Varicella is a highly contagious virus that can cause chickenpox. The main symptom is a blistering skin rash. The virus is spread through coughing and sneezing or from touching the fluid from the blisters on the skin of an infected person. An infected person is contagious for up to five days before the onset of the rash and remains infectious until the blisters form scabs.

People who get chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles later in life, since the virus lies dormant in the body. Shingles is a severe skin rash characterised by pain and blistering which usually occurs on one side of the face or body. Tender, painful skin, tiredness, headache and photophobia may occur 2 to 3 days before the skinturns red and breaks out in tiny fluid-filled blisters.

Immunisation against varicella is available as a vaccine. This is recommended, particularly for anyone who has not previously contracted chickenpox.

Requirements for students

Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences students undertaking placement are required to have immunity to varicella. Australian serology indicating immunity to varicella must be submitted via Sonia.

If serology is not available, students may submit a vaccine record or written statement from a health practitioner confirming receipt of two doses of varicella vaccine. Please note, however, that some placement providers may not accept this as sufficient evidence of immunity.

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Infection and immunisation