What is the mortality and morbidity of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) pneumonia?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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In the United States, varicella pneumonia occurs with a frequency of 0.32-1.36 cases per 100,000 persons per year. Among Americans hospitalized because of varicella, 1.0-2.3 in 400 develop pneumonia.

Varicella pneumonia complicates approximately 2-10% of the cases of VZV infection in adults. At least 25% of the fatalities from varicella in adults occur in persons who develop varicella pneumonia. The severity of varicella pneumonia is highest in immunosuppressed persons, with mortality rates of 15-18%, and in pregnant women in the second/third trimesters, with a mortality rate of 41%.

The overall mortality in the general population has decreased from 19% (range, 10-30%) in 1960-1970 to 6%. In renal transplant patients, the mortality decreased from 53% in 1981-1990 to 22% in 1991-2000. The mortality rate is around 50% in intubated patients with acute respiratory failure. In HIV-infected patients, a mortality rate of 43% is reported, and in pregnant women, the mortality rate is about 41%.

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