European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 164, Issue 6, pp 366–370 | Cite as

Prospective surveillance of hospitalisations associated with varicella-zoster virus infections in children and adolescents

  • Jan Bonhoeffer
  • Gurli Baer
  • Beda Muehleisen
  • Christoph Aebi
  • David Nadal
  • Urs B. Schaad
  • Ulrich HeiningerEmail author
Original Paper


Our goal was to determine the epidemiology of severe varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infections in hospitalised paediatric patients. Admissions associated with VZV infection of patients aged 0–16 years were reported by all 38 paediatric units in Switzerland to the Swiss Paediatric Surveillance Unit (SPSU) during 3 consecutive years (4/2000–3/2003). We verified completeness of reporting by capture-recapture analysis with patient records identified by ICD-10 codes. Outcome of illness was assessed 6 months after hospitalisation. A total of 335 cases (235 identified by SPSU reports, 100 by ICD-10 code) were included in this study. Mean age of patients was 4.1 years (median 3.5 years, range 0–16 years); 54% were male. Some 293 (87%) patients presented with chickenpox, 42 (13%) with herpes zoster and 291 (87%) patients were not immunocompromised. A total of 319 complications occurred in 237 (71%) patients: secondary bacterial infections (n =109); central nervous system involvement (n =76); VZV pneumonitis (n =7); others (n =127). Eleven (3%) patients required intensive care and three died. On follow-up, 303 (96%) of 315 patients had completely recovered; sequelae were present in 12 (4%) patients. The calculated hospitalisation rate was 13 per 104 cases. Conclusion:This study describes a sizeable hospitalisation and complication rate of varicella-zoster virus infections and provides a solid basis for future immunisation recommendations in Switzerland.


Child Complication Epidemiology Immunisation Varicella zoster infection 



Swiss Paediatric Surveillance Unit


varicella-zoster virus



A research grant was provided by GlaxoSmithKline, Switzerland.

We would like to thank Daniela Beeli, SPSU secretariat, for coordinating the report forms; Esther Schilling, study secretariat, for keeping track of reports and managing follow-up. We also would like to particularly thank the SPSU representatives of the respective paediatric units in Switzerland: A. Blumberg, J-L. Micheli, C. Aebi, E. Antonelli, P. Baeckert, W. Bär, J. P. Berclaz, J. P. Bossi, H-U. Bucher, L. Buetti, U. Bühlmann, E. Bussmann, O. Carrel, P. O. Cattin, J-M. Choffat, A. Corboz, G. Délèze, P. Diebold, P. Dolivo, F. Farron, M. Gehri, C. A. Haenggeli, J. Hentschel, P. S. Hüppi, P. Imahorn, C. Kind, B. Knöpfli, S. König, O. Lapaire, B. Laubscher, C. Le Coultre, M. Maherzi, A. Malzacher, W. Pezzoli, G. P. Ramelli, B. M. Regazzoni, F. Renevey, P. Rimensberger, C. Rudin, C. Stüssi, A. Superti-Furga, R. Tabin, J. Wisser, M. Wopmann, G. Zeilinger, and U. Zimmermann for their continuous and invaluable support as well as all the dedicated paediatricians taking care of the patients and helping us to complete the questionnaires.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Bonhoeffer
    • 1
  • Gurli Baer
    • 1
  • Beda Muehleisen
    • 1
  • Christoph Aebi
    • 2
  • David Nadal
    • 3
  • Urs B. Schaad
    • 1
  • Ulrich Heininger
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Paediatric Infectious DiseasesUniversity Children’s HospitalBasel Switzerland
  2. 2.Division of Paediatric Infectious DiseasesUniversity Children’s HospitalBern Switzerland
  3. 3.Division of Paediatric Infectious DiseasesUniversity Children’s HospitalZurich Switzerland

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