Monday, July 25, 2011

Another Vaccine Success Story: Deaths From Chicken Pox Decline Dramatically

It's another one of those success stories that don't get nearly the kind of press one should hope for. Since the US began widely inoculating the chicken pox vaccine in 1995, the incidence of deaths has dropped dramatically.
Since the early 1990s, the bug has gone from killing 105 a year to causing fewer than 20 annual deaths between 2003 and 2007.

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call the results "impressive" and say they show the benefit from the vaccine program is larger than expected.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus and produces fever and an itchy rash. In rare cases, it can be complicated by bacterial infections, swelling of the brain or pneumonia.

Before vaccination became mandated, a few million Americans caught the infection every year. Although most cases are mild, thousands of people landed in the hospital due to the disease.

Now, the number of people who get infected has been cut dramatically. The CDC's new report, which updates an earlier analysis from 1995 to 2001, shows deaths have dropped by as much as 88 percent over the first 12 years since the varicella vaccine was introduced.
I got a bad case of chicken pox growing up, and I would have willingly taken a vaccine rather than deal with the itchy rash and discomfort for weeks that I had to deal with. My symptoms were on the more severe end since I got the chicken pox later than most, but I didn't require hospitalization as some who get severe reactions to the disease.

The vaccine goes a long way to eliminating this scourge. It doesn't need to be a right of passage; it's a disease that costs lives and millions of hours caring for those stricken with a preventable disease.

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