Before a vaccination was developed, almost every child got chickenpox — a highly contagious disease characterized by little blisters all over the body. Nowadays, the availability of an effective vaccine has radically reduced the number of chickenpox cases. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a form of the herpes virus, chickenpox can be a mild disease. However, some people suffer more serious complications.

  • Transmission of chickenpox occurs from person to person by direct contact or through the air.
  • The chickenpox vaccine is very good at preventing most cases and reduces the severity in those it doesn't prevent.
  • Family members who have never had chickenpox have a 90 percent chance of becoming infected when another family member in the household is infected.
  • It's important not to scratch chickenpox blisters.
  • Complications from chickenpox can occur in infants, adults and people with weak immune systems.

How Boston Children's Hospital approaches chickenpox

The Children's Hospital Informatics Program created HealthMap, an online resource and smart phone application that helps track the spread of contagious diseases, including chickenpox, in real time.