|October 22, 2001||Chickenpox Fact
Chickenpox Information - CDC
Reported Cases by State and County, 1995 - 2000
STATE TO RECOMMEND CHICKENPOX VACCINE MANDATE
SPRINGFIELD, IL Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, today announced he will recommend that, beginning with the 2002-03 school year, every child be vaccinated against chickenpox before entering an Illinois day care, federally funded Head Start center or kindergarten.
Illinois would become the 31st state to require chickenpox vaccination, which has been available in the United States since 1995. Dr. Lumpkin said rules drafted by the Illinois Department of Public Health to add the requirement would be filed soon and likely be considered by the Illinois General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules early next year.
"Chickenpox can be serious and even deadly, but the vaccine can prevent severe infections with a high degree of reliability," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Because chickenpox occurs most frequently among young children, implementing the vaccination requirement for child care and school entry will have the greatest impact on reducing the incidence of the disease."
Dr. Lumpkin reached his decision after considering contradictory recommendations from the state's Immunization Advisory Committee and the State Board of Health. In April 2000, the committee voted 6-1 to advise the chickenpox vaccine be mandatory, while the 15-member board split 4-3 against the proposal in December 2000.
After the board's vote, Dr. Lumpkin reviewed the two advisory panels' positions and testimony gathered last year by the board at three public hearings, and had staff conduct an independent evaluation of scientific literature on the issue.
"Chickenpox causes substantial suffering among children and some adults and results in thousands of hospitalizations in the United States each year," Dr. Lumpkin said. "As a physician and public health professional, I believe it is my obligation to recommend this safe and effective vaccine to prevent a significant burden of illness for our children."
Chickenpox, or varicella, is generally mild; however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it kills more children and adolescents than all other diseases combined for which vaccination is routinely recommended. CDC estimates that about 100 persons die, mostly young children, and 9,300 hospitalizations occur each year from varicella-related complications.
In Illinois, 12,848 persons had varicella in 2000, down from 24,813 when the vaccine first became available six years ago. There were 51 deaths from chickenpox in Illinois in the 1990s, including five in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and 416 hospitalizations for the disease in 2000.
Among children, a common complication of chickenpox is secondary bacterial infection of skin lesions. A child may have 300 or more lesions on his/her body during an attack of varicella. Less common complications are encephalitis and viral or bacterial pneumonia.
Chickenpox vaccination is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Chickenpox is highly contagious and spread from person to person by direct contact or through the air. Approximately 90 percent of persons in a household who have not had chickenpox will get it if exposed to an infected family member. The greatest number of cases of chickenpox occur in the winter and early spring.
The disease, which is caused by varicella zoster virus, starts as an itchy rash, which forms blisters that dry and become scabs in two to four days. In children, rash may be the first sign of illness, sometimes coupled with fever and general malaise. Chickenpox is contagious one to two days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. It develops within 10 to 21 days after contact with an infected person.
Current immunization requirements for children entering the state's public and private elementary schools include vaccination proof against diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella and tetanus.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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