How Chicken Pox Prevents Shingles

This is not a post about whether vaccines are good or bad.  There’s plenty to read on both sides. Try here for pro and here for con. This is strictly about how the chicken pox vaccine is affecting your risk of shingles.

Why Risk of Shingles is Climbing

Chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes shingles, a painful disease often seen in older adults, one that is on the rise, in large part due to the chicken pox vaccine.

What?

The chicken pox vaccine is likely contributing to a shingles epidemic, and even worse, deadly chicken pox outbreaks.

If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you are living with a virus that has hunkered down deep in your nerve endings, ready to erupt in the form of a nasty painful rash called shingles when provoked by stress or reduced immunity.  Around a third of adults who had chicken pox as a kid will get shingles later.  The good news is you will never get chicken pox again.

With shingles, the nerves become inflamed and painful. The shingles rash and nerve pain can last a month or more. In some, the outbreaks recur over and over for years, much like a herpes outbreak, only bigger and more painful. Yes! Worse than herpes.

How To Prevent Shingles

Find a sick child: If you’ve had chicken pox, then every time you are sneezed or slobbered on, or kissed by a child with this disease, you get a kind of booster shot AGAINST shingles. That’s right, sharing germs with a chicken pox sufferer can give you a good shot at preventing shingles.

Unfortunately most of us are hard pressed to find a child with chicken pox.  The varicella, (a.k.a. chicken pox) vaccine was first licensed for use in 1995.  By 2014, 91% of children between 19 and 35 months got the shot and the incidence of chicken pox dramatically dropped.

Let’s be clear, the vaccine does not offer lifelong protection like having the disease does. It wears off, some say in 10 years, other insist on 20.

The problem is then, if the vaccine wears off at age 15 or 25 or maybe even 35, getting the chicken pox is now really dangerous. The varicella vaccine protects children from a relatively safe and once common childhood illness but puts older kids and grown ups at great risk of serious complications and a potentially fatal outcome. Not a great trade-off.  Complications, a particular issue in adults, include pneumonia, brain inflammation, skin infection and death.  If you could, would you trade in a mosquito bite now for a rattlesnake bite in 20 years?

How effective is the vaccine? Estimates range from 40 to 86%, at least in the short run. That means over half of kids who get the vaccine might still get the disease, ironically a good thing if you are young. This becomes a bigger issue as pox-free kids mature into teens and adulthood, when effectiveness wears off altogether.

How Dangerous is the Chicken Pox?

For most kids, chicken pox is a mild illness.  I had the chicken pox when I was 3. My mother recalls I had a mild fever and scattered small itchy blisters lasting about 3 days, a typical experience in kids. Some kids never know they had the chicken pox.

The CDC reports about 100 deaths per year from chicken pox, with more than half being adults, who are more likely to suffer life-threatening complications. Up to 20% of adults (less than 1% of children) with chicken pox succumb to these.  For more, read this. Kids who are poorly nourished or with compromised immunity are more likely to be victims of complications than those fed and healthy.

Furthermore, in those patients medicated aggressively with anything from aspirin or antibiotics to steroids, the odds of complications and death escalates.  Of the 100 deaths reported to the CDC from chicken pox annually, most if not all saw a worsening of their condition when drugs entered the picture. For more, read this. 

The Mayo Clinic says “… chicken pox typically requires no medical treatment.” They advise against using even aspirin due to serious complications.

Harvey Bieler, MD a popular California physician who practiced until his death in 1975 explains, that chicken pox arises from the body’s elimination of toxins. The blisters are a kind of chemical burn from the purge of toxic waste through the skin.  We eliminate toxins all the time through skin, and the colon. Trying to stop this process with drugs interferes with the liver’s attempt to do its job.  Trying to lower a fever can stop the body’s natural ability to fight infection. The lack of appetite that accompanies itching and fever is the body’s cue to give the digestive system and liver a break.

I recently attended a lecture by a Portland physician who says the chicken pox vaccine is probably one of the worst mistakes in medical history. (BTW, he is not anti-vaccine).  He says even the manufacturer, Merck, advised against mass chicken pox vaccination when they first released the drug. It was intended for kids with compromised immune systems, not every child entering pre-school.

What About a Party?

With the near extinction of childhood chicken pox, well-intentioned parents are seeking out controversial chicken pox parties, social gatherings involving a host child with an active case of chicken pox. Parents bring kids who haven’t had the illness, nor the vaccine.  Kissing and sharing lollipops is encouraged. If all goes as planned, exposed kids get a mild case of the chicken pox at a young age and stay protected for life, while parents get their shingles booster.

Is the Vaccine Safe?

The Federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting system (VAERS) reports 17 possible complications from the vaccine, including shock, seizures, encephalitis (brain inflammation), blood disorders, Guillian Barre syndrome (paralysis) and death. As of 2015, there have been 3358 serious adverse events and 161 deaths reported to VAERS.

In addition, the vaccine contains live virus material, which means a vaccinated child could give it to someone else, where it might be deadly. Newborns and pregnant moms need to be particularly careful here.

The bottom line is that mass chicken pox vaccination is driving up the odds of a shingles epidemic in adults as well as risk of complications and deaths in adults who come down with the chicken pox once the childhood vaccine wears off.

If you can’t stomach, or find, a chicken pox party, keep your immune system as strong as you can. Taking cod liver oil, zinc, vitamin C and cooking with lots of exotic mushrooms is a great start. Contact me if you need more help here or perhaps a homeopathic remedy for shingles pain. They work.


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