What your varicella titer says about immunity

Varicella, also known as chickenpox, is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most people in the United States have been infected with the virus as children and are therefore immune to it for life. However, if you are unsure if you have ever had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated against the virus, a blood test called a varicella titer can measure whether you have immunity to the virus. But what does your varicella titer say about your immunity status to chickenpox? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Varicella Titer?

A varicella titer is a blood test that measures the antibodies in your bloodstream to the varicella-zoster virus. The test can determine whether you have had chickenpox in the past or have been vaccinated against the virus. It is usually ordered by a healthcare provider if you are unsure if you have ever had chickenpox or if you have been exposed to someone with the virus and want to know if you are immune.

What Do the Results Mean?

The results of a varicella titer are reported as the level of antibodies in your bloodstream. If you have a high level of antibodies, it means that you are immune to the virus. On the other hand, if you have a low level of antibodies, it means that you are not immune and may be susceptible to infection.

Interpreting the Results

The interpretation of the results can vary depending on the laboratory performing the test. However, as a general rule:

  • A varicella titer of less than 0.90 IU/mL is considered negative, meaning that you are not immune to the virus.
  • A varicella titer of 0.90 IU/mL or higher is considered positive, meaning that you are immune to the virus.

Who Should Get a Varicella Titer?

If you are unsure if you have ever had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated against the virus, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting a varicella titer. The test can help determine whether you need to be vaccinated or take any other preventive measures to protect yourself from chickenpox.

What If My Varicella Titer is Negative?

If your varicella titer is negative, it means that you are not immune to the virus and may be susceptible to infection. In this case, your healthcare provider may recommend that you get vaccinated against the virus to prevent infection. The varicella vaccine is highly effective and usually given in two doses, three to four weeks apart.

What If My Varicella Titer is Positive?

If your varicella titer is positive, it means that you are immune to the virus and do not need to be vaccinated. However, if you work in a healthcare setting or with children, you may be required to provide proof of immunity. In this case, you can provide the results of your varicella titer to your employer or school to show that you are immune to the virus.

What Are the Benefits of Getting a Varicella Titer?

The benefits of getting a varicella titer include:

  • Knowing whether you have had chickenpox in the past or have been vaccinated against the virus.
  • Determining whether you are immune to the virus.
  • Preventing the spread of the virus by getting vaccinated if you are not immune.
  • Protecting yourself and others from complications of chickenpox, such as pneumonia and encephalitis.

Conclusion

A varicella titer is a simple blood test that can determine whether you are immune to the varicella-zoster virus. If you are unsure if you have ever had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated against the virus, talk to your healthcare provider about getting a varicella titer. The test can help you determine whether you need to take any preventive measures to protect yourself from chickenpox.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: What does a high varicella titer mean?

    A: A high varicella titer means that you are immune to the varicella-zoster virus and do not need to be vaccinated against the virus.
  • Q: What does a low varicella titer mean?

    A: A low varicella titer means that you are not immune to the varicella-zoster virus and may be susceptible to infection. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get vaccinated against the virus to prevent infection.
  • Q: How long does immunity to the varicella virus last?

    A: Immunity to the varicella virus usually lasts for life. However, in rare cases, people can get infected with the virus more than once.
  • Q: Is the varicella vaccine safe?

    A: Yes, the varicella vaccine is safe and highly effective. It is usually given in two doses, three to four weeks apart.

References

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Varicella Immunity Testing. https://www.cdc.gov/varicella/hcp/immunity-testing.html
  • Mayo Clinic. (2021). Chickenpox. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chickenpox/symptoms-causes/syc-20351282

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