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TOEFL Challenge Question #2: Reading Comprehension

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History of the Chickenpox Vaccine

Chickenpox is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the Varicella zoster virus; sufferers develop a fleeting itchy rash that can spread throughout the body. The disease can last for up to 14 days and can occur in both children and adults, though the young are particularly vulnerable. Individuals infected with chickenpox can expect to experience a high but tolerable level of discomfort and a fever as the disease works its way through the system. The ailment was once considered to be a “rite of passage” by parents in the U.S. and thought to provide children with greater and improved immunity to other forms of sickness later in life. This view, however, was altered after additional research by scientists demonstrated unexpected dangers associated with the virus. Over time, the fruits of this research have transformed attitudes toward the disease and the utility of seeking preemptive measures against it.

A vaccine against chickenpox was originally invented by Michiaki Takahashi, a Japanese doctor and research scientist, in the mid-1960s. Dr. Takahashi began his work to isolate and grow the virus in 1965 and in 1972 began clinical trials with a live but weakened form of the virus that caused the human body to create antibodies. Japan and several other countries began widespread chickenpox vaccination programs in 1974. However, it took over 20 years for the chickenpox vaccine to be approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), finally earning the U.S. government’s seal of approval for widespread use in 1995. Yet even though the chickenpox vaccine was available and recommended by the FDA, parents did not immediately choose to vaccinate their children against this disease. Mothers and fathers typically cited the notion that chickenpox did not constitute a serious enough disease against which a person needed to be vaccinated.

Strong belief in that view eroded when scientists discovered the link between Varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox, and shingles, a far more serious, harmful, and longer-lasting disease in older adults that impacts the nervous system. They reached the conclusion that Varicella zosterremains dormant inside the body, making it significantly more likely for someone to develop shingles. As a result, the medical community in the U.S. encouraged the development, adoption, and use of a vaccine against chickenpox to the public. Although the appearance of chickenpox and shingles within one person can be many years apart—generally many decades—the increased risk in developing shingles as a younger adult (30-40 years old rather than 60-70 years old) proved to be enough to convince the medical community that immunization should be preferred to the traditional alternative.


According to paragraph 3, which of the following is true of Varicella Zoster?


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8 Responses to TOEFL Challenge Question #2: Reading Comprehension

  1. shirwan April 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    The correct answer is (B).

  2. Darshini April 15, 2015 at 3:34 am #

    The answer is B. This is because in the first sentence, it is mentioned that ‘Varicella Zoster’ is linked to another disease called ‘shingles’ in adults.

  3. Maria A. April 15, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    The answer is: (B) It is linked to a serious disease that occurs more commonly in adults.

    The key to finding the answer is under this paragraph: “the virus that causes chickenpox, and shingles, a far more serious, harmful, and longer-lasting disease in older adults that impacts the nervous system.” Thus, it confirms the answer that chicken pox will probably develop in older adults as a serious disease which is more likely to cause more damage in adults than the elderly and also dissipate the notion that this disease will be eradicated after a child gets contaminated with chicken pox. At the same time we can say that “Varicella zoster” is a serious virus, causing a threat to human population in general which includes, newborns, children, adults and the elderly, thus, answer C is not a valid answer.

  4. N Ritvika Reddy April 15, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    The answer is option B.
    Options C and D are discredited in paragraph 3.
    Option A is not given directly anywhere.
    The paragraph states that there is an increased risk in developing shingles. Hence option B has to be the correct answer.

  5. Dr. Harshita Mishra April 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    The question stem is concerned about what paragraph 3 mentions of Varicella zoster. An important point to keep in mind is that even though we have been asked about just paragraph 3, we should READ the ENTIRE passage. It won’t take much time to read two more paragraphs and our accuracy rate also increases when we have the whole passage in mind. But, now is the glitch, while answering such “paragraph specific” questions, one must remember to mark the option that the PARAGRAPH in QUESTION, in this case paragraph 3, speaks of. Keeping this is mind, let’s tackle the question.

