Many of us don’t think twice about leaving our little ones with their grandparents, even when the kids are sick. But the following incident – which involves an elderly woman contracting adult chickenpox – will make you think twice about doing this.
A 97-year-old woman died in a London hospital last month due to complications related to adult chickenpox, in spite of suffering from the infection before.
The complication was a heart attack after the treatment was delayed, according to the BMJ Case Report. She is the oldest person to die of adult chickenpox in the United Kingdom.
The report’s authors warned not to immediately rule out adult chicken pox in old people just because chickenpox is a disease that’s skewed towards younger people. The early diagnosis and treatment of adult chickenpox are essential to avoid complications and eventually, death.
Adult chickenpox confirmed
“In our patient, the diagnosis was confirmed by skin swab showing varicella zoster virus (chickenpox) and the clinical impression of two senior consultants, a geriatrician and a dermatologist,” her doctors wrote.
A swab test revealed that the woman had contracted the Varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox and is most common in children. It tends to harmlessly clear up on its own, but it is especially dangerous to pregnant women, newborn babies, and people with a significantly weakened immune system.
Catching chickenpox twice is rare because usually, an initial infection grants the person life-long immunity from the disease. Most adults go on to develop shingles if the dormant virus reactivates.
Experts do note that “There are five distinct genotypes of the virus and multiple strains. Therefore, acquiring chickenpox from one strain may not always confer protection from infection by another strain.”
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Why you should keep sick kids away from the elderly
Usually, it’s the adults that we try to keep away from our children to prevent them from catching any disease they have. But in some cases, it’s the other way around. If our children are sick, it’s best to keep them away from our elderly relatives or friends.
An older person’s immune system is not always strong (similar to that of young babies). What could be a mild cold in a child could quickly morph into deadly pneumonia for his grandmother.
Apart from chickenpox, there are other diseases that your elderly loved ones can get from your sick children.
Deadly elderly sicknesses from childhood
1. Fifth Disease
This illness has cold-like symptoms. Another symptom is a rash that starts from the cheeks then to the torso, then to the upper and lower extremities. It’s contagious through sneezing, coughing, and touching, plus there’s no vaccine.
If left untreated in adults, it could cause arthritis, says Peter Katona, M.D., an associate professor at UCLA School of Medicine. This is especially more difficult on elderly people as they will feel joint pain, swelling, fever, and the tell-tale rash.
2. Strep Throat
This causes sharp pain in the throat, fever, difficulty swallowing, and swollen glands. An untreated case in adults leads to rheumatic fever, which in turn can lead to damaged heart valves. The likelihood of it becoming rheumatic fever is at a 3% chance though.
3. Whooping Cough
It’s a respiratory tract infection that brings the hellish pain of consistent coughing. It usually has no permanent after-effects, and the cold-like symptoms and severe cough can linger for 4 to 6 weeks. But it may exacerbate an elderly person’s current ailments.
You already know this: fever, headache, runny nose, chills, muscle aches. In adults, the influenza virus can cause sinus problems, ear infections, bacterial pneumonia, and dehydration. It can worsen already present conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma, and diabetes.
Want to know more about childhood diseases that can affect adults? Read 5 Contagious childhood illnesses that could also affect adults