Vasculitis UK
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Chicken Pox

Dear all,

I don't know if 'Everyone' knows how dangerous Chicken Pox can be, to Imuno-Suppressed people-it CAN be lethal! If not, as a lady who was asked to look after her Grandson, then please DO take considerable care.

I have a permanent arrangement, with my GP, to immediately prescribe Anti-Virals-as am emergency measure-should I ever find that I have had inadvertent contact.

Sorry to be so dramatic but, based on this lady's question, thought that a suitable comment/warning was in order.

On a lighter note, it's not long until know!

Best wishes everyone


6 Replies

Yes it can kill adults, healthy adults, but especially immunosuppressed ones.

I was rushed to hospital with chickenpox in 1998, shortly after starting immunosuppression treatment. I have no idea who I caught it from - some stranger with either chickenpox or shingles - but I came out in spots one morning. I never had chickenpox as a child, but even people who have can catch it again as adults, especially if immunosuppressed.

A GP came out to see me immediately, and arranged for me to be transferred to the infectious diseases ward at the nearest city hospital. I was in there in isolation for a week. I was told I only just got there in time, and I rushed! By then my pulse was stratospheric.

I was on IV anti virals for a week, and very ill. I was lucky to survive. Luckily I didn't develop pneumonia, which is the main way chickenpox kills - going down the respiratory tract to the lungs. It can also cause life-threatening meningitis.

Chickenpox in any adult is serious, but for an immunosuppressed adult it can be especially so. Don't make the mistake of assuming it is a mild illness, as it is generally for children. Avoid catching it if at all possible.


I phoned my GP, having been in a car with a lady with shingles and, although I am immuno-suppressed, he told me not to worry. Not a problem, according to him. Fortunately, I did not suffer but it makes me wonder about the reliability of some doctors.


It would be quite unlucky to catch the infection in that case, but yes GP advice can be dodgy. Some GPs, for example, insist that if you've had chickenpox before you can't catch it again. But we know from patient cases, and what other doctors/consultants say, that that isn't the case. Which is why when the subject comes up here and on Facebook (in Vacsulitis UK's Facebook group) volunteers of the charity always advise avoiding contact if possible. To be on the safe side.

There is now a test - blood test I believe - you can get to test to see if you have immunity against the chickenpox virus. But immunity can change over time, so even if you've had that test in the past and had immunity then it may not be the case later.

The general advice is that people with chickenpox or shingles are best avoided by immunosuppressed people if at all possible. It's particularly hard for immunosuppresed parents of young children though, who are especially prone to be exposed to the virus.


Also shingles


Shingles isn't so life-threatening, but it is possible to catch chickenpox from someone else with shingles. Shingles isn't as contagious as chickenpox - doesn't spread through the air by droplets for example, and can only spread the virus by contact with the liquid from the rash/pustules (yuck - sorry!). But it can cause chickenpox in other people, so if a friend/relative has shingles immunosuppressed people should take care not to catch the infection. Generally covering up the shingles rash will stop it spreading, but avoiding may be safer if possible.

Shingles can't be caught from other people. It's where the existing chickenpox virus in your body reactivates. But someone with shingles can pass chickenpox on to someone else, even if that other person has had chickenpox before.

I had shingles 12 years after my bout of adult chickenpox. It was very painful, and can cause life-long nerve pain. But it wasn't as dangerous. Again anti virals are available, and normally an immunosuppressed person would be given them if they get shingles.

There is a shingles vaccine but immunosuppressed people can't get it (it's live).

1 like

Shingles may not be life threatening in the usual sense, but for CIDP or GBS sufferers, it can be. in that it can esculate the condition to a level where it becomes life thretening.

My arms are now being affected whereas they were not before, another is now in a wheelchair and a third was put on breathing machine (forget the name)

And that is only the ones that I know about


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