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Infant immunizations protect against diseases

During the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles, an easily spread virus known for causing a rash, fever, cough and watery eyes, and feared because it can also cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or death.

Today, thanks to childhood immunizations, the disease is extremely rare in the United States.

“Now most physicians leaving medical school will never see a case of measles during their careers,” said Decatur County Health Department County Nurse Manager Sherry Hutchins. “Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, American parents are often unaware that their children are at risk for so many serious and life-threatening diseases.”

Yet measles, along with mumps, whooping cough, polio, chickenpox, lockjaw and a host of other infectious diseases still lurk abroad and in our country, she warned.

“In today’s global society, disease is only a plane ride away,” Hutchins said.

Infants are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases, added Southwest Health District Immunization Coordinator Sue Dale. “That’s why it is critical to protect them through immunization.”

During National Infant Immunization Week, which is April 25 through May 2, Southwest Health District’s 14-county health departments will highlight the importance of protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases, she said.

“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death,” Dale said. “They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”

Each day, nearly 12,000 babies are born in the United States who will need to be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2, she said.

“Immunizations are extremely safe,” Hutchins said. “Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being approved for public use and monitored carefully by doctors, researchers and public health officials. Like any other medication, they can occasionally cause mild reactions, like a sore arm or a slight fever. The benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.”

Plus, vaccines do more than prevent disease, she pointed out. They also reduce missed time at school and work and reduce costs associated with doctor visits and hospitalizations.

For more information about immunizations, contact the Decatur County Health Department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.