Varicella-Zoster Virus Infection and Vaccination

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Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a clinically important double stranded DNA virus that infects humans. It presents as chickenpox during primary infection, establishes latency and can be reactivated in a secondary infection known as shingles. In addition to these presentations, recent research has explored latency in enteric neurons contributing to gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances associated with VZV reactivation. Due to medical conditions and treatments inducing immunosuppression, including organ transplant and chemotherapy along with a decrease in immunity during the aging process, herpes zoster (HZ) reactivation has become more common and side effects have become more severe and life threatening in recent years. In attempt to mitigate threats posed by VZV infection and reactivation, further research and vaccine development aims to address these detrimental consequences. Currently, a modified live vaccine is being used to protect patients against varicella in children and modified live and subunit vaccine is being used in adults to prevent HZ. This presentation will briefly explore the known aspects of VZV virology including how it spreads and infects hosts, followed by the clinical presentations and complications of viral infection, and finally how the use of vaccines has impacted the disease process and prevalence of VZV and HZ.

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Physician Assistant Studies

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