Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection in which a person develops extremely itchy blisters all over the body and it is common childhood disease caused by a virus in the herpes family of viruses called the varicella virus. The varicella virus can remain in the body for decades and become active again in adults, causing herpes zoster (shingles). Shingles involves the occurrence of painful skin sores along the distribution of nerves across the trunk or face.
Itchy blisters on a red base, progressing to scabs, appear along with newer blisters, mainly on the trunk, face, and scalp and last 5 to 10 days. Other symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite.The chickenpox rash occurs about 10 to 21 days after coming into contact with someone who had the disease. The average child develops 250 to 500 small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters over red spots on the skin.
Chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild—with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease.
In Australia, a single dose of varicella vaccine is available on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) at 18 months of age using the four-in-one combination vaccine which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV vaccine). • A single ‘catch-up’ dose of monovalent varicella vaccine, delivered in the school based program, is available on the NIP for adolescents with no history of chickenpox or previous vaccination. • People ≥14 years of age who are not immune to chickenpox require 2 doses of varicella vaccine at least 1 month apart. • Varicella vaccination is recommended for all adults who have not previously had chickenpox or received the vaccine, especially healthcare workers, childcare workers and household contacts of people who are immunocompromised