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October 7, 1968

Familial Fatal Varicella

Author Affiliations

From the departments of pediatrics (Drs. Hook, ten Bensel, and St. Geme), microbiology, and laboratory medicine (Dr. St. Geme), University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis; the Department of Pathology, Lake Region Hospital, Fergus Falls, Minn (Dr. Orandi); and Parkers Prairie Hospital, Parkers Prairie, Minn (Dr. Schamber). Dr. Hook is now with the Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. St. Geme is now with the Department of Pediatrics, University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles.

JAMA. 1968;206(2):305-311. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03150020021004

Five children in a family contracted chickenpox during a two-week interval and two died. Clinical observations suggested that both fatalities were due to chickenpox pneumonia and this was confirmed by necropsy study of one patient. In addition, a clinical pattern compatible with varicella pneumonia developed in another sibling who survived. The other two experienced benign illnesses. The children were between the ages of 2 and 10 years. The deaths occurred in a 9-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. All children in the family were in good health prior to the varicella-zoster viral infection with the exception of recent intrafamilial rubella. Study of the parents and surviving children failed to reveal an obvious immunologic deficit.