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The Diseases That Baby Immunizations Prevent

Teresa Shaw |20, October 2008


The Diseases That Baby Immunizations Prevent

Childhood vaccinations are crucial to avoiding not only getting sick, but creating the potential for an epidemic. There are many reasons to vaccinate youngsters, whether it's due to a school's policies upon enrollment or parents' belief in keeping their children well, and many diseases that can be prevented through vaccinations.

Chicken Pox

Chicken pox, or Varicella, typically causes an itchy, uncomfortable, week-long rash and mild fever. An estimated 3.7 million Americans get chicken pox each year; over 90 percent of cases occur in people younger than 15.

Chicken pox is generally mild and not normally life-threatening; however, the CDC estimates that there are 9,300 chicken pox-related hospitalizations and 50 to 100 deaths that occur each year, half among young children.


Diphtheria is an infection that occurs the throat, mouth and nose. While the disease is rare nowadays, it is highly contagious. Diphtheria infection results in a sore throat and cough, and sometimes leads to a fine web of membrane that forms over the tonsils, blocking the windpipe and causing suffocation. Diphtheria, if not promptly treated, can cause pneumonia, heart failure and paralysis.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an acute liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. It can last from a few weeks to several months, and does not lead to chronic infection. It is transmitted by way of ingesting fecal matter (even in microscopic amounts), from close person-to-person contact, or by consuming contaminated food or drinks.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. In its acute phase, it can cause liver failure and death. It can also become chronic, causing liver damage, including cancer, over many years. Children born to mothers with this infection are at great risk of developing hepatitis B; other children are not.


Hib, or haemophilus influenzae type b, is a bacterial infection that strikes 1 in 200 children before their fifth birthday. Of the children infected each year, 12,000 will develop meningitis. Hib can also infect blood, joints, bones, soft tissues, the throat and the membrane surrounding the heart.


Measles are highly contagious, characterized by high fever, cough and a spotty rash. Possible complications of the disease include ear infections and pneumonia. Rarely, measles can infect the brain, causing convulsions, hearing loss, mental retardation and death.


Meningococcal disease, or meningitis, occurs when a person's spinal cord fluid and the fluid that surrounds the brain becomes infected. While it is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, it is important to know the cause because the severity of illness and the treatment differ. Viral meningitis is generally less severe and does not require specific treatment; bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and result in brain damage, hearing loss or learning disability.

In newborns and small infants, the classic symptoms of fever, headache and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to detect, and the infant may only appear slow or inactive, be irritable, have vomiting, or be feeding poorly. For people over 2 years of age, high fever, headache and stiff neck are common symptoms. These symptoms can develop over several hours, or they may take 1 to 2 days. As the disease progresses, all age groups may experience seizures.


Symptoms of mumps include painful, swollen salivary glands under the jaw, fever, and headache. It can be a very serious disease that can lead to meningitis or hearing loss.


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is characterized by a cough that sounds like a "whoop." The disease is caused by a bacterium that clogs the airways with mucus, causing a severe cough that can last 2 months, inviting other infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis. It is life-threatening, especially in children under 1 year of age.


Pneumococcal disease is a bacteria characterized by Pneumococcal pneumonia (high fever, cough and shortness of breath); bacteremia (fever and feeling poorly); and meningitis. Pneumococcus spreads by coughing, sneezing or contact with respiratory secretions. It is one of the most common causes of death in America, and is preventable by way of vaccination.


Polio is a disease that reached epidemic proportions in America during the 1950s. The first signs of Polio are fever, sore throat, headache and a stiff neck. The potentially fatal disease can soon progress to paralysis of the lower limbs and chest, making walking and breathing difficult or impossible. There is no cure for the disease.


Rubella, also known as the German measles, is a mild disease in children, but can put the fetus at risk when a pregnant woman catches it. Rubella disease is an acute viral disease that causes fever and rash that last for two to three days, and is spread by contact with an infected person, through coughing and sneezing.


Tetanus occurs when bacteria found in dirt, gravel and rusty metal causes infection. It enters the body through a cut, creating a poison that causes muscle spasms. Jaw muscles are affected first, often leading to lockjaw. It can also cause the breathing muscles to spasm, resulting in death for 3 out of 10 people who get it.

See the latest baby immunization chart with recommendations from the CDC

Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog.

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