A new finding could have big implications for the eradication of this sometimes deadly disease.
It may seem like an annoying little ailment that you get as a child, but in reality chickenpox can be serious in a lot of cases, and at the very least it’s a tremendous burden on the lives of kids — fortunately, a new report indicates that, surprisingly, chickenpox has been plummeting for the past decade. And scientists think they know why.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recorded an 85 percent drop in chickenpox from 2005-2006 to 2013-2014, with the drop biggest among children from 5 to 14 years of age. That’s the group that is most likely to have gotten a second dose of the vaccine that is meant to stop the varicella zoster virus responsible for chickenpox, and scientists think it is that second dose that has resulted in the steep decline — an important finding that could lead to future wins against this disease.
Chickenpox, which in most cases results in itchy rashes all over the body and fatigue as well as fever, can be quite serious in many cases, especially for young children, the elderly, and those who have their immune systems compromised. Also, the virus can later show up again in the form of shingles, a very painful condition.
The frequency of chickenpox has declined from 4 million cases annually in the United States in the 1990s, but the CDC credits vaccination with preventing about 3.5 million cases today, including 9,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths, a pretty steep decline. This finding could help ensure those numbers continue to go down.
That said, not everyone should get the vaccine, the CDC cautions.
“Some people should not get chickenpox vaccine or should wait,” the CDC states. “People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine. Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine.”