Fort Worth, Texas,
04:14 PM

'Weirdest week in celebrity-infectious disease history'

What we can learn from celebrities with the flu, mumps and chicken pox

Breaking news concerning the weirdest week in celebrity-infectious disease history:

Peyton Manning helped lead the Broncos to victory despite suffering from a flu-like illness.

Sidney Crosby and multiple other National Hockey League stars have been diagnosed with mumps.

Angelina Jolie missed press events for the release of Unbroken, a movie which she directed, because she was diagnosed with chicken pox.

Maybe it is not breaking news. In fact, I’m pretty confident that they will all recover without any issues. Most people with any of these three diseases do.

We so rarely see mumps and chicken pox that we often forget how people used to suffer severe consequences from these diseases.

Here’s a quick reminder of some of the problems people can have as a result of these infections:


We have talked a lot about flu and flu vaccination in the past few weeks. Most children with the flu will have fever, cough, congestion and body aches,but will recover without incident in three to five days.

What do we need to watch for?

The most common problems with flu are dehydration and wheezing or difficulty breathing (especially in children with asthma).

A couple of more rare complications:

Pneumonia - Children can have viral pneumonia or a “secondary” bacterial pneumonia after the flu. (Secondary means that it comes after and as a result of having the flu. Think of it like the flu made the lungs weaker and more likely to get a different kind of infection.)

Nervous system involvement - These are rare but can involve confusion (caused by encephalitis-which is inflammation of the lining of the brain) and weakness (Guillain-Barré syndrome).


Most children with mumps have low grade fever, fatigue, headache and muscle soreness. These symptoms are followed quickly by the most characteristic sign of mumps which is swelling of a gland in the cheek, called the parotid gland. The infection is typically more severe in adults than children.

What do we need to watch for?

Orchitis - This is a mumps infection involving the testicles. It is the most common complication in adolescent and adult males and can lead to sterility. A similar infection can occur in girls in the ovaries but is less common.

Nervous system involvement-Infected persons can have meningitis which causes fever, headache and neck pain. In addition, prior to vaccination mumps was one of the most common causes of deafness in children.

Chicken Pox

Because most of us had chicken pox and only suffered fever and the characteristic red, itchy rash, it is sometimes difficult to understand why we are vaccinating against the virus. Fortunately, that is the case for most children who contract the disease.

What do we need to watch for?

Skin infections - Because staph skin infections are so common now (and often resistant to some antibiotics), I am glad that we have a vaccine to prevent chicken pox. Any open sore, especially one that children are scratching is prone to infection.

Best advice is to stay away from athletes and celebrities this holiday season.

Ultimately, just remember that these diseases can be serious even though these celebrities should be just fine.

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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