Seroprevalence of Varicella in the French Population

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Objectives:To assess the age-specific seroprevalence of varicella in the French population and to explore age-adjusted differences according to gender and geographic region.Methods:Data were obtained from 1257 randomly selected, frozen serum samples, from subjects 1–30 years of age, that were sent to the Pasteur-Cerba laboratory in November 2003 to January 2004 for the following clinical indications: allergies, respiratory infections, herpes virus infections excluding varicella and endocrinologic tests. IgG concentrations were tested with an indirect enzyme immunoassay. Statistical analyses included use of locally weighted, scatterplot smoothers.Results:Age-specific seroprevalence of varicella increased by >6-fold between 1 and 8 years of age, ie, from 15.0% (95% confidence interval, 8.6–23.5%) for subjects 1–2 years of age to 89.0% (95% confidence interval, 81.0–94.3%) for those 7–8 years of age. The smoothed curve of age-specific seroprevalence suggested that the steepest rate of increase occurred between 1 and 8 years of age, followed by a considerable slowing in the rate of increase, reaching a prevalence of ∼95% by age 30. Varicella seroprevalence rates were similar for the samples referred for the 4 clinical indications, as follows: allergies, 76.2%; respiratory infections, 74.0%; herpes virus infections excluding varicella, 73.3%; endocrinologic tests, 73.7% (P = 0.84).Conclusions:Most varicella-zoster virus infections occur during early childhood. Seroprevalence rates reach ∼50% by 4 years of age and ∼90% by 8 years. Therefore, the best strategy to reduce the prevalence of wild-type varicella-zoster virus in the French population would be to immunize children 12–18 months of age, as is currently performed in the United States.

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