The purpose of this study was to assess the direct medical costs and productivity losses associated with uncomplicated chickenpox (no hospitalization) in Canada.
A total of 179 otherwise healthy 1- to 9-year-old children with active chickenpox were recruited from schools, day care centers, and physician offices in 5 provinces. Direct medical (physician contacts, medication, and diagnostic tests) and nonmedical (personal expenses including child care) resources expended during the illness were determined by caregiver interview. Productivity losses attributable to the disease were determined by assessing caregiver time lost from work and daily activities. Unit costs for all resources were obtained from sources in 2 provinces, and per-patient treatment costs were determined from the patient, Ministry of Health, and societal perspectives.
From a societal perspective, the per-case cost for children from 1 to 4 years of age and from 5 to 9 years of age was $370.2 and $236.5, respectively. Direct medical costs accounted for 10% of the total costs in both groups. The largest cost driver in patient care was caregiver productivity losses, which amounted to $316.5 in the younger age group and to $182.7 in the older age group. Based on an estimated yearly incidence of 344 656 cases of uncomplicated chickenpox in Canada, the total annual societal burden of the disease can be estimated at $109.2 million, with a cost to the Ministry of Health of $11.2 million.
Chickenpox is one of the last common childhood diseases prevalent in Canada, and the uncomplicated disease, despite its rather benign course, imparts a large annual economic burden.