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J Infect. 1998 Jan;36 Suppl 1:31-8.

Antiviral prophylaxis and treatment in chickenpox. A review prepared for the UK Advisory Group on Chickenpox on behalf of the British Society for the Study of Infection.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, The University of Edinburgh Medical School, UK.


Prophylactic intervention with varicella-zoster immunoglobulin early in the incubation period can prevent or attenuate the disease manifestations of varicella in susceptible contacts at high risk from this infection. Detailed guidelines are issued in the UK Department of Health publication on Immunization against Infectious Disease. Sensitive immunoassays are available for investigation of antibody status and subclinical seroconversion. Live attenuated varicella vaccine, which has been used successfully post-exposure as well as electively elsewhere, is at present not generally available in the UK. Effective protocols for prophylaxis against varicella with the antiviral agent aciclovir are not yet established. The nucleoside analogue aciclovir (syn: acyclovir, Zovirax) is effective in inhibiting replication of VZV when given at a dosage higher than that required for treatment of HSV, and is currently the only available and approved treatment for varicella in the U.K. Intravenous aciclovir therapy for 5-10 days is effective for varicella in neonates and the immunocompromised, and for varicella pneumonia or other complications in adults and children, if begun early. Oral aciclovir is only effective if begun with 24 h of onset of rash. With that proviso. it is recommended for treatment of varicella in otherwise healthy adults and adolescents, but not for routine use in children under 13 years of age unless they are sibling contacts or have other medical conditions. Aciclovir has a high therapeutic index and good safety profile, but caution is advised with use in pregnancy.

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