Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Chickenpox (Varicella virus)
Chickenpox, is typically mild and self-limiting but may cause very serious complications. Dangerous bacterial infections of the chickenpox skin lesions along with pneumonia are the most often causes of hospitalization. Chickenpox can be a very serious disease for young children less than one year of age and adults older than 15 years. Adults account for only five percent of cases but account for approximately 35 percent of deaths.
Diphtheria is caused by the bacterium, Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Complications include heart abnormalities, paralysis of the eye muscles and limbs, difficulty breathing and ear infections. Death occurs in five to 10 percent of all cases. The death rate of those younger than five years or older than 40 years of age climbs to 20 percent.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacterial infections were the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under five years of age before the introduction of effective vaccines. Throat inflammation (redness and swelling), arthritis (joint swelling) and skin infections are also common complications of Hib infections.
- Learn more about Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccinations.
Hepatitis B is a virus that spread through blood and most body fluids which infects the liver. Individuals infected with Hep B can develop fulminant (an unusually severe or aggressive form of a disease) hepatitis, that can lead to death. Hep B infection can become chronic (long term infection). Chronic hepatitis B can lead to serious complications including liver scarring, liver failure, and liver cancer. In the United States, an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people die from Hep B- related liver cancer each year. Ninety percent of babies infected with Hep B at birth become chronic carriers greatly increasing their risk of liver-related problems.
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The flu may result in mild illness or severe illness accompanied by life-threatening complications. On average, 114,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications and 36,000 Americans die each year from complications of flu. Signs and symptoms of flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Gastro-intestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are much more common among children than adults. The main way the flu is spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.
Approximately 30 percent of reported measles cases result in one or more of the following complications: inner ear infection, pneumonia, brain inflammation, seizures and death. Children younger than five and adults older than 20 years of age are most likely to have complications due to measles infection.
Mumps is an infectious disease caused by a virus. The most common symptom of mumps is swelling of the salivary glands close to the jaw. Other symptoms include fever, headache and earache.
More serious symptoms can occur in rare cases, including meningitis, swelling of the testes or ovaries and inflammation of the joints.
Polio, or Poliomyelitis, is a virus that can lead to paralysis and death. The last outbreak of polio virus in the United States occurred in 1979. Polio is still common in many places around the world. Due to international travel, polio vaccination remains important.
Rubella virus can lead to arthritis (joint swelling), brain inflammation and internal bleeding. The main objective of rubella vaccination is to prevent rubella syndrome in newborns. In newborns rubella infection may damage all organs leading to congenital defects (deafness, eye defects, heart defects and nerve abnormality) that may not show up for two to four years. Rubella may also lead to fetal death, spontaneous abortion and premature delivery.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a common cause of middle ear infections in children. Each year over 20 million visits are paid to pediatric doctors offices for middle ear infections. Serious diseases caused by pneumococci infections involve the lungs, blood and brain. Two hundred children die each year from pneumococcal disease.
Tetanus is an acute disease caused by Clostridium tetani. Tetanus commonly causes muscle stiffness, uncontrolled muscle contractions and spasms. Eleven percent of tetanus cases die.
- Read the Vaccine Information Statements for
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection. The first symptoms are similar to those of a common cold: a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild, occasional cough. The symptoms may progress to severe coughing fits particularly at night, with “whooping” (primarily in children), and vomiting after coughing. The cough associated with pertussis usually lasts several weeks. Pertussis is very serious in young children, with pneumonia being the most common complication. Adults and adolescents usually have milder symptoms without the characteristic “whoop,” but are important in the epidemiology of the disease since they often spread the disease to others.
Early childhood pertussis vaccines provide protection when children are most susceptible to serious illness. Every child should receive doses of the pertussis vaccine at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months and then a booster at 4-6 years of age.
Additionally adults and adolescents should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones from pertussis. In 2005, two new vaccines became available for prevention of pertussis in adolescents and adults: Boostrix® (for ages 10 and older) and Adacel™ (for ages 11 and older). Contact your regular healthcare provider for more information.