The varicella zoster virus (VZV), more commonly known as chickenpox, is notorious for covering the body in itchy red bumps and being highly contagious, particularly among children. Although rare today, due to vaccination, chickenpox has the potential to do much more damage than parents may think if children are exposed.1
Vaccination is crucial in preventing children from getting chickenpox and suffering from related complications, and for protecting children who cannot be vaccinated from becoming infected. Recently, an infant aged 11 months suffered a stroke 2 to 3 months after being infected with the varicella zoster virus, which was likely passed from older, unvaccinated siblings who developed chickenpox around the same time. The event emphasizes the importance in vaccinating children, according to a report published by Journal of Pediatrics.1
Children cannot be vaccinated for chickenpox until they are at least 12 months old, resulting in a higher risk of infection and complication among younger infants. It is therefore important to ensure children around those who are more vulnerable, particularly siblings, are vaccinated to prevent spreading the infection, according to the report.1
Before the vaccine existed, chickenpox resulted in more than 10,000 hospitalizations per year, with more than 100 child deaths, according to the CDC.2 While the viral infection has been rare in the 2 decades following the vaccine’s discovery, there have been recent outbreaks around the nation from parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated. These parents may believe that chickenpox infection is unlikely, or that the children will just tough out the blister-like rash, according to the report.1
“The risks associated with vaccines are very, very, very small,” said pediatric epidemiologist Aaron Milestone, MD, in an interview with Today. “But the anti-vaccine community is very loud, especially on social media. They generate a lot of anxiety in those who have not seen the horrors of preventable diseases.”
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- Carroll L. Baby’s stroke a reminder why the chickenpox vaccine is so important. Today website. August 14, 2018. https://www.today.com/health/can-chickenpox-cause-stroke-why-vaccine-important-t135593. Accessed August 14, 2018.
- Chickenpox and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent it. CDC website. November 10, 2014. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/child/varicella.html. Accessed August 15, 2018.