shingles aren’t just for houses

Are these chicken pox?
My neighborhood has been in an uproar recently about the contagiousness of chicken pox and shingles.  It is time for a little general knowledge dissemination.
Varicella zoster virus is the culprit.  It is one of 8 herpesviruses known to cause human infection.  There are 2 distinct forms:  varicella (“chicken pox”) and herpes zoster (“shingles”).  The primary or first infection of the virus results in chicken pox.  After that the virus lives in the body but is hibernating.  If or when it resurfaces, it causes shingles. 


The vaccine was created in 1995.  My three children have been vaccinated, and I recommend the vaccine to my patients.  The first dose is given at 12 months and then a booster at the “kindergarten physical”—between ages 4 and 6. 
Chicken pox is wildly contagious!  90% of household contacts get the infection if not vaccinated.  It is spread by nasopharyngeal secretions (spit) or by touching the pox lesions (ew!).  The vector (patient) is contagious to others 48 hours BEFORE they get a rash and stay contagious until all the pox are scabbed over which may take about 2 weeks.  The incubation time from contracting the virus to the beginning of a rash is 14 – 16 days.  Chicken pox is usually not harmful in children (except for those itchy pox lesions), but can be severe in adolescents, adults, and immunocompromised people.  Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, and sore throat, followed by the beginning of the rash.
If I get a varicella vaccine can I still get the chicken pox?  Yes.  20% of those who get the vaccine get a breakthrough infection.  This is usually mild.                        

chicken pox

There are also criteria for vaccinating those people who think they never had chicken pox.  Vaccination is important for

  •  people older than 13 years old without immunity(which can be tested by a bloodtest). 
  • healthcare workers
  • those who have immunocompromised houseguests
  • childbearing-age females. 
    Well. . . there are the nuts and bolts!

About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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1 Response to shingles aren’t just for houses

  1. Thanks for the comments. They are much appreciated. My husband and I are from Reno, Nevada. Are you a University of Nevada School of Medicine alumnus, too?

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