Varicella—Herpes Zoster Virus

  • Thomas H. Weller


Varicella—zoster virus (Herpesvirus varicellae), commonly abbreviated to “V-Z virus” or “VZV,” is the etiologic agent of two diseases of man, varicella and herpes zoster. Varicella (chickenpox) is a ubiquitous, contagious, generalized exanthematous disease of seasonally epidemic propensities that follows primary exposure of a susceptible person, most often a child. Herpes zoster (shingles) is an endemic sporadic disease, most frequent in elderly people, characterized by the appearance of a unilateral, painful, vesicular eruption localized to the dermatome innervated by a specific dorsal root or extramedullary cranial ganglion. In contrast to varicella, which follows primary exogenous contact with the causative virus, zoster reflects endogenous activation of a VZV infection that has survived in latent form following an attack of varicella. The two clinical entities are not as distinct as is customarily assumed. The patient with zoster frequently develops a disseminated varicelliform eruption; rarely, the person with varicella may exhibit a zosteriform concentration of lesions.


Herpes Zoster Attack Rate Varicella Vaccine Reye Syndrome Susceptible Child 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas H. Weller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Tropical Public HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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