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
The Victorian Standardised Student Induction Protocol requires that students have immunity to varicella when undertaking clinical placement.
The following documentation is accepted as evidence of immunity to varicella:
- Written statement from a medical practitioner advising definite prior history of varicella infection; or
- Official vaccination record from a medical practitioner or Medicare indicating administration of two doses of varicella vaccine; or
- Serology report indicating immunity to varicella.
Due to the risk of non-seroconversion from vaccination, the University recommends that all students obtain confirmation of immunity through serological testing prior to commencing placement. However, this is not mandatory.