Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program

Vaccine-preventable Diseases - Varicella (Chickenpox and Shingles)

General Information:

Varicella (Chickenpox) is caused by an infection with the varicella zoster virus. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, direct contact, and the virus being released into the air from skin legions. The most common symptoms are a skin rash found mostly on the face, scalp and trunk. Most infected individuals have a fever, which develops just before rash appears. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles. Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the same varicella zoster virus but the risk of the disease increases as a person becomes older. About half of all shingles cases occur among men and women 60 years of age or older.

The varicella vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease. Children who have never had chickenpox should get 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine. A vaccine for shingles is made for persons aged 60 years and older and is the only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles. Please see the vaccine information sheets (VIS) below.

Resources for Maine Residents:

Reports and Publications:

  • Varicella surveillance reports for   2009 | 2011 | 2012 (PDF*)

External Links: