Childhood Illnesses – Are We Winning The Battle?

As with any illness, it is best to prevent than to treat.  Our progress in battling some devastating childhood illnesses over the years has centered on the introduction and efficiency of our existing vaccines and effective preventive medications.

One of the first notable vaccines was that produced to prevent paralytic polio.   Early on this was an oral vaccine and we (of a certain age) can remember the sugar cubes given out in school followed in rapid order by oral and then injectable types of the vaccine. These obviously were very effective in eliminating the most dreaded form of polio- that which produced paralysis in children and young adults.  Again, some of us remember trying to fall asleep at night thinking of that terrible disease and the pictures of “iron lungs” (a type of whole-body respirator) lined up in the hallways of hospitals.  There was no treatment and as of today there is still no treatment.  However the severe clinical outcome has been erased.  Polio virus is still around today and is not uncommon but is such a mild illness that affected people may not even realize they might have it. (Very similar to many of our common every day illnesses)

Many of us also remember smallpox vaccine that left a puckered, stippled scar on the top of our shoulders.  As it began disappearing from the US due also to better and newer isolation techniques, it was noticed that there were more bothersome reactions than actual cases of small pox in this country.   Also worldwide there were fewer and fewer outbreaks that became controllable with the above mentioned isolation techniques.  Smallpox vaccine was discontinued.

With the advent of improved TB testing and effective medicines, a vaccine became unnecessary although the disease still exists, it is controllable and treatable.

Measles, mumps and German measles used to take its toll on primitive peoples of the world until there were effective vaccines that prevented the illnesses and sometimes the birth defects that would arise in babies born to women who had had German measles during pregnancy.

Hemophilus influenza is a common bacterium causing some illnesses in this country and around the world but the most dreaded of these was a virulent kind of meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, leading to some life-long neurologic deficits in children and even death).  While I was in my training to become a Pediatrician a vaccine was developed to eradicate this illness and within a very short time the incidence of hemophilus meningitis dropped severely – today it is a rarity.

More recently we have seen the development of effective and efficient vaccines to help prevent influenza, chickenpox, hepatitis, meningitis, rabies, and the list is constantly increasing (this is not a complete list).  Along with this ongoing effort is the continued development of medications to help treat the rare illnesses that still crop up occasionally.

The bottom line is that we have many weapons at our disposal to defeat our viral and bacterial contagious diseases in children and adults but those who ignore the value of immunizations at an early age are not only placing their own children at risk but the childhood and adult population of the entire country.  Many of these illnesses are highly contagious and infectious but we must all work together to control and hopefully eventually eradicate these deadly microscopic enemies.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff currently holds positions as Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical Schools of Georgetown, George Washington and the University of Virginia and is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Board of Pediatrics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and can be reached at www.twitter.com/drjoeskoloff. Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *