Chicken pox deaths plummet

One of my very first memories was chicken pox.

I was like 3 years old– I had these damn itchy spots on my stomach, so I was standing in front of the kitchen sink, showing them to my mom like “WTF???”

Mom: Oh honey, youve got chicken pox!
Me: But I dont *WANT* chicken pox. (eyes welling up with tears, annoyed beyond belief)
Mom: LOL! Awww, I know you dont, honey.

The next couple of weeks was hell. Like I said, this was one of my first memories– Complete misery. I mean, I was a kid that had double pneumonia and still ran and played and had a marvelous time, and chicken pox *sucked*. Ive still got scars 25 years later.

So count me in as someone totally jealous of the kids who never had to get chicken pox thanks to the chicken pox vaccine. I dont glorify disease or declare it a ‘right of passage’. It friggen SUCKED.

Heres another reason to love the chicken pox vaccine: Deaths caused by chicken pox has dropped 97% in kids under 20 since the vaccine was introduced.

Like like the title of the article says (free dl of the pdf):

Near Elimination of Varicella Deaths in the US After Implementation of the Vaccination Program

Chicken pox deaths per year used to be >100.

In 2007?

Three kids.


Thanks to vaccines and herd immunity.

That is friggen nuts, in a very, very good way.


  1. #1 Poodle Stomper
    July 26, 2011

    Butbutbutbut…if we get rid of chicken pox how will we have chicken pox parties? The word “party” makes it sound so fun!

  2. #2 Chris Lindsay
    July 26, 2011

    Similar story here. One of my first memories is when I was 4 or 5 and getting out of the bathtub and saw the hundreds of bumps all over my body. My mom says I started bawling and wouldn’t stop for hours. I can only imagine that I must’ve thought I was going to look like that for the rest of my life.

  3. #3 tas121790
    July 26, 2011

    My only memories of chicken pox were itchiness, oatmeal baths and staying home from school. I must have had a mild case.

  4. #4 Steve
    July 26, 2011

    I also had chicken pox as a kid.

    No, it was not fun, but it was nothing compared to the shingles that you get later in life.

    ‘Sucks’ is an inadequate descriptor for Shingles. ‘Debilitating’ might be a better word.

    They don’t give you pain killer, they give you SSRI’s to manage your mood.

    Whatever it takes, get the shots.

  5. #5 History Punk
    July 26, 2011

    But But But, what about improvements in sanitation and diet? Surely in our modern age, improvements in public sanitation must have played a role? We eat better right?

  6. #6 Stephen Bahl
    July 26, 2011

    Mom: Oh honey, youve got chicken pox!
    Me: But I dont *WANT* chicken pox. (eyes welling up with tears, annoyed beyond belief)
    Mom: LOL! Awww, I know you dont, honey.

    I had a similar conversation, only with a doctor and I was in my 20’s…

    Doctor: Yeah, that’s shingles.
    Me: It’s what?
    Doctor: You have chicken pox.
    Me: What? But I already had chicken pox!
    Doctor: I know you did. Now you have
    Me: Am I dying? Nooooooooooooooooooooo!
    Doctor: No, it’s not like that. Quit being such a crybaby. We’ll put you on acyclovir or something. You’ll be fine.

  7. #7 JimNorth
    July 26, 2011

    Herd immunity! Pfah! I was young enough to catch ALL of the major childhood diseases just before their vaccines came out. I have teh Real Antibodies – not those mamby pamby artificially acquired injectible rejects. Measles? Had em. Mumps? Double sized, had em. Rubella and rubeola? Yup. Malaria, typhus, beri-beri, spongiform encephalitis, Had em all. But best of all…Chicken Pox. How many of us strutted around the house crowing like a rooster when we heard that we had Chicken Pox? I know I did. Bwak-bwak. I’m a survivor kiddo…

  8. #8 justawriter
    July 26, 2011

    Some infectious humor that I’m sure will go viral …
    On the topic at hand, I was one of those lucky duckies that missed getting chicken pox as a wee lad. When I was sixteen, a girl in my class got shingles and I was the kind recipient of a nifty case of pox for the winter holidays. It was even more fun because there was a nasty three day blizzard that knocked the power out at the farm so I couldn’t even shower for a week, plus the only entertainment was listening by candlelight to the battery powered radio where the Vikings got the stuffing knocked out of them by the Oakland Raiders. All in all, a vaccination would have been a much happier memory.

