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Open Access Research article

Hospitalizations for varicella in children and adolescents in a referral hospital in Hong Kong, 2004 to 2008: A time series study

Johnny YC Chan1, Linwei Tian2*, YW Kwan1, WM Chan1 and CW Leung1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Princess Margaret Hospital, Hong Kong SAR, China

2 School of Public Health and Primary Care, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:366  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-366

Published: 23 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Varicella accounts for significant morbidities and remains a public health issue worldwide. Climatic factors have been shown to associate with the incidence and transmission of various infectious diseases. We describe the epidemiology of varicella in paediatric patients hospitalized at a tertiary referral hospital in Hong Kong from 2004 to 2008, and to explore the possible association between the occurrence of varicella infection and various climatic factors.

Methods

The hospital discharge database of Princess Margaret Hospital was retrospectively analyzed for admissions associated with varicella from 2004 to 2008. Meteorological data were obtained from the monthly meteorological reports from the Hong Kong Observatory website. Time series analysis was performed with Poisson regression using a Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) approach.

Results

During the study period, 598 children were hospitalized for varicella. The mean age on admission was 57.6 months, and the mean duration of hospitalization was 3.7 days. The overall complication rate was 47%. The mean monthly relative humidity, especially in cool seasons, was inversely correlated with the monthly varicella cases of the same month.

Conclusions

Varicella can lead to serious complications and prolonged hospitalization, even in previously healthy children. Lower relative humidity in cool seasons is associated with higher number of paediatric varicella hospital admissions. These findings are useful for a better understanding of the pattern of paediatric varicella hospitalization in Hong Kong.

Keywords:
Varicella; Chickenpox; Time series study; Child; humidity; cool season