Varicella

Varicella is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Basics

Description

  • Commonly known as chickenpox
  • Most common in late winter and early spring
  • Vaccine has reduced incidence by 85%
  • Adults have a 15 times greater risk for death from varicella than children

Etiology

  • DNA virus:
    • Latency in cranial nerve ganglia, dorsal root ganglia, and autonomic ganglia with periodic reactivation
    • Presents as herpes zoster or shingles decades after primary infection
    • Virus is transmitted by respiratory route and direct contact with skin lesions
    • Humans are only known reservoir

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