  9. #9 Mu
    July 26, 2011

    Now if we could just get boosters packed straight with every tetanus refresher we might get rid of the last three deaths.

  10. #10 G
    July 26, 2011

    Got it this year at 35y old from my daughter . Was horrible , about 400 spots .

    You are doing a great job here , those nutcases tried to invade our national forums some 2 years ago ,and learned a lot from the threadnaughts , including the retrovirae evidence .Searching for more i got to your blog ­čÖé

  11. #11 Prometheus
    July 26, 2011

    Mine showed up first on my scalp. I was in third grade alone in the cloak room. It had a tiny mirror and I kept staring at them afraid to come out because I thought I had some giant strain of head lice that had burrowed under my skin.

  12. #12 horace
    July 26, 2011

    I think that I got this in South America, they called it varuela. A week of hell, but no permanent effects. I had to stay away from pregnant women. This was chicken pox ?

  13. #13 Brake
    July 26, 2011

    Actually the improvement was due to less woo.

    Less prayer and “faith healing” woo.
    Less “holistic” woo.
    Less chiropractic woo.
    Less dietetic woo.
    Less superstitious woo.

    with just a touch of sciencey vaccination thrown in.

  14. #14 Stephen Bahl
    July 26, 2011

    Horace: another name for chickenpox is “varicella” and that’s pretty close to “varuela.” But “variola” is closer and that’s smallpox, so…

  15. #15 German Santanilla
    July 26, 2011

    Varicela is chickenpox in Spanish. Variola may refer to variola major or minor, and I don’t know for how long Var. minor was frequent when I was a child. I contracted varicella at twelve after we move to the us. And shingles at thirty-eight.

  16. #16 Spence
    July 26, 2011

    In your face, anti-vaxxer tosswads.

    Science. It works, bitches.

  17. #17 rfguy
    July 26, 2011

    Malaria, typhus, beri-beri, spongiform encephalitis, Had em all.

    You were lucky! When I was a lad, we all had bubonic plague, AIDS, polio, and smallpox – all at once!

    Seriously, having had chickenpox and shingles, I’m glad the vaccines work as well as they do. But if you want to despair of the human race, read some of the nutcase comments on Orac’s post on the subject!


  18. #18 Grania
    July 26, 2011

    My experience was roughly the same as Steve up above.

    My childhood chickenpox was a nuisance – I remember trying not to scratch (and failing), and I still have a couple of scars from those years. Wasn’t too bad though.

    But Chickenpox the Sequel A.K.A the shingles I got two years ago was the most miserable episode in my life. The nice anti-virals the doctor gave me nearly bankrupted me too. (They worked like a charm though!)

    A vaccine to prevent all of that is a win every way you look at it.

  19. #19 Thanny
    July 26, 2011

    I don’t remember much about my case, so it must have been fairly mild. I do remember that my sister had it on her birthday, a touch over 30 years ago, and had to blow out a candle stuck to an icing lid, instead of on the cake (my mother had quaint notions about not trying to spread infectious disease to other people’s children).

    The chicken pox parties, however, were actually a good idea, before the vaccine. Getting infected as an adult is *way* worse than as a child, and it was pretty much a guarantee that you’d run into it eventually. But with a vaccine available, that tactic is thoroughly obsolete.

  20. #20 Woden
    July 26, 2011

    Ive still got scars 25 years later.

    I’ve still got scars, too. A trio of quite noticeable pock-marks on my face, and a few more than are covered by my clothes.

    And my brother (still in his twenties) has already gotten a case of shingles.

    Steve @ 5:
    They don’t give you pain killer

    That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, at least not always. I work in a pharmacy, and I’ve seen pain killers for a number of shingles cases, all the way up to Percocet.

  21. #21 Stephen Bahl
    July 26, 2011

    I missed that bit about painkillers. When I got shingles, I was prescribed a regimen of acyclovir and also hydrocodone if necessary for the pain, but I never ended up needing the hydrocodone as I was never in any significant pain. Either my outbreak wasn’t very bad or the acyclovir worked really well. I was curious which it was, but not curious enough to stop the regimen. I even went to judo regularly (I kept the affected area covered and wore a T-shirt under my gi and made sure to only work out with people who’d had chickenpox).

    When I had chickenpox as a kid though, it was much worse. I was miserable and feverish and itchy everywhere. Oh, and I have at least one scar from it.

