Chickenpox (Varicella Zoster)
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus. The virus is spread through:
- Contact with the fluid from chickenpox blisters or the saliva (spit) of a person who has chickenpox
What are the risks of chickenpox disease?
Chickenpox is usually a mild illness in children. A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it to her baby before birth. Infection in babies, teenagers, adults and people with weakened immune systems can be more serious.
Complications from chickenpox disease include:
- Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
- Serious bacterial infections that can cause sepsis (serious infection of the blood)
Encephalitis can lead to convulsions, deafness and brain damage. Chickenpox can cause birth defects if the mother gets chickenpox while she is pregnant. These can be fatal to the baby.
For some people the virus may become active later in life and cause a painful rash called shingles.
What are the symptoms of chickenpox disease?
The classic symptom of chickenpox disease is a rash that turns into itchy blisters that are filled with fluid. The average infected child will have about 350 blisters. Other symptoms that can occur 1–2 days before the rash appears include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache.
How can I prevent getting chickenpox?
The best way to not get chickenpox is to get immunized. The chickenpox vaccine is safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get chickenpox disease. When you get immunized you help to protect others as well.
Who should get the chickenpox vaccine?
The chickenpox vaccine is free (publicly funded) and is given in two doses. The B.C. routine immunization schedule recommends that the first dose be given at 12 months of age and a second dose starting at four years of age.
However, two doses of chickenpox vaccine are free to anyone who has never been vaccinated against chickenpox or has never had chickenpox disease after one year of age.
Get immunized against chickenpox by making an appointment with your doctor, pharmacist (for those 5 years and older) or Public Health.
To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:
Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906
Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087
For more information about chickenpox and the chickenpox vaccine, go to: