Chickenpox (known medically as varicella) is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It’s spread quickly and easily from someone who is infected. Chickenpox is an airborne disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.
Complications may occasionally include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and bacterial skin infections. The disease is often more severe in adults than in children particularly pregnant women & those who smoke. Symptoms begin 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus.
The chicken pox virus is also linked to Shingles where the elderly are more at risk. For babies and those that immunosuppressed bleeding complications are greatly increased.
Most adults are immune to chickenpox– having had it in childhood– as it is very unlikely you will become infected with the disease more than once. It can be vaccinated against, requiring 2 doses to be taken 6 weeks apart, which will come into effect approximately 4-8 weeks after the 2nd dose has been administered. In the UK the vaccine is predominantly recommended to certain healthcare workers and anyone who regularly comes into contact with immune-compromised patients.
The 2nd dose vaccine is highly effective in children and can be given from 1 year of age. Vaccination or previous chicken pox illness stops the need for an immunoglobulin in high risk groups if exposed.
Signs and Symptoms
1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the chickenpox virus red spots begin to appear on the body. These will start to blister as they fill with fluid, sometimes bursting or spreading to other areas. Eventually they will crust over and turn to scabs, clearing up after around 5 days. However, the symptoms are not limited to the chickenpox rash, as sufferers may also experience sickness, aches and pains throughout the body, headaches, body temperatures exceeding 38°C and a lack of appetite.
 NHS site