  22. #22 dinkum
    July 26, 2011

    Painkillers, for shingles? Fie! Fie, I say!

    Red-hot needles jammed ‘twixt your ribs at randomish 2-10 second intervals day and night for three weeks? Sheeit, it don’t git more fun than that, kids!

    Plus, later you have super kewl scars from sternum to spine that you can pass off as coming from a Colombian machete back in ’88.

    Okay, it worked once and dude was pretty drunk. He even bought the collapsed lung.

  23. #23 Kentrosaur
    July 27, 2011

    I remember my chicken pox, my dad had to go away for 3 weeks because he never had it as a child and he was the worker of the family so we couldn’t afford him getting sick. He comes home after I got better and the house was sanitised, a few days later he got food poisoning and missed 3 days off work!

  24. #24 Craig Thomas
    July 27, 2011

    I didn’t know there was a vaccine against chicken pox.

    My 3 children all got chicken pox at around the same time and still have the scars. My eldest was so, so sick (in so much pain she couldn’t even sleep for days). She was unbelievably sick with virtually her entire skin surface from head to toe blistered and broken and bleeding. She was purple and red all over. Absolutely shocking.
    We took her to the doctor and he said “thanks for bringing her in – I’m too old to have ever dealt with smallpox, but this is probably as close to a smallpox victim as I will ever see”.
    He was a bit of a funny bloke, that doctor.

  25. #25 mary
    July 27, 2011

    I never had them..kinda glad I didn’t based on these stories.. my kids seemed to have them midly..none on face, thorax aveno baths plus let them take in Quakers with them..they thought it cool to fill the tub with “food”, kept them from itchin and scratchin too much..

    I’ve been exposed and exposed..never seemed to get it.(can’t seem to catch poison ivy either..)

    My partner and everyone I know who has had shingles seem to have boatloads of opiates thrown at them and are very thankful for that!

  26. #26 Charl
    July 27, 2011

    I remember being about 3 and sitting in the middle of the lounge with next door’s children, being coated in calamine lotion (zinc oxide, I think) in a production-line manner by my mum and next door-mum and told NOT TO SCRATCH. But I don’t remember any discomfort (fortunately, it would appear).

  27. #27 stripey_cat
    July 27, 2011

    One thing that no-one seems to bother about is scarring from chicken-pox. I’m alright (I didn’t scratch, dammit, because I was a good girl), my brother’s pock-marks fade into insignificance beside the mess he made going face-down into gravel, and my boyfriend is sufficiently uncaring about his appearance that it doesn’t matter; but facial scarring can be really traumatic for some people, especially if they’re bullied as a result. I knew a couple of girls at school who were really concerned about theirs (to the point of trying dubious treatments to fade them).

    It’s minor compared to pneumonia or staph complications, but it is suffering that we can prevent.

  28. #28 faithless
    July 28, 2011

    OK, medico-scientific bigwigs. Now you have to work out how to eliminate the virus from the body so that it doesn’t attack us again in old age when our immune systems have become exhausted!!

  29. #29 Woden
    July 28, 2011

    @ Faithless:

    Zostavax has been out for a while now, and is a vaccine against shingles. It doesn’t eliminate the virus or guarantee immunity, but it does quite a lot to reduce the likelihood of getting any shingles outbreaks. In the clinical trials, people in their 50s were 70% less likely to have an outbreak if they had been vaccinated, and it’s supposed to be even more effective in your 60s.

  30. #30 Justicar
    July 28, 2011

    Hm. Herd immunity. This gives me an idea for a Rebecca Watson article!

    Yeah, chicken pox sucked. I remember the oatmeal baths I had to take. Ugh.

  31. #31 Richard Hendricks
    August 5, 2011

    All the diseases? Well, what about Fifth’s disease? Never heard of it? Me neither, until my wife caught it and thought she was experiencing a severe case of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Nasty little bugs.

  32. #32 Justicar
    August 5, 2011

    Yeah, I hadn’t heard of that one either. The pictures make it look like it’s a terribly unpleasant thing to catch. Yeesh.

    But remember – intelligently designed, right?


  33. #33 William Wallace
    August 9, 2011

    Assuming your numbers aren’t flawed, what does this work out to be in dollars per life saved?

  34. #34 William Wallace
    August 11, 2011

    Reading over some of the comments…as far as I remember reading, the vaccine makes no medical claims about preventing shingles later in life.

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