Varicella poses an occupational risk and a nosocomial risk for susceptible healthcare personnel and patients, respectively. Patients with varicella are thought to be infectious from 1 to 2 days before rash onset until all lesions are crusted, typically 4–7 days after onset of rash. We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library and CINAHL databases to assess evidence of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) transmission before varicella rash onset. Few articles (7) contributed epidemiologic evidence; no formal studies were found. Published articles reported infectiousness at variable intervals before rash onset, between <1 day to 4 days prior to rash, with 1–2 patients for each interval. Laboratory assessment of transmission before rash was also limited (10 articles). No culture-positive results were reported. VZV DNA was identified by PCR before rash onset in only one study however, PCR does not indicate infectivity of the virus. Based on available medical literature, VZV transmission before rash onset seems unlikely, although the possibility of pre-rash, respiratory transmission cannot be entirely ruled out.