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What is chickenpox?

Page last updated 09 April 2020

Chickenpox is a disease caused by Varicella zoster, which is a virus that comes from the herpes family. It is a very contagious disease that is known by the itchy rash that may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body before forming blisters, which eventually turn into scabs.


The first time someone is infected with the virus it causes what we know as chickenpox. The typical symptoms include:

  • fever
  • itchy, blister-like rash
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness

Although the disease usually lasts between 4-7 days, it can be a serious disease for some people, including babies, older adults, pregnant women and those with compromised immunity.

After the initial infection, the virus lays inactive in the nervous system and can turn later into shingles.

Sources & Citations


  1. Australian Government, Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Varicella. Available at: (accessed 20 February 2020).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox (varicella) signs and symptoms. Available at: (accessed 20 February 2020).


SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0139 (1)a - Date of preparation February 2020