Ottawa Public Health sees drastic drop in chicken pox cases
Published Monday, January 4, 2016 6:05PM EST Last Updated Monday, January 4, 2016 6:51PM EST
What was almost an itchy rite of passage for most kids years ago is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The number of chicken pox cases in Ottawa is down dramatically since the province started funding the vaccine. At Fun Haven, an indoor play park in Ottawa’s west end, Sheila Brady is having a blast of fun with her little grandson Miles. But she clearly remembers chicken pox as anything but fun.
‘I had chicken pox and marks all over my face,” she says, “and I still have a scar on my nose from it.”
Three-year-old Miles, on the other hand, is unlikely ever to get chicken pox thanks to publicly funded vaccination program.
“I think that's sensational,” adds Brady, “why be sick if you can be inoculated against it?”
Since the vaccine first came on the market, the number of doctors' visits in Ontario for chicken pox has dropped 70%, according to new search from Public Health Ontario (PHO). The research commissioned for PHO titled “Twenty years of medically attended pediatric varicella and herpes zoster in Ontario, Canada: a population-based study, by Ann Wormsbecker. The study also identified a 59 percent decrease in hospitalizations for the disease.
In Ottawa, the number of cases reported to Public Health has gone from 279 in 2010, to 65 in 2013 to 37 in 2014.
“I’m a big fan of modern medicine,” says mother Jenna Elward, “I'll be honest. I know the vaccines are working.”
Dr. Robin Taylor is the Associate Medical Health Officer with Ottawa Public Health, “if you’ve survived chicken pox as a kid,” she says, “you forget as an adult how serious it can be.”
Chicken pox is a highly contagious virus that causes red, itchy blisters, headache and fever. For very young children and adults, though, it can be much more complicated.
"You can get bad pneumonia after chicken pox,” says Dr. Taylor, “and because the poxes are so itchy, people can get skin disease and even get flesh-eating disease.” It can also cause encephalitis, an infection of the brain.
The chicken pox vaccine is now provided to all children in Ottawa as part of the routine immunization schedule. It is required for children born in 2010 or later to attend school here.
So, it seems those more at risk now of getting chicken pox are adults who have not had it yet. No amount of fame or fortune can stop the virus in its tracks. Just ask Angeline Jolie that. The mega star took to social media last year to announce she had chicken pox.
“I will be home itching and missing everyone,” she said.
Vaccines are available to adults, too, only paid for, though, if there is an underlying medical issue.