Prior to 1995, more than 10,000 patients a year were hospitalized for chicken pox. Doctors say that number has reduced by 90 percent thanks to a vaccine.
Dr. Michelle Hoffman, a pediatric infectious disease physician with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, says chicken pox can start as an itchy, bumpy rash, accompanied with fever and flu like symptoms. Prior to 1995, chicken pox was a common, contagious virus many children were diagnosed with. “Chicken pox vaccine has done an amazing job in reducing the amount of chicken pox in the community. In the past there would be over 150 deaths per year due to chicken pox and over 10,000 hospitalizations each year due to chicken pox and we’ve reduced that 90 percent.”
In 1995, the chicken pox vaccine was recommended to all children to prevent the virus. “The first dose is given between 12 and 15 months of age. We don’t give live vaccines like that until the kids are about 1 year of age,” said Dr. Hoffman.
The second dose is given at age 5. Children with the vaccine have a much smaller chance of getting chicken pox. “After your first dose of the chicken pox vaccine it works about 80 percent of the time in preventing chicken pox which is why we end up giving a second dose of the vaccine,” said Dr. Hoffman.
After the vaccine, if children still get the virus it’s a less severe case with fewer symptoms.
The chicken pox virus lays dormant in your nerves and can later cause shingles. The vaccine lowers your risk for both. “The greatest risk for chicken pox lies in those who are immune compromised and don’t have the ability to fight off the infection,” said Dr. Hoffman.
It’s important for all children to get the vaccine before they get the virus.
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