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What vaccine-preventable diseases still exist today and how do they spread?

The diseases we vaccinate against have declined, but they haven’t disappeared. Recent outbreaks of mumps on college campuses, Hepatitis A in Michigan and around the country, measles at Disneyland and whooping cough (pertussis) cases in Michigan in 2014 show that vaccine-preventable diseases can easily make a comeback. See our News section for more recent examples. All vaccine-preventable diseases can make people very sick; some can kill.

Other countries don’t have the same access to vaccines as we do in the United States. Vaccine-preventable diseases are only a plane-ride away, and if we stop vaccinating, vaccine-preventable diseases can and will return. This is why we still vaccinate against diseases we no longer see in our country. If the majority of our country stopped vaccinating, one infected traveler from another country could potentially spark an outbreak.

Fourteen diseases that cause serious medical problems can be prevented by age two through routine childhood vaccines:

Diphtheria
Caused by bacteria.
Spread from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing, or just breathing.
Causes sore throat, fever, and chills.
If not properly diagnosed and treated, it can produce a toxin that can cause heart failure or paralysis.
About 1 person in 10 infected with diphtheria dies.
Prior to vaccination (through the 1920s), about 150,000 people got diphtheria each year, and about 15,000 died.
Can be prevented with the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) vaccine, administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age.

Hepatitis A
Caused by hepatitis A virus.
Found mostly in bowel movements and spread by personal contact or through contaminated food or water.
Causes liver disease – muscle and stomach pain, diarrhea or vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).
Children younger than about 6 years old might not have any symptoms.
About 100 people die each year from liver failure caused by hepatitis A.
Can be prevented with the Hepatitis A (HepA) vaccine, administered at ages 12 through 23 months and again 6 to 18 months after the first dose.

Hepatitis B
Caused by hepatitis B virus.
Spread through contact with blood or other body fluids.
Causes liver disease – muscle and stomach pain, diarrhea or vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, yellow skin or eyes (jaundice).
Some people recover and others become “chronically infected,” which can lead to liver disease or liver cancer.
Chronically infected people can infect others through, for example, unprotected sex or sharing needles.
Babies of chronically infected mothers are usually infected at birth.
About 3,000 to 5,000 people die each year from hepatitis B.
Can be prevented with the Hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine, administered at birth, with a second dose at 1 through 2 months of age and the final dose at 6 through 18 months.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Caused by bacteria.
Spread from person to person through the air by coughing, sneezing, or just breathing.
If Hib bacteria enter the bloodstream they can cause meningitis, pneumonia, arthritis, and other serious medical problems.
Before vaccine, Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children younger than 5 (about 1 out of every 200 children in that age group). One child in 4 suffered permanent brain damage, and 1 in 20 died.
Can be prevented with the Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine, administered at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 12 through 15 months of age.

Sources:
CDC: Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations
CDC: Vaccines for Your Children
CDC: Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them

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