Health officials credit vaccinations with chickenpox decline in U.S.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attribute the decrease in chickenpox cases in the U.S. -- and the resulting hospitalizations -- to the implementation of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995.

Rates of outpatient visits and hospitalizations for the illness also have shown a steady decline since a second dose of vaccine was recommended in 2006,  according to a recent CDC study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

The CDC said that before the vaccination was implemented in the U.S. approximately 4 million people would get chickenpox every year with nearly 11,000 people requiring hospitalized annually, and 100 to 150 people dying from the extremely contagious illness.

In 2012 alone, there were 93 percent fewer hospitalizations for chickenpox compared to before the vaccine was available, according to the researchers. After the two-dose vaccine was introduced, hospitalizations dropped  38 percent.

Outpatient visits for the illness, which causes itching, fever, fatigue and a blister-like rash, also dropped significantly. The CDC found that there were 84 percent fewer outpatient visits in 2012 versus the pre-vaccination period. From 2006-2012, outpatient visits declined 60 percent.

"We found that, in our study, rates for varicella in the U.S. continued to decline as the varicella vaccine program has become fully implemented," Jessica Leung, the study's co-author and a researcher at the CDC, said. "We saw significant declines in rates of varicella after the one-dose vaccine was recommended in 1995 in the U.S., and we're continuing to see additional declines in varicella after two doses were recommended in 2006."

The research also showed that raising vaccination coverage for chickenpox helped protect people who did not receive vaccinations from the illness.

"The surrounding population that can be vaccinated are not getting sick... ," Leung said. "We're seeing that for adults as well."

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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