Good news! Chickenpox, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, has declined in the United States since 2006, according to U.S. health officials.

After doctors recommended a second dose of chickenpox vaccine, the states reporting vaccination data noted an 85% drop in the contagious disease between 2005-2006 and 2013-2014, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The decrease was greatest for kids aged 5-14, the age most likely to receive a second dose of the varicella vaccine, said by the health officials.

Chickenpox symptoms include itchy, blistery rashes, fever, and tiredness. It’s more serious for babies and adults, especially when the immune system is in a weakened state, as noted by the CDC.

Before vaccination was prevalent, an average of 4 million Americans got the virus annually in the early 1990s. Over 100-150 died in a year according to a CDC report.

The CDC succeeded in crediting the vaccination with preventing over 3.5 million cases, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths related to chicken pox each year.

When cases occur in people who received the vaccine, the disease is milder than in unvaccinated people. Individuals who receive the vaccination tend to have fewer lesions, as said by the report.

Since there are fewer cases to monitor, health officials can study the characteristics of new outbreaks in depth, such as the number of hospitalizations, symptom severity and whether or not patients received vaccines.

Researchers say it’s necessary to understand why there are still sever cases occurring in people receiving vaccines.

According to Adriana Lopez, the corresponding author of the study, “Further reduction in the number of varicella cases will provide states with increased opportunities for enhancing varicella surveillance and improving [the] completeness of reporting to monitor [the] impact of the vaccination program.”

A 90% decline in cases followed the first single-dose vaccine launched in 1996 over the next ten years, but CDC implemented the two-dose schedule starting in 2006 because of continued outbreaks.

Kids should get the first dose at 12-15 months old and the second dose when they are 4-6 years old, as recommended by CDC.

Aimee Harris-Newon, Psy.D., D.A.B.P.S., C.Ht

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