Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The Case of a Baby’s Chickenpox-Related Stroke Underscores the Importance of Vaccines

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

The Case of a Baby’s Chickenpox-Related Stroke Underscores the Importance of Vaccines

Article excerpt

A previously healthy 11-month-old baby living in Washington state suffered a stroke weeks after contracting a mild case of chickenpox, which he most likely caught from his older, unvaccinated siblings, according to a recent report in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Stroke is a rare but recognized complication of chickenpox. It occurs when the chickenpox virus — varicella zoster — triggers inflammation in the brain, which can lead to a restriction in the brain’s blood supply.

As background information in the report notes, research has found that children are at a fourfold increased risk of stroke for six months after they’ve had chickenpox. In fact, the median time between the onset of chickenpox and a related stroke is 16 weeks.

No increased risk of stroke has been observed in children who have been vaccinated against chickenpox.

At 11 months, the baby in the Journal of Pediatrics report had been too young to receive the varicella vaccine. The first shot is usually given to children soon after they turn a year old.

To avoid being exposed to the easily contagious viral infection, the boy had to therefore rely on “herd immunity” — the hope that most of the people living around him in his community had been vaccinated.

But he did not have that herd immunity, even in his own home, for his siblings had not been vaccinated.

This case study underscores the importance of getting every child vaccinated in a timely manner against childhood diseases.

A weakened right side

The authors of the case study — a team of doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital at the University of Washington — write that the boy’s mother first became concerned when she woke her son from his afternoon nap and noticed his right arm and leg appeared weak. She took the boy to an urgent care center, where doctors observed that the boy had lost significant strength and movement along the entire right side of his body, including his face. …

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