What is varicella?
Chickenpox or Varicella is a viral infection caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. This infection causes itchy rashes that appear as blisters on the skin. This disease can be spread by sneezing or coughing or direct contact without the vaccine. You could also get it by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
The disease is highly contagious, and people who have not been infected or who have not been vaccinated are at risk.
Symptoms of chickenpox include:
- Itchy blister rash that appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and lasts for 5 to 10 days.
- Decreased appetite
People with chickenpox are at risk for a complication called shingles. In some cases, the varicella-zoster virus remains in the nerve cells. Many years later, the virus reactivates and leads to painful blisters. Shingles is common in people with weakened immune systems and elderly people. In some cases, chronic pain persists even after the blisters have been disappeared.
In severe cases, the rash may cover the entire face. Lesions may also occur in the throat, eyes, and mucous membranes of the uterus, anus, and vagina. Chickenpox is often a mild infection but can cause the following complication:
- Inflammation of the brain
- Toxic shock syndrome
- Ray syndrome
- Bacterial infections of the skin, bones, soft tissues, joints, and bloodstream
Who is at risk for varicella?
- Newborns whose mothers have not been vaccinated against chickenpox
- Adolescents and adults
- Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before
- People who smoke
- People whose immune systems are weakened by taking certain medications
- People with HIV and cancer
- People who have to take drugs such as steroids due to diseases such as asthma
What is the varicella vaccine?
The varicella vaccine contains an active immunizing agent that causes the body to make a protein called an antibody against the varicella-zoster virus. In this way, long-term immunity is achieved. You will be immune to this virus if you receive two doses of the vaccine or your doctor determines that you have had chickenpox before.
The varicella vaccine is available as a Powder for Suspension and is given by a nurse or other trained health professional as a subcutaneous shot in the upper arms or front of your thighs.
Who should get a varicella vaccine?
According to the CDC, the following people need to get the varicella vaccine:
Children under 13 need two doses of the varicella vaccine:
- The first dose is injected at 12 to 15 months
- The second dose of varicella vaccine is injected at the age of 4 to 6 years
- The second dose of the vaccine can be used earlier but must be at least three months after the first dose.
People over 13 years of age who have never had varicella before and have not been vaccinated
These people also need two doses of varicella vaccine, but the interval between two injections should be at least 28 days
- Healthcare staff
- Non-pregnant women who are in childbearing age
- International travelers
- Teachers and students
- Personnel of correctional institutions
- People who work in the army
- People in contact with people with weakened immune systems
These people should consult with their physician before receiving the varicella vaccine:
- HIV-infected ones.
- Suffer cancer, but whose disease is in remission
- On low dose steroids
Getting vaccinated after exposure to varicella
If you have not been vaccinated against this viral infection and are exposed to an infected person, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated. You should receive the varicella vaccine within 3 to 5 days of being exposed. If more than five days have passed since your exposure, two doses are still necessary to protect you against future exposures. You need two doses of the varicella vaccine separated by 28 days.
Getting the vaccine after exposure with someone with the disease has the following benefits:
- Prevention of disease or at least severe form of the disease
- Prevention of disease in case of future exposure
Side effects of varicella vaccine
Each medicine, in parallel with its therapeutic effects, may lead to unwanted side effects. Side effects of the varicella vaccine include:
- Blue lips and nails
- Chest pain
- Skin rashes similar to those seen in chickenpox
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased sweating
- Irregular heartbeat and breathing
Consult with your doctor before receiving the vaccine if you:
- Have received the previous dose of varicella vaccine and have experienced a severe allergic reaction
- Are pregnant or may be pregnant
- Have a family history of inherited immune system diseases, or your immune system is weakened
- Use compounds containing salicylates such as aspirin
- Have recently received blood products
- Have been vaccinated for the last four weeks
- Have tuberculosis
Varicella vaccine in Las Vegas
You can go to the Southern Nevada Occupational Health Center (SNOHC) to receive vaccination services, including the varicella vaccine. To get any further information about other services performed at SNOHC, you can navigate through the menu of this website. We tried to cover all you need to know about the varicella vaccine and the most frequently asked questions by our clients in this center.
Frequently Asked Questions about Varicella Vaccine
Should adults get the varicella vaccine?
Yes, Healthcare staff, non-pregnant women of childbearing age, international travelers, students, and people in correctional facilities are among those who should receive the vaccine.
How often do you need the varicella vaccine?
Children under 13 and people over 13 need two doses, but there should be at least 28 days between doses in adults.
How many varicella shots are required for adults?
People over 13 who have not had varicella and have not been vaccinated need two doses, with at least 28 days between them.
Who is at risk for varicella?
Newborns whose mothers have not been vaccinated against chickenpox, Adolescents and adults, Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before