Munson Health
 
Varicella Vaccine

Back to Document

by McCoy K

(Chickenpox Vaccine)

 

What Is Varicella?

Varicella, commonly called chickenpox, is a highly contagious infection. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). It produces an itchy rash. It can cause serious complications, especially in adults, newborns, or people with weak immune systems.
VZV spreads from person to person by:
  • Airborne droplets of moisture that contain the virus
  • Direct contact with fluid from a varicella rash
It is most contagious just after the rash has broken out. It is also contagious 1-2 days before the rash erupts and until all of the blisters have crusted.
Symptoms include:
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • A rash of small, flat, red spots that become raised to form round, itchy, fluid-filled blisters
It takes about 10-21 days to develop varicella after contact with an infected person. The illness lasts 5-10 days. The rash usually develops on the face and trunk.
Treatment generally focuses on reducing itchiness, such as using anti-itch cream. Antibiotics may be used for rashes that become infected. Antiviral drugs might be considered for some patients.
Varicella can lead to scarring, pneumonia, and death in severe cases.
 

What Are the Risks Associated With the Varicella Vaccine?

The varicella vaccine, like all vaccines, can cause problems, such as severe allergic reaction. The risk of serious harm or death is extremely small. Most people do not have any problems with the vaccine.
The most common complaints are:
  • Soreness or swelling around the injection site
  • Fever
  • Mild rash
Shingles can happen after the vaccine, but it is much less common that shingles after the infection itself. Less commonly, seizure caused by fever, pneumonia, or other serious problems (such as low blood count) have been reported. There is some evidence that children are more likely to have seizures if they are given the MMRV vaccine as the first dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that parents be advised of the risk of fever and seizure. Parents should be given the option to choose the combined or separate vaccine.
 


WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

Immunization
American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www2.aap.org/immunization

Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines

 

References


Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(3):168-173.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2011. MMWR. 2011;60(5).


Chickenpox vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/varicella.html. Updated March 13, 2008. Accessed November 28, 2012.


Klein NP, Fireman B, et al. Vaccine Safety Datalink. Measles-mumps-rubella-varicella combination vaccine and the risk of febrile seizures. Pediatrics. 2010 Jul;126(1):e1-8.


Marin M, Broder KR, et al. Use of combination measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010 May 7;59(RR-3):1-12.


MMRV and Febrile Seizures. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccines/MMRV/studyfeature.html. Updated February 7, 2011. Accessed November 28, 2012.


Varicella. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 21, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2012.


Varicella (chickenpox) vaccination. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/default.htm. Updated April 5, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2012.


1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.


10/14/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Macartney K, McIntryre P. Vaccines for post-exposure prophylaxis against varicella (chickenpox) in children and adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(3):CD001833.


12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Weinmann S, Chun C, et al. Incidence and clinical characteristics of herpes zoster among children in the varicella vaccine era, 2005-2009. J Infect Dis. 2013 Dec:208(11):1859-68.

 

Revision Information