Wednesday, 7 January 2009

chicken pox

Sophie has chicken pox. Again.

Can you believe it? She was immunised when she was three and a half. She had chicken pox when she was four and a half and now again when she is six and a half. What's going on?

The first time she had chicken pox it didn't really concern me that much. It was an extremely mild case anyway. It does concern me now that she has it again. It seems that the vaccine has not only not protected her from the disease but has also prevented her developing natural immunity. That's what concerns me.

Both times have been very mild manifestations of the disease. This makes me think that perhaps it doesn't matter so much if she has repeated cases. But, if she is infectious and can pass on the disease to others, then it does matter. Besides which, the poor thing is very itchy!

So what's going on? I don't know. The immune system is amazingly complicated and clever. So are viruses. I know a very little about viruses, and even less about immunology. But I think there are three possibilities.

  1. The vaccine worked but one or both cases have been misdiagnosed. This is unlikely as both cases have been verified by a GP. This time, the doctor took a swab* to test for DNA from the varicella virus which cases chicken pox.
  2. The vaccine didn't work at all (out of date or mishandled in some way), and she has been unfortunate to have had two cases of chicken pox. This is not unheard of.
  3. The vaccine is working in as much as it prevents serious manifestations of the disease. Unfortunately, this seems to mean that natural immunity has not been acquired.

Can you think of other possibilities? Have you heard of other, similar cases? Can someone recommend a good (simple) text on immunology? Does any one know how the chicken pox vaccine, in particular, works?

*Interestingly, when taking a swab, the intent is to take the fluid from inside the blisters, only there didn't seem to be much of it. Not sure how significant this is.

6 comments:

Clara said...

Wondering if her immune system is compromised in some way? I'd look into natural ways to strengthen her immune system.

Rachael said...

Thanks for the tip, "Clara". It's definitely worth thinking about her immune system, but except for the chicken pox she does seem relatively healthy.

Oh, and at first the concept of "bovine colustrum formula" revolted me, but then I realised that's pretty much what milk is anyway...

Nicole said...

I didn't realise she'd already had it and been immunised. That's awful!!

I have known of other people who have had it but when tested (before/during pregnancy) didn't have enough antibodies and needed to be immunised again. My sister's the same with rubella. She's had the rubella injection heaps of times, and seems to need a new one every time she wants to get pregnant again because the blood tests always come back saying she's not immune.

Maybe it's just a 'quirk' of the immune system that happens sometimes?? And at least she probably won't get it too severely.

Rachael said...

Yes, there must be some quirk with the immune system.

And an afterthought regarding bovine colustrum formula... pity the poor calves that miss out! It's not like milk in this regard, is it?

Rachel said...

Vaccinations don't work 100% of the time in 100% of people as you're aware. She may never have actually developed an immunity to it from the vaccine. And if the cases that she's had are so mild then perhaps it's not enough to form long-term immunity to the disease. I caught a nasty case from the vaccine when I got it a few years back. Having learned what I've learned about the chicken pox vaccine since I'm not going to get my children vaccinated against chicken-pox. There seems to be indications that the immunity wears off by around 13 years of ageish and that's around the age it's not good to catch it since it's worse in teens and adults! I'd rather my kids catch it wild, hopefully develop life-long immunity prior to 13 and if they don't then we'll assess what we'll do after that. Hopefully by the time my oldest is 13 they'll have developed a more ethical way of manufacturing it which doesn't use aborted fetal cell lines. http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=2496

Erin said...

Oh yes, so much better to have it when your young! I had it when I was 15 and it was absolutely horrible - couldn't eat properly cos they were in my throat, they were in my eyes, I still have scars on my face from it.

Hopefully she only has it when she is young and will build up immunity. Is it possible to have different strains of chicken pox, like there are differnt strains of the flu?