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Karen Boe Gatlin
Karen Boe Gatlin
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Childhood Diseases: Need for Immunization

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Concerns over risks of vaccinating their children have led to some parents refusing to have the children immunized from common childhood diseases. While risk of contraction of these diseases was low due to the immunity of large segments of the population which kept exposure to the unvaccinated low, the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, from third world countries where vaccinations rates are low, has led to increased exposure to these diseases.

Immunization protects against the following 10 serious diseases, which can cause disability and death. These diseases used to strike thousands of children each year. Today there are relatively few cases, but outbreaks still occur each year because some babies are not immunized.

 

VARICELLA (Chickenpox)

This virus usually causes a rash, itching, tiredness and fever. It can lead to pneumonia, brain infection or death. Complications occur most often in very young children, adults or people with damaged immune systems.

 

TETANUS (Lockjaw)

Tetanus is caused by a poison produced by a germ that can enter the body through a cut, wound or any break in the skin — even a tiny cut or puncture. Tetanus causes serious, painful spasms of all muscles and can lead to “locking” of the jaw so a person cannot open his or her mouth, swallow, breath or move. Three of 10 people who get tetanus die from the disease. Tetanus germs are found everywhere, usually in soil, dust and manure. Everyone should have a tetanus- diphtheria booster shot every 10 years to stay protected.

 

PERTUSSIS (Whooping cough)

Pertussis is an extremely contagious disease that also may affect the brain and is very serious for children younger than 6 years of age. It can cause spells of violent coughing and choking, making it hard to breathe, drink or eat. The cough can last for weeks. Pertussis is most serious for babies, who can get pneumonia, have seizures, become brain damaged, or even die. About half of the babies who get pertussis have to be hospitalized. Immunizations should begin at 2 months of age and are finished by 6 years of age. Pertussis is caused by a germ that lives in the mouth, nose and throat. It is spread to others through coughing or sneezing.

POLIOMYELITIS (Polio)

Polio is a virus that strikes children and adults and can cripple and kill. Symptoms can include sudden fever, sore throat, headache, muscle weakness and pain. Before the discovery of the vaccine, polio caused epidemics in all parts of the United States. Immunization begins at 2 months of age and is usually completed before school entry. However, an adult may need one or more doses if traveling to infected countries

 

MEASLES (Rubeola)

This virus can be spread very easily. Even being in the same room with a person with measles is enough to catch the disease. Symptoms include a rash, fever, cough and watery eyes. Measles also can cause pneumonia, brain damage, seizures or death. Before the vaccine became available, nearly every child developed measles and measles caused hundreds of deaths in the United States every year.

 

MUMPS

This virus causes fever, headaches and swollen salivary glands under the jaw. Children who get mumps may develop a mild meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and sometimes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Mumps also can result in permanent hearing loss. Serious complications also can result when adults or teenagers, particularly males, get mumps. A combined shot — called the MMR — prevents measles, mumps and rubella.

 

RUBELLA (German measles)

This virus usually causes mild sickness with fever, swollen glands and a rash that last about three days. But, if a pregnant woman gets rubella, she can lose her baby, or the baby can be born blind, deaf, mentally retarded or with heart defects or other serious problems. The vaccine is combined with those for measles and for mumps.

DIPHTHERIA

This is an infectious disease spread by bacteria or germs that live in the mouth, throat and nose of an infected person, diphtheria is easily passed to others through coughing and sneezing. Early symptoms are a sore throat, a slight fever and chills. Usually the disease develops in the throat and can make it hard to swallow. If not treated, or not treated in time, the bacteria may produce a powerful poison that can spread throughout the body causing serious complications such as heart failure or paralysis. For years, diphtheria killed many children in the United States and could again if children are not immunized. Adults get continuing protection from diphtheria and tetanus in the same shot.

 

HEPATITIS B

This is an infection of the liver that can become serious. It spreads through contact with blood or other body fluids. Hepatitis B causes a flu-like illness with loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, rashes, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). An infected pregnant woman can expose her newborn to this virus during birth. The virus stays in the liver of some people for the rest of their lives and can result in severe liver diseases or cancer. Three doses of a new vaccine offer protection, and immunization is recommended for all infants, children and adolescents. Adults who are at increased risk includes doctors, nurses, teachers, paramedics and police officers.

 

INFLUENZA TYPE B

This causes serious health problems in young children, including the most dangerous type of meningitis. It also can cause pneumonia and infection of the blood, joints, bone, throat and heart covering. This disease can be serious for children younger than 5 years of age, especially infants. New Hib vaccines are very effective in children 2 months of age or older. They are not needed after the child reaches 5 years of age