    In a nutshell, this passage is from the MEDICAL FIELD. (It is always helpful to keep at the back of our head what the given passage is from – economics, biology, medicine, history etc; somehow our mind works on those lines. With more practice, you would understand how it would help. It definitely helps me!) The passage mainly speaks of a disease chicken pox and how the attitude in the States has changed from considering chicken pox as being a not so serious disease that doesn’t necessitate vaccination to one that requires immunization against the virus causing it; as research shows that the disease could result in greater adverse effects on the health.

    Now, that was a short gist on the entire passage. Let’s come to the main part – The question in question ( See, what I did there :P) Now, let’s tackle it!!

    Option A – It typically attacks It typically attacks adults who are over 60 years old.

    In the third last line of paragraph 3 – it is mentioned that Shingles affects younger adults more and then within brackets – ” 30-40 years old rather than 60-70 years old”. So, we can safely cancel option A.

    Option B – It is linked to a serious disease that occurs more commonly in adults.

    “linked to a serious disease” Aah, I like the way how the option reads till now. The third paragraph begins with a strong belief in a particular VIEW being eroded by scientists. The view has been mentioned in the second paragraph ( Aah!!, now you see why I stressed to always read the whole passage and not just the paragraph in question :)) and it states that earlier chicken pox, caused by Varicella zoster, was NOT CONSIDERED a “serious enough disease”. But, now scientists erode this view – so this means IT IS NOW CONSIDERED a “serious enough disease”. Okay, good till here. Reading forward – that occurs commonly in adults. Perfect!!! Look, it is clearly stated in the third line that this disease is harmful blah blah in “older adults”. I love this option. I think we have an answer there. So, now let’s keep this aside and move ahead to the next option. Though, I feel we already have our winner in option B 🙂

    C – It likely is not a serious enough threat to human health to require a vaccine.

    We just discussed a whole of Socrate’s literature in option B as to how paragraph 3 erodes the “not so serious” aspect of the disease and claims the disease to be a serious one. So, I can cancel option C and need not read further. But, just to explain further. Paragraph two speaks of how this disease was not considered serious enough to require a vaccine. Later, with research, the scientists proved that chicken pox has much adverse health effects in the form of Shingles. If the question would have been what paragraph 2 speaks of Varicella Zoster, perhaps then this would have been the answer. But, no not for our paragraph 3.

    D. It is completely eradicated from the body after chickenpox occurs.

    This option is also out. The third and fourth line of paragraph 3 state that Varicella Zoster virus remains dormant in the body – This means after the virus has caused chickenpox, the virus DOES NOT leave the body but remains “dormant” meaning “passive” or “inactive” and later can cause Shingles. So, it is not eradicated from the body. Hence, option D is ruled out too.

    This brings my winner back to the stage 🙂 Option B is the clear-cut winner. Cheers!

    Thanks and Regards,
    Dr. Harshita.

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel April 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Hi Harshita,

      Awesome explanation! You’re one of our winners this week — I’ll email you in a few minutes with instructions to get your free account!

  6. Tania Romero Bautista April 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    Let’s answer this question by first reading the text and then looking to the alternatives carefully.
    Option A said Varicella zoster typically attacks adults who are over 60 years old. This option can’t be our answer because it is not supported explicitly by the text, which also says that the virus increases the risk of developing into shingles in younger adults (30- 40 years old rather than 60-70 years old).
    Option B said Varicella zoster is linked to a serious disease that is more common in adults. This statement is support by the text of paragraph 3 in which Varicella zoster is linked with the development of shingles, which is described as “a far more serious, harmful, and longer-lasting disease in older adults.” So B could be our answer, but let’s examine the others options just to make sure.
    We know option C can’t be our answer either because paragraph 3 also tells us that the medical community encourages the use of a vaccine to prevent the development of shingles.
    Finally, option D states that the Varicella zoster virus is eradicated after chickenpox occurs. But paragraph 3 tells us that Varicella zoster remains dormant inside the body even after the initial chickenpox infection has subsided. So this rules out option D as well.
    Therefore, option B is our right answer.

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel April 16, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi Tania,

      Great explanation. 🙂 You’re one of our winners this week — I’ll email you in a few minutes with instructions to get your free account!

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