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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox and AIDS - childhood diseases.

Happy 2nd Birthday Caleb!
 Do you take children’s vaccines for granted?  I do, or at least I used to. I realize that some of you are opposed to childhood inoculations for various reasons, but for the writing of this blog I will presume that the majority of people in the Western world to subscribe to childhood vaccinations. 

That being said, here is my encounter with Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox and AIDS in the past couple of weeks.

Measles.  We have had an outbreak of measles in Swaziland and everyone in the nation has been called to get immunized.  Thankfully, I thought, all of our children have already been vaccinated for measles, but with the current outbreak our Doctor suggested that all the children (of the right age) get a Measles vaccination again.  Why?  Our Doctor said, “Vaccinations given at local clinics haven’t always been stored at the correct temperature and therefore may not been effective.”  That was not comforting to any of us, but Brooke (our wonderful volunteer Nurse Practioner) went and got the Measles vaccine and vaccinated all our babies, again.

Mumps. Last week I picked up the mother of Baby Daniel so that we could go and have a meeting at the Social Welfare office.  She told me that her 5-year old had a fever and her throat was getting larger.  She asked if we could go to the hospital, so we did. Sure enough, she has Mumps. I called Brooke to ask if the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) was given to our children (thinking that we may have an outbreak of Mumps coming).  Brooke said no, they don’t vaccinate for Mumps or Rubella here, just Measles (maybe or maybe not stored at the right temperature).

Chicken Pox.  It started with a couple of spots on a child at the Farm Managers Building.  That wouldn’t have been a big deal except that the child’s mother works at the El Roi Baby Home AND she has never had Chicken Pox before.  As we discussed the health protocol with Brooke and the team we found out that many/most of the Aunties who work at El Roi have not had Chicken Pox. We had the mother of the child stay home for a week and kept her away from anyone who might be going to the baby home.  A week later other children who had been playing with the infected boy showed some blisters and their mother (who also had never had Chicken Pox) also was kept away from work.  Then we discovered that two of our Aunties are pregnant and neither of them had had Chicken Pox before.  We had to immediately remove them from the home for 14 days, which left us with several key staff absent for a couple of weeks.  Their health and the health of their unborn babies is critical to us so everyone pitched in and helped with the hours.

I thought everyone in the world had Chicken Pox?  I even hosted a Chicken Pox Party back in Canada when Spencer and Chloe were young when the first sighting of Chicken Pox blisters appeared on our street.  The neighborhood parents agreed that we might as well all have it at once so we had a party for all the neighborhood kids, had lots of shared food and drinks to be sure that everyone contracted the inevitable childhood illness and got over it in short order.  It worked.  Within days all of our children were kept home from school and had spots all over their bodies (some worse than others).

When you have 35 children under the age of two years and you have trained care givers who have not had Chicken Pox the last thing you want to do is have a Chicken Pox Party to insure that everyone gets infected.  In fact, learning that there is a Chicken Pox vaccine was very exciting and we were given the funds to inoculate the home (big and small) for Chicken Pox, Hepatitis A and Rotavirus.   Brooke got me a quote on purchasing Chicken Pox vaccine for all age appropriate babies AND our Aunties and the very morning I approved the purchase Caleb started to scratch. NO!  IT WAS TOO LATE! 

As it turns out, there is no Chicken Pox vaccine even available in Swaziland because of a big outbreak in South Africa so we can’t purchase it until later in 2014.  Sheesh.

AIDS.  Caleb is one of our HIV positive children and is on second line Anti-retro Viral treatment.  We have to keep a special watch on those kids because they are immune suppressed and can get very sick very quickly.  Side effects for him could include meningitis, pneumonia and several other things that could prove deadly in his condition.  We quickly moved him up in to quarantine (Chez Maxwell) where he enjoyed fresh strawberry pavlova, scrambled eggs with cheese and fruit yoghurt on demand.  There is no question that this little boy enjoyed being an only child for nine days and settled in quite nicely to the Maxwell routine.  Okay, who’s kidding who? That boy was SPOILED!

We are in awe that there has been no further outbreak of Chicken Pox at El Roi and that all is now calm on the western front.  Measles shots are complete. My friends child is in her hut for 5-days until she is no longer infectious and everyone is back to work tomorrow at the baby home.

When starting the El Roi Baby Home I didn’t even think of things like Chicken Pox and never considered the implications of simple childhood diseases on an HIV positive child.  This has been a steep learning curve, and it doesn't seem to ever level out.  I am not complaining,  I just feel like I should get my PhD in a few more years of life at Project Canaan.

Live from Swaziland … I am healthy and happy (and spot free).



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