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Immunizations: A List of the Core Vaccinations & Information About the Diseases

Importance of Immunizations

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by a virus found in the stool of an infected person. It is usually spread by close personal contact and sometimes by eating contaminated food. It can also be spread by drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis A can cause flu-like symptoms, yellowing of the skin and eyes, severe stomach pain and diarrhea. Hepatitis A may be mild or severe, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to several months. In rare cases, liver failure or death may occur.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by a virus. It is spread through contact with the blood and other bodily fluids of an infected person (e.g. sex, sharing needles, toothbrushes, or razors, and tattoo or body piercing with unsterile equipment). You do not get infected from sneezing, coughing, kissing or holding hands. About one third of people who are infected with hepatitis B in the United States don't know how they got it. Short-term illness may include loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, tiredness, yellow skin or eyes, and pain in muscles, joints and stomach. Long-term illness may include liver damage and liver cancer. Each year, it is estimated that 80,000 people, mostly young adults, get infected with the hepatitis B virus.

Influenza (Flu)

Influenza is a contagious virus which spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches. While other illnesses have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for influenza, only the influenza virus can cause influenza. Each year, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and 36,000 people die, from flu-related complications. Most of these deaths occur in the elderly, young children, or people with certain health conditions.

Human Papillomavirus (H.P.V)

H.P.V. is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. About 20 million people in the U.S. are infected. Most people have no symptoms and are unaware that they are infected. While most HPV infections eventually go away as the body clears the virus, some women will develop persistent high-risk HPV infections which may lead to cervical cancer. Every year in the U.S., about 10,000 women get cervical cancer and 3,700 die from it.

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, or the blood. It is spread person to person (e.g. coughing, kissing, sharing utensils). The most common symptoms are high fever, chills, lethargy and a rash. A headache, stiff neck and seizures may be seen with meningitis. In overwhelming infections, shock, coma or even death may occur within several hours. Meningococcal disease affects about 2,000 to 3,000 people each year.

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that kills more people in the United States each year than all other vaccine preventable diseases combined. Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia), the blood (bacteremia), and the covering of the brain (meningitis). It is spread person to person.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who had chickenpox, or was vaccinated for chickenpox, can get shingles. The virus can stay in your body without causing symptoms, then reappear many years later to cause shingles. Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. It is also called Herpes Zoster. The rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and can last 2-4 weeks. The main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. Shingles is far more common in people 50 and older than in younger people. At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles.

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis

Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis are all caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts or wounds.

Tetanus (Lockjaw) causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to "locking" of the jaw so that it becomes difficult to open the mouth or swallow. Tetanus leads to death in up to 2 cases out of 10.

Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat. It can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and even death.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) causes severe coughing spells, vomiting and disturbed sleep. It can lead to weight loss, incontinence, rib fractures, pneumonia, hospitalization due to complications and fainting from violent coughing. Pertussis is especially serious in infants and young children; it can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Pertussis is very contagious.

MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella

Measles, mumps and rubella are each caused by a virus.

Measles is one of the more contagious diseases known to humans. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, and a rash.< Complications of measles can include diarrhea, pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.

Mumps symptoms may include swollen neck glands, headache, fever, and muscle aches. Complications can include meningitis, testicular inflammation and permanent deafness.

Rubella symptoms can include a rash, joint pain and muscle pain. A very serious concern is that in pregnancy, rubella can harm or even kill the baby. If the baby does survive, there may be complications such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects and mental retardation.

Varicella (ChickenPox)

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. The most recognizable symptom is a rash of several hundred to potentially more than one thousand itchy blisters on the face, scalp and trunk. Other symptoms include fever, coughing, fussiness, headache and lack of appetite. Complications can include bacterial infections, pneumonia and encephalitis. Chickenpox is very contagious - spread person to person through direct contact and through the air (e.g. coughing, sneezing).

Article Reviewed: June 15, 2012
Copyright © 2015 Healthy Magazine

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