Herd Immunity
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Childhood Diseases Can Kill and Debilitate

Educate Yourself ~ The Child's Life You Save May Be Your Own


Reference Source and Complete information on specific vaccines and the diseases they can prevent is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

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CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Home Page

Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades


Below are a list of vaccine preventable diseases recommended or required for routine vaccinations for various age groups in the United States.

Educate yourself on the diseases and the vaccines.

The life you save may be yours or your child's.

What Is?

Vaccine Preventable Meningitis

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bacterium that can infect the outer lining of the brain causing meningitis. Hib is transmitted from person to person through mucus droplets that are spread by coughing or sneezing. Invasive Hib disease occurs most often at three months to three years of age, peaking at six to seven months of age. The disease is uncommon after age five years.

Hib can cause a wide variety of serious infections, including pneumonia, severe throat swelling that makes breathing difficult (epiglottitis), and infections of blood, bones, joints, and the covering of the heart. Complications of Hib meningitis include blindness, deafness, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and death. About 5% of children (500 out of every 10,000) with Hib meningitis die despite antibiotic treatment.


Meningococcal disease is usually caused by groups A, B, C, Y, and W-135 of the meningococcus bacteria. In 1978, the first meningococcal vaccines were licensed in the United States and were effective against only two of the major groups of meningoccocus. Currently, licensed vaccines provide some protection against all groups except B; there is no licensed vaccine for group B in the U.S.

Originally, the vaccines were developed to control meningococcal disease in the armed forces. All U.S. military recruits are given meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine prior to induction.

In 2005, a new meningococcal conjugate vaccine, MCV4, was licensed for people 11-55 years of age. When it becomes available, it will likely be in short supply initially. As a consequence, recommendations for its use will evolve depending on vaccine availability.


Streptococcus pneumoniae is a group of “strep” bacteria also known as pneumococci. Pneumococci live in the nose and throats of people of all ages. Pneumococci can infect many different sites, some common—like the middle ear and the sinuses—and some less common but more serious, including the lungs (pneumonia), central nervous system (meningitis), and blood stream (bacteremia).

Serious pneumococcal infections are most common in infants, toddlers, and the elderly.Each year in the United States among children younger than five years of age, pneumococcal disease accounts for at least 1,400 cases of meningitis; 17,000 cases of bacteremia; 71,000 cases of pneumonia; and 5 to 7 million middle ear infections. Each year among Americans of all ages, there are an estimated 150,000 to 570,000 cases of pneumococcal pneumonia; 16,000 to 55,000 cases of pneumococcal bacteremia; and 3,000 to 6,000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis.

People with certain health problems (e.g., immune deficiencies, sickle cell disease, lack of a functioning spleen) are at high risk for acquiring invasive pneumococcal disease. Children from African-American, Alaskan Native, and specific Native American populations also have higher rates of invasive pneumococcal disease than white children.


Vaccine Preventable Hepatitis

Hepatitis A infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

In the United States, hepatitis A is one of the most frequently reported diseases that can be prevented by a vaccine. When infected by hepatitis A virus, adolescents and adults are more likely than young children to develop signs and symptoms of disease, including fever, weakness, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and yellow eyes and skin, and are more likely to experience severe disease.

Symptoms usually last less than two months, but 10% to 15% of those infected will have prolonged or relapsing disease lasting up to six months. Unlike hepatitis B and C, chronic hepatitis A disease does not occur. Unfortunately, each year in the U.S. 125,000 to 200,000 people become sick with hepatitis A, and 70 to 100 people die, mostly those with underlying liver disease.

This virus is most commonly spread in stool, although it can be spread through contact with infected blood. Outbreaks sometimes occur when many people have eaten from the same Hepatitis A-infected food source. Infected people are most likely to spread hepatitis A virus during the two-week period before they know they are infected. Since most infected pre-school children show no symptoms of hepatitis A infection, they often unknowingly spread the hepatitis A virus to others.

