Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus.

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus. The virus is spread through:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • 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. Infection in babies, teenagers, adults and people with weakened immune systems can be more serious. A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it to her baby before birth.

Complications from chickenpox disease include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Swelling of the brain (Encephalitis)
  • Serious infection of the blood (septicemia)
  • Bacterial infections of the skin such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease)

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.

See pictures of the chickenpox rash.

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 given in two doses and is free (publicly funded) as part of the B.C. routine immunization schedule. Anyone, who did not complete their childhood immunizations or has never had chickenpox disease after one year of age can receive two free doses. 

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 or 604-702-4840

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 

Hours of operation: Monday to Friday (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Note: When making an appointment with Public Health, you will be offered a text message reminder through the ImmunizeBC text message reminder system. 

Resources

For more information about chickenpox and the chickenpox vaccine, go to: