Barbara Walters, 83 has been diagnosed with chicken pox and remains hospitalized, according to January 28, 2013 USA Today news article by Janice Lloyd, "Barbara Walters' chickenpox very rare, experts say." Also see the news site,"Barbara Walters remains hospitalized, now has chicken pox."
Since she didn't have chickenpox as a child, she could have caught the virus from someone with shingles. The chicken pox virus never leaves the human body once you've had it. And when immunity weakens in advanced age, it may reappear as shingles. Or she could have caught it from someone exposed to the virus from a child. See, Doctors Say Barbara Walters Has Chicken Pox - NYTimes.com.
The medical board exams that doctors take to get their license even have questions about rare chicken pox cases in older adults, according to the USA Today article, "Barbara Walters' chickenpox very rare, experts say." Barbara Walter's case of chicken pox was announced by her co-host, Whoopi Goldbert, on today's ABC TV show, The View.
Some peopole can theoretically catch chicken pox in a doctor's office waiting room or hospital lobby where an older adult with shingles sits, sneezes, coughs, or touches or a parent brings a child in with chicken pox and the virus is spread on the furniture, magazines, or equipment from the child's mouth or fingers...or even from a shopping cart in the supermarket wiped with the sticky fingers of a child in the cart with a mild case of chicken pox. The possibilities are endless if one has susceptibility or a weak immune system due to advanced age.
Chicken pox is rare in older adults, but shingles is common. Most doctors assume everyone over age 60 has had chicken pox, but that's not the case if you were an only child or your sibling(s) were so many years older than you that they already had chicken pox before you were born. Also many people don't remember whether they have had chicken pox when very young if the case was mild.
Check out the video, Barbara Walters Has Chicken Pox | Video - ABC News. Yet all one has to do to catch chicken pox if you've never had it is to be near an older person with shingles or a young person whose children or grandchildren have the chicken pox virus active. If your immunity is weakened by other illnesses or advanced age, you can catch it.
Walter's persistent low-grade fever has been diagnosed as chickenpox. Walters never had chickenpox as a child, Goldberg said. For further information, check out the USA Today article where a physician in the geriatric division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (not involved in Walters' care) is interviewed about the illness in adults. See, "Barbara Walters recovering from chickenpox - USA Today," and also check out the article, "Barbara Walters Has The Chicken Pox - Business Insider."
The point is that doctors don't know whether the shingles vaccine can protect an older person who doesn't have shingles, but wants to simply prevent chicken pox due to exposure to the virus either from an older person with shingles or a younger person with chicken pox or both, since shingles is common in older adults who have had chicken pox, but chicken pox is rare in people over the age of 60. See, "Barbara Walters Has Chicken Pox."
There is a vaccine against chicken pox given to children whose parents request it. And there is a vaccine specifically for shingles. Shingles is a painful red rash that erupts in older adults when their immunity weakens. But it is found in people who have had a case of chicken pox, usually as children.
Most doctors recommend the shingles vaccine for older adults, assuming they've had chickenpox. But doctors really shouldn't assume as some people have not been exposed much to other children with chicken pox and never had chicken pox. These people, although rare, can catch chicken pox from an older person with shingles or a younger person with chicken pox. Check out the news article, "Barbara Walters Has Chicken Pox - ABC News."