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Tests and Procedures

Varicella-Zoster Virus Antibody

Does this test have other names?

Serum varicella immunoglobulin G antibody level

What is this test?

This test looks for antibodies in your blood that your body makes against the varicella-zoster virus.

The varicella-zoster virus is very contagious. It can cause two health problems: chickenpox and shingles. When you become infected with the virus for the first time, it causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox, most people become immune to the virus for the rest of their life and can't get chickenpox again.

But after the first illness, the virus becomes dormant and "hides" in nerves in your body. Later in your life, the virus can become active again, causing a painful rash called shingles, or herpes zoster.

Why do I need this test?

You might have this test if your doctor needs to find out whether you are likely to develop a varicella infection. This information can help health care workers who may work with patients who have the virus.

This test can also help your doctor find out whether you have chickenpox if the diagnosis isn't clear. Symptoms of chickenpox include:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Sore throat

  • Distinctive rash around the body a day or two after other symptoms begin

The rash lasts for about two weeks and can spread until all the spots on the skin have crusted over.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You aren't likely to need any other tests.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

If testing is done to see if you are at risk of developing an infection and it finds varicella-related immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in your blood, it means you are immune because of having had a chickenpox infection or having been immunized successfully.

If your health care provider suspects that you have chickenpox, your IgG levels can point to an infection if they rise over several weeks. In these cases, this test is usually needed only if your health care provider is unsure about the diagnosis after examining you.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Having a history of chickenpox or vaccination against the disease can affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.

  

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