How does varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivate after primary infection?

Updated: Feb 15, 2019
  • Author: Wayne E Anderson, DO, FAHS, FAAN; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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Answer

After primary infection, VZV remains dormant in sensory nerve roots for life. Upon reactivation, the virus migrates down the sensory nerve to the skin, causing the characteristic painful dermatomal rash. After resolution, many individuals continue to experience pain in the distribution of the rash (postherpetic neuralgia). In addition, reactivation of VZV infection can cause a spectrum of atypical presentations, ranging from self-limited radicular pain without rash to spinal cord disease with weakness.


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