The process of vaccination dates back to China in the 10th century. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur, the French scientist, pioneered research that made the process more widespread and effective. In the present day, tens of millions of Americans are vaccinated each year for diseases as widespread as flu and shingles. While Americans have access to vaccinations against a large number of diseases, they should ask their doctor about these six in particular.
As the influenza season starts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that virtually everyone, with very few exceptions, over six years old in the United States gets a flu vaccination by the end of October. The content of the flu vaccine changes every year based on scientific research on which strains are likely to be the most prominent each year. Among the incentives for getting a flu shot is that the disease killed 80,000 people in the United States last year.
A million people in the United States get shingles each year. Shingles usually starts with a rash. The rash can appear anywhere on the body but usually appears on the torso. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Among the symptoms are fever, rash, headache and fatigue. Severe pain caused by the disease can go one for weeks or even months. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two primary vaccines for shingles: Zostavax and Shingrix.
Children are not the only people who get chickenpox. In adults, exposure to shingles can cause it. Experts at Johns Hopkins say that people with chickenpox are contagious for one to two days. Scabs on the body can last as long as a week. The disease is particularly dangerous for people with cancer and those with weak immune systems. Aside from the rash, those infected usually feel weak and may have a fever. Dangerous complications include pneumonia and encephalitis. Most people receive two vaccinations against chickenpox.
While most of the 1 million Americans who seek hospital care every year due to pneumonia are adults, the disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide in children under five, killing nearly a million every year. The CDC recommends that adults 65 and older get two vaccines to protect against pneumonia. In addition to older people and children under five, smokers and those with ongoing medical conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, are more likely to get pneumonia. Pneumonia symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include chest pain when breathing or coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever or lower than normal body temperature.
MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella)
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. The biggest threat to Americans is being unvaccinated and then being exposed to the disease when traveling internationally. That happened last year when measles outbreaks hit more than half of U.S. states. Because measles is so contagious, the CDC recommends that everyone get the MMR vaccine. Symptoms present themselves first as fever, then a cough, runny nose and red eyes. A rash comprised of small red spots starts at the head and spreads down the rest of the body. The CDC stresses that no link has been found between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Often called lockjaw because the disease causes the victim’s neck and jaw muscles to “lock,” tetanus is a bacterial infection that enters the body through a cut or puncture. Other tetanus symptoms include painful muscle stiffness, fever, headache and changes in blood pressure and heart rate. Tetanus vaccinations also contain protections against other diseases, such as diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Of the four kinds of tetanus vaccines in use today, two are recommended for children under seven years of age and two others for older children and adults. The tetanus vaccine does not last a lifetime, and the CDC recommends that adults get vaccinated every 10 years.