Widespread use of varicella vaccine in the United States has drastically changed the epidemiology of the disease. Although chickenpox is no longer a ubiquitous childhood infection, varicella-zoster virus continues to circulate in the community and nonimmune pregnant women remain at risk. Varicella can cause severe infection in pregnant women, often complicated by viral pneumonia. Maternal varicella occurring in the first half of pregnancy can cause the rare but devastating congenital varicella syndrome, whereas infection in the late stages of pregnancy may cause neonatal varicella. The best approach to avoiding the morbidity and mortality associated with chickenpox in pregnancy is to screen and vaccinate susceptible reproductive-age women.
Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama of Birmingham and Birmingham Veterans Administration Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama
The author’s research studies were supported by contracts from National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (N01 AI 30025).
Dr Gnann is a consultant for Merck Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, and Valeant.
Correspondence: John W. Gnann, Jr, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Alabama of Birmingham and Birmingham VA Medical Center, Birmingham, AL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org