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When Adults Get Chickenpox

We think of chickenpox as a childhood disease, but there are adult cases and they tend to lead to more serious complications.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus and it is extremely contagious. Most people are exposed in childhood (or they receive the chicken pox vaccine), and so adults rarely contract it. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women because the fetus can become infected. The latency period from infection exposure to disease is 10 to 21 days.

Some people call shingles “adult chickenpox.” Shingles (varicella zoster) is caused by a latent chickenpox virus that has laid dormant for years in the nerve root and rears it’s ugly head later. The cause of the reactivation of the virus is usually never found, and it occurs most commonly in people over age 60. Shingles does not spread over the skin like chickenpox and stays in one discrete nerve dermatome area. It can be extremely painful, causing burning pain and skin sensitivity.

Shingles can be contagious to people who have never had chickenpox, and exposure will cause a chickenpox — not shingles — outbreak.

Treatment for both adult chickenpox and shingles is acyclovir or Famvir or Valtrex. The sooner these anti-viral medications are started, the better they work to shorten pain and time of the infection. For information on the shingles vaccine, click HERE.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*


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