“Chickenpox? Isn’t it a normal part of growing up? Everyone will get it at some point in their lives.” – Madeline, housewife with 3 kids.

“It is a mild disease. Whoever gets it recovers without any problems.” – Nurin, millennial mom working in a bank.

“I know there’s a chickenpox vaccine out there, but I think gaining immunity through natural infection is better than the ‘artificial’ vaccine.” – Devi, work-from-home writer.

According to Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, people often have these misperceptions about chickenpox.

He remarks: “Chickenpox can actually be more serious than you think. In fact, based on WHO estimates, every year chickenpox causes around 4.2 million severe complications leading to hospitalisation and 4,200 deaths around the world[1].

“Babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of getting severe complications[2].”

Dato’ Musa remarks: “Chickenpox is extremely contagious. It can spread via direct contact with the blisters or through air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales1. An infected person could be spreading the virus 1 to 2 days before the rash appears without realising it[3]. The person remains contagious until all lesions scab over, which takes around 7 days[3],[4].”

“Instead of getting a mild bout of chickenpox, there is always a chance they might end up with life-threatening complications…”

He adds: “The infection is usually less severe in a child than in an adult[1], hence some parents deliberately expose their unvaccinated children to the virus by putting them near a child with chickenpox. These so called ‘chickenpox parties’ can be very dangerous.”

“Instead of getting a mild bout of chickenpox, there is always a chance they might end up with life-threatening complications, such as, brain inflammation, bacterial infection of the skin, bloodstream infection and lung infection[2].”

Dato’ Musa highlighted that it is better for children to obtain immunity to chickenpox through vaccination[5]. He says: “Why go through all the discomfort, misery and potential serious complications when these can be avoided?”

“One of the ways to protect our children from chickenpox is to have them vaccinated.”

“If your unvaccinated child comes in contact with someone having chickenpox, talk to your doctor about how you can protect your child from getting the disease[6].”

Dato’ Musa concludes: “One of the ways to protect our children from chickenpox is to have them vaccinated[3].”

Currently in Malaysia, chickenpox vaccines are only available in private clinics. Click here to find your nearest clinic and talk to a paediatrician about chickenpox prevention for your child.

Chickenpox and children

Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin is a consultant paediatrician and neonatologist. He has served on various international advisory boards related to vaccines and immunisation. In 2012, he received the Outstanding Asian Paediatrician Award from the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association. He was the first recipient of the Ar-Razi Lifetime Achievement Award from the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia. In 2017, he was awarded the FIMA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the President of Turkey in Istanbul.

Article courtesy of the Immunise4Life programme by Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysian Paediatric Association, and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy. Learn more at Immunise2Protect.

[1]WHO (2014). Varicella and Herpes Zoster Vaccines: WHO Position Paper. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/wer/2014/wer8925.pdf?ua=1. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[2]CDC (2018). Chickenpox Complications. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/complications.html. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[3]CDC (2018). Chickenpox Transmission. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/transmission.html. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[4]CDC (2018). Chickenpox signs and symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/symptoms.html. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[5]Immunization Action Coalition (n.d.). Varicella (Chickenpox): Questions and Answers. Retrieved from http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4202.pdf. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[6]CDC (2016). Chickenpox Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/varicella/public/index.html. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[7]NHS (2017). Chickenpox. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chickenpox/. Accessed on 18 Apr 2019.
[8]NHS (2017). Mayo Clinic (n.d.). Diagnosis and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chickenpox/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351287.

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