THURSDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- The death from chickenpox of an otherwise healthy 15-year-old Ohio girl should remind parents of the importance of vaccination against the disease, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
The teenager was admitted to the hospital with severe chickenpox, also known as varicella, and died three weeks later because of serious complications, according to a case study provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Varicella can be deadly, even in seemingly normal individuals," said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, director of the Vaccine Research Center and chairman of pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City.
"It is likely that death would have been prevented with prior vaccination," he said.
Chickenpox, which is highly contagious, is usually a mild illness characterized by an uncomfortable, itchy rash. But it sometimes leads to serious illness and death, as this 2009 case demonstrated.
Infants, adults and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for severe chickenpox, but most chickenpox-related hospitalizations and deaths occurred among healthy people younger than 20 before the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in 1995, the CDC report said.
"One of the reasons for death is bacterial superinfection of skin lesions with Streptococcus pyogenes [group A strep]," said Bromberg. "The other is disseminated viral infection, which seems to have happened in this case."
The teenager had no underlying conditions that might have raised the odds for severe chickenpox, according to the report.
The article, published in the April 12 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, noted that the chickenpox vaccine is safe and more than 95 percent effective at preventing severe illness and death.
Since the vaccine became available, the number of chickenpox cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the
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