Friday, July 27, 2012


Wednesday I bemoaned that there was an increase in Pertusis (whooping cough) cases which suggested that parents were placing their children in danger by refusing to have them immunized.

One of the great advancements in Health care since I graduated from Medical School in 1943 has been the control of infectious diseases. Since many are due to a virus rather than bacteria the equally great revolution in treatment following the introduction of antibiotics has been the development of vaccines to prevent. We now also have effective vaccines to prevent the contagious bacterial killers.

One disease we have not vaccinated against for the past 40 years is small pox. This was in 1943 the only contagion we could protect against. Except for rare cases in Africa this plague which probably did more to enable the Europeans to occupy the Americas by decimating the native populations has been eradicated. However, as a precaution there is a banked supply of vaccine enough to immunize every American if there should be an outbreak.

Another dreaded viral  disease was poliomyelitis. With the effective vaccines we no longer have to deal with crippling deformities and paralysis of the respiratory muscles and the Iron Lungs

Other viral epidemics that can be prevented today are Mumps, Measles, German measles and Chicken Pox. The list includes Hepatitis A &B and Influenza. But one of the greatest advances is the vaccine to prevent Rotavirus infections in infants the cause of often fatal diarrhea.

Among the great advances are the vaccines to protect from the bacterial pneumonias especially in the elderly...

I have left to the end a discussion of the various types of Meningitis; both viral and bacterial. Meningitis is an infection of the lining around the brain and if bacterial is very often fatal even with our present antibiotics.

The viral types are usually transient and can only be treated symptomatically.
However the great killers are the bacterial diseases which may be various organisms. The most dangerous and  ones seen in epidemics are due to Haemophhilus Influenza-not to be confused with the Influenza virus; and the great rapid killer of young people in a closed environment such as a military camp or school  due to Meningococcus.
There is an effective vaccine against both bacteria and they do save lives. Once again I cannot condone the refusal for such protection regardless of the excuse.

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