Childhood diseases (smallpox, measles, German measles, mumps, chickenpox)

Childhood diseases (smallpox, measles, German measles, mumps, chickenpox)

Last month, my niece, who lives with me in my parent’s house, contracted chickenpox. I panicked at the thought of catching this disease. Was I right to be afraid? Are persons with cystic fibrosis more likely to be affected by this type of virus than other people? Is it even more dangerous for people who have had a lung transplant? Are some childhood diseases (smallpox, measles, German measles, mumps, chickenpox) more threatening than others? What prevention measures do you recommend for persons with cystic fibrosis?

Most adults have already had chickenpox in childhood and those who have had it cannot get it a second time. However, you should be aware that shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the same virus that invades the body in chickenpox, but it remains in the roots of nerve cells where it is contained by the immune system. When the immune system is low, the virus can travel along the nerve to the skin where it causes shingles.

The minority of adults who have never had chickenpox are at risk of contracting it when they come into contact with a person who carries the chickenpox or herpes zoster virus. Persons with cystic fibrosis are not more likely to contract the disease than other people because they have good immune systems. However, all adults (whether or not they have cystic fibrosis) who catch chickenpox usually have quite severe symptoms and may even get pneumonia from this virus. Cystic fibrosis patients with serious lung involvement risk being quite ill if they catch pneumonia through the chickenpox virus. People who have never had chickenpox and contract the virus after they have had a transplant are at risk of suffering even more from the disease because of immunosuppression. However, a chickenpox vaccine is now offered to all children. It might be appropriate for adults with cystic fibrosis who have never had chickenpox to be vaccinated before they receive a lung or liver transplant.

As for the other viral infections mentioned in your question, smallpox has been officially eradicated from the planet, so this vaccination is no longer necessary and is not offered any more. Safe and effective vaccinations against measles, German measles and mumps are part of the immunization schedules for children in Quebec. A single vaccine covers all three diseases; it is given in two doses and children receive the first dose when they are one year old.

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