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America is close to scratching chickenpox off the list of childhood rites of passage.
Cases of the blister-causing disease have dropped by more than 75 percent since a vaccine was introduced in 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. Only about six in every 10,000 Americans got the disease in 2001, compared to 27 in 10,000 a decade ago.
The figures are based on records in four states that have closely tracked chickenpox for several years: Illinois, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia. But the national picture probably resembles those findings, CDC researchers said.
Nationwide, about 81 percent of children under age 4 had received the vaccine last year. The rate ranged from 51 percent in Montana to 91 percent in the District of Columbia. Georgia's rate was 89 percent.
Thirty-eight states, including Georgia, require vaccination before enrollment in child care or school.
Before the vaccine was developed, there were about 4 million cases of chickenpox annually, causing 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths. The disease is most common in children, but its effects are most serious in adults.
Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution