11-Month-Old Baby Has Stroke After Getting Chickenpox from Unvaccinated Siblings

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A previously healthy 11-month-old baby suffered a potentially fatal stroke from chickenpox, all because the parents decided to skip vaccinations.

The case is extraordinarily well documented, and it was published last month in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers said there was a four-fold increased risk of stroke in children in the first six months after chickenpox, and that vaccines are the answer.

In contrast, no increase in childhood stroke was reported after varicella vaccination. DeVeber et al noted a decrease in post-varicella arteriopathy after the widespread availability of vaccination in Canada.

Stroke can occur after primary or reactivated varicella.

“A Scary Reminder”

The news went largely unnoticed, perhaps because it was buried in a scientific study, but a few websites picked up on it. Today actually said the case “serves as a scary reminder” that chickenpox vaccines are medically important.

The boy’s mother sought medical care after noticing he had developed weakness on his right side. Doctors determined the stroke was a complication of a chickenpox infection most likely caught from the child’s older siblings, who had been unvaccinated and had developed chickenpox around the same time the little boy had, according to a recent report published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The case highlights the dangers — both to one’s own children and to those of others — that are associated with skipping vaccinations. Widespread vaccination protects kids who can’t get vaccinated either because they are younger than 1 year, like the boy in the report, or because they have immune system problems. In recent months, there have been numerous chickenpox outbreaks around the country, a result of pockets of parents who have opted not to vaccinate, assuming either that their kids won’t get the disease or will simply tough it out if they do.

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