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Chickenpox or Varicella

What is Chickenpox?

This viral infection usually causes a distinctive acute skin lesion characterised by numerous fluid-filled vesicles affecting young children.

The complications include secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia and rarely viral encephalitis. Affected adults usually have more serious and distressing symptoms.

What causes Chickenpox?

It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which is spread by direct skin contact or through cough and sneeze.

What is the vaccine and how is it given?

It is a live weakened varicella virus which is given by injection just beneath the skin (subcutaneous). It is given in 2 doses 1 month apart for all age group.

Who should receive the vaccine?

Parents may choose to vaccinate their children. Adults who have not had chickenpox and who are at high risk from the infection (eg health care workers) may consider immunisation against the disease

What is Shingles?

After a chickenpox infection, the virus can remain inactive in the nerves of the person for many years. This virus can re-appear as shingles in older children and adults when the body defenses are lowered due to diseases, drugs like steroids and cancer. The shingles presents as a distinctive band of the skin lesions across one half of the face or body.

Last Reviewed : 25 April 2012
Writer : Dato’ Dr. Jimmy Lee Kok Foo
Reviewer : Dr. Ranjini S. Sivanesom