Article Text

Varicella paediatric hospitalisations in Belgium: a 1-year national survey
  1. Sophie Blumental1,
  2. Martine Sabbe2,
  3. Philippe Lepage1
  4. the Belgian Group for Varicella
    1. 1Paediatric Infectious Disease Unit, Hôpital Universitaire des Enfants Reine Fabiola (HUDERF), Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
    2. 2Unit of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, Scientific Institute of Public Health (SIPH), Brussels, Belgium
    1. Correspondence to Professor Philippe Lepage, Paediatric Infectious Disease Unit, Hôpital Universitaire des Enfants Reine Fabiola, JJ Crocq avenue, 15, Brussels 1020, Belgium; philippe.lepage{at}


    Background Varicella universal vaccination (UV) has been implemented in many countries for several years. Nevertheless, varicella UV remains debated in Europe and few data are available on the real burden of infection. We assessed the burden of varicella in Belgium through analysis of hospitalised cases during a 1-year period.

    Methods Data on children admitted to hospital with varicella were collected through a national network from November 2011 to October 2012. Inclusion criteria were either acute varicella or related complications up to 3 weeks after the rash.

    Results Participation of 101 hospitals was obtained, covering 97.7% of the total paediatric beds in Belgium. 552 children were included with a median age of 2.1 years. Incidence of paediatric varicella hospitalisations reached 29.5/105 person-years, with the highest impact among those 0–4 years old (global incidence and odds of hospitalisation: 79/105 person-years and 1.6/100 varicella cases, respectively). Only 14% (79/552) of the cohort had an underlying chronic condition. 65% (357/552) of children had ≥1 complication justifying their admission, 49% were bacterial superinfections and 10% neurological disorders. Only a quarter of children (141/552) received acyclovir. Incidence of complicated hospitalised cases was 19/105 person-years. Paediatric intensive care unit admission and surgery were required in 4% and 3% of hospitalised cases, respectively. Mortality among Belgian paediatric population was 0.5/106 and fatality ratio 0.2% among our cohort.

    Conclusions Varicella demonstrated a substantial burden of disease in Belgian children, especially among the youngest. Our thorough nationwide study, run in a country without varicella UV, offers data to support varicella UV in Belgium.

    • varicella
    • vaccination
    • Herpes zoster
    • Epidemiology
    • Europe

    This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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