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Herpes zoster virus
Feb 16, 2004

My daughter was exposed to the chicken pox virus and had a low immune system due to allergies and she did have a very light case of the chicken pox. The virus did stay in her body, we did see outbreaks on her elbow and knee which looks like the shingles. We were just told it was a rash, but I see now that was not correct. The virus did attack her eye and she is a candidate for cornea transplant. She is 25 yrs old and is getting married and wants to know how this will affect a pregnancey and what can she do for her condition just as what doctor to go immune system as this virus just attacks this one eye. She takes allergy shots but when she gets high fever it activates this virus. We will travel if necessary for the right help.

Response from Dr. Luzuriaga

Chicken pox is the clinical manifestation of primary (first-time) infection with herpes varicella zoster virus. While the symptoms and signs of chicken pox clear with time, the virus remains with the host for life. The virus takes up residence in cells of the nervous system and may periodically re-activate. The episodes of rectivation are known as "shingles" and usually consist of a painful, red rash with vesicles (tiny blisters). Shingles can occur in anyone but occurs more commonly in individuals with impaired immune systems or the elderly. It sounds as if your daughter had a fairly mild case of chicken pox but has had recurrent episodes of shingles. If she has had mulitiple episodes, it would be well for her to be evaluated for possible underlying medical conditions that would pre-dispose her to recurrent shingles. Her primary care doctor could begin the evaluation.

Mother-to-child transmission of varicella zoster virus during pregnancy is uncommon, particularly following primary infection. However, individuals may be contagious during an episode of shingles, and it is possible that your daughter could infect her baby after birth. Since the virus is transmitted through direct contact with the rash (which contains the virus), the risk of transmission of the virus can be reduced by covering the lesions or limiting contact.

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