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Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection. It produces a widespread itchy rash and crusting. The varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox. The virus can spread from person to person via:
The virus is most contagious for 1-2 days before the rash erupts and during the first day or so after the rash has broken out. It remains contagious until all of the blisters have crusted.
Because of an extensive vaccination program, the incidence of chickenpox has declined greatly in the United States. The majority of cases occur in infants, children, and adolescents under age 14. The incidence among adults 20 or older is very low. When contracted during childhood, chickenpox is usually not serious. Serious complications are more common when contracted by adolescents, adults, newborns, or people with a suppressed immune system. These complications can include:
What are the risk factors for chickenpox?
What are the symptoms of chickenpox?
How is chickenpox diagnosed?
What are the treatments for chickenpox?
Are there screening tests for chickenpox?
How can I reduce my risk of chickenpox?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
Where can I get more information about chickenpox?
Chickenpox. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chickenpox.html . Updated May 2010. Accessed May 30, 2013.
Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/ . Updated April 25, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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