ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Chickenpox (also known as varicella) is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus.7 While usually a mild illness in young healthy children, it is more severe in adults and can be fatal in immunocompromised people of any age.7 Prior to the introduction of a vaccination program there were about 240,000 cases, 1,500 hospitalisations and 7 deaths every year from varicella in Australia.7

Transmission is from person-to-person, mainly by airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes or through direct contact with the chickenpox rash.

Geographical distribution8

Risk for travellers
Chickenpox is highly contagious and non-immune travellers are at risk of contracting it, i.e. people who have not had chickenpox before and who have not been vaccinated.

Precautions and prevention

  • Varicella vaccination is routinely recommended for nonimmune children and adults in Australia and should be considered by nonimmune travellers (see your doctor).
  • Children (aged 12 months–13 years) require a single dose of vaccine, while adolescents and adults (aged 14 years and over) require 2 doses of vaccine given at least 1–2 months apart.7

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