Varicella-Zoster Virus

Also known as: VZV, chickenpox (varicella), shingles (herpes zoster).

What is varicella-zoster virus?

Varicella-zoster virus is the virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles. Chickenpox can occur upon initial infection with the virus, while shingles tends to occur later in life when the dormant virus that caused chickenpox reactivates.

What causes varicella-zoster virus?

The varicella-zoster virus can be spread from person to person via skin-to-skin contact, sneezing, coughing or breathing.

What are the symptoms of varicella-zoster virus?

Chickenpox causes small itchy blisters all over the body, as well as fatigue, headache, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Shingles causes a large rash and blisters on just one side of the body, as well as a burning sensation where the rash occurs, fever, headache, upset stomach and other flu-like symptoms.

What are varicella-zoster virus care options?

Vaccines are available to prevent both chickenpox and shingles from occurring. We recommend that children diagnosed with Chickenpox do not get Aspirin as it can trigger Reye disease. Antiviral drugs can help to minimize problems for people at risk of complications from the varicella-zoster virus.

Reviewed by: P. Marcelo Laufer, MD

This page was last updated on: October 01, 2019 03:25 PM

Learn more about

Congenital Varicella

Congenital varicella can occur after a mother is infected with chickenpox (the varicella zoster virus) early in pregnancy. The virus is passed to the unborn fetus, ultimately leading to congenital varicella. Learn more


Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection that causes itchy spots in children who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Learn more


Vaccinations provide the body with protection from developing the illnesses later in life.