Posts Tagged ‘chickenpox’

Shingles Vaccine is the Silver Lining of Turning 50

April 19, 2018 9 comments


Turning fifty is a milestone most people would rather avoid.  

Not me.  

After watching both my 73-year-old mother and my 18-year-old daughter suffer with shingles, I would do almost anything to avoid it. And last year, when a new and more effective shingles vaccines was licensed by the FDA, and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for people age 50 and older, I began looking forward to my 50th birthday.

You see, now that I’ve witnessed shingles up close and personal, I am eager to prevent it and I feel compelled to encourage everyone to as well.  And here’s why…

Vaccination is the Only Way to Prevent Shingles

You can’t avoid shingles by washing your hands or avoiding sick individuals.  The only means of prevention is through vaccination.

That’s because shingles isn’t your typical contagion. It’s a virus, but not the kind that is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. It’s actually a virus (the herpes zoster virus), that is caused by another virus, (the varicella-zoster virus, more commonly known as chickenpox).

Over the past two years I’ve watched as both my mother and my daughter have suffered with shingles, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.   

Shingles Pain Is Excruciating, Debilitating and Can Be Long Lasting

ShinglesImageThe rash then developed into fluid-filled blisters that would break open, ooze out and eventually crust over.  She had to be careful to keep the rash covered and wash her hands frequently since she didn’t want to infect my newborn niece who was living in the same home at the time. Since my niece had not yet received her varicella vaccine, she was not immune to the virus and would be at risk of developing chickenpox.  As a premature infant, that could have been extremely dangerous for her.   Read more…

Top Immunization Topics of 2013: Shot of Prevention’s Year in Review

December 31, 2013 3 comments

As we prepare for the challenges of 2014, we want to thank everyone who has contributed to our success in 2013.  Once again, the past year has been one of tremendous growth.  We’ve seen a record number of views and shares on a variety of Shot of Prevention blog posts and we’re especially grateful to our new blog contributors and many new subscribers.

In looking back over our efforts from this past year,  we would like to share a list of some of our most popular blog posts from 2013.  We hope that you will revisit these posts and share them with others so that we can engage more people in these important immunization discussions.

Top 5 Shot of Prevention Blog Posts of 2013

  1. Why Some Parents Are Refusing the HPV Vaccine For Their Children:  This post not only identifies some of the most common reasons parents are choosing to refuse the HPV vaccine for their children, but it includes links to scientific data that can help parents gain a better perspective regarding the HPV vaccine, including information on safety and efficacy.  Click here to read this year’s most popular post.

  2. Legal Responsibilities in Choosing Not to Vaccinate:  This guest post, written by vaccine advocate and law professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, explores the legal ramifications associated with those that choose not to immunize themselves or their children.  What if a unvaccinated individual is responsible for spreading a disease that causes permanent injury or even death to another individual?  Would it be reasonable to hold them liable?  Read more about the considerations here.

  3. Think Chickenpox is Party Worthy?  Think AgainJesseLee Some people mistakenly believe it is safer to sicken their children by exposing them to “wild” diseases than to obtain immunity through vaccinations.  However, the misconception that wild viruses and “natural” immunity is better for a child is a dangerous one, especially when parents are purposely infecting their children with chickenpox rather than get them vaccinated. If parents are going to take their chances with the wild varicella virus, it’s important that they first acknowledge the risks and understand that chickenpox can be dangerous and deadly.  This post, which explains the concerns of intentional exposure and highlights the unfortunate death of Jesse Lee Newman, can be read here.

  4. Why We’re Still Talking About Vaccines and Autism:  Each day, as new babies are born and more children are diagnosed with autism, questions of vaccine safety rush front and center for a new set of parents. In March of 2013, the CDC released new information about the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder which then reignited conversations about the safety of immunizations.  This blog post includes links to various resources that address the subject of autism and vaccines.  But while concerns may linger, the science is in.  Read more in the post here.

  5. Vaccine Refusal and the Politics of School Vaccination Exemptions:  As vaccine exemption rates climb across various parts of the U.S., so do outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases which are threatening the health of our children.  In 2013, many states responded to these concerns by establishing new policies for school immunization exemptions and attempting to legislate their way toward better public health.  Find out which states are taking action and how you can be alerted to legislative initiatives in your state by reading the post here.

