Definition of Chickenpox (Varicella)
Chickenpox is a common illness that mainly affects children and causes an itchy, spotty rash. Chickenpox is a virus infection that 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. Before routine chickenpox vaccination, virtually all people had been infected by the time they reached adulthood, sometimes with serious complications. Today, the number of cases and hospitalizations is down dramatically.
Most children will catch chickenpox at some point. It can also occur in adults who didn't have it when they were a child.
It's usually mild and clears up in a week or so, but it can be dangerous for some people, such as pregnant women, newborn babies and people with a weakened immune system.
Chickenpox is very highly contagious. It is easily passed between members of families and school classmates through airborne particles, droplets in exhaled air, and fluid from the blisters or sores. It also can be transmitted indirectly by contact with articles of clothing and other items exposed to fresh fluid from open sores.
Risk factors for Chickenpox
Chickenpox, which is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is highly contagious, and it can spread quickly. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the rash or by droplets dispersed into the air by coughing or sneezing.
Your risk of catching chickenpox is higher if you:
- Haven't had chickenpox
- Haven't been vaccinated for chickenpox
- Work in or attend a school or child care facility
- Live with children
Most people who have had chickenpox or have been vaccinated against chickenpox are immune to chickenpox. If you've been vaccinated and still get chickenpox, symptoms are often milder, with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. A few people can get chickenpox more than once, but this is rare.