According to the WHO, in the general population, the first cause of mortality among children in developing countries is pneumonia followed by diarrhea. These illnesses are preventable with hygiene measures, good nutrition and immunization.
Disease prevention is the key for our clinics to keep NPH children healthy, thus local healthcare staff along with the local managers from different departments, work together to improve vaccination coverage and to provide a balanