Congenital Varicella Syndrome
"If you're pregnant and haven't ever had chicken pox, be very careful because varicella is highly contagious - there is a 90 percent chance that an infected person will spread the disease to a household member who has not had chicken pox before."
Sandra Burchett, MD, MSc, Clinical Director, Division of Infectious Diseases, Boston Children's Hospital
You’re likely to be confused and overwhelmed—not to mention scared—if your infant has been diagnosed with congenital varicella syndrome. But you can play an active role in helping him get better. Developing a basic understanding of the condition is a great first step as you partner with your child’s health care team to form a treatment plan.
- Congenital varicella syndrome is caused by the same virus (varicella) as the chicken pox, a common childhood disease.
- The risk of a mom passing the varicella virus onto her baby is extremely low. Only a primary varicella infection can cause the condition, and most adults and children have already had chicken pox or have been vaccinated against it.
- Even if a mother does contract chicken pox while pregnant, there is only a 2 percent chance that the baby will develop congenital varicella syndrome.
- Babies who are born with congenital varicella syndrome may have birth defects that affect various parts of their bodies.
How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches congenital varicella syndrome
Our Division of Infectious Diseases treats congenital varicella syndrome in infants.
Physicians in theDivision of Infectious Diseases care for children and adolescents with a variety of infections.
- In addition to treating children, we also are dedicated to researching better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent infectious diseases.
How does Children’s treat congenital varicella syndrome?
If we find that your baby has been born with congenital varicella syndrome, we will begin treatment immediately with Varicella-zoster immune globin (the vaccine for chicken pox) to ensure that the condition has a minimal effect on her health.
- However, the best treatment is prevention, so if you are pregnant and think you may have been exposed to chicken pox, tell your doctor right away.
At Children's Division of Newborn Medicine, we specialize in treating babies with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions. Your baby will be seen by a specially trained team of physicians, nurses, therapists and other health professionals who routinely diagnose and treat newborns with critical illnesses.
Leading the way in fetal and neonatal care
Babies who have a congenital neurological condition need intense, specialized care. At the Fetal-Neonatal Neurology Program at Children’s, we provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment for these young children. Because newborns’ brains are in a crucial window of rapid development, we identify problems as early as possible and intervene quickly.
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Congenital Varicella syndrome: Reviewed by Sandra Burchett, MD, MSc, Clinical Director, Children’s Hospital Boston Division of Infectious Diseases