Chicken Pox (Varicella Zoster)

Chicken Pox (Varicella-Zoster)

How could this rash be related to chicken pox? Chicken pox is now very rare in the USA. The varicella vaccine (chicken pox vaccine) is typically done at 1 year of age. The current vaccine schedule adds a second booster dose and this seems to be providing great lasting immunity. Since we don’t have long term follow-up to know if this two-vaccine schedule will give life long immunity, some parents choose to try to have their children get chicken pox naturally (the disease).

Due to great herd immunity in the USA, we rarely see cases of chicken pox. The diagnosis of varicella can be made when your child has three distinct lesions: tiny red bumps, fluid-filled bumps, and then crusted over lesions. This is the natural progression of each chicken pox lesion. They are very also very itchy.

A re-infection can occur years or decades later. It will appear as a cluster of vesicles (fluid filled lesions) in a distinct area matching a specific dermatome (an area of skin corresponding to a particular nerve root). This video shows the dermatomes and the classic appearance of herpes zoster (also known as shingles). While the shingles (herpes zoster-reactivation of the varicella/ chicken pox virus) is usually in one dermatome pattern, it may appear in several adjacent dermatomes.

One can get herpes zoster (shingles) from the natural illness of chicken pox, or this can occur in vaccinated individuals. The vaccine is a live-virus vaccine and may not be suitable for certain individuals. Check with your provider to see if you need this vaccine and whether or not you are a good candidate for not getting this vaccine. Typically immuno-compromised individuals should not get the varicella vaccine.

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