CDC REPORTS DRAMATIC DECREASE IN CHICKENPOX CASES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS IN AREAS WITH INCREASING USE OF VACCINE
During the period from July 2000 to June 2001, an estimated 73 percent of United States children aged 19-35 months were vaccinated to protect them from chickenpox (varicella), up from 68 percent in 2000 and 57.5 percent in 1999. The data were presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a workshop at the 36th National Immunization Conference, being held this week in Denver, Colorado.
Dr. Jane Seward, chief of the CDC's child vaccine preventable disease branch, said, "In 1995, the United States became the first country to recommend varicella for routine childhood protection. In just a few short years, we have made great strides in educating health care providers and parents about the benefits of this vaccine."
Before the introduction of the varicella vaccine, three to four million cases of varicella occurred each year, resulting in approximately 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths annually. Since varicella is not a nationally reportable disease in the U.S., national surveillance data are not available to monitor the impact of the varicella vaccination program. However, a recently published surveillance study of three large communities with moderate vaccine coverage revealed a marked decrease in the number and rates of cases and related hospitalizations. The surveillance was conducted by state and local health departments in collaboration with CDC.
"This study is the first documentation of the dramatic impact of the varicella vaccine on our children's health. From 1995 to 2000, varicella cases declined between 71 and 84 percent in the three communities studied," said Dr. Seward. The decline in disease was greatest in preschool children; however, declines occurred in every age group, indicating reduced transmission of varicella zoster virus in the communities. She added that in 2001, several states with consistent varicella case reporting recognized a drop of as much as 75 percent to 80 percent. With evidence now of reduced transmission of varicella zoster virus, it is even more important to implement existing policy recommendations for vaccination of all susceptible older children, adolescents and adults, in addition to young children.
Varicella is a severe, contagious disease caused by varicella zoster virus and transmitted by airborne droplets and direct contact with lesions. More than 90% of infections, two-thirds of varicella-related hospitalizations and almost half of varicella-related deaths in the United States occur in children.
During the 36th National Immunization Conference this week, participants are exploring the latest research and policy issues related to vaccine- preventable diseases and immunization. To speak to an information specialist or to receive information materials about vaccine-preventable diseases, contact CDC's National Immunization Information Hotline at 1-800-232-2522 (English) or 1-800-232-0233 (Spanish) or visit CDC's immunization website at www.cdc.gov/nip
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.