Chickenpox is a virus that spreads easily to others. It results in an itchy rash. Chickenpox can be mild for most. Some can have a severe reaction. Babies, pregnant women, adults, and those with immune system issues have a higher risk of problems.
A virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes this illness. It spreads through:
Breathing airborne droplets that have the VZV virus
Direct contact with fluid from a chickenpox rash
A pregnant mother can also pass it to her fetus.
The main risk factor is contact with someone who has chickenpox. It is most common in children under 10 years of age. It is also more common in winter and spring. Other things that may raise the chance of chickenpox infection are:
No history of chickenpox infection in the past
No history of chickenpox (varicella) immunization
Health problems or medicines that lower the ability to fight infection, such as cancer, HIV infection, or an organ transplant
Maternal exposure during pregnancy
Symptoms start about 10 to 21 days after contact. They are worse in adults.
Chickenpox. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chickenpox. Accessed October 28, 2020.
Gershon AA, Breuer J, Cohen JI, et al. Varicella zoster virus infection. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2015 Jul 2;1:15016.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Accessed October 28, 2020.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/default.htm. Accessed October 28, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 4/30/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.