been in contact with someone with the chickenpox.

What is the treatment?

Most people do not need treatment for chickenpox. People at high risk and pregnant women can get varicella zoster immune globulin or antiviral medication.

DO NOT give any ASA or aspirin to children or adolescents with chickenpox. ASA may increase the chance that a child gets Reye’s syndrome.  Children with chickenpox will be kept out of childcare until 5 days after the rash has appeared or until the blisters have crusted over.

How can you prevent Chickenpox?

There is a vaccine that can prevent chickenpox. You can obtain this vaccine for your child from your doctor.