What is chickenpox?

  • Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash. The rash appears first on the chest, back, and face, and then spreads over the entire body. If one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
  • Chickenpox can also be serious, and even life-threatening, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Before the vaccine was available, about 4 million people got chickenpox each year in the United States, over 10,500 of those people were hospitalized, and about 100-150 people died.
  • Chickenpox is contagious 1 to 2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. It can be spread from person to person by direct contact with fluid from the blisters or with secretions from the lungs, nose, and throat, or by handling an infected person's clothing or bedding. Transmission also is possible through sneezing and coughing.
  • The best way to prevent chickenpox is to be vaccinated.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children receive all vaccines according to the recommended vaccine schedule.

Is this a reportable illness?

  • This is a reportable illness to CDPH. Please work with your school nurse to confirm this diagnosis, gather the needed information and report as soon as possible but within 24 hours.
    • This is authorized by the IL Administrative Code Section 690.
    • For single cases, call the CDPH Disease Reporting Line at (312) 743-9000 and follow the prompts to report a case or complete this VDP RedCap Form.
    • To report multiple cases, call the CDPH Disease Reporting Line at (312) 743-9000 and follow the prompts.

What do schools need to do next?

  • Sick person
    • Exclude the student until all lesions have crusted and at least 5 days have passed since rash onset.
      • For vaccinated children with atypical rash: exclude until afebrile and no new lesions have developed for at least 24 hours. 
  • Close contacts
    • Notify parents and staff of close contacts to provide education around exposure and signs and symptoms. Call CDPH to discuss the extent of notification and a template letter.
    • Exclusion of susceptible close contacts in schools is not required in response to single cases.
    • Pregnant women and persons with a weakened immune system are at high risk of severe disease and should be advised to contact their health care provider. Varicella-Zoster Immune Globulin is licensed for postexposure prophylaxis if indicated.
  • Additional guidance from CDPH will be provided if a cluster of 3 or more cases is identified.
  • No special cleaning.