Varicella zoster virus

Varicella zoster virus
Varicella zoster virus

What is the varicella zoster virus?

The varicella zoster virus (VZV) belongs to the Herpesviridae family and is an enveloped virus. Like other herpes viruses, VZV is well adapted to its only natural host, humans. More than 95% of all adults have antibodies against VZV.

How is VZV transmitted?

Infection with the varicella zoster virus occurs through the air (aerogenic), when a person infected with the virus exhales or coughs and thereby emits droplets containing the virus. In addition, the virus can also be transmitted by a smear infection via saliva, blister fluid and tears. Transmission in the womb from a pregnant woman to her unborn child is very unlikely.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

The varicella zoster virus can manifest itself in two varieties: varicella (chicken pox) and herpes zoster (shingles). Varicella develop during an exogenous initial infection with the VZV, which simultaneously leads to lifelong immunity against varicella. Herpes zoster occurs during a subsequent endogenous reactivation of the virus.
The main characteristic of varicella are skin lesions that develop into blisters after a short time. The pustules first become visible on the face and trunk, but then spread throughout the entire body. One to two days before the actual outbreak of chicken pox, the infection causes fever and an itchy skin rash.
Herpes zoster manifests itself in a burning pain in the spinal and cranial nerve ganglia, in which the varicella zoster viruses can survive unnoticed for years after the initial infection (varicella) has healed. A weakened immune system can then lead to a second infection. The viruses multiply and can again lead to blistering and possibly slight fever and itching.

Significance for infections in hospitals and in the outpatient sector

Especially newborns, persons with a weakened immune system, and patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy are particularly susceptible to infection with VZV. It is precisely in these individuals that severe disease progressions can develop, which are often fatal. Herpes zoster can also be life threatening in people with an immunodeficiency that either is congenital or, for example, acquired by the HI virus (LINK). In people who have already been vaccinated against herpes zoster, the disease tends to be clinically milder. An infection with the VZV must be reported to the health authorities within 24 hours at the latest.
Hygiene preventive measures include basic hygiene measures such as hand disinfection, disinfection of surfaces where there is frequent hand-skin contact and sterilisation of the medical devices used. Wearing personal protective equipment, consisting of a protective gown, disposable gloves and a FFP2 respirator, is required when entering the room for isolated patients with varicella infection.

Survival time of pathogens on inanimate surfaces

4.5 hours to 8 weeks

Disinfectant effectiveness for prevention

The necessary spectrum of action against varicella zoster viruses is: limited virucidal or virucidal

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