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2014, please feel free to add them to the comments below.  If you enjoy our posts please remember to subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link in the top right corner of this page.  You can also join us for more immunization news and discussion on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page.

Thanks again for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

Chickenpox Outbreak in Florida Exposes Importance of Varicella Vaccine

April 12, 2012 176 comments

According to recent reports in The Gainesville Sun, there is a chickenpox outbreak in Florida that has recently spread to five different schools.  Currently, the outbreak involves 65 cases in which 26 children were infected from the Bhaktivedanta Academy, 25 children from the Alachua Learning Center, one child in a public school and 13 others — four adults, eight children and one infant.

Before you go dismissing this as “just a few cases of chickenpox”,  please read Josh’s story, recently highlighted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Josh’s mother, Bev Connelly, talks openly about her son and says,

“… our world changed forever on April 13, 1996, when Josh died suddenly from chickenpox. I couldn’t believe that chickenpox could be that severe. I was one of seven kids, and we had all had chickenpox as children, and we knew lots of other people who had it too. No one had ever died.”

Unfortunately, Bev explains that Josh contracted chicken pox right around the time that the vaccine was first introduced.

“When Josh got chickenpox, the vaccine was new. His doctor was offering it when kids came in for their annual check-up. Josh’s check-up would have been in July.”

Bev goes on to say,

“Sadly, the doctor told me that he had been having trouble convincing parents to get the vaccine for their children. I always believed in vaccines, so I would like to think that I would have gotten the vaccine when it was offered in July, but I never had the chance. When Josh died, the local newspaper ran a story about him. After that, the doctor said he had an easier time convincing people to get their child vaccinated. I wished so much that I still had Josh . . . that I still had that chance to make the decision about the chickenpox vaccine, but I knew, for us, it was too late and I took comfort in knowing that when people heard about Josh, they decided to protect their children from the same thing. It was like Josh’s gift—not only to me, but to others. “

Unfortunately, even 15 years after the vaccine has been introduced, there are parents who still refuse this particular vaccine. Not only are they refusing the vaccine, but there is evidence that some are actively seeking a varicella infection through various parenting forums and social media outlets like the “Find a Pox Party in Your Area” Facebook page.  People have even been known to mail chicken pox lollipops and other contaminated items to help spread the varicella infection to children in various areas of the country.

Obviously, these actions come from parents that believe it is better to infect their child “naturally” with the live varicella virus than have them attain immunity through the use of a safe and controlled vaccine.  But one must wonder if they have ever stopped to consider that mailing these items are not only illegal, but potentially dangerous as they can be exposing their children to a whole host of other infections.

However, as I read reports regarding the current cases in Florida, there are a few other points that I would like to offer for discussion. Read more…

Chickenpox Takes A Hit

July 28, 2011 6 comments

Earlier this week, a study was published in Pediatrics that documents the impact of the varicella vaccine has had on chickenpox deaths in the US.  The new report indicates that during
the 12 years of the mostly 1-dose US varicella vaccination program, the mortality rates for varicella declined as much as 88 – 97% (depending on the selected age group).   In conclusion,  it’s expected that with the current 2-dose program, that there is hope for ever greater success and the potential for the most severe outcomes to be eliminated.

While this certainly sounds like good news, it didn’t take long before the vaccine critics put their spin on the report.  Their criticism was often centered around the specific number of deaths that were prevented.  The study indicates that

“in the last 6 years analyzed (2002-2007) a total of of 3 deaths per age range were reported among children aged 1 to 4 and 5 to 9 years, compared with an annual average of 13 and 16 deaths, respectively, during the prevaccine years. “

Apparently, these numbers are just not significant enough for some to recognize the benefit of vaccination. Read more…

Once a Childhood Rite of Passage, Chickenpox is Vaccine Preventable

Image of varicella virus made available by the Centers for Disease Control.

Most adults recall their experiences with chickenpox with great detail.  I remember that I was visiting my grandparents in Florida and they had planned to bring me to a Liberace concert.  Even though, at the age of nine, I had no idea who he was, I recall my grandmother being quite excited.  However, once my rash appeared, she couldn’t hide her disappointment.  I was contagious and we had to cancel all our plans for the week.      

