How Long Is Chicken Pox Contagious?

Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and causes an itchy, blistering, rash. Knowing how to prevent the spread and transmission of chicken pox is important during an outbreak and also when a vaccine is given.

During incubation of the virus it is possible to spread it to others and it continues to be contagious until the blisters scab over. The virus remains in the body, often dormant in sensory nerves until later in age when it may become re-activated and shingles develop.

The virus can be spread through direct and indirect contact. Following some simple procedures can prevent the transmission of chicken pox.

The Chicken Pox Virus Is Known As Varicella-Zoster

Varicella-zoster is responsible for the flu-like symptoms and itchy rash that chicken pox is known by. A virus is different than a bacterial infection that responds to antibiotics. It is a viral infection that can make some people susceptible to a bacterial infection if the bacteria enter the skin from breaks in the skin from the blisters. When this type of infection doesn't respond to treatment from common antibiotics, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is may be suspected. For a virus, an antiviral prescription from a healthcare professional may be needed.

Administered Medications

Medications can be administered to prevent a chicken pox infection after a person is exposed to the virus and also to treat the virus. They are given in the following ways:

Commonly an antiviral is used to treat people who have other health issues that could be complicated by a chicken pox infection.

Transmitting Chicken Pox Before and After Symptoms Appear

Many people mistakenly believe that if a person doesn?t have any chicken pox blisters that they are not contagious. The truth is that a person who is infected with varicella-zoster virus can transmit it to others before symptoms ever appear. A person who has been vaccinated and develops a handful of pox is capable of being contagious so the Pediatric Infectious Disease Control Society recommends a child with the rash should be kept away from unhealthy children and adults. The low rate of documented transmissions from the chicken pox vaccination is due in part because only transmission to health people are recorded and shared in many documents.

Before Symptoms Appear

The incubation period for this virus is between 10-21 days after exposure and it is about 1-2 days before symptoms appear that the infected person will be able to transmit the virus and infect others. A person with chicken pox will remain contagious until all the blisters from the rash are scabbed over, which can be about a week or a little longer. Though the person may look like they can spread the disease at this stage, they actually are safe to be around because they are no longer contagious.

When the skin becomes infected with a bacterial infection like staph or MRSA, the bacteria are contagious but not the varicella-zoster virus. Ideally, precautions should be taken to prevent any kind of infection from spreading.

Preventing the Spread of the Varicilla-Zoster Virus

Immunizations have not been the only reason that the chicken pox virus is no longer spread. Increased awareness of how viruses spread has also contributed to the decline in people becoming infected with this very itchy rash. Anyone with a weakened immune system should take precautions to avoid contact with the following:

The above can increase the risk of illness, disease, and infection. This would include staying away from anyone who has been exposed to chicken pox. Pregnant women and their unborn children are at a higher risk of developing complications so they will need to avoid anyone who is contagious.

The virus is spread through the air and also through contact with the blisters or the pus inside the blisters. In the event of direct contact, washing with soap and water is a good way to prevent an infection. When exposed to the virus through the air it can go unnoticed until the incubation time passes and chicken pox symptoms appear.


Though there are a few days before symptoms appear that a person is contagious, in the case of chicken pox it is easy to see the blisters and know the person can transmit the virus.

Can you Get Chicken Pox Twice?

Do you know - Can you Get Chicken Pox Twice?