Chickenpox death rates fall 97 percent

Over the past 20 years, the death rate from chickenpox for people under the age of 20 has fallen 97 percent.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was published in the journal Pediatrics noted the success of the chickenpox vaccine in virtually eliminating fatalities from the childhood illness, according to USA Today.

"Chickenpox deaths in children are becoming a thing of the past," the CDC’s Jane Seward, a co-author of the study, said, USA Today reports.

The study measured the effects of only one dose of the vaccine, which was introduced in 1995. The CDC initially recommended a single dose for babies from the age of 12 to 18 months. One dose was capable of preventing approximately 85 percent of infections.

In 2006, the CDC recommended a second dose at age four to six in an effort to protect even more children. The report said that the vaccination effort has helped protect children who never received the inoculation because it has kept the virus out of circulation. This phenomenon is known as herd immunity and is critical in keeping illnesses at bay in large populations.

According to Seward, before the vaccination was introduced, at least 150 people died annually from chickenpox and close to 11,000 were hospitalized, USA Today reports. Approximately four million cases of the illness were reported every year, resulting in $330 million in health care costs and an additional $1.5 billion in societal costs, including lost work time.