Fortunately, as I was boarding my plane home, we came upon a great commotion in the airport and realized Liberace was there.  We shared our story with him and he took a few photos with us.  Perhaps this was a small consolation to my grandmother who had to nurse me through my illness.  What she recalls most is meeting Liberace.  What I recall most is the discomfort of my rash, and my grandmother nagging at me to stop scratching!

Flash forward almost 20 years.  I’m having a conversation with my daughter’s pediatrician about the immunizations she was to receive when she mentions the varicella vaccine.  When she explains that this is a vaccine for chickenpox, I’ll admit I was a bit surprised. 

While I had never had any of the other diseases she would be immunized for, I did have the chickenpox.  As uncomfortable as it seemed at the time, looking back I didn’t really think it was dangerous.  I’m sure most other parents probably consider chickenpox to be relatively benign, like I did at the time.  Perhaps this is why the varicella vaccine is one of the most commonly rejected vaccines.   However, while most children manage well through the varicella-zoster virus, it is not always a simple childhood illness.

Complications from the chickenpox can be very serious, resulting in hospitalizations and even death.  They include bacterial infection of the skin or other parts of the body including the bones, lungs, joints, and blood, as well as pneumonia or infection of the brain.  Before the development of a vaccine, about 11,000 people in the United States were hospitalized each year, and about 100 people would die. Sadly, about half of these deaths were among previously healthy children.   

In this week’s featured video, Nathan’s mother describes her son suffering a stroke as a result of what she thought was a benign case of chickenpox.  While Nathan survived, his medical challenges continue today.

Unfortunately, the chickenpox vaccine was not available to Nathan, and prior to introduction of the vaccine in 1995, there was an estimated four million cases of chickenpox per year.  It is such a contagious illness that if one infected person sits and talks in a room full of 100 people who were not previously infected or vaccinated, than it can be expected that about 85 of the remaining 99 will get chickenpox.  However, the success of the vaccine is evident since the number of cases of chickenpox has fallen 83-93% since the introduction of the vaccine in 1995.    

While we must be aware that there are risks with every vaccine, I found this comparison from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to be interesting for parents to consider:

Of 1,000 people with chickenpox:

  • About 100 will require medical attention
  • About two will be hospitalized 
  • About 50 will suffer from infected blisters; in some cases the bacterial infection is caused by group A streptococcus (GAS). When GAS enters the bloodstream, it can lead to a mild infection or, less commonly, a more severe situation such as necrotizing fasciitis, also known as “flesh-eating bacteria,” or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). Necrotizing fasciitis destroys muscles, fat, and skin tissue. STSS causes a rapid drop in blood pressure and organ failure. About 1,500 people die from GAS in the U.S. every year; some of these as a complication from chickenpox.  (For another personal story, click here)
  • Other complications from chickenpox can include dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea, pneumonia, or swelling of the brain (known as encephalitis).

Of 1,000 children who get the vaccine:

  • 700 to 900 will never get chickenpox; of the remaining 100 to 300 who may get chickenpox, the disease is typically less severe.
  • About 200 will have redness or soreness where the shot was given 
  • Less than 50 will experience a mild rash up to one month after immunization 
  • 100 to 200 will have fever, about one of whom will experience a seizure related to the fever

(It is important to note that people who are allergic to gelatin should not get the vaccine.)

Even though my experience with chicken pox only left a few scars, after my discussion with our  pediatrician I had a better understanding of the risks in contracting this disease.  Since no one can determine just which child will suffer with dangerous complications, I felt it best to vaccinate my children. 

It’s important to also understand that while no vaccine is 100% effective, the chickenpox vaccine is very effective.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 8 to 9 of every 10 people who are vaccinated are completely protected from chickenpox and the vaccine almost always prevents against severe disease. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually a very mild case lasting only a few days and involving fewer skin lesions (usually less than 50), mild or no fever, and few other symptoms. That is reassuring to me, especially since I hope to prevent my children from ever suffering from chickenpox.  After all, it is vaccine preventable.