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NIAM – Community Immunity

17 Aug

We’re using the month of August (National Immunization Awareness Month) to learn more about immunizations. And this isn’t just about babies anymore. These days, vaccines apply to pretty much all of us.  For example, this year, older kids going into 7-12th grades need a Tdap booster shot before school starts. Vaccinations protect us from getting sick. And they protect the people around us by preventing the spread of disease. This is called herd immunity, or what we like to call it – community immunity.

How community immunity works

Let’s walk through this graphic about community immunity from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Picture this: an outbreak of measles, a very contagious disease, hits your community. You haven’t gotten vaccinated against measles; that means you’re not immune.

If only a few people are immunized in your community, the population a much higher chance of getting sick (including you!).  However, if a high percentage of your community is vaccinated against measles, then you and your loved ones have a lower chance of getting infected.

A high vaccination rate forms a protective barrier against those that do not have disease immunity (like newborns) or people who cannot be vaccinated (like those allergic to certain vaccines). This barrier helps prevent widespread disease outbreaks. So, if measles happened to hit community #3, the virus would have a hard time spreading to the vulnerable few.

The History of Vaccines website, a project from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, also has a wonderful animation that helps visualize how community immunity works.  The website has a ton of information about vaccines, including the history of vaccines and how vaccines are made. This blogger also admits to being a fan of playing their online game Illsville: Fight the Disease .

Do We Have a Responsibility?

When numbers of unvaccinated people increases, community immunity decreases— and disease spreads.  We’re seeing  this now in Europe, with high cases of measles throughout the continent. We’ve also experienced it here at home with California’s ongoing whooping cough outbreak.

Community immunity is a gift we can give our communities, our families, and ourselves.  Does community immunity matter to you? We’d love to know!

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i Choose Summer Blog – Measles

13 Jul

Hi all! This summer we’re trying out a new iChoose blog. We’ll be sharing some brief thought-provoking and timely topics every week on vaccine and disease-related stories. Hope you enjoy this new feature!

This week’s topic:  Is measles abroad a concern for Californians?

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes. Measles continues to be a problem nationwide. A recent CDC health advisory announced that 156 cases of measles had been confirmed in US communities in the first six months of 2011.

Measles is so serious, people used to say, “Don’t count your children until they’ve had the measles.” Disease can happen in the young and old alike – complications can include pneumonia, encephalitis, or death. Fortunately, measles hasn’t been widespread in the U.S. for many years due to high vaccination rates. However, this isn’t the case for other parts in the world.

Where in the world do we commonly find measles?

You might be surprised! European countries like France, the UK, Spain, and Switzerland are having large-scale outbreaks. Asia (including India) and Africa also have high numbers of measles cases.

How does this affect California?

Investigators tell us that the vast majority of new measles cases come from people traveling overseas. That means Americans traveling abroad and returning with measles or foreign travelers bringing measles into the U.S. The majority of these travelers were unvaccinated. Think about it – in these long transcontinental flights, someone with measles could infect many others just during the journey! Recently, these new airport signs alert overseas travelers coming in to California about measles.

If unchecked, measles is extremely contagious. Because symptoms don’t appear right away, someone who’s been infected can easily spread the disease before they even know they’re sick. The best way to stop the spread of measles is to make sure you and your family members have been vaccinated. If you want to learn more about measles, check out the CDC’s measles webpage.

Have you seen the new airport signs? Still wondering about the recent outbreaks of measles? Post a comment!