6. Viral pneumonia
“[Viral pneumonia] is transmissible just like the flu,” Prokesch said. “It doesn’t cause many problems in healthy people, but it can be extremely serious in immunocompromised people like kids, older people, patients undergoing chemo.”
Dozens of bacteria and viruses can cause pneumonia, including the flu or the common cold. Every year in the United States, about a million people seek hospital treatment for pneumonia, and 50,000 die. Vaccines are recommended for children under 2 and adults 65 and older, and for young people with certain medical conditions.
A recent measles outbreak across Europe and higher than usual reported cases in the United States have gotten some health professionals worried. There were more than 130 cases by October 2018, compared to 120 in all of last year. An outbreak in Rockland County, New York, alone reached 40 cases.
“The problem is that people are not vaccinating their kids,” Sims said. Measles was almost wiped out. It is now the deadliest vaccine-preventable infection, according to Prokesch. WHO calls it one of the world’s most contagious diseases. The airborne virus remains active on infected surfaces for up to two hours and can be spread up to four days before symptoms occur.
Children under 5 and adults over 20 are more likely to develop complications, including pneumonia and swelling of the brain, both of which can be lethal.
8. Whooping cough
Respiratory infections such as whooping cough, or pertussis, which is an infection in the lungs and breathing tubes, are easy to spread, according to Zelenetz. Anyone can get whooping cough, but it can be fatal for babies who have not completed the full course of vaccinations.
Half of those under 1 year old are hospitalized because they can suffer brain damage, have seizures or develop pneumonia. Other serious complications include vomiting, turning blue due to lack of oxygen, and difficulty breathing.
The CDC has reported an increase in the number of whooping cough cases, especially among teens and children between 7 and 10. “The vaccine works pretty well but it fades over time,” Sims said. “You should get it as a child and again as an adult.”
Meningitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by an infection, is a broad category. “The one that can be life-threatening and can progress very rapidly is meningococcus, “Zelenetz said. The bacteria can spread from person to person through very close contact, such as coughing on someone else or kissing.
Globally, 5% to 10% of those infected die, usually one to two days after the onset of symptoms. Meningococcus can be treated with antibiotics, but it has to be caught very early, according to Sims. The best way to prevent the disease is getting vaccinated. Vaccines are recommended for preteens, with a booster dose in young adulthood.
The viruses that can cause it is are highly infectious. Healthy people are not likely to experience complications, but in kids and people with suppressed immune systems infectious diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, both of which can be dangerous, according to Prokesch. Diarrheal infections are very contagious because they can spread via dirty hands and contaminated food or water. All it takes is for one person to not wash their hands after going to the bathroom and prepare your food, Prokesch noted. “It all comes down to hygiene.”
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