Alternative tile: Chickenpox

What is it?

Varicella (chickenpox) is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).

What to look for

Infection usually begins with 1-2 days of fever, runny nose and lethargy.

An itchy rash follows, involving fluid filled vesicles (blisters) that can cover any part of the body including inside the mouth, eyelids and genital area. Severe complications can include pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis.

Varicella in pregnancy can result in skin scarring, ocular anomalies, limb defects and neurological malformations for the infant.

The virus can be reactivated later in life and cause Zoster (Shingles).

How is it transmitted?

Varicella can be transmitted by coughing or sneezing, or from direct contact with the fluid inside the vesicles.


Immunisation is the most effective form of prevention. A single dose of the live-attenuated vaccine is currently funded on the NIP for children at age 18 months of age, however giving a 2nd dose (not funded) provides greater protection. For those ≥14 years of age, 2 doses (administered 1 month apart) are required for the protection on non-immune individuals.



RCH Kids health info Varicella fact sheet

MVEC Zoster (Shingles)

MVEC Live-attenuated vaccines and immunoglobulins or blood products


Reviewed by: Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse)
Date: February 2018
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.

Melbourne University

Welcome to MVEC

The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) is a new web-based initiative, providing up-to-date immunisation information for healthcare professionals, parents and the public.

It is a collaboration between The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and its Melbourne Children’s campus partners (Murdoch Children's Research Institute and The University of Melbourne) and Monash Health.

MVEC aims to address common queries around vaccines and to promote the benefits of immunisation for both children and adults.