Chickenpox is wrongly thought of as a harmless disease. Prior to widespread vaccination, chickenpox hospitalized 13,000 Americans and killed 150 every year. But even if it was a harmless infection, wouldn't we want to vaccinate our children to spare them the pain of shingles in their later years?
Shingles develops in one out of every three adults who've previously had chickenpox. Luckily there's not one, but two vaccines, against the painful rash. So why aren't adults getting the shot?
According to the CDC, the percentage of children who have ever had chickenpox has fallen dramatically since a vaccine was licensed for use in the U.S. in 1995. But because fewer kids have chickenpox, there is less virus circulating among the public. It's thought that exposure to the virus helps keep shingles in check, which is normally associated with older folks.
Perhaps the strangest medical phenomenon discovered in recent years is a link between the lone star tick and an allergy to red meat. The bite of a lone star tick exposes a person to a small carbohydrate called alpha-gal. In a handful of people, this exposure elicits an abnormal immune response that produces a type of antibody called IgE, which causes allergies. Because red meat also contains alpha-gal, people who have been sensitized to the carbohydrate from a tick bite can develop life-threatening anaphylaxis if they consume pork or beef.
Anyone who has ever had shingles or its painful aftermath can testify that this is not a condition to take lightly. Luckily, for the last 10 years a vaccine to prevent the condition in those who have had chickenpox has been available. A new vaccine, one which may prove superior, is now in testing and thus far seems highly effective — even in those over 70 years of age.
The outbreak began with a Michigan parent who was diagnosed with shingles last October. Despite acquiring first-hand knowledge of the pain and discomfort of shingles, the parent apparently took no significant action to protect his or her 5 kids. Within a month, one by one each came down with chickenpox. And then it spread outside the family home.
People who have had chickenpox are at risk for shingles an extremely painful condition that usually appears in older adults. It can be prevented by a vaccine. But now that shot is only recommended for people over the age of 60. Is this a reasonable restriction?
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the dormant chickenpox virus in the body. Often, this reactivation that leads to the disease occurs years or even decades after a chickenpox infection. The first symptoms of shingles are extreme sensitivity or pain in a
Shingles vaccine, available since 2006, has only been given to 16% of the over-60 year old population who could most benefit. This is a failure of public health communication as well as medical primary care.