Vaccination prevents disease- part 2

In part 1  I discussed the vaccine preventable bacterial diseases . Today I will address viral infections.

One major difference between bacterial and viral infections is the treatment. We have many more effective antibiotics (drugs which fight bacteria) than we do anti-viral drugs. And antibiotics do not affect viruses. Despite that fact, patient often expect and even demand their physicians prescribe antibiotics for viral infections such as influenza, colds and bronchitis- and unfortunately too often we physicians do it anyway.

Influenza- the vaccine is given annually and targeted to the strains of virus predicted to be active in any given year; unfortunately this season the virus mutated, so most of the circulating strains are not covered by the current vaccine

symptoms of influenza

Measles (rubeola), Mumps, Rubella (German measles) -I am grouping these together since their vaccines are usually given together as the MMR. Recent  outbreak s of measles have been attributed to the decline in vaccination rates.

Measles in the United States

Polio, a disease parents feared when I was a child, due to to risk of permanent paralysis, now essentially eradicated in the United States

Rotavirus,  in infants and small children, a common cause of gastroenteritis- vomiting and diarrhea, with or without fever and abdominal pain

HPV, the human papilloma virus, causes warts of all kinds, but the vaccine is targeted to the strains that cause genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer

The cousin viruses, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Hepatitis is an infection or inflammation of the liver, which can range from a mild disease to life threatening. Hepatitis A is spread through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is spread through contact with infected blood or other body fluids.

Another set of cousins, Varicella Zoster (VZ) virus causes two different infections and thus has two vaccines. The original infection is  varicella or chickenpox, formerly a common childhood illness but not seen often now due to the vaccine. When it reactivates, usually years later in adulthood, it is known as  zoster or shingles.

There are also several vaccines usually reserved for travel to specific areas of the world, occupational exposure, military service or other special circumstances. These include vaccines for rabies, anthrax, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever and smallpox.

And last, I want to mention some notable diseases for which we do not yet have vaccines. One of the most serious is malaria, caused by a parasite transmitted by infected mosquitos. Malaria is rarely a risk in northern or extreme southern areas of the world, but for the tropics, especially sub-Saharan Africa it is a major health problem.

Otherwise we all are at risk of other serious infections that we cannot yet prevent with immunization. These include

HIV-human immunodeficiency virus ,and most other sexually transmitted diseases including HSV- herpes simplex virus, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.

HCV- Hepatitis C

Most respiratory viruses, including rhinovirus, cause of the common cold; RSV-respiratory syncytial virus and infectious mononucleosis

The Ebola virus

Borrelia, not really a bacteria, it’s a spirochete, which causes Lyme (not lime) disease

And the bacteria Staphylococcus, which causes “staph” (not staff) infections of the skin and Streptococcus, which causes “strep throat”

If you have any questions or concerns about which vaccines you might need to protect yourself against infections, please consult your own personal physician.

Detailed information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

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