Chickenpox Parties Need to Make a Comeback

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I remember getting chickenpox as a child in the early ’80s. Due to the highly infectious nature of chickenpox, all the kids in the neighbourhood got it. None of our parents blinked an eyelash because they knew that chickenpox was a harmless disease if acquired during childhood with a very low risk of complications.

Before the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine in 1999 here in Canada, it was fairly common for parents to hold “chickenpox parties.” A chickenpox party involves the deliberate exposure of children infected with the chickenpox virus to other children who have not yet been exposed to the disease. Parents willingly expose their children to the disease in order to grant their children life-long immunity to chickenpox. These “chickenpox party” parents know that chickenpox is a mild disease if acquired during childhood, but infection is riskier when acquired by teens or adults.

What Changed?

Before the introduction of the vaccine, chickenpox (varicella) was considered by almost everyone to be a mild disease, and parents were not concerned if their children were infected with it. Now, most parents are horrified by the idea of chickenpox parties. So what’s changed?

Relatively Benign Disease in Childhood Becomes Risky in Adulthood

In general, complications as well as fatalities from chickenpox are more commonly observed in adults than in children. Case-fatality ratios (deaths per 100 000 cases) in healthy adults are 30-40 times higher than among children aged 5-9 (WHO). Each year from 1990 to 1994, prior to the availability of varicella vaccine, about 4 million cases of chickenpox occurred in the United States. Of these cases approximately 10,000 required hospitalization and 100 died. After the introduction of the vaccine in 1995, overall US chickenpox deaths plummeted to 66 per year in 2001 and hospitalizations declined significantly. However, death rates from chickenpox did not decline for those aged 50 or older (NEJM).

A Decrease in Chickenpox Infection Leads to an Increase in Shingles

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a debilitating, painful skin rash acquired in adulthood. After a child has been exposed to the chickenpox virus, the virus remains latent in the body. The varicella virus can later be reactivated as shingles later in life. If the varicella virus infects the nerve cells, it can cause an extremely painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Nerve pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia can last for months and in some cases even years. Approximately 200,000 adult Americans are afflicted with postherpetic neuralgia every year.

There is  scientific evidence that adults who are regularly exposed to children infected with the chickenpox virus have increased protection against the shingles (Thomas). Thus, natural exposure to the chickenpox virus boosts adults’ immunity against shingles, acting like a natural shingles vaccine. Since chickenpox infection rates are now so low in Canada and the US, chances of adult exposure to the virus is also low, thus scientists expect an eventual shingles epidemic to emerge in the coming years (Brisson).

Since the beginning of the mass chickenpox vaccination campaign in the US, deaths and hospitalizations did decrease, but studies also showed that shingles increased over that same time period (Yih; Mullooly). A recent MacLeans article quotes several scientists who admit that more varicella vaccine coverage has already sparked an increase in shingles in Canada and the US, plus it is shifting shingles incidence to a younger population.

Introducing the Shingles Vaccine

Merck, the manufacturer of the varicella vaccine, is forcing a shingles epidemic on the American (and Canadian) population. But they cleverly “fixed” the problem that they created when they invented a vaccine for shingles in 2007. Now they are trying to push the shingles vaccine on the elderly population of North America.

What Next?

The chickenpox vaccine is  decreasing the incidence of a mild disease, and in exchange is increasing the incidence of a more debilitating disease: shingles. Now what? Once the entire elderly population starts vaccinating against shingles, what new problem will that create?

Time to Bring Back Pox Parties

Big Pharma companies like Merck have profits, not your health, in mind. It’s time to take your family’s health into your own hands. Have a pox party. Build your child’s immunity naturally instead of relying on vaccines. Adults should attend these parties as well because natural exposure to the chickenpox virus boosts their immunity to shingles.

Organize a Chickenpox Party in Vancouver

Join this yahoo group to find other like-minded parents to organize pox parties with: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/chickenpoxinvancouverbc/

Still concerned about the chickenpox? Read about a safe, effective alternative to vaccinations: Homeopathic Immunizations

Enjoy this article? You might enjoy this one as well: Fear the MMR Vaccine, Not the Measles

References

Belluz, Julia. “Why are ever-younger adults contracting shingles? No longer just a disease of the elderly.” MacLeans. August 16, 2010.

Brisson M, Gay NJ, Edmunds WJ, Andrews NJ. Exposure to varicella boosts immunity to herpes-zoster: implications for mass vaccination against chickenpox. Vaccine. 2002 Jun 7;20(19-20):2500-7.

Health Protection Agency. “Latest HPA modelling reveals chickenpox vaccination would lead to more shingles among elderly despite introduction of shingles vaccination” September 17, 2008.

Mullooly JP, Riedlinger K, Chun C, et al. Incidence of herpes zoster, 1997–2002.Epidemiol Infect 2005;133:245–53.

Pollack, Andrew “Chickenpox Vaccine Cuts Deaths but Raises Question on Shingles.” New York Times, February 3, 2005.

Thomas SL, Wheeler JG, Hall AJ. “Contacts with varicella or with children and protection against herpes zoster in adults: a case controlled study” Lancet. 2002 Aug 31;360(9334):678-82.

Yih WK, Brooks DR, Lett SM, et al. “The incidence of varicella and herpes zoster in Massachusetts as measured by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during a period of increasing varicella vaccine coverage,” 1998–2003. BMC Public Health2005;5:68.

By Sonya McLeod
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