Tonawanda News

Features

February 19, 2013

Doctor suggests adult vaccinations for chicken pox and shingles

Tonawanda News — There are a lot of misconceptions about adult chicken pox and shingles, and Dr. Qamrunnisa Rahman, a physician at Kenton Family Care Center, said she wants to set the record straight.

Veteran journalist Barbara Walters was recently hospitalized with chicken pox, bringing a little more attention to a disease that most people associate with a childhood right of passage. But chicken pox is not just for the kids, Rahman said, and it can be an even more serious problem for adults, especially the elderly.

“Children get a mild (case of chicken pox) and they recover really fast,” she said. “But adults may get a pretty severe attack.”

People at a higher risk for complications from chicken pox include those over 65 years of age, pregnant women, those with asthma and those with a compromised immune system. Diabetes, HIV, those on immunosupressive medications and people who have had organ transplants are particularly susceptible, the Centers for Disease Control indicates on its website.

Just because you’ve made it to a ripe old age and have never had the chicken pox, doesn’t mean you’re immune, Rahman added. You might have just been lucky. And just because you never broke out with an itchy rash doesn’t mean you’ve never had chicken pox, either.

“You could have had a subclinical attack and you may not be aware of it,” Rahman said.

There’s a test physicians can do to determine if a patient has had the virus or not, which is important to have done if you’re not sure. Adults who have never had the chicken pox should have the vaccine, just like their kids.

The vaccine is perhaps even more important for adults because the complications from the virus for older patients can be “horrendous,” Rahman said.

Typical, serious complications from the chicken pox include dehydration, pneumonia, bleeding problems, infection or inflammation of the brain, blood stream infections, toxic shock syndrome, bone infections and joint infections, the CDC lists on its website.

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