Too Close For Comfort

Day 21. National Blog Posting Month.

Every now and then, I get an email from my son’s preschool about an outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, or Fifth’s disease.  These are viral infections that are generally self-limiting and not a whole lot to worry about.  Except if you’re a pregnant woman exposed to Fifth’s disease.  In that case, there is an increased risk of miscarriage if exposure occurs in the first trimester and if exposed after 20 weeks there are certain biological effects to the fetus, in particular a life-threatening form of anemia.

Last night, around 1am, while I was nursing the baby, I decided to check my email.  In my Inbox is a note from the preschool announcing that there has been one confirmed case of Chicken Pox.

And so it begins ….

At this point, my son has already been exposed and has likely exposed all of us, including the baby.  Thankfully, both my husband and I have had the infection in childhood, our daughter was immunized and got a booster last year, and the toddler was immunized at 15 months.  My first thought was to get my son his second dose immediately, if for any other reason than to protect the baby.

Where I live, children are given one dose of the Varicella vaccine at 15 months of age and again at age 4.  According to the CDC, one dose of the vaccine is “85% effective against any form of varicella and close to 100% effective against severe varicella.” However, two doses of the vaccine is 88%-98% effective at preventing all varicella disease.

Don’t get me wrong, 85% effectiveness is pretty darn good, but is it good enough for me?  Especially having a 2 month old in the house?  My instinct as I mentioned was to bring my son (the toddler) to his pediatrician today for the booster.  Instead, rational heads prevailed and I called instead.  Our pediatrician assured me that my son’s immunity should still be strong enough to protect not only himself, but his little brother as well.

Phew.

Still, I can’t help but be pretty pissed off at those parents.  Given the type of preschool my son attends (okay, it’s a Montessori school in an affluent area of the city and quite frankly, not cheap), I have to assume these parents are well-educated and probably know that a vaccine against Chicken Pox exists.  But, I’m also quite sure they’ve heard all the “horror stories” on the Internet or from Ms. McCarthy herself and decided it was best for their child to skip the vaccine.  Right.  

Ugh.  I’m sorry if this offends any of my readers, but these kinds of parents are putting other children at risk.  As a mother, I’m not okay with that, but there is zero I can do about it.

As a doctor?  Well, you know where I stand on that.

End rant.

 

A Frightening Trend.

Day 12. This is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, writing a post everyday.  I actually look forward to it!

And, yes, I’m back, despite my little rant yesterday, which in case you missed it, you can read here.

What’s on my mind today?  Vaccines.  I know, I know, it’s a volatile topic and I’ve discussed it before, but you see, the baby is 8 weeks old today (my goodness, when did that happen?) and he will be going for his first set of vaccinations next week. For me, it’s a no-brainer that he will be vaccinated.  All of my kids were vaccinated.  I didn’t even give it a second thought.  Now, that’s probably because I am a physician and a rational, logical human being.  Okay, that last part was a bit of a dig.  I am just so sick and tired of parents thinking that just because they’ve done their “research” on vaccines (ie. have read about Wakefield, everything that Jenny McCarthy has to say on the subject, and discussed it with their “friends” on countless message boards), does not mean that they understand the science and study behind creating a vaccine.  These parents haven’t seen the devastation that Polio caused, they haven’t seen what congenital Rubella syndrome looks like, nor have they had to tell their son that they may never be able to father children because the Mumps caused orchitis and has the potential to limit his fertility. And let’s not forget the risks of meningitis from certain strains of pneumococcal pneumonia, Measles, and rarely, chicken pox.

I was a resident in family medicine working on the Pediatric ward when a 15 month old girl was admitted with seizures.  She had been diagnosed with pneumonia 2 days earlier.  Blood cultures revealed a particular strain of bacterial pneumonia.  This strain is one that is covered by a vaccination available here, called Prevnar-13.  A review of this child’s medical records showed that her parents declined all vaccinations.  The seizures were eventually controlled, she was diagnosed with encephalitis and a few weeks later was found to be completely deaf.  Totally preventable had she only been vaccinated as an infant.

At least once every few weeks I see a news article about an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness.

It’s becoming so common these days, it’s actually starting to scare me a little bit.  If we continue down this path of non-vaccination, herd immunity is going to fail.  We will see the resurgence of illnesses we haven’t seen in twenty or thirty years.  I have never seen a case of measles but I’m sure one day, at this rate, I will.

What’s next?  A North American outbreak of Polio?