Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Fact Sheet for Kids

The Chickenpox Blister Sisters

Meet the chickenpox sisters, villains from BAM! Body and Mind, who make their victims (usually kids) itch like crazy from the rash of blisters that they cause.

Print-friendly version (463 KB, 1 page)

Chickenpox blister sister 1.
Case File: Blister Sisters
Real Name: Varicella-Zoster Virus
Microbe Type: Virus

Profile

Varicella-zoster is the virus that causes chickenpox. It usually attacks just once in a lifetime and most often sets its sights on kids. The virus is best known for making its victims itch like crazy from the rash of blisters that it causes. Once it gets going, chickenpox is very contagious and can catch up with anyone in its path who’s not received chickenpox vaccine. Before the vaccine was available, about 100 people in the U.S. died each year from chickenpox. Fortunately, you can make yourself nearly invincible against chickenpox if you get the vaccine.

Powers & Abilities

Greatest Strength: Extremely contagious.

Chickenpox blister sister 1.Chickenpox's strongest power is in making victims feel sick, itchy, and miserable for a week or so. From time to time, chickenpox also pulls out some other tricks, like causing swelling of the brain. Luckily, only a few people ever see this side of chickenpox.

Sinister Tricks:

  1. Chickenpox can sneak in without any symptoms. You may be contagious even before you know you have chickenpox. But, the time you are most contagious is probably the first few days after the "pox" appear.
  2. People help chickenpox do its dirty work by scratching their itchy blisters, sneezing, or coughing, which spreads infected fluid to others.
  3. After infecting someone, chickenpox goes underground, hiding in nerve cells . Then, it can come back years later and cause a really painful disease called shingles.

At first, chickenpox sneaks in disguised as a cold. But soon it stamps its personal trademark on its targets—a red, itchy rash of blisters, usually showing up first on the face and chest. Once chickenpox has made its mark, it adds high fever, and blisters spread over the rest of the body. In severe cases, blisters even show up in the mouth and ears.

Preferred Method of Attack

Chickenpox is an "air and surface" attacker. The cough or sneeze of an infected person sends droplets into the air and onto surfaces. Others then take in the virus through their mouth or nose—either from droplets in the air from a sneeze or cough or when they touch a surface that has droplets on it and then later touch their mouth or nose. Scratching the itchy lesions may also send virus into the air and infect unsuspecting people.

Known Weaknesses

Greatest Weakness: Nearly powerless to penetrate the defenses of the vaccine

  • Most vaccinated people (around 80 percent) will be completely protected.
  • A small number (15 percent to 20 percent) of vaccinated people may still get chickenpox but will have a milder case and a faster recovery.
  • Chickenpox has gone into hiding in many states that require vaccination for school entrance; and the number of chickenpox cases has fallen by as much as 90 percent in 2005 compared to 1995!

Once someone is infected, chickenpox cannot be stopped, but its symptoms can be treated. Cool baths and calamine lotion (which has special mineral oils that treat rashes, bumps, and bruises) can help people feel less itchy.

Preferred Victims

Chickenpox focuses on kids, attacking mostly those younger than 15. Adults who do get infected, though, are more likely than kids to have serious complications.

Precautions for the Public

Help shield yourself and others by getting vaccinated and putting chickenpox out of business.

Area of Operations

Chickenpox operates globally, infecting people in all parts of the world. Chickenpox spreads quickly and easily within a group and loves to come out when the weather starts to get nice at the end of winter and the start of spring.

Criminal Record

Chickenpox has been doing its dirty work for a long time. The disease was first described more than 400 years ago. In 1767, an English doctor, William Heberden, realized two important things. First, he showed that chickenpox is different from the more deadly disease smallpox. Second, he showed that once a person has had chickenpox, that person usually never gets it again (in other words, they’re protected for life). The chickenpox vaccine was first used in Japan and Korea in 1988 and became available in the U.S. in 1995.

Top of Page

 

Images and logos on this website which are trademarked/copyrighted or used with permission of the trademark/copyright or logo holder are not in the public domain. These images and logos have been licensed for or used with permission in the materials provided on this website. The materials in the form presented on this website may be used without seeking further permission. Any other use of trademarked/copyrighted images or logos requires permission from the trademark/copyright holder...more

External Web Site Policy This graphic notice means that you are leaving an HHS Web site. For more information, please see the Exit Notification and Disclaimer policy.

 
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    (800-232-4636)
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
    Contact CDC-INFO
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #