Varicella zoster virus

Common Name(s)

Varicella zoster virus

Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is a herpes virus that causes the chicken pox in children and shingles in adults. VZV first enters the body either through the respiratory tract or the eyes, and later infects the nervous system. Symptoms of fever and general discomfort are noticed between 10-21 days after initial exposure to the virus. A characteristic rash with red, spotted lesions will then appear in several stages, often spreading from the head downwards to the arms and legs. The rash will be more severe when seen in adults than in children.

Symptoms are most common in the winter and early spring. The disease may be spread through the air or by direct contact with infected individuals at any time until their rash has dried into crusted lesions. After symptoms clear, VZV remains inactive (latent) in nerves and results in lifetime immunity for most people. Reactivation later in life results in shingles (herpes zoster), which occurs in 50% of people by age 85. Shingles is most common in the elderly with weakened immune systems and who were exposed to VZV either while in the womb or at less than 18 months of age.

Complications occur most commonly in individuals younger than 1 year or older than 15 years of age, and in those with weakened immune systems due to other health problems. Complications are often caused by bacterial or viral infection of the skin lesions, especially in young children. Aseptic meningitis is the most common complication that affects the central nervous system, and will generally have mild symptoms. Encephalitis is a rarer and more serious complication that may result in seizures or coma.

Hospitalizations and complications from VZV have decreased since the introduction of the vaccine. Those affected with VZV should not take aspirin, as it may result in Reye’s syndrome, a serious condition that causes brain death and liver damage. If you have been diagnosed with VZV, talk to your doctor about the current treatment options.

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Condition Specific Organizations

Following organizations serve the condition "Varicella zoster virus" for support, advocacy or research.

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Scientific Literature

Articles from the PubMed Database

Research articles describe the outcome of a single study. They are the published results of original research.
The terms "Varicella zoster virus" returned 868 free, full-text research articles on human participants. First 3 results:

Retinitis associated with double infection of Epstein-Barr virus and varicella-zoster virus: A case report.
 

Author(s): Tomohito Sato, Riki Kitamura, Toshikatsu Kaburaki, Masaru Takeuchi

Journal: Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Aug;97(31):e11663.

 

Chronic uveitis with immunosuppressive agents could develop chronic herpetic retinitis with varicella-zoster virus (VZV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV). Ocular Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection develops uveitis and vitritis, but the clinical feature of EBV retinitis is not typical ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Encephalitis associated with Zika virus infection and reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus in a Brazilian child.
 

Author(s): Marcelo Adriano da Cunha E Silva Vieira, Alzira Almeida de Sousa Castro, Daniele Freitas Henriques, Eliana Vieira Pinto da Silva, Fernando Neto Tavares, Lívia Carício Martins, Lucas Melo Guimarães, Talita Antonia Furtado Monteiro, Raimunda do Socorro da Silva Azevedo, Ana Cecíclia Ribeiro Cruz, Pedro Fernando da Costa Vasconcelos

Journal: Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop.. ;51(3):390-392.

 

We report a case of encephalitis associated with Zika virus infection and reactivation of varicella-zoster virus in the central nervous system of a Brazilian child. This case raises the possibility that reactivation of the latent varicella-zoster virus may be a mechanism of neurological ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Varicella zoster virus productively infects human natural killer cells and manipulates phenotype.
 

Author(s): Tessa Mollie Campbell, Brian Patrick McSharry, Megan Steain, Thomas Myles Ashhurst, Barry Slobedman, Allison Abendroth

Journal:

 

Varicella zoster virus (VZV) is a ubiquitous human alphaherpesvirus, responsible for varicella upon primary infection and herpes zoster following reactivation from latency. To establish lifelong infection, VZV employs strategies to evade and manipulate the immune system to its advantage ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Reviews from the PubMed Database

Review articles summarize what is currently known about a disease. They discuss research previously published by others.
The terms "Varicella zoster virus" returned 64 free, full-text review articles on human participants. First 3 results:

Varicella-zoster virus infection: natural history, clinical manifestations, immunity and current and future vaccination strategies.
 

Author(s): Giulia Freer, Mauro Pistello

Journal: New Microbiol.. 2018 Apr;41(2):95-105.

 

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the etiologic agent of varicella (chicken pox), a childhood exanthematic disease that develops as a result of primary infection, and zoster (shingles), caused by reactivation of the virus persisting in a latent form in the dorsal sensory ganglia. Although ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Is chickenpox so bad, what do we know about immunity to varicella zoster virus, and what does it tell us about the future?
 

Author(s): Anne A Gershon

Journal: J. Infect.. 2017 06;74 Suppl 1():S27-S33.

 

Varicella and zoster continue to cause significant morbidity and even mortality in children and adults. Complications include bacterial superinfection, central nervous system manifestations such as meningitis, encephalitis, and cerebellar ataxia, and pain syndromes especially post ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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A critical appraisal of 'Shingrix', a novel herpes zoster subunit vaccine (HZ/Su or GSK1437173A) for varicella zoster virus.
 

Author(s): Tehmina Bharucha, Damien Ming, Judith Breuer

Journal: Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2017 08;13(8):1789-1797.

 

HZ/Su, branded as 'Shingrix', is one of the newest vaccines to be submitted for multi-national regulatory approval. It is targeted to prevent shingles, a global concern with aging populations. A live attenuated vaccine for shingles has been available for over a decade, however it ...

Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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Clinical Trial Information This information is provided by ClinicalTrials.gov

Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome and Varicella Zoster Virus
 

Status: Recruiting

Condition Summary: Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome; Varicella-zoster Virus Infection

 

Last Updated: 28 Aug 2018

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Efficacy Trial of a Vaccine to Prevent Herpes Zoster in Adults Over 40 Years of Age
 

Status: Recruiting

Condition Summary: Herpes Zoster

 

Last Updated: 18 Oct 2017

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Safety and Tolerability of Herpes Zoster Vaccine Rheumatologic Patients
 

Status: Recruiting

Condition Summary: Herpes Zoster

 

Last Updated: 28 Jan 2018

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