What is Chicken Pox?
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is highly contagious to people who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Today, a vaccine is available that protects children against chickenpox.
The chickenpox vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and its possible complications.
The itchy blister rash caused by chickenpox infection appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include:
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise)
Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:
- Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
- Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), which form in about one day and then break and leak
- Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take several more days to heal
What causes chickenpox?
Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes the chickenpox infection. Most cases occur through contact with an infected person. The virus is contagious to those around you for one to two days before your blisters appear. VZV remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over. The virus can spread through:
- contact with fluid from the blisters
Who Gets It?
Children under age 2 are most at risk for chickenpox. In fact, 90% of all cases occur in young children. But older kids and adults can get it, too.
You’re more at risk for chickenpox if you:
- Haven’t had the virus before
- Haven’t been vaccinated for it
- Work in a school or child care facility
- Live with children