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Biological Health Hazard – Shingles (Varicella) Disease (fatal): California


Published Date: 2016-07-27 09:43:59
Subject: PRO/EDR> Varicella (03): USA (CA) shingles
Archive Number: 20160727.4371715

Date: Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Source: Times of San Diego, City News Service report [edited]

A San Diego [California] man died of complications from chickenpox [varicella] last week [week of 11 Jul 2016], county health officials reported [Wed 20 Jul 2016].

The 51-year-old man, who had an underlying medical condition, died [Fri 22 Jul 2016], according to the county Health and Human Services Agency [HHSA]. His name was withheld.

The HHSA reported that the man got sick after he was exposed to someone with shingles, which is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus that results in chickenpox.

This is the 1st reported death from chickenpox in San Diego County in 4 years, when a child — a non-resident — died of the disease at a hospital. The last San Diego County resident to die from chickenpox was a 50-year-old man in 2010, according to the HHSA.

“The best way to prevent illnesses caused by the varicella-zoster virus is for children to get 2 doses of the chickenpox vaccine and adults to get the shingles vaccine when recommended,” said Dr Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “These vaccines are very safe and effective.”

Chickenpox is not reportable to local public health departments unless it occurs in an outbreak or results in a hospitalization or death. There have been 4 outbreaks and 37 cases of chickenpox reported in San Diego County so far this year [2016].

Chickenpox is spread by coughing, sneezing, or being in contact with chickenpox blisters. Symptoms of chickenpox include a skin rash of blister-like lesions covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk.

The risk of complications increases after puberty and includes bacterial infection of skin lesions, dehydration, and pneumonia.

Most, but not all, individuals with chickenpox have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, people who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash and mild or no fever. The illness lasts about 5 to 10 days.

Shingles is a painful rash that can develop in people who previously had chickenpox. Health officials say there is a small chance that a person with a shingles rash can spread the virus to another person who hasn’t had chickenpox and who hasn’t received the chickenpox vaccine.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a shingles vaccine for adults over 60 years old.

More information on chickenpox, shingles, and immunizations in general, is available online at

[Byline: Ken Stone]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[The state of California can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at San Diego can be seen on the map at – Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ

The varicella-zoster virus causes both chickenpox, known as varicella, and shingles, known as herpes zoster.

Once a person has had chickenpox, varicella-zoster virus stays in their body in an inactive state in their nerve tissue for the rest of their life. If the virus activates again, they get shingles. One can only get shingles if one has had chickenpox.

One can’t get shingles through contact with saliva or nasal secretions of an infected individual. For example, one can’t get shingles if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on them. If they’ve had chickenpox, they already are infected with the virus and may get shingles.

Shingles can only spread to someone who has never had chickenpox. In this case, someone with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to an unvaccinated non-immune individual, leading to chickenpox as the initial infection.

If an individual has not had chickenpox or has a compromised immune system, s/he can get the varicella-zoster virus from contact with someone else’s fresh and oozing shingles blisters. If an individual has not had chickenpox and touches the blister fluids, s/he can get chickenpox but not shingles. The virus doesn’t spread after the blisters have broken open and formed crusty scabs, or when the blisters are well-covered. The virus is typically less contagious during shingles than during chickenpox.

(Important caveat: if the shingles patient has “disseminated” zoster, for example because of immunocompromise, it is more like primary chickenpox and that can be spread to a susceptible individual via a respiratory route. – Mod.LM)

Excerpted and edited from – Mod.LK]

See Also

Varicella (03): USA (New York City), India (New Delhi) 20160519.4233123
Varicella – USA: (MI) 20160501.4195072
Varicella – India (02): (PB) 20160415.4158643
Varicella, MRSA – USA: (MI,PA) school children 20160403.4135512
Varicella: Caribbean (Grenada), USA (NC) schoolchildren 20160308.4078236
Varicella-zoster vaccine-associated keratitis: RFI 20160303.4067633
Varicella – India: (WB) law school students 20160208.40044892015

Chickenpox – Nepal (02): (BN) 20150908.3631748
Chickenpox – Nepal: (KT) post-earthquake 20150505.3343420

Chickenpox – India (03): (OR) fatal 20141109.2941349
Chickenpox – India (02): (JH) 20140520.2484869
Chickenpox – India: (MP) 20140516.2477950
Chickenpox – Thailand: children 20140210.2268350

Chickenpox – India (02): (Chennai) 20120415.1102085
Chickenpox- India: (Mumbai) 20120225.1052634

Chickenpox, children – India (02): (AS) 20110513.1467
Chickenpox, children – India: (AS) 20110511.1453

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

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