Chickenpox parties should be left in the past

Chickenpox (varicella) may seem to be just an annoying illness, but all too often it can lead to severe complications and even death. Fortunately, we have an effective and safe vaccine.

Years ago, some parents would deliberately expose their children to other kids who had an active case of chickenpox, hoping that their own child would build immunity. Today, news outlets are reporting another dangerous trend. Some parents reportedly are paying strangers they meet through Facebook to mail them candy that has been licked by a sick child or other infected items in an effort to expose their own child to chickenpox.

Deliberately exposing your children to germs, either through direct contact with a child who is ill or by exposing them to items that may contain live germs, is dangerous. Germs do not exist alone, and infection with some other germs could be much more dangerous than chickenpox. There is no way to know what else is in that spit.

Since the chickenpox vaccine became available, an 88 percent decline in varicella-related deaths has been reported. Deadly complications include pneumonia, encephalitis and infections that arise in chickenpox blisters. Studies also show a 97 percent drop in the number of varicella-related deaths in children younger than 6 since the vaccine became widely used.

Be safe – vaccinate. For more information, visit our website at chw.org/immunize.

Lyn Ranta, MD~ Lyn Ranta, MD, director of Physician Affairs, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Dr. Ranta is a co-leader of Children’s Hospital’s immunization initiative, and she treated children as a community pediatrician for more than 20 years.

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