How does the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infect the body after initial inhalation?

Updated: Aug 31, 2020
  • Author: Anthony J Papadopoulos, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

After initial inhalation of contaminated respiratory droplets, the virus infects the conjunctivae or the mucosae of the upper respiratory tract. Viral proliferation occurs in regional lymph nodes of the upper respiratory tract 2-4 days after initial infection; this is followed by primary viremia on postinfection days 4-6.

A second round of viral replication occurs in the body's internal organs, most notably the liver and the spleen, followed by a secondary viremia 14-16 days post infection. This secondary viremia is characterized by diffuse viral invasion of capillary endothelial cells and the epidermis. VZV infection of cells of the malpighian layer produces both intercellular edema and intracellular edema, resulting in the characteristic vesicle.


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