Life expectancy for the average person in the U.S. has nearly doubled since the early 20th century, thanks in part to vaccines. A major reason for improved health and longevity has been our increasing ability to avoid deadly diseases because of immunization.
Here are eight diseases that have been wiped out by vaccines:
Polio symptoms include high fever, paralysis and death. The eradication of this dreaded disease that often crippled people and put many of them in iron lung machines has been one of the greatest victories of modern medicine, according to the Mother Nature Network.
Though outbreaks still occur in developing countries, a world without polio is an achievable goal with vaccinations.
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Hib disease results from a bacterial infection spread through coughing, sneezing or just talking. Hib bacteria can lead to meningitis, an infection affecting the brain and spinal cord that can be fatal. Other symptoms include pneumonia, severe swelling of the voice box that inhibits breathing, and infections of the joints, bones, blood and pericardium that covers the heart. The first Hib vaccine was licensed in 1985, eliminating the disease in the developed world.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that causes uncontrollable coughing. The "whooping" sounds of the cough give this disease its name. Coughing bouts can last for weeks and result in death. Vaccination renders it completely preventable.
Measles is commonly recognized by the rash of spots beginning on the face and spreading to the body. Measles victims suffer high fever, blindness, brain infection and death. Vaccines that prevent the disease are given to infants and to young children through booster shots. Measles outbreaks may occur in the U.S. due to decrease in vaccinations or imported from other countries.
Tuberculosis, a deadly lung disease, was eliminated in the 20th century from the vaccine BCG. The bacterial infection, usually found in the lungs, could affect people who aren't vaccinated. People exposed to TB might not show early symptoms. As the immune system weakens, the bacteria become active and can result in death.
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The smallpox vaccine was the first successful vaccine made, invented in 1796 by Edward Jenner. He noted that people who had cowpox, a much less severe illness, were immune to smallpox, a disease that attacks the skin and causes blisters all over the body. Smallpox is the only disease-causing virus that has been completely eradicated throughout the world.
The spores of the tetanus bacteria are often found on rusty surfaces. An open wound in contact with a rusty surface can result in painful muscle spasms, generally in the jaw, which gives the disease the nickname of "lockjaw." Regular vaccines prevent this debilitating and deadly disease, and prevent it if given after exposure to the bacteria.
Rabies was a common threat to all mammals, including humans, and typically spread through biting. Affecting the nervous system, it results in excitation, paranoia, anxiety, confusion and extreme salivating that causes infected people to foam at the mouth. Although it can still be found in the wild animal population, it has been eliminated from the domesticated animal population by regular vaccinations.
This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.
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