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Varicella (Chickenpox)

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Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. The rash appears first on the stomach, back and face and can spread over the entire body causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.

  • Symptoms
  • Transmission
  • Prevention

Symptoms include:

  • Blister-like rash
  • Fever that lasts about 4 to 6 days
  • Itching
  • Tiredness

Certain groups of people are more likely to have more severe illness with serious complications. These include adult, infants, adolescents, pregnant women, and people have a weakened immune system. If anyone develops symptoms that look like chickenpox, contact your health care provider.

It is spread from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected person’s coughing and sneezing. Chickenpox can be spread for 1-2 days before rash starts and until all blisters are crusted or no new lesions appear within a 24-hour period. It takes between 10-21 days after contact with an infected person for someone to develop chickenpox.  

If I have been vaccinated, can I still get chickenpox?
Yes. About 15%–20% of people who have received one dose of chickenpox vaccine do still get chickenpox if they are exposed, but their disease is usually mild.   Two doses of varicella vaccine are now routinely recommended. The first dose can be given at 12 months of age and the second dose between 4-6 years of age.

Varicella Surveillance Summary

May 2018

State varicella activity:

Map 3: This map shows the previous 3-month average varicella incidence rates per 100,000 population. Counties with one or more cases reported in May are: Escambia, Okaloosa, Gadsden, Alachua, Duval, St. Johns, Volusia, Seminole, Citrus, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Indian River, St. Lucie, Sarasota, Lee, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Collier. Counties with an incidence rate of 0.1-0.3 per 100,000 population are: Bay, Clay, Collier, Flagler, Highlands, Pasco, Polk, Miami-Dade, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Volusia. Counties with an incidence rate of 0.4-1.0 per 100,000 population are: Broward, Citrus, Columbia, Escambia, Hernando, Jackson, Levy, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, and Walton. Counties with an incidence rate of 1.1-2.1 per 100,000 population are: Gadsden, Hendry, Taylor, and Wakulla. Figure 10: The figure shows the number of confirmed and probable cases of varicella reported into Merlin from 2013 to May 2018. 220 confirmed cases and 440 probable cases in 2013. 169 confirmed cases and 398 probable cases in 2014. 231 confirmed cases and 510 probable cases in 2015. 288 confirmed cases and 445 probable cases in 2016. 208 confirmed cases and 435 probable cases in 2017. 55 confirmed cases and 109 probable cases in 2018 to date.
  • Eighty-two varicella cases were reported among 24 counties in May.
    • Varicella activity increased from last month and remained above the five-year
      average for the third month in a row.
    • From January 1, 2018 through May 31, 2018, 320 cases of varicella were reported among 44 of Florida’s 67 counties.
  • A decreasing trend in the number of cases of varicella reported annually in Florida was observed from 2008-2014. Although the number of cases was higher than the previous five years, overall the number of cases reported thus far in 2018 is similar to that seen in 2017 at this time.
  • In May, no varicella outbreaks were reported.
  • In May, children age six to 11 years old had the highest incidence of varicella. Previously in 2018, children less than one year old had the highest incidence.
  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent varicella infection. In April, 62% of cases were not up to date on their varicella vaccinations or had unknown vaccination status. In general, those who receive at least one dose of varicella vaccination, even if they later develop disease, have less severe outcomes than those who have never been vaccinated. Although cases who were up to date on their vaccinations were most likely to visit the emergency department in May, those who have never been vaccinated were more likely to require hospitalization.
  • To learn more about varicella, please visit

National varicella activity:

  • Varicella incidence decreased significantly following the vaccine becoming available in 1995 and has continued to decrease since 2006 when recommendations changed from one to two doses of varicella vaccine.
    • From 2006 –2015 all age groups saw a significant decrease in incidence with the largest decline in children age 5-9 years and age 10-14 years.
  • Although varicella is not reportable in all states and therefore not all states report varicella cases to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), based on available data the number of varicella cases nationally has steadily decreased each year from 2012-2015.

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