Sunday, May 13, 2007

Childhood diseases making a comeback

Measles, mumps, German measles and chicken pox: all are childhood diseases that may seem to be benign, but that’s only because we haven’t really seen them – and their effects – for a long time.

When the vaccines for mumps, measles and German measles (rubella) first came out, the medical community had to convince the general population that it was safe and beneficial to have children vaccinated against these diseases. As time went on, it became standard and people just did it. Unfortunately, that became a bit of our problem because since so many children were vaccinated, the number of these cases dropped drastically. With the drastic drop, there’s a whole generation of people who had no idea what it was like to have these diseases and there was a whole generation of people who didn’t know anyone who died or suffered severe disability because of them. Many parents began to choose not to vaccinate.

Add to that the onset of autism and the fear of a link between the vaccines and autism, now we have kids who are open to developing these diseases not just as children, but as they grow into adulthood.

Childhood diseases are not benign. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an article from the mid 1990s, (Measles) one in 10 children who get the measles get ear infections, as many as one in 20 develop pneumonia and about 1 in every 1000 children develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. People who get encephalitis can have seizures, deafness or mental handicaps. Encephalitis can also cause death.

If a child is infected with mumps, about one out of every 10 develops meningitis (German Measles). While the children may not have the severe effects that measles and mumps can have, if a pregnant woman is exposed to German measles during the first trimester, there is a chance of miscarriage and as high as an 80% chance that the baby will be born either deaf or blind. They could also have other abnormalities with their heart or brain, and there could be brain damage.

Chicken pox is the most recent childhood disease to have a vaccine made available. This is particularly important because anyone who has had chicken pox can develop a painful condition later on in life called shingles, or herpes zoster. Having had shingles myself, I can assure you, it is no picnic.

While most children who get chicken pox come through relatively unscathed, save for some scars on the face or elsewhere, there are some who get significantly sicker. Although rare, encephalitis can occur, as can Reye’s syndrome and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscles, pneumonia and even arthritis. Children with low immune defences can become quite ill, even die, if they get the chicken pox. Mothers who catch chicken pox while pregnant can deliver babies with congenital infection, meaning babies born with infection.

People who have shingles later on in life can develop a very painful condition called post-herpetic neuralgia. Seniors and people who are immunocompromised are most at risk of developing shingles. People who are vaccinated against chicken pox will not have the virus in their system and cannot develop shingles later on in life.

And now, in 2007, mumps is making the rounds in universities. A recent outbreak in a university in Canada has begun to spread as the students are making their way home for the summer. You can read this Globe and Mail article to learn more: Mumps outbreak moves from the Maritimes to Ontario.

News for today:
Skin Patch Approved for Early Parkinson's
Higher Dose of Clot-Buster Is Better Before Artery Procedure
Daily Aspirin May Prevent Bowel Cancer New Study

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had Chicken Pox myself and it was not as bad as these drug companies and doctors make it out to be. The disease lasted about a week and there was no lasting effects other than a few light scars. Actually one of my friends caught the disease even after being vaccinated against chicken pox twice. The whole idea behind creating the chicken Pox vaccine was not to save lives but to rather for drug companies to make a larger profit. And about the shingles thing, actually many people who got the Chicken Pox vaccine contracted Shingles anyways at an even greater frequency than actual natural Chicken Pox survivors. Do not mistake me for an anti vaccine kind of person, I do agree that some vaccines (Dtap, polio, measles, etc) save lives and are legitimate, but I see no legitimate answer as to why exactly we need a Chicken Pox Vaccine.