Chickenpox Birthdays

I love going to the baby clinic. I always learn something and learning is fun (it’s the exams I can’t handle).

My daughter has her birthday coming up and chicken pox has been doing the rounds with all her cousins. I do not want her to get Chickenpox especially since she has not been well recently. So, with the paediatricians “ok”, we decided to give her the Chickenpox vaccination.

When I was growing up we just got Chickenpox and “got over it” but there are good reasons why you should vaccinate your child against it.

The quote below might give you an idea of what I mean. Did you know Shingles and Chickenpox are caused by the same virus?

Shingles and chickenpox were once considered separate disorders. Researchers now know that they are both caused by a single virus of the herpes family, known as varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The word herpes is derived from the Greek word “herpein,” which means “to creep,” a reference to a characteristic pattern of skin eruptions. VZV is still referred to by separate terms:

  • Varicella: The primary infection that causes chickenpox
  • Herpes zoster: The reactivation of the virus that causes shingles


Below you will find some helpful facts about chicken pox:

Facts About Chickenpox and Shingles for Adults
(from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)

  1. Chickenpox (varicella) can be prevented with a vaccine. Sometimes vaccinated persons come down with chickenpox after vaccination but the illness is usually mild with < 50 lesions.
  2. Chickenpox is contagious from 1 to 2 days before the appearance of rash until all blisters have formed scabs or lesions fade away (if no blisters develop).
  3. Following exposure to an infectious person, it usually takes 10 to 21 days before the symptoms of chickenpox begin to appear.
  4. Adults are more likely than children to die from chickenpox and have serious complications resulting from varicella infection. Currently, less than 5% of adults are susceptible to infection with the chickenpox virus; younger adults are more likely to be susceptible.
  5. Immunocompromised people are more likely to have serious illness with complications as a result of chickenpox. The best way to prevent infection in such people is by immunizing their susceptible family members and their other close contacts. However, some immunocompromised people are eligible for vaccination.
  6. If a pregnant woman gets varicella during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, her baby has a 1 in a 100 risk of having serious birth defects such as shortening and scarring of limbs, cataracts, small head size, abnormal development of the brain and mental retardation.
  7. There are about 1 million cases of shingles diagnosed annually in the U.S. About half of cases are in those 60 years of age and older.
  8. Shingles, typically affects people over 50 years of age and those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV infection, cancers, or treatment with immunosuppressive drugs.
  9. There is a safe, effective vaccine to prevent shingles; it is recommended for everyone 60 years of age and older.
  10. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
  11. Initial infection with varicella-zoster cause chickenpox but the virus can then remain silent in the body for decades. Reactivation of the virus causes shingles.
  12. Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash that usually appears on just one side of the body, most often on the torso or face.
  13. Pain and numbness may occur in the location of the rash two to four days before the rash appears.
  14. The chance of getting shingles increases with age.
  15. Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long-lasting shingles pain syndrome, is the most common complication of shingles.
  16. PHN diminishes quality of life to a degree similar to congestive heart failure, heart attack, type II diabetes and major depression.
  17. Antiviral medications can be used to treat shingles in its acute stage; however, these medications do not have an effect on whether PHN will persist afterward.
  18. Medications used to treat PHN pain are only modestly effective.
  19. There is a vaccine available that reduces the risk of risk of shingles by 50% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 66%.
  20. The vaccine is recommended for people even if they’ve had shingles before because shingles can recur. The vaccine should also be given to people in the recommended age groups even if they cannot recall if they have ever had chickenpox.

Those are the facts. I would highly recommend that you vaccinate your child. Babies should get the vaccination just after they turn one and then once again between 4 – 6 years of age. Teenages can also be vaccinated if they were not vaccinated in their younger years.  There is also a shingles vaccine which should be administered after the age of 60.

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