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Ultraviolet rays believed to prevent chickenpox spreading

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Ultraviolet rays help prevent the spread of chickenpox, meaning people in milder climates are more at risk of catching the disease, according to new research. The discovery could lead to new ways of preventing chickenpox and its more severe relative, shingles.

A researcher at St George’s, University of London has found that chickenpox is much less common in places with high UV ray levels, compared with those with low levels.

It has long been known that UV rays can inactivate viruses. However, virologist Dr Phil Rice believes his findings indicate that UV rays could inactivate the varicella-zoster virus – the herpes virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles – on the skin before it transmits to another person. This explains why there is less transmission in the tropics, where chickenpox is much less frequent than in temperate countries. It would also explain why chickenpox peaks in temperate zones – where it is seasonal – in winter and spring, when UV rays are lowest.

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