Epidemiology and cost analysis of varicella in Italy: results of a sentinel study in the pediatric practice. Italian Sentinel Group on Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1999 May;18(5):414-9. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199905000-00004.


Background: Describing the epidemiology of varicella is relevant to the development of specific prevention strategies and to building up of economic models evaluating the cost:efficiency ratios of these strategies.

Aim: Our study was designed to describe the epidemiology of chickenpox among Italian children and to assess the resulting economic and health burden on the country.

Methods: Thirty-nine Italian pediatricians participated in a sentinel network on pediatric infectious diseases representing a total pediatric population of 30 168 children. Each case of varicella observed from January through December, 1997, was recorded. Economic analysis was conducted from the societal point of view. All costs were broken down into two groups: direct and indirect costs.

Results: A total of 1599 cases of varicella were reported among children 0 to 14 years old. There were 1266 primary cases (mean age, 4.5 +/- 2 years) and 333 secondary cases (mean age, 3.6 +/- 3.2 years). The global incidence of chickenpox was 51.01/1000/year. Complications were seen in 56 cases (3.5%). Drugs were prescribed in 672 cases. A group of adults (364 susceptible and 193 with uncertain status) were exposed to primary cases. Seventy (12.5%) were eventually infected among whom there were 4 pregnant women. For pediatric patients an average cost of $146.90 (250 400 lire) was estimated; this is largely accounted for by indirect costs.

Conclusions: The epidemiology of varicella in Italy is consistent with that found in previous studies in industrialized countries. Severe complications did not occur in our population. We believe that the health arguments in favor of universal vaccination of children > 18 months of age do not differ in our own country from those of other industrialized nations. Our data could now be incorporated into pharmacoeconomic models to establish cost-efficient strategies for Italy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Chickenpox / economics*
  • Chickenpox / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost of Illness
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Pediatrics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sentinel Surveillance