Vaccination prevents disease- part 2

In part 1  I discussed the vaccine preventable bacterial diseases . Here we’ll look at viral infections.

 

Virus vs Bacteria

One major difference between bacterial and viral infections is the treatment. We have many more effective antibiotics (drugs which fight bacteria) than we do antiviral drugs.

And antibiotics do not affect viruses. Despite that fact, patients 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.

 

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

 

Influenza- the vaccine is given annually and targeted to the strains of virus predicted to be active in any given year.

symptoms of influenza

The nasal flu vaccine is not preferred as it is less effective than a shot. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measles (rubeola), Mumps, Rubella (German measles) -I am grouping these together since their vaccines are usually given together as the MMR. Recent outbreaks 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  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 anthrax, typhoid, cholera, (bacteria) and yellow fever, smallpox,and rabies (viruses). 

Diseases for which there is no vaccine

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 about vaccines and infectious disease  is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

 

Vaccination prevents disease- part 1

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The rash that spreads- what you need to know about measles

The rash of measles, also known as rubeola, starts on the head and spreads to the trunk (chest and upper back) , arms, and legs over a few days .

What is measles?

 

It used to be one of the “usual childhood diseases” that most of us over age 55 years contracted as children, prior to the use of the vaccine. It is caused by a virus in the Paramyxoviridae family and spread by person to person contact.

The other childhood diseases were

  • Rubella, or  German measles
  • Chicken pox, or  varicella
  • Roseola
  • Fifth Disease, or erythema infectiosum

These all cause a rash, called an exanthem.

Mumps was also a common childhood disease but does not usually cause a rash.

 

 

Symptoms of measles include cough, nasal drainage, reddened, inflamed eyes, and a rash as pictured below.

the rash of measles

image courtesy of the CDC- Centers for Disease Control , U.S. government

 

There is no specific treatment and it runs its course in about 1-2 weeks. Antibiotics are not effective .

Most of those infected recover uneventfully but there can be serious complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

 

Preventing measles and other exanthems

After the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963 the number of reported cases was reduced by 99%. In 2000 measles was declared no longer endemic ( occurring routinely) in the United States. Thus public health officials consider an outbreak a major setback in the control of infectious disease.

Measles vaccine is usually administered as a “3 in 1” vaccine- the MMR, which has been vilified as a possible cause of autism, although that has been thoroughly discredited.

The other two letters in the mix stand for mumps and rubella (also known as German measles) both of which are also caused by viruses and for which no treatment exists.

No vaccine exists for roseola or Fifth Disease, but we have an effective vaccine for chickenpox.

 

You can listen to  2 DOCS TALK  about mumps at this link or read the transcript.

Mumps – The Disease, the Vaccine, the Problem

“But recent increases in those who choose to have their children forego vaccines has led to a loss of herd immunity and an increase in these outbreaks.

To further complicate the issue, it seems that immunity wanes with time, which is why many college students (hello spring break!) find themselves falling ill eight to ten years after their last booster at age 12 to 15.”

 

My family receives vaccines and believe any potential risk is worth the benefit. I urge you to think carefully and talk to a trusted physician before you decide to forgo vaccination for yourself and especially for your children.

Thanks for visiting this blog and considering this vital information as we explore the HEART of health together.

Dr. Aletha