How do you get chicken pox?


Quick Answer

Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread by direct or indirect contact with an infected person, according to MedicineNet.com. Airborne particles and exhaled air from someone who is infected, contact with chickenpox sores or their fluid, and indirect contact such as with clothing or bedding all spread the illness.

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Full Answer

Common in childhood, chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes shingles. After the widespread use of the chickenpox vaccine, chickenpox cases in the United States have decreased by 90 percent.

Infection with chickenpox generally lasts from 5 to 10 days and is marked by a pink, raised rash or red papules that break out on the skin over the course of a few days. Before the rash sets in, fever, headache, a general feeling of malaise and a loss of appetite generally occur. The bumps form vesicles or blisters that eventually break open and leak fluid. Once this happens, scabs and crusts form over the blisters. These take a few days to heal, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It is possible for an infected child to have all three phases of chickenpox all at once, including the rash, fluid-filled blisters, and scabs or crusted lesions, because new bumps continue to form for a few days. Once a child is infected, he is contagious for up to 48 hours before the appearance of the rash. Until all spots are crusted over, the Mayo Clinic warns that the child remains contagious.

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