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Unusually severe varicella zoster (VZV) virus viral (aseptic) meningitis in an unimmunized, immunocompetent host with chickenpox

Heart & Lung The Journal of Acute and Critical Care
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2010.07.005
  • Vzv
  • Cns Infections
  • Aseptic Meningitis
  • Viral Meningitis
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV) and may be more severe in adults than in children. Central nervous system (CNS) manifestations of chickenpox and VZV are uncommon, for example, encephalitis and cerebellar ataxis. Viral (aseptic) meningitis is a rare CNS complication of VZV. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) profile in VZV viral (aseptic) meningitis is indistinguishable from other causes of viral meningitis. The clue to most of the diagnoses of VZV aseptic meningitis is based on the temporal relationship between antecedent or concomitant chickenpox. Chickenpox is a clinical diagnosis based on the appearance and distribution of the rash. The rash of chickenpox is vesicular/pruritic and typically appears in crops over 3 successive days. VZV vesicles are fragile, superficial, and surrounded by a erythematous halo. Common nonspecific laboratory findings in chickenpox include leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and elevated serum transaminases (serum glutamate-oxaloacetate transaminase/serum glutamate-pyruvate transaminase). The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is not highly elevated in chickenpox. In VZV aseptic meningitis, the CSF shows a lymphocytic pleocytosis with normal protein, glucose, and lactic acid levels. CSF red blood cells are not a feature of VZV meningitis. We present the case of a healthy unimmunized adult who was hospitalized with chickenpox complicated by VZV aseptic meningitis with an unusually severe headache and nuchal rigidity that occurred during hospitalization.

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