This study aimed at establishing baseline key epidemiological parameters for varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection in Vojvodina, Serbia, with the ultimate goal to quantify the VZV transmission potential in the population. Seroprevalence data generated during the first large cross-sectional VZV serosurvey were modelled, using a two-tiered modelling approach to calculate age-specific forces of infection (FOI), the basic reproduction number (R0) and herd immunity threshold (H). Seroprevalence and modelling data were compared with corresponding pre-vaccination epidemiological parameters from 11 countries participating in the European Sero-Epidemiology Network 2 (ESEN2) project. Serbia fits into the general dynamic VZV transmission patterns in Europe in the pre-vaccine era, with estimated R0 = 4.12, (95% CI: 2.69–7.07) and H = 0.76 (95% CI: 0.63–0.86). The highest VZV transmission occurs among preschool children, as evidenced by the estimation of the highest FOI (0.22, 95% CI: 0.11–0.34) in the 0.5–4 age group, with a peak FOI of 0.25 at 2.23 years. Seroprevalence was consistently lower in 5–14 year-olds, resulting in considerable shares of VZV-susceptible adolescents (7.3%), and young adults (6%), resembling the situation in a minority of European countries. The obtained key epidemiological parameters showed most intense VZV transmission in preschool children aged <4 years, justifying the consideration of universal childhood immunization in the future. National immunization strategy should consider programs for VZV serologic screening and immunization of susceptible groups, including adolescents and women of reproductive age. This work is an important milestone towards the evaluation of varicella immunization policy options in Serbia.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina (SM, VP, VM), Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (ZL-C, Grant number 174019 for the period 2011–2017).
Copyright: © 2018 Medić et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.