The Record/Associated Press, July 25, 2011

Chickenpox vaccine has dramatically cut deaths from the disease, especially in children, says a new government study proclaiming an important public health victory. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that chickenpox deaths fell from an average of 105 per year to 14 after the vaccine had been available for a dozen years. Deaths declined in all age groups, but the drop was most significant among children. "To see the near elimination of chickenpox deaths in this country is very exciting," said Jane Seward, a CDC official who co-authored the paper. She has been involved in the agency's chickenpox vaccine program for 15 years. The report was released online today by the journal Pediatrics. Chickenpox is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. Symptoms include an itchy skin rash and fever. Most children suffer no more than that, but some suffer complications such as skin infections, swelling of the brain and pneumonia. Severe cases are more common among adolescents and adults who get it for the first time. Also, the virus -- called varicella -- can reactivate in people later in life and cause a painful illness called shingles.

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