Immunizing against vaccine-preventable diseases

  • Varicella is a highly contagious disease that is very uncomfortable and sometimes serious. Prior to availability of the varicella vaccine, 11,000 people were hospitalized each year due to chickenpox. Immunization has since reduced disease burden 90%.

  • Anyone who has had the chickenpox is susceptible shingles, a painful localized skin rash caused by the reactivation of the dormant varicella zoster virus. People older than 50 and immunocompromised individuals are at greatest risk, but a single-dose zoster vaccine can prevent shingles in most adults.

  • Tetanus is induced by an exotoxin of <i>Clostridium tetani</i>, which grows anaerobically at site of injury, and is characterized by painful muscular contractions, primarily of the masseter and other large muscles. This patient presented with facial tetany.

  • This child with diphtheria presented with a characteristic swollen neck, sometimes referred to as "bull neck." Diphtheria is an acute bacterial disease involving primarily the tonsils, pharynx, larynx, nose, skin and at times other mucous membranes. The mucosal lesion is marked by a patch or patches of an adherent grayish membrane with a surrounding inflammation.

  • Pertussis is a highly communicable disease caused by <i>Bordetella pertussis</i>, a gram-negative coccobacillus. Typically lasting for many weeks, pertussis afflicts children with severe coughing, whooping and posttussive vomiting. Children should receive a primary 3-dose vaccine series at 2, 4 and 6 months, and 2 booster doses at 15-18 months and 4-6 years to protect against the disease.

  • Prior to widespread immunization, measles was common in childhood, with more than 90% of infants and children infected by age 12. However, fewer than 1,000 measles cases have been reported annually since 1993 thanks to vaccines.

  • This image depicts a child with a mumps infection. Mumps virus causes fever, headache, muscle pain, loss of appetite and swollen glands. Note the characteristic swollen neck region due to an enlargement of the boy’s salivary glands. Mumps can also lead to deafness, meningitis, painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries, and rarely sterility.

  • Rubella is a respiratory viral infection characterized by a 3-day maculopapular rash, mild respiratory symptoms and low-grade fever. Getting vaccinated is particularly important for women of childbearing age, because the risk for serious birth defects such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects, mental retardation, and liver and spleen damage, if the disease is acquired during pregnancy.

  • Pneumococcal disease symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is infected, and range from mild to severe. About 4,000 cases of serious disease (meningitis and sepsis) occur each year in children younger than 5. These illnesses can lead to disability like deafness, brain damage or loss of arms or legs. Two vaccines currently protect against pneumococcal disease – PCV13 and PPSV23.

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines protect against <i>Neisseria meningitides</i>, a bacteria that proliferates through respiratory and throat secretions. This photo depicts a 4-month-old baby with gangrene of hands and lower extremities due to meningococcemia that caused arterial occlusions.

  • The viral disease Hepatitis A is manifested here as icterus, or jaundice of the conjunctivae and facial skin. Currently, two vaccines exist that protect against hepatitis A and B. New hep B cases among children aged 2–18 years declined 92.9% between 1997 and 2008, from 708 to 50 cases, and hep A incidence declined 92% from 11.2 to 0.9 new cases per 100,000 pop.

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Recognized as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, immunization saves an estimated 2 to 3 million lives every year globally. Vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) levels are at or near record lows. However, even though most U.S. infants and toddlers have received all recommended vaccines by age 2, many remain under-immunized, leaving potential for disease outbreaks. Take a minute to review these once-common VPDs and be sure to immunize patients according to the CDC’s Routine Immunization Schedules:

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