Talk to Patients About: Varicella
By Sean Price Texas Medicine September 2018

Remember those itchy pockmarks so many people used to get as kids? That’s the varicella-zoster virus, or chickenpox. Parents and patients might not know that same virus does double-duty: It can cause chickenpox when you’re young and reactivate later in life as a painful, blistery rash called shingles.

Well, there’s a vaccine for each disease.

Since 1995, the chickenpox vaccine has led to 92 percent fewer cases of the illness, 84 percent fewer hospitalizations, and a 90-percent drop in deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. It is a required vaccine for attending school in Texas.

Those who get the chickenpox vaccine have little chance of getting shingles. But most older Americans have not been vaccinated, and CDC says more than 90 percent of Americans 40 or older have had chickenpox, whether they remember.

As a result, about one in three people in the U.S. will develop shingles, and the risk of this painful illness grows as people age.

Until 2018, Zostavax was the only shingles vaccination available. It reduces the risk of shingles by 51 percent and protects for about five years. For most patients, CDC now recommends a new vaccine called Shingrix. It is 97-percent effective for those 50-69, and 91-percent effective for those 70 and older. 

There is a lot of misinformation about vaccines, so each month Texas Medicine highlights a disease that can be prevented by childhood and adult immunizations. The material is designed to help you talk to your patients and to help them understand the benefits of vaccines.

Download a printable copy of the infographic below.


Tex Med. 2018;114(9):46
September 2018 Texas Medicine Contents
Texas Medicine Main Page

Last Updated On

July 02, 2019

Originally Published On

August 29, 2018

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Sean Price


(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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