Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious and self-limited infection that most commonly affects children between 5-10 years of age. The disease has a worldwide distribution and is reported throughout the year in regions of temperate climate. The peak incidence is generally during the months of March through May. Lifelong immunity for chickenpox generally follows the disease. If the patient's immune system does not totally clear the body of the virus, it may retreat to skin sensory nerve cell bodies where it is protected from the patient's immune system. The disease shingles (also known as "zoster") represents release of these viruses down the length of the skin nerve fiber and produces a characteristic painful rash. Shingles is most commonly a disease of adults.
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