How chickenpox could lead to a child stroke if not vaccinated

Chickenpox or Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) is notorious for covering the body in red itchy bumps and being highly contagious, most commonly in children. Although this is rare today as the virus can be prevented by children receiving a vaccination. However what parents aren’t aware of is potentially how much damage can be caused if their child has not received this vaccination.

Recently, an infant of 11 months suffered from a stroke two to three months after being infected with the VZV, which was likely caught from an unvaccinated sibling who developed chickenpox around the same period of time.

Children cannot be vaccinated for chickenpox until they are at least 12 months old, resulting in a higher risk of infection and complications among younger infants.

Figures from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that before the vaccination was developed, chickenpox resulted in around 10,000 individuals being hospitalised a year, with more than 100 child deaths.

Since the vaccine has been discovered there have been rare outbreaks of the viral infection. Unfortunately, though, this has led to parents believing it is acceptable to not have their children vaccinated.

“The risks associated with vaccines are very, very, very small,” said paediatric epidemiologist Aaron Milestone. “But the anti-vaccine community is very loud, especially on social media. They generate a lot of anxiety in those who have not seen the horrors of preventable diseases.”

Side effects from having chickenpox include; meningitis, encephalitis, pneumonia, and severe dehydration among patients. Another major complication is strokes, as blood vessels in the brain can become inflamed and damaged by the infection, preventing blood flow to the brain. Chickenpox-related strokes can affect children more than six months after the initial infection, and can potentially lead to additional difficulties, including seizure disorders and paralysis.

The infant who suffered a stroke, in this case, returned home after spending 10 days in the hospital receiving treatment. While the function of his right side is improving, he appears to have progressive arteriopathy, which may lead to neurological damage and consecutive strokes.

CDC encourages all children to be vaccinated in order to prevent rare occurrences such as stokes or other serious complications. As research has found it is safe for children older than 12 months to be vaccinated with no serious side effects.