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Chicken Pox Vaccine Not Just for Kids

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The chickenpox vaccine: Its not just for kids

( adults remember their childhood infection with chickenpox as little more than an itchy inconvenience. But varicella disease nicknamed chickenpox because the blisters resemble chickpeas is usually far more severe in adults. The infection can lead to encephalitis or pneumonia, and can even be fatal, says Dr. James Luby, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Since the varicella vaccine became available in the United States in 1995, the number of diagnosed cases per year has significantly dropped, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But deaths from chickenpox in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults have continued, and most adults who have died of the virus since the vaccine was introduced contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children, according to the CDC.

If you have not had natural chicken pox and you're an adult, you can be tested for immunity, Dr. Luby says. If you're not immune, you should get the vaccine.

Pregnant women should not receive the vaccine, which is 85 percent effective in preventing disease, according to the CDC. Adults who work in health care or around children are especially at risk. For more information, visit

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