Chickenpox vax program a success

Reports of chickenpox have drastically declined as a result of the national vaccination program implemented in the 1990s. In a study published in the journal Pediatrics today, CDC researchers report that the between 1995 and 2005, instances of varicella infections were cut by 90 percent. Chickenpox-related hospitalizations and deaths also fell by 75 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

But there is still a long way to go, according to Mark Slifka, associate scientist at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University. Experts worry about parents who skip their children's vaccines because they believe the virus is harmless. Many are unaware that patients successfully treated for varicella after infection can develop shingles years later.

"Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will get rid of chickenpox in our lifetime," Slifka, told ABCNews. "Since it can hide in otherwise healthy people for so long before 'jumping out' as infectious virus, it will be nearly impossible to completely eradicate it--at least with the current vaccines that we have available at this time."

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