Chickenpox Facts

What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella virus, a member of the herpes virus family. Chickenpox occurs more often in winter and early spring.

Two kids in a bath with red spots on their faces and chests.

Who gets chickenpox?
Chickenpox is common in the United States. Almost everyone who is not vaccinated will get chickenpox by the time they are an adult.

How is chickenpox spread?
Chickenpox is transmitted to others by person-to-person contact, by droplet or airborne spread of the virus from an infected persons nose and throat or indirectly by contact with articles freshly soiled by the virus from the infected persons sores. The scabs themselves are not considered infectious.

What are the symptoms of chickenpox?
Symptoms include sudden fever and being tired and/or weak. Then there is an itchy blister-like rash that will eventually dry, crust over and form scabs. The blisters are more common on covered parts than on uncovered parts of the body. They may appear on the head, under the arms, on the trunk, on the eyelids and even in the mouth. The disease is more serious in adults than in children.

When do symptoms appear?
Symptoms usually appear in 10-21 days after contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles.

When and for how long is a person able to spread chickenpox?
A person is able to spread chickenpox from one to two days before the rash appears until all scabs have formed.

Does past infection with chickenpox make a person immune?
Chickenpox generally results in lifelong immunity. However, this infection may remain hidden and come back years later as shingles.

What are the complications associated with chickenpox?
Infants less than one month old whose mothers are not immune and patients with leukemia may suffer severe, prolonged or fatal chickenpox. Aspirin or aspirin-containing products should never be given to a child with chickenpox.

Is there a vaccine for chickenpox?
A shot was first licensed in March 1995. It has been recommended for persons over 12 years old. Older children and adults who have had chickenpox do not need get the shot.

What can a person or community do to prevent the spread of chickenpox?
The best method to prevent further spread of chickenpox is for people infected with the disease to remain home and avoid contact with others who are at risk; paying close attention to avoid contact with babies and immune-compromised people.

Is there a treatment for chickenpox?
In 1992, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration approved a medicine, acyclovir, for treatment of chickenpox in healthy children. However, because chickenpox tends to be mild in healthy children, most doctors do not feel the need to give it.

Where can I get more information?
 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at:
 The Burlington County Department of Health at (609)265-5548
 The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDoH) at (609) 588-7465 or on the NJDoH
Website at

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