Chicken pox gets its name from the Latin word “cicer”, meaning chick peas because the spots were thought to look like chick peas on the skin. Chicken pox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, one of the herpes viruses. Other herpes viruses include herpes simplex, that produces cold sores, and the Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever. Like other herpes viruses, after the symptoms caused by the varicella-zoster virus have cleared up, the virus lies dormant in the body, but capable of reactivation. Varicella refers to its capacity to cause chicken pox and zoster to the reactivated form that causes shingles in later life.
Most children may catch chicken pox in the pre-school or early school years. It is most common in winter and early spring, with widespread outbreaks most years. Only about 10% of people reach adult life without having been infected. The time between catching the infection and the appearance of the rash, (the incubation period) is usually about two weeks.