About one-third of the hepatitis A cases in the U.S. occur in children 5 to 14 years of age. The lowest rate of infection is in adults more than 40 years old. The rate of infection is higher in lower income populations, and the disease is more common in areas with higher populations of American Indian and Alaskan natives than in other areas of the country.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted from one person to another through blood and body fluids, and primarily infects the liver. In the United States, it is most commonly spread through sexual contact or injection drug use. Health care workers and others exposed to infected blood or body fluids are also at high risk for infection. However, approximately 30% of those infected have no known risk factors. Worldwide, it is most commonly spread to infants by their infected mothers.

More than half of those infected with the disease show no signs or symptoms, although they may become chronic carriers of the disease and may develop liver disease or liver cancer later in life (usually by age 40). Symptoms of HBV infection vary and may include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, and jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), joint pain, and skin rashes.

Worldwide, over 350 million people have chronic HBV infection, and approximately 1 million HBV patients die annually. An estimated 1.25 million people in the U.S. have chronic HBV infection. Each year, approximately 4,000 to 5,000 children are infected with hepatitis B in the United States. The younger the patient is when the disease is acquired, the more likely it is that he or she will develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer.

Approximately 90% of infants who are infected from their mothers at birth, and between 30 and 50% of those infected before age five, become chronic HBV carriers, while people who are newly infected as adults have only a 6 to 10% risk of chronic infection. For these reasons, hepatitis B immunizations are recommended for routine administration in early infancy.

Hepatitis C is not vaccine preventable at this time.

Polio is caused by intestinal viruses that spread from person to person in stool and saliva. Most people infected with polio (approximately 95%) show no symptoms. Minor symptoms can include sore throat, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. Some infected persons (1 to 2%) will have stiffness in the neck, back, or legs without paralysis. Less than 1% of polio infections (about 1 of every 1,000 cases) cause paralysis. In some cases, the poliovirus will paralyze the muscles used to breathe, leaving the victim unable to breathe on his or her own. Many paralyzed persons recover completely. Those who do recover from paralytic polio may be affected 30 to 40 years later, with muscle pain and progressive weakness.

Before the polio vaccine, 13,000 to 20,000 people were paralyzed by polio, and about 1,000 people died from it each year in the United States. Most of those infected were elementary school children so it was often called 'infantile paralysis.'

The incidence of paralytic polio peaked in the U.S. in 1952 with 21,000 reported cases and numerous deaths. Following licensure of the Salk (inactivated) polio vaccine in 1955, the incidence of the disease fell dramatically. The disease was further reduced by the advent of the Sabin (oral) polio vaccine in 1961. The last cases of paralytic polio from natural poliovirus in the U.S. were in 1979, and the most recent case from outside the U.S. occurred in 1993.


Rubella is caused by a virus that is transmitted from person to person in mucus droplets coughed or sneezed into the environment. Rubella usually is a mild illness. Symptoms include low-grade fever and swollen lymph nodes in the back of the neck followed by a generalized rash. Complications may include joint pain, a temporary decrease in platelets, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Temporary arthritis may also occur, particularly in adolescents and adult women.

Rubella in expectant women often leads to congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in their fetuses. This is a devastating disease characterized by deafness, mental retardation, cataracts and other eye defects, heart defects, and diseases of the liver and spleen that may result in a low platelet count with bleeding under the skin. The incidence and severity of congenital defects are greater if infection occurs during the first month of gestation. Up to 85% of expectant mothers infected in the first trimester will have a miscarriage or a baby with CRS.

The World Health Organization estimated that, in 1999, 110,000 infants were born with CRS worldwide. Although most CRS occurs in developing countries, it also continues to occur in the U.S., mostly among unimmunized Hispanics.

Before a vaccine was available, there was a rubella outbreak in the U.S. (1963 to 1964), during which 12 million people developed the disease. Because many of those infected were expectant mothers, 11,000 fetuses died and 20,000 babies were born with permanent disabilities as a result of exposure to the virus. The number of cases of rubella fell very sharply once the rubella vaccine was licensed in 1969; today there are fewer than 1,000 cases of rubella reported each year in the U.S. on average and less than 10 cases of congenital rubella syndrome.


Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a bacterial infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. The germ is spread when infected people cough or sneeze.

