Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Chicken Pox

All of which would be just a bit of personal drama but for a study released today by Kaiser Permanente - the giant California-based insurer and hospital system that uses its huge database to do powerful studies of various issues. The Kaiser study showed that the combined measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and varicella (chicken pox) vaccine doubles the risk of seizures associated with high fevers - so called febrile seizures - compared with the MMR vaccine and chicken pox vaccine given separately but on the same day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study, which analyzed 459,000 children, 12 to 23 months old, from health systems across the country. It found a two-fold increased risk of fever-associated seizures seven to ten days after vaccination. The absolute risk of such seizures remains small, the Kaiser researchers noted. The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics Monday.

The Chicken Pox

So close. Just two months before she would get her chicken pox vaccine, my 10-month-old daughter got the virus. It kind of freaked out my wife and me over the weekend as our baby developed a fever, threw up a couple times and was cranky.

Then on Sunday, chicken pox appeared and again it was scary because we didn’t realize what it was and couldn’t get answers quickly enough for my satisfaction. So it was a hot and uncomfortable weekend here in Philly. Now her sister needs to get a booster shot a little early so that she doesn’t get it too.

All of which would be just a bit of personal drama but for a study released today by Kaiser Permanente – the giant California-based insurer and hospital system that uses its huge database to do powerful studies of various issues. The Kaiser study showed that the combined  measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and varicella (chicken pox) vaccine doubles the risk of seizures associated with high fevers – so called febrile seizures – compared with the MMR vaccine and chicken pox vaccine given separately but on the same day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study, which analyzed 459,000 children, 12 to 23 months old, from health systems across the country. It found a two-fold increased risk of fever-associated seizures seven to ten days after vaccination. The absolute risk of such seizures remains small, the Kaiser researchers noted. The study was published online in the journal Pediatrics Monday.

“Concerned parents should understand that the risk for febrile seizures after any measles-containing vaccine is low: Less than 1 febrile seizure per 1,000 injections,” said Nicola Klein, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.

Still, the CDC now recommends that providers give the two vaccines instead of the combination unless parents object.

I don’t think having chicken pox in the family is that big a deal, but the virus has put the kibosh on our 4th of July plans of camping on and a huge family reunion in Tennessee – too many young kids and older adults we can’t risk exposing to the virus. So, it appears that we will have a nice quiet 4th right here in balmy Philadelphia.

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Check Up covers regional health news and a wide array of healthcare topics from pharmaceutical happenings to patient safety. Read about some of our bloggers here.

Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section

Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph. President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Daniel R. Hoffman, Ph.D. President, Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates
Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. Cardiothoracic surgeon in the Philadelphia area
Amy J. Reed, M.D., Ph.D. Dual Board Certified Anesthesiologist and Surgical Intensivist
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