Which physical findings suggest central nervous system (CNS) complications of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection?

Updated: Feb 15, 2019
  • Author: Wayne E Anderson, DO, FAHS, FAAN; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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VZV infection may also cause central nervous system deficits.

Although deficits are more common in immunocompromised individuals, such presentations do occur in the general population.

In one report, the condition began as a typical shingles rash, but spinal cord involvement became apparent 3 weeks after the onset of the initial rash.

The manifestations are usually bilateral. The physical findings may progress.

The underlying pathology typically progresses for 3 or more weeks. Progression for 6 months in immunocompromised individuals has been reported.

With intravenous acyclovir treatment, most cases fully resolve. Recurrence is rare but has been reported.

Zoster encephalitis is also rare but is reported in otherwise healthy individuals. Due to the effectiveness of 2-dose vaccinations, fewer cases of VZV encephalitis occur, [3] yet most cases in vaccinated individuals are due to wild type from the vaccine strain. [4]

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