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vaccinations have helped reduce disease

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Updated: Saturday, Jun 19,2010, 11:14:24 AM
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A number of diseases that once killed thousands of people each year are no longer as widespread a threat. In many cases, this is due to vaccinations. that over the years, vaccinations have helped reduce the number of outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps, even the flu.

How vaccines work

Basically, vaccines work by tricking your body's immune system into thinking you are being exposed to a particular disease. When we get an infection, our bodies produce antibodies.  antibodies help fight the disease and often stay in the body even once the disease goes away. As a result, they continue to protect the body from future exposures to the disease. Vaccinations inject individuals with weakened versions of the bacteria or viruses that cause particular diseases. This triggers the body to produce antibodies to fight the invading germs. The antibodies remain in the body, offering continued protection from the specific diseases.

Vaccinations can help protect children, as well as adults, from a number of diseases, including:

    * Measles - a virus which once killed hundreds of people a year
    * Mumps - a contagious viral disease
    * Rubella - another viral disease

Vaccination for the above three diseases is given together as part of the standard childhood immunization program. The combination is known as MMR.

Another combination vaccine is used to fight the following:

    * Diphtheria - caused by a bacteria spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes
    * Tetanus - also called lockjaw because it produces painful muscle contractions throughout the body, which can rapidly lead to death.
    * Pertussis or whooping cough - a bacterial infection that results in fits of coughing

Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus are given in combination as part of the standard childhood immunization program. The combination is known as DPT. Tetanus and diphtheria vaccines are routinely given to patients who have suffered a laceration. A booster should be given every five to ten years.

There are many more diseases that vaccinations can protect against. They include:

    * Rotavirus - a virus that causes severe diarrhea in babies and young children. It is responsible for more that 200,000 emergency room visits, 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and 20 to 60 deaths each year in the United States.
    * Polio - which crippled tens of thousands of children in the 40's and 50's
    * Hepatitis B - a liver disease caused by contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person
    * Hepatitis A - another liver disease
    * Chicken pox (varicella) - often considered a child's disease, although adults who never had chicken pox as children may get vaccinated in order to avoid getting this disease later on, since chicken pox can often be more severe in older people. A booster is also now recommended.
    * HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type B) related diseases - which can include upper respiratory infections, meningitis and others.
    * Human papillomavirus (HPV) - this virus has been linked to cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for girls 11 to 12 years of age, including catch-up immunization of girls 13 to 18 years of age.
    * Pneumococcal disease - pneumococcal disease is caused by a common bacterium, which can attack different parts of the body, such as the lungs, where it can result in the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia.
    * Meningococcal meningitis - a growing problem on college campuses. Military recruits are also considered at high risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine vaccination of children 11-12 years old, previously unvaccinated adolescents at high school entry, and college freshmen living in dormitories with meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). The recommendation is designed to help achieve vaccination among those at highest risk for meningococcal disease.
    * Influenza (the flu) - a virus that can be especially dangerous for the elderly, the very young and for those who have chronic illnesses
    * Herpes Zoster/Shingles - Herpes Zoster or shingles is a localized infection due to the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. It occurs only in people who have had chickenpox in the past and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella virus. Why the virus reactivates in some individuals and not in others is unknown.

Immunizations start early in life. The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research recommends the following in the first few months of life:

    * Hepatitis B
    * Rotavirus
    * Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP)
    * Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
    * Pneumococcal disease
    * Polio (OPV/IPV)

Vaccines for toddlers and children up to 6 years of age include:

    * Hepatitis B
    * Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP)
    * Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
    * Pneumococcal disease
    * Polio (OPV/IPV)
    * Influenza
    * Measles-Mumps-Rubella
    * Varicella
    * Hepatitis A
    * Meningococcal

Vaccines for children 7 through 18 years of age include:

    * Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP)
    * HPV
    * Meningococcal
    * Pneumococcal disease
    * Influenza
    * Hepatitis A
    * Hepatitis B
    * Polio (OPV/IPV)
    * Measles-Mumps-Rubella
    * Varicella

If your child has missed any of these shots, discuss with your doctor how to get your child up-to-date. adults should also talk about immunizations with their doctors. The discussion should include things like tetanus booster shots, as well as any other important vaccines such as pneumococcal disease and influenza.
Precautions

There are some reasons for an adult or child not to get vaccinated, and it's important that you talk to your doctor about specific cases. Some people do have allergic reactions to components of some vaccines. If you have allergies, particularly to eggs or gelatin, you should discuss the issues with your doctor. You should also talk to your doctor if you or your child has any diseases that affect the immune system such as primary immunodeficiency or AIDS.  You should also talk to your doctor if you have any other diseases or conditions that mean you shouldn't get certain vaccines, such as some types of cancer, skin conditions, neurological problems, heart disease or liver disease. If your child has had a serious reaction to earlier shots, make sure you discuss with the doctor the pros and cons of giving him or her the rest of the shots in the series. If you've ever had an allergic reaction to a shot, let your doctor know.  A doctor or pediatrician can provide guidance on the risks factors that both children and adults might need to consider.

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