Children with pertussis have decreased ability to cough up respiratory secretions and develop thick, glue-like mucus in the windpipe. This causes severe coughing spells that make it difficult for them to eat, drink, or breathe. The child may suffer from coughing spells for two to three weeks or longer. Sometimes the child coughs several times before breathing in; when the child finally does breathe in there is often a loud gasp or "whooping" sound. The disease is most severe when it occurs early in life; it often requires hospitalization.

The majority of pertussis-related deaths are in young infants which may occur when other bacteria take the opportunity to invade the sick infant's lungs. Primary pertussis pneumonia also may be life-threatening in infancy. In 1997, adolescents and adults accounted for 46% of reported cases of pertussis, and they are often the ones who spread this disease to infants and children.

Pertussis is one of the most contagious human diseases, so it is a great risk to those who are unvaccinated. Pertussis will develop in 90% of unvaccinated children living with someone with pertussis, and in 50% to 80% of unvaccinated children who attend school or daycare with someone with pertussis. Approximately 50 out of every 10,000 people who develop pertussis die from the disease.

Between 1940-1945, before widespread vaccination, as many as 175,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the United States each year, with approximately 8,000 deaths caused by the disease. Today, there are about 7,000 cases of pertussis and 10 deaths annually. Worldwide, there are an estimated 300,000 annual deaths due to pertussis.


Varicella (chickenpox) is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The infection usually starts as a rash on the face that spreads to the rest of the body. The rash begins as red bumps that eventually become blisters. A child will often get 300 to 500 blisters during the infection, which crust over and fall off in one to two weeks. The virus can be spread in the fluid from the blisters or droplets from an infected person’s nose or throat.

Varicella is generally a mild disease, but it is highly contagious and can be severe and even fatal in otherwise healthy children (less than 1 out of every 10,000 cases). Chickenpox can cause pneumonia (23 out of every 10,000 cases), and is an important risk factor for developing severe invasive “strep” (group A streptococcal disease), commonly referred to as “flesh-eating disease.” Treatment of this deep infection requires antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected tissue. Complications of varicella include bacterial infections, decreased platelets, arthritis, hepatitis, and brain inflammation (1 in 10,000 cases), which may cause a failure of muscular coordination. Complications are more common among adolescents and adults, and in immunocompromised persons of all ages, than in children.

The virus which causes chickenpox remains in the body for life and may reappear as shingles, particularly in the elderly.

A women who contracts chickenpox in early pregnancy can pass the virus to her fetus, causing abnormalities in 2% of cases. The fetus can develop scarring of the skin and affected limb(s), limb deformities (hypoplesia), eye damage, low birth weight, brain atrophy, and mental retardation. The virus sometimes leads to fetal demise or spontaneous abortion, while some infected fetuses die in infancy. A pregnant woman who has never had chickenpox, but has been exposed, should contact her physician immediately.

Prior to the approval of the vaccine, there were 3 to 4 million cases of varicella in the United States each year. About 10,000 people were hospitalized with complications, and approximately 100 patients died. While only 5% of reported cases of varicella are in adults, adults account for 35% of the deaths from the disease.


Tetanus is caused by toxin-producing spores that inhabit the soil and the bowels of animals and humans. Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, it is not spread from person to person. Tetanus infection is most often the result of wound contamination in an unimmunized person. Tetanus may occur following delivery in newborn babies of unimmunized women (resulting from contamination of the umbilical cord), and in injection drug users. It may also occur following puncture wounds, animal bites, burns, abrasions and surgery.

Tetanus infection results in severe muscle contractions, or spasms. Fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heart rate may also occur. Spasms of the vocal cords or the muscles of respiration can interfere with breathing, and pneumonia is common. Contraction of muscles can be so severe that the spine or other bones are fractured.

Between 40-60 cases of tetanus are reported in the United States each year, and 30% of those infected with tetanus in the US die. Death is more likely in newborn infants of unimmunized mothers and patients over 50.


Diphtheria is a serious disease that can cause death through airway obstruction, pneumonia, heart failure, and paralysis of the muscles used for swallowing.

