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Chickenpox Is Highly Contagious: This Is How It Spreads
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  • Editor’s Note: This article is intended for information purposes only. It does not substitute a doctor. It is vital to always consult a medically trained professional for advice that suits your needs best.

    A lot people, especially children, still get the chickenpox even if there's already a vaccine for it. That's why family doctors, medical experts, and health officials are one in telling parents to have their children vaccinated.

    What is chickenpox?

    Chickenpox, which is called bulutong tubig in Filipino, is a highly contagious viral disease. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), thus it is also called varicella, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can develop into a serious condition for babies, teenagers, pregnant women, and adults with weak immune system.

    The CDC says chickenpox used to be a common disease in the U.S., with an average of about 4 million cases of infection during the 1990s. But when the vaccine was introduced in 1995, the numbers started dropping and eventually became manageable.


    The chickenpox vaccine is likewise widely available in the Philippines, but chickenpox remains one of the leading causes of morbidity. In 2019, for instance, outbreaks of the disease were reported in Iloilo and Davao.

    Symptoms of chickenpox

    These include:

    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Stomach pain
    • Appearance of a rash

    The appearance of a rash is a clear indication that your child has chickenpox. Rash patches usually appear around the stomach, back, and face. At first, you may think those are pimples but they are quite itchy.

    Within 24 hours, according to Seattle Children's, the appearance of the rash will change. From looking like pimples, they will turn into blishes with water inside. Then they will become lesions or wounds, especially when scratched, and will dry up to color brown.

    Additional symptoms include:

    • Ulcers, or lesions, around the mouth, eyelashes, or even the delicate parts of the body
    • Continuous fever, especially there a plenty of lesions
    • The rash becoming itchy
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    How does chickenpox spread?

    Chickenpox, or varicella, is less contagious than measles, but more contagious than mumps and rubella, or German measles. All four viral diseases, the CDC says, have similar transmission. Varicella, for one, can be easily spread from person to person by: 

    • Direct contact
    • Inhalation of aerosols from vesicular fluid of skin lesions of acute varicella or zoster, or possibly infected respiratory secretions that also may be aerosolized

    If your child or anybody in your house has chickenpox, they have to isolate so as not to spread the virus. They are considered contagious starting one to two days prior to the appearance of rash and up until the rash turned into lesions and have crusted. Vaccinated people can get what is called breakthrough infection, the CDC points out, but they may only develop lesions that do not crust.

    Bear in mind that those with chickenpox can still spread the virus unless no lesions appear within 24 hours. You will only know that the virus has been passed on to another person in 10 to 21 days after exposure.


    Citing studies of transmission among household members, the CDC estimates about 9o percent of susceptible close contacts will get varicella after exposure to a person with disease. It adds that "although limited data are available to assess the risk of VZV transmission from zoster, one household study found that the risk for VZV transmission from herpes zoster was approximately 20% of the risk for transmission from varicella."

    Transmission from breakthrough infection can be contagious, too, according to one study of varicella transmission in household settings. It found that people with mild breakthrough varicella, like with less than 50 lesions, who were vaccinated with one dose of varicella vaccine were "one-third as contagious as unvaccinated people with varicella."

    On the other hand, people with breakthrough varicella with 50 or more lesions were found to be just as contagious as unvaccinated people with the disease. That's why it's important to know how does chickenpox spread, thus avoiding an outbreak.


    Read here on how to treat chickenpox marks.

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