Sharp drop in chickenpox cases, vaccine attributed

Sharp drop in chickenpox cases, vaccine attributed

U.S chickenpox cases have dropped sharply since 1995 when vaccine was introduced.

Since a vaccine against the disease was introduced in 1995, chickenpox cases in the United States have dropped dramatically, according to a report on Health Day.

And, after a second dose recommendation to boost the effectiveness in 2006, hospital stays and outpatient visits have fallen as well.  Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that prior to 1995, around 4 million cases of chickenpox were reported annually, with 11,000 people being hospitalized, with up to 150 patients dying from the disease and complications.

CDC researchers, looking at data from national health insurance claims, found hospitalizations for chickenpox were down 93 percent in 2012, and 84 percent fewer outpatient visits than before 1995.

Hospitalizations dropped 38 percent and outpatient visits fell 60 percent since the second dose recommendation went into effect, according to the study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society on August 13.

The biggest drop was in the targeted age group, children and teens ranging in age from 1 year to 19.  Researchers also noted drops in children under 1 year, an age at which the vaccine is not recommended, and also among adults, a group that tends to not be vaccinated.

It appears the general populace is benefitting from what is dubbed a herd immunity, in which the un-vaccinated receives protection from those who have been vaccinated, since they are no longer getting sick and exposing others.

“The surrounding population that can be vaccinated are not getting sick, and therefore the data suggest that these infants are also being protected,” study co-author Jessica Leung said. “We’re seeing that for adults as well.”
“We found that, in our study, rates for varicella [chickenpox] in the U.S. continued to decline as the varicella vaccine program has become fully implemented,” continued Leung in a journal news release.
Symptoms of chickenpox include a rash, itching, fever and fatigue.

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