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: Varicella (chickenpox) is a widespread disease of childhood resulting from a primary infection with varicella-zoster virus (VZV). In France, an age-specific prevalence study reported seroprevalence rates of about 50% by the age of 4 years and 90% by 8 years. The disease is usually benign but may lead to severe complications and occasionally death. In France, varicella vaccines have been available since 2004 but are not yet recommended on a routine basis.
Treatment: Several studies indicate that antiviral medications decrease the duration of symptoms and the likelihood of post herpetic 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.
Research: More recently, a national surveillance network based on 165 pediatric wards in hospitals located throughout France reported 1,575 hospitalizations related to varicella between March 2003 and July 2005, including 38 (2.4%) cases requiring intensive care. This survey showed that complications, especially cutaneous superinfections, were the major reasons for hospitalizations due to VZV infection and that the number of such complications increased steadily between the ages of 3 months and 1 year.