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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

January 2018

State varicella activity:

Varicella Surveillance Map
  • Forty-eight confirmed and probable varicella cases were reported among 22 counties in January.
  • Reported varicella cases are starting to increase after having remained lower throughout the summer and fall. In general, varicella activity is highest during the late winter and spring. This is consistent with seasonal trends in past years.
  • From January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, 655 cases of varicella were reported among 53 of Florida’s 67 counties.
  • A decreasing trend in the number of confirmed and probable cases of varicella reported annually in Florida was observed from 2008-2014. Since then, the number of cases reported annually has remained elevated. In 2017, the number of varicella cases is slightly lower than the number observed in 2016.
  • Six outbreaks of varicella were reported in January.
  • In January, children age less than one year old had the highest incidence of varicella. This is consistent with what was observed for the majority of months in 2017.
  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent varicella infection. In January, 1 in 5 cases were not up to date on their varicella vaccinations. In general, those who received at least one dose of varicella vaccination, even if they later develop disease, have less severe outcomes than those who have never been vaccinated.
  • To learn more about varicella, please visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/varicella.

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 CDC, based on available data the number of varicella cases nationally has steadily decreased each year from 2012-2015.

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