Varicella Zoster Virus Facts

Varicella Zoster Virus Facts
The varicella zoster virus is the virus that causes chicken pox in the younger population and herpes zoster, or shingles, in older adults. Varicella zoster virus is also known as the human herpes virus type 3 (HHV-3). The varicella zoster virus multiplies in an infected person's lungs and causes chicken pox. Once chicken pox has cleared the virus goes dormant, hiding in the cranial, dorsal root, and autonomic nerves. In later life the varicella zoster virus can reactivate and cause a shingles infection and other neurologic issues. Complications of the initial infection and outbreak of chicken pox can include pneumonia, bronchitis, and encephalitis.
Interesting Varicella Zoster Virus Facts:
The varicella zoster virus is a close relative of the herpes simplex viruses.
It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20% of those infected with the varicella zoster virus will be affected by shingles later in life as a result of the dormant virus reactivating.
The varicella zoster virus is also capable of affecting an infected person's central nervous system.
Complications of the varicella zoster virus can include zoster multiplex, stroke (due to inflammation of the arteries), Mollaret's meningitis, postherpetic neuralgia, herpes ophthalmicus, myelitis, and zoster sine herpete.
The varicella zoster virus genome was only first sequenced in 1986.
There is a vaccine for chicken pox that has been available in many countries since 1995.
There is concern that the vaccine may actually result in a worse infection due to varicella zoster virus later in life once the immunity has worn off, as there is a belief that the vaccine does not offer lifelong protection.
Chicken pox was first noted in ancient times but the association between the varicella zoster virus and chicken pox was not discovered until 1888.
Chicken pox is a disease characterized by an itchy ash and blisters that can appear on the skin, in the mouth, and even on the eyelids. It also results in a fever, headaches, and tiredness.
In people with weak immune systems chicken pox can become life threatening.
Prior to the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine in the United States, the number of children affected included approximately 4 million. Out of those infected, more than 10,500 required hospitalization. Roughly 100 to 150 of those hospitalized died.
The spread of chicken pox and the varicella zoster virus is accomplished by touching the blisters of an infected person or through coughs or sneezing that puts particles in the air.
It is impossible to determine who will be seriously affected by chicken pox or the varicella zoster virus but it is known that those who are already ill are more susceptible to complications. This includes those who have HIV, cancer, transplants, long term steroid use, or those undergoing chemotherapy.
Children under the age of one are at risk of more severe complications from the varicella zoster virus and chicken pox infection.
In some cases a medication called Acyclovir can help to minimize symptoms if administered within the first 24 hours that a rash develops. Antivirals are also sometimes helpful.

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