Several potentially fatal diseases still widespread
The Putnam County Department of Health (DOH) issued a statement on immunization recently in observance of World Immunization Week and National Infant Immunization Week in April. Described as one of the top 10 achievements in 20th-century public health, routine infant immunization offers proven protection from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases. These potentially life-threatening illnesses have yet to be eradicated.
Pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases continue to circulate in the United States and around the world. In 2012, Putnam County recorded 43 cases of whooping cough, a significant increase over the previous year. The highest rate was among children younger than age 1. Nationwide, whooping cough led to 14 infants deaths last year.
“Pertussis vaccine cannot be given before 2 months of age,” explained Dr. Allen Beals, Putnam County commissioner of health. “To protect these vulnerable infants, we use ‘cocoon vaccination,’ which immunizes all adults who may have lost their childhood immunity and come in contact with these susceptible children.”
Diphtheria, once a major cause of death and illness among children, resulted in 15,520 deaths in 1921. No cases were recorded in the U.S. between 2004 and 2008, but the disease circulates globally.
Similarly, the measles virus has resulted in countless fatalities in the U.S. Approximately 12,000 deaths occurred here in 1916, and 75 percent were children younger than 5 years old. The incidence of measles dropped dramatically after the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was licensed in 1981. Eradication looked possible, but outbreaks still continue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of measles cases and outbreaks spiked in 2011, with unvaccinated people making up the majority of those affected.
Though not a routine infant immunization, flu vaccine is also recommended for babies 6 months of age and older. During the current flu season, 126 pediatric flu-associated deaths have already been reported across the country. Early reports indicate that 90 percent of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season.
The Putnam County Department of Health offers routine infant immunizations as well as those for adults. To schedule an appointment at a clinic, or for further information, call the Putnam County Department of Health at 845-808-1332. For more information, visit putnamcountyny.com.