Nickname: VZV or Chickenpox virus
Signs & Symptoms: VZV causes two different diseases – varicella or “chickenpox” and zoster or “shingles”.
Varicella (chickenpox) is the primary illness and causes a headache and mild fever. Then blisters or “pox” form on the skin. They crust over and heal in 1 – 2 weeks.
Zoster (shingles) is the secondary illness and is caused by the same virus that remains in the body after chickenpox is over. The virus never leaves the person’s body. It is hidden away in the nerves along the spine. Sometimes the virus travels along a nerve causing a rash and/or sores on one side of the body between the neck and the groin.
Spread: Children with chickenpox are highly contagious until the pox are healed and dry. They should not go to school or day-care until the pox are dry and crusted.
Who is at risk: Varicella usually occurs in children but zoster will occur in any age group when the immune system is weak or stressed.
Prevention: Varicella vaccinations are given to children at 12-18 months of age. Avoid contact with infected persons.