Can You Really Spread Chickenpox Through The Mail?

In 2020, the world learned the hard way just how bad infectious diseases can be, and how easy it is for them to spread.  Mask mandates, social distancing, and other precautions have been implemented to slow the spread of Covid, and have shed some light on exactly how infectious some viruses can be.

Like the SARS-Cov-2 virus, another airborne virus that causes illness is the varicella-zoster virus. However, this particular bug won't give you a possibly fatal respiratory infection. Rather, it will produce a usually mild skin infection, commonly referred to as chickenpox, as the Centers for Disease Control explains. There's a vaccine against this once-common childhood disease, according to Kids Health, but some parents who don't believe in vaccines have taken a more direct approach to the matter, deliberately infecting (or trying to infect) their kids with the virus. Lately, with the advent of social media, some parents have even volunteered to send spit from their sick kids, or candies that their kids have licked, to strangers. It's disgusting, it's unhealthy, it's illegal, and it probably doesn't work anyway.

The varicella-zoster virus isn't likely to survive a mail journey

Jeff Dimond, from the Centers for Disease Control, made it clear to Mental Floss that the virus that causes chickenpox is airborne, not food borne. For one person, A, to spread the virus to another, B, A would have to cough, sneeze, or exhale, launching the virus particles into the air, which B would then breathe in. It doesn't survive long on surfaces, even sugar-rich food surfaces like lollipops, and it's not likely to last very long in a vial of spit, either. Diamond does note, however, that it's theoretically possible, given a high enough viral load from the "donor," and a quick-enough journey through the mail.

Further, as CBS News explains, if you send a chickenpox-infected vial or food product to another person, it's not outside the realm of possibility that you could also be sending other, worse virus particles, says Isaac Thomsen, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. One such possibility is the hepatitis virus, which can cause considerably worse diseases than chickenpox.