Issue Number 167            May 25, 2000

UNPROTECTED PEOPLE: Stories of people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases

Story #31:


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The following story appeared in the "Michigan Immunization Update" (Summer/Fall 1999 issue). It is reprinted here with permission from the Michigan Department of Community Health.



Though fatal outcomes are rare, chickenpox (varicella) can result in death. The Michigan health care community was reminded of that sobering fact this spring with the report of an eight-year-old boy's varicella-related death. The child, who had not been vaccinated against chickenpox, died from complications of invasive group A streptococcal (GAS) infection approximately one week after the onset of varicella rash.

Varicella has increasingly become recognized as a risk factor for GAS disease. An investigation of an outbreak of GAS in a Boston day care center in 1997 found antecedent or concurrent varicella infection to be a significant risk factor for GAS infection. Investigations of several other varicella-related deaths have similarly noted severe, invasive group A strep infection as a possible complication of chickenpox.

This is the fourth reported varicella-related death in Michigan since 1997. Two deaths were reported in that year, a two-year-old child and a 42-year-old adult. An eight-year-old child died in 1998. None had previously received chickenpox vaccine, which was licensed for use in the U.S. in 1995. Nationally, it is estimated that approximately 100 varicella-related deaths occur each year.

As part of a comprehensive effort to assess the impact of vaccination on varicella-related morbidity and mortality, CDC now encourages state public health agencies to investigate varicella-related deaths.... Health care providers should report varicella-related deaths immediately to the local health department of the patient's residence....


The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) has published this story for the purpose of making it available for our readers' review. We have not verified the story's content, for which the author is solely responsible. The views reflected in this story are the writer's and do not necessarily reflect the position of IAC. 

To read "Unprotected People" stories that were previously published in "IAC EXPRESS" visit:

IAC is collecting stories of people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases. Please let us know if you have personal stories, or if you know of stories that have appeared in the media, that describe the suffering that occurred because someone wasn't immunized. In addition, we are also collecting case reports to help us illustrate the morbidity and mortality caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.

If you have stories or case reports that can help save lives, e-mail them to: or fax them to (651) 647-9131.

About IZ Express

IZ Express is supported in part by Grant No. 1NH23IP922654 from CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Its contents are solely the responsibility of and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

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Editorial Information

  • Editor-in-Chief
    Kelly L. Moore, MD, MPH
  • Managing Editor
    John D. Grabenstein, RPh, PhD
  • Associate Editor
    Sharon G. Humiston, MD, MPH
  • Writer/Publication Coordinator
    Taryn Chapman, MS
    Courtnay Londo, MA
  • Style and Copy Editor
    Marian Deegan, JD
  • Web Edition Managers
    Arkady Shakhnovich
    Jermaine Royes
  • Contributing Writer
    Laurel H. Wood, MPA
  • Technical Reviewer
    Kayla Ohlde

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