What is Varicella?
Varicella, also known as Chickenpox, is a highly contagious viral infection caused by first exposure to the varicella zoster virus. The virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets and close personal contact. The most common symptom of Chickenpox is an itchy rash which first appears as small reddish spots. The appearance of the rash is sufficient to establish a diagnosis. New spots appear for up to 3-5 days, usually in small groupings first on the trunk and then spreading to the extremities, face, and scalp. The spots blister and eventually scab over. Chickenpox is contagious from 2 days prior to the appearance of the rash until all the spots are scabbed over (approximately 6 days after the appearance of the first spots). Fever and body aches may occur before the rash. The incubation period (time between exposure and the appearance of symptoms) ranges from 10 to 21 days. After infection, the virus remains dormant in the body and lifelong immunity is usually present.