Diphtheria usually begins with a sore throat, slight fever, and swollen neck. Most commonly, bacteria multiply in the throat, where a grayish membrane forms. This membrane can choke the person. Sometimes, the membrane forms in the nose, on the skin, or other parts of the body. The bacteria can release a toxin that spreads through the bloodstream and may cause muscle paralysis, heart and kidney failure, and death. Approximately 5% of people who develop diphtheria (500 out of every 10,000) die from the disease and many more suffer permanent damage.

In the 1920s, before the diphtheria vaccine, there were 100,000 to 200,000 reported cases in the United States each year. Because of the high level of immunization, only one case of diphtheria was reported in the United States in 1999. However, in areas where the immunization rate has fallen (such as Eastern Europe and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union), tens of thousands of people suffered from diphtheria in recent years.

The diphtheria vaccine offers the greatest protection against this disease. The fully immunized person who is exposed can become a carrier of infection, may only develop a mild case, or may not get sick at all. But if not fully vaccinated, the risk of getting  severely ill is 30 times higher.


Influenza can affect anyone, and epidemics of influenza occur during the winter months nearly every year. Influenza is spread through coughing and sneezing, and is highly contagious, especially in childcare centers, schools, and nursing homes.

Influenza generally comes on suddenly, and symptoms include muscle aches, fever, chills, headache, cough, and runny nose. Young infants may develop croup. The most frequent complication of influenza is pneumonia. Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and worsening of chronic lung diseases also may occur.

On average, influenza causes approximately 36,000 deaths and 148,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. More than 90% of influenza-related deaths are in people aged 65 years or older.


Measles is a serious disease caused by a highly contagious virus, which spreads when people touch or breathe in infectious droplets passed by coughing and sneezing. Measles begins with fever followed by cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis ("pink eye"). Infections of the middle ears, pneumonia, croup, and diarrhea are common complications. Measles encephalitis (an infection of the brain) occurs in 1 per 1,000 cases of natural measles, frequently resulting in permanent brain damage in the survivors. Approximately 5% of children (500 out of 10,000) with measles will develop pneumonia. In addition, 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children who get measles in the United States dies from the disease.

Death is more common in infants, in malnourished children, and among immunocompromised persons, including those with leukemia and HIV infection.

Prior to licensure of the first measles vaccine in 1963, virtually every person in the U.S. got the measles by age 20. Since the vaccine became available, there has been a 99% reduction in the incidence of measles. However, measles is still being “imported” from other countries. The most recent outbreaks occurred in the U.S. between 1989 and 1991, resulting in 755,000 cases and 123 reported deaths.


Mumps is a viral infection spread from person to person by secretions sneezed or coughed from the nose or throat.

Mumps usually begins with swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands. This lasts about a week. Complications can include inflamed testicles (20% to 50% of post-pubertal males infected), brain involvement including aseptic meningitis (15% of cases), and inflammation of the pancreas (2% to 5% of cases) and ovaries (5% of post-pubertal females). Permanent deafness occurs in 1 out of 2,000 cases.

The mumps virus has not been associated with problems during pregnancy, although there are some reports of an increase in fetal loss associated associated with mumps during the first trimester.

Before widespread vaccination, there were about 200,000 cases of mumps and 20 to 30 deaths reported each year in the United States. In 1998, there were just 600 cases of mumps and no fatalities reported from the disease.

For your convenience, print the Childhood Vaccination Schedule which indicates the recommended ages for routine administration of the currently licensed childhood vaccines for children through 18 years of age. This schedule has been approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

   From CDC               

Some adults incorrectly assume that the vaccines they received as children will protect them for the rest of their lives. Generally this is true, except that:

bulletSome adults were never vaccinated as children
bulletNewer vaccines were not available when some adults were children
bulletImmunity can begin to fade over time
bulletAs we age, we become more susceptible to serious disease caused by common infections (e.g., flu, pneumococcus)


bullet Hepatitis B vaccines (adults at risk) 
bullet Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine (susceptible adults)
bullet Tetanus-Diphtheria vaccine (all adults, every 10 years)
bullet Vaccines for travelers
bullet Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine (susceptible adults)
bullet Vaccines needed for those age 50 and older Influenza vaccine (for the flu) 
bullet Vaccines needed for those age 65 and older Pneumococcal vaccine 
bullet  Vaccines needed for all health-care workers influenza vaccine (for the flu)