Varicella Zoster Virus

Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) is known more commonly as chicken pox. Most people are surprised to find out that this virus is related to the herpes virus. It is easier to trace the formal name than the common name for this illness.

Currently it is becoming less common to hear or know of anyone who has this virus due to widespread vaccinations for chicken pox. The virus is easy to recognize and often runs its course with a lot of itching and few if any side effects (Chickenpox Side Effects -

Transmission from one person to another can occur before the rash develops.

Origins Of The Name For Chicken Pox

The common name for varicella zoster virus is chicken pox. There are many theories how the name originated. Two of the most credible explanations are the following:

  1. "Chicken" because the marks resemble a chicken peck on the skin and "pox" from the ancient word used to describe postulates on the skin.
  2. "Chicken" from chickpeas that the bumps resembled and "pox" a word for curse.

One thing everyone agrees on is that chicken pox is not from chickens.

William Heberden In 1767

Like stated above, the more formal name for this virus is easier to track. Originally the illness was thought to be a type of small pox until 1767 when William Heberden was able to show the two were different. Later, medical technology was able to identify the specific virus that caused the itchy blisters.

What Is Herpes Zoster?

Varicella is the virus that causes the rash and the zoster virus will lie dormant in nerves. When reactivated, a painful rash known as shingles will appear. This virus is called herpes zoster.

The Relationship Between Varicella Zoster And Herpes

Cold sores on the mouth and sexually transmitted diseases are what often come to mind when herpes is mentioned, but the fact is that the chicken pox virus is part of the herpes family (Herpes Viruses - When the varicella zoster virus enters the body after it runs its course the zoster virus will rest (become dormant) in some of the nerves.

It will become reactivated in later years and then shingles symptoms appear. The herpes zoster virus causes shingles, which causes a painful rash. There is a vaccine to reduce the risk of getting this disease.

8 Types Of Herpes

There are eight types of human herpes. Type 1 is the type that causes cold sores, Type 2 causes genital herpes, and type 3 causes chicken pox. The other types of herpes viruses are responsible for the following:

All viruses related to herpes are contagious before symptoms occur.

Transmission of a Chicken Pox Infection

Before there are symptoms, the chicken pox virus can be spread through direct and indirect contact with someone who is infected. A person who is vaccinated with a live virus can infect others with varicella zoster. Fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, and headache can occur a few days before a rash develops and during that time the virus can be transmitted to others.


Referring to the itchy rash, blisters, and scabs as chicken pox or varicella zoster doesn't matter, it is the same illness.

Chicken Pox In Adults

Learn about Chicken Pox In Adults.