Trigger warning due to graphic picture.
Anti-vaxxers who take their kids to “pox parties” are misguided and putting their children at risk. They have this bizarre belief that acquiring immunity to the varicella zoster virus is somehow safer or more effective than the vaccine. This is incorrect. The vaccine is effective at preventing chicken pox and is safer than the actual infection.
It’s not jus the fact that pox parties expose your kids to something that might kill them that makes them dangerous. You are also threatening them decades down the line. This is because of the way the VZV works.
The VZV is a kind of herpesvirus, and infections with herpesviruses can literally be described as lasting forever. When your body beats chicken pox and you recover, the virus is not eliminated. Rather, it goes latent and “hides” inside nerve cells. It can stay there for an indefinite time. Then, years or decades later, it reactivates, migrates down the ganglia, infects skin cells near the ganglia, and causes shingles (herpes zoster).
Need I mention that shingles is really painful and even disfiguring? Even when the outbreak is over, the pain can last for months or years due to nerve damage (this is known as postherpetic neuralgia). Also, what do you think happens if shingles occurs in a facial nerve?
If shingles breaks out near the geniculate ganglion, is causes what is known as Ramsay Hunt Syndrome type II. Besides the rash from shingles, it also has horrible ear pain, and potentially permanent unilateral hearing loss and facial paralysis.
And then there is herpes zoster ophthalmicus. That can cause permanent vision loss and debilitating pain. A picture of what this looks like is after the jump (graphic).