The virus that causes chicken pox (varicella) also causes shingles (zoster), which is the varicella-zoster virus. One of the differences between the two is that shingles commonly affects adults and not children.
Later in life (mid 50ís to 85) the dormant chicken pox virus in people who have had it can reactivate and cause shingles.
The interesting thing is that the cases of shingles have increased even though the cases of chicken pox have decreased since the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine.
Some people feel that the virus injected into children when they get their vaccines is the cause of the increase in shingles and this has led to yet another vaccine, one for shingles in people over 50 years old.
The difference between chicken pox and shingles is the virus that causes it. There are other differences also.
Chicken pox infections were a common childhood illness that often ran its course without complication. The varicella-zoster virus that causes chicken pox causes small and red itchy bumps on the skin that blister and scab. Until they scab over, the virus is highly contagious. In the past there were complications to the virus and some children even died. During that time, there was less known about how to successfully prevent complications and the spread of the virus.
With so many children immunized currently, there are fewer chicken pox infections, which lead to fewer adults who have developed natural immunities to the infection.
There are still a high number of adults who donít recall having chicken pox as children that are still are immune to the virus. It is expected this will drop since exposure to a vaccinated child will not build immunities. Adults who have the virus find that they begin to have the painful symptoms of shingles when they are older.
The symptoms of shingles are different than chicken pox. Though it is from the same virus, when it is reactivated the following symptoms will occur:
The symptoms will typically occur on one side of the body and effect 1/3 of older people and 1/2 of those 86 years old and older. The rash can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. It is not known what causes the dormant chicken pox virus in the nerves to reactivate and cause health problems.
For both infections symptoms can include a fever, fatigue, itchy rash, and headaches. Both viruses are related to the herpes virus. With shingles there is often pain and discomfort before a rash develops and with chicken pox, the rash will appear without notice.
Chicken pox and shingles are from the same virus but affect people at different ages.