Health
October 14, 2019
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The importance of immunization

By: George Malkemus
June 14, 2019

Vaccinations are vital.  It is alarming the number of people that are refusing vaccinations for themselves and their children.  Vaccinations are safe and prevent life threatening diseases.  

Over the last few years there have been outbreaks of measles and whooping cough with many deaths due to lack of universal vaccinations.  Not long ago, these diseases were thought to be eradicated in the United States.  But continual mass immunizations are necessary to control the spread of these highly contagious diseases through the population.

There are combinations of reasons why people don’t get vaccinated, which include fear of shots, fear of side effects, fear of the government or corporate conspiracies and/or a belief in bad, disproved science.  As a result, they, their children and others are placed at a greater risk for illness and possible death.

Last week, I talked with a young mother who was refusing vaccinations for herself and her infant because she did not like shots.  I was taken aback.  In 2010, there were 11 infant deaths from pertussis, better known as whooping cough, just in California alone.  While researching on the Internet, I found heart-wrenching stories from parents who lost their children from their own lack of immunization.  Please take the steps to receive vaccinations for you and your children. 

Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. On May 30, federal health officials announced that there were more measles cases, 971, in the United States the first five months of 2019 then there were in all of 1992, when the last large outbreak in the U.S. occurred. In Dec. 2014, a large outbreak of measles started in California when at least 40 people who visited or worked at Disneyland theme park in Orange County contracted measles; the outbreak also spread to at least half a dozen other states.  This year’s measles epidemic has involved 26 states.  In 2000, measles was considered eradicated in the United States, but has recently made a startling come back.  So it is crucial that everyone have the vaccine.  With globalization, infectious diseases are only one plane ride away.

Since 1963, when the vaccine was introduced, cases and deaths from measles in the United States and other developed countries have plummeted.  Prior to the vaccine, measles caused approximately 450 to 500 deaths each year in the United States. Between 1985 and 1992, death from measles was reported in approximately two out of every 1,000 U.S. measles cases, with pneumonia accounting for about 60 percent of these deaths, according to the CDC. The most recent measles death in the United States occurred in 2015.

“Measles are preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the C.D.C.

Measles are widespread in many parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and Asia. Before widespread use of the vaccine, measles led to more than two million deaths a year, world-wide.  Vaccination resulted in an 80 percent drop in worldwide measles deaths between 2000 and 2017. Around the globe, measles infections were responsible for 110,000 deaths in 2017, the most recent statistical year. Most of them were children under five. The overwhelming majority — more than 95 percent — of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures, such as nations experiencing or recovering from a natural disaster or conflict. Disrupted health services, including routine vaccinations, along with overcrowding in residential camps increases the risk of infection.

Measles begin with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and a rash. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body. Infected people are usually contagious from about four days before their rash starts to four days afterwards. Children routinely get their first dose of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at 12 months old or later. The second dose of MMR is usually administered before the child begins kindergarten but may be given one month or more after the first dose. 

Whooping cough

 Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease.  Whooping cough is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It is characterized by severe coughing spells that end in a “whooping” sound when the person breathes in.

The pertussis bacteria spreads from person to person through tiny drops of fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth. These drops may become airborne when the person sneezes, coughs, or laughs, infecting others when inhaled.  Pertussis spreads even more readily by individuals touching their hands to their mouth or nose and then touching surfaces like a doorknob or a drinking glass.  Others touch the same surfaces, getting the drops of bacteria filled fluid on their hands and then touch their own mouths or noses.  Washing hands regularly helps prevent the spread of disease. Even better is a vaccination against pertussis. 

The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold, including runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and low-grade fever.  After about one to two weeks, the dry, irritating cough evolves into coughing spells. Severe coughing continues for approximately two to four weeks, though the coughing spells can sometimes last even longer. The last stage consists of another several weeks of recovery with gradual resolution of symptoms. In some children, the recovery period may last for months.

During a coughing spell, which can last for more than a minute, the child may turn red or purple. At the end of a spell, the child may make a characteristic whooping sound when breathing in or may vomit. Between spells, the child usually feels well.

Whooping cough can be prevented with the pertussis vaccine, which is part of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis) immunization.  DTaP immunizations are routinely given in five doses before a child’s sixth birthday. Whooping cough immunity can fade five to 10 years after the last vaccination. To give additional protection in case immunity fades, children ages 11-18 should get a booster shot (called Tdap). Adults should receive a Tdap booster shot as well.  Boosters should be given to adults every 10 years, since whooping cough immunity can fade five to 10 years after the last vaccination.

Pregnant Women are recommended to receive Tdap (whooping cough booster) in their third trimester (between 27-36 weeks of pregnancy, at the earliest opportunity during this window). Tdap is recommended during each pregnancy, even when given before pregnancy. The protection that expectant moms receive from Tdap also passes to their baby in the womb. This helps protect babies during the most vulnerable period, until they are old enough to get their first whooping cough vaccination at 6—8 weeks of age.

In conclusion, everyone should receive vaccinations for all diseases recommended by their physicians and Center for Disease Control.  No Excuses!

Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!

George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com.  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com