How Kids and Adults Get Chickenpox

May 7th 2016

The chickenpox vaccine is highly effective and recommended for all children beginning at 12 months of age. Most people who have been vaccinated never get the disease, and those who do tend to get a very mild form and recover from it very quickly. These people are, however, still contagious. Most people who have had chickenpox acquire immunity against the disease for life, although the virus can recur in its shingles form at any time during adulthood.

Transmission Through Touch

The chickenpox virus is present in each blister formed during the disease. The blisters ooze fluid, and anyone touching the blisters or fluid is exposed to chickenpox. However, once a blister scabs over and is no longer emitting fluid, it no longer spreads the disease. In addition, the mucus and saliva of an infected person contains the virus.

An adult suffering from shingles is also a carrier of the chickenpox virus. A child who has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it can catch it from an adult with shingles through the same methods of transmission.

Airborne Transmission

People infected with chickenpox can spread the disease by coughing and sneezing. The virus can enter through the nose or mouth if you breathe in any of the particles sprayed by someone with the disease.

Other Forms of Transmission

Clothing worn by someone with chickenpox may carry the live virus for a short time. In addition, pregnant women can transmit chickenpox to their unborn children, and breastfeeding mothers can pass it to their infants through breast milk. Other than these unusually rare forms of transmission, chickenpox cannot be spread through indirect contact.

The only way to prevent chickenpox from spreading is through quarantine. Infected people should not share a living space with anyone who is susceptible to infection, if at all possible. It takes anywhere from 10 to 21 days after exposure to chickenpox for the virus to manifest.


Chickenpox, a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is extremely contagious. While the disease itself is typically mild, its symptoms can be very unpleasant, and a child who has had chickenpox can have the virus resurface decades later as the very painful, related disease shingles. A person who has never had chickenpox is susceptible to infection, as is anyone who has never been protected by the chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox is also quite dangerous to people with a weakened immune system. It is most contagious before its telltale rash appears and is characterized by a fever, along with fluid-filled blisters that can cover the entire body before drying up and turning to scabs.

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