Pathophysiology: Little is known about the route and the source of transmission of the virus. VZV is certainly transmissible through the airborne route and does not require close personal contact. The skin lesions are certainly full of infectious virus particles whilst in contrast, it is almost impossible to isolate virus from the upper respiratory tract. It is possible that aerial transmission originates from symptomless oral lesions.
Disease statistics: Endemic worldwide, 50% children 2y old and 98% adult population seropositive, Incidence +/- 113000 cases/year in Belgium.
Treatment: Several studies indicate that antiviral medications decrease the duration of symptoms and the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia, especially when initiated within 2 days of the onset of rash. In typical cases that involve individuals who are otherwise healthy, oral acyclovir may be prescribed. An important study by Kubeyinje (1997) suggested that the use of acyclovir in healthy young adults with zoster is not clearly justified, especially in situations of limited economic resources.
Research: Occupational risk of infection by varicella zoster virus in Belgian healthcare workers: a seroprevalence study. The prevalence of VZV seropositivity in Flemish healthcare workers was 98.5% (95% CI 98.1 to 98.8). Seronegativity was significantly associated with age and job, increasing with both older and younger age. The prevalence of seronegative workers was significantly less in nursing staff than non-nursing staff.