What Causes Chicken Pox to Spread?

Updated April 17, 2017

The varicella-zoster virus, more commonly known as "chickenpox," incubates in the human body before it begins to spread from one person to another. The incubation period generally starts about two weeks after contact with the virus in its mature state, but can begin as soon as 10 days or as late as 21 days after contact. After the incubation period has begun to wind down, the disease is often capable of being transmitted outside of the host's body--often before visible blisters and bumps appear.

Physical Contact

After the chickenpox virus has matured in its human host, the extremely contagious virus may be spread to other individuals through physical contact--both through indirect and direct contact. Examples of direct physical contact include touching a blister or the liquid from a blister of an infected person--even the mucus and saliva are contagious. Indirect physical contact also causes the virus to spread. Mucus, saliva and blister residue left on things like clothing and furniture can cause the virus to spread, indirectly, to a new host and start a new incubation cycle.

Airborne Infection

Physical contact isn't the only cause for the spread of chickenpox. The chickenpox virus is often spread "through the air by inhaling respiratory droplets" from and infected person. Involuntary body functions, like sneezing and coughing, cause the virus to spread through the air. A single sneeze can release the virus into the air at rates up to "100 miles per hour, and the bacteria can travel anywhere from three feet away to 150 feet," according to a report on WKOW-TV.

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About the Author

Quinten Plummer began writing professionally in 2008. He has more than six years in the technology field including five years in retail electronics and a year in technical support. Plummer gained his experience in music by producing for various hip-hop acts and as lead guitarist for a band. He now works as a reporter for a daily newspaper.