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"Corona" gives way to chickenpox

Doctors and experts warn: as the situation with coronavirus infection stabilizes, the risk of chickenpox outbreaks increases

Despite the decline in the incidence of chickenpox amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the risk of new outbreaks of this "lurking" disease is increasing. In some regions of Russia, for example, in the Vladimir and Voronezh regions, there is already a significant increase in chickenpox infection. About how the situation is developing in the eastern regions and why the possibility of the spread of chicken pox cannot be ignored, in the material of EastRussia.

"Corona" gives way to chickenpox

2020 in statistical reports will be remembered for the rapid decline in the incidence of many infections, among which was chickenpox. For example, in Yakutia, the number of cases of chickenpox infection decreased by 36,8%, in the Sakhalin region - by 49,8%, in the Khabarovsk Territory - by 52,57%, and in the Primorsky Territory - by 52,1%. It is clear that such a decline in the incidence occurred primarily against the background of measures taken to counter the spread of covid-19. Remote work and study, the ban on visiting public places, the cancellation of most public events - these factors worked not only in relation to the "corona", they significantly "extinguished" the spread of other viruses, including Varicella Zoster, which is the causative agent of chickenpox. 

Now the situation has changed: most of the restrictions have been lifted, children returned to schools and kindergartens, adults to work, they began to meet more often with friends and even attend public events, which, of course, does not help contain the infection. They also started to forget about precautions: the level of sales of personal protective equipment has dropped significantly. The result is a rapidly growing risk of chickenpox outbreaks.

“The decrease in the incidence of chickenpox suggests that the number of children susceptible to the chickenpox virus has increased. Despite the alarming situation with covid-19 in Yakutia and the tightening of quarantine measures, the population seems to have already returned to their usual life - this is evident at least from the careless attitude towards personal protective equipment. In such a situation, there is a high likelihood of outbreaks of chickenpox and other infectious diseases, especially in children's groups, ”notes Tatyana Dmitrieva, professor at the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery at the Medical Institute of NEFU.

The risk may manifest itself this summer, in part due to organized children's recreation in groups, and in conditions of close contact between children, the risk of spreading the virus increases. This year, in Yakutia alone, the camps are planning to cover almost 30 children, compared with last year this number has grown almost 000 times. 

Other experts agree with Tatyana Dmitrieva. “After the reduction of chickenpox infections by more than 50% in 2020 in the Khabarovsk Territory against the background of quarantine and minimization of migration flows, it is possible that some increase in the incidence of chickenpox and other infectious diseases is not excluded as restrictive measures are lifted and the usual level of air communication with Europe and Southeast is restored. Asia, says Anna Kuznetsova, chief freelance infectious disease specialist at the Khabarovsk Territory Ministry of Health. “Despite extensive measures to educate the population and implement a set of preventive measures, chickenpox is still one of the most common infectious diseases, the danger and damage from which cannot be underestimated.”

In Primorye, a significant increase in the number of cases has also been recorded since mid-May. According to Svetlana Morozova, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare in the Primorsky Territory, migration of the population with the onset of the tourist season and the beginning of summer holidays occupies a significant place among the reasons for the increase in the incidence of diseases. 

It is worth noting that the risk of new outbreaks of chickenpox is growing, including due to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections. In persons who have had covid-19, there is a temporary decrease in immunity, due to which chickenpox can be more severe. In addition, against the background of a coronavirus infection, the Varicella Zoster virus sometimes reactivates. Some experts also describe cases where, when a combination of coronavirus infection and the Varicella Zoster virus, more severe respiratory diseases develop.  

“Don't underestimate the gravity of the situation. According to a recent survey conducted at the initiative of GSK, one in five Russians thinks that chickenpox is mild and does not cause serious complications. In fact, this disease is dangerous in the first place precisely because of its complications. These include pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis, myocarditis and more. But even if the disease is relatively easy, the virus remains in the body in a "dormant" state and over time can manifest itself in the form of herpes zoster. The pain syndrome that occurs in this case is one of the most intractable and can last for months ", - notes Evgeniy Shpeer, Ph.D., doctor-immunologist, member of the European Society of Childhood Infectious Diseases (ESPID) and head of the medical department" Vaccines "of the company GSK in Russia.

The same GSK study showed that more than half of the Russians surveyed were unaware of the possibility of immunoprophylaxis for chickenpox. Meanwhile, this is the main preventive measure aimed at protecting the population from chickenpox, its effectiveness exceeds 90%. Only a doctor can talk about ways to prevent and treat chickenpox, and you should consult with him as early as possible. 

One of the leading eastern regions for vaccination against chickenpox is the Sakhalin Region: the chickenpox vaccine has been included in the regional immunization schedule for several years now and is available under the compulsory health insurance policy for children from 9 months before entering school. According to Oksana Solonina, the chief freelance infectious disease specialist of the Sakhalin Region, due to vaccine prevention, the situation in the region is quite optimistic. 

So, according to Mrs. Solonina, “in the fight against chickenpox, we are ahead of the national vaccination schedule for several years, and due to the fact that the vaccine is offered to parents of all children, and not only from risk groups, parents are well enough informed about the risks of chickenpox, its complications , as well as how you can protect yourself from this infection. Thus, parents receive comprehensive information about the vaccination and in most cases make a positive decision to vaccinate their child. "

An expert from Yakutia supports a colleague from Sakhalin: systemic vaccination of children can finally reverse the trends in chickenpox. “Yakutia is one of the few constituent entities of the Russian Federation where chickenpox vaccination has been included in the regional vaccination schedule since 2016. That is, vaccine prophylaxis has been available for five years already within the framework of compulsory medical insurance for risk groups, for example, for adults and children with reduced immunity, says Tatyana Dmitrieva, professor at the Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery at the NEFU Medical Institute. “We hope that after the inclusion of varicella vaccine in the national immunization schedule in 2023, the volume of vaccine prevention against this infection in the region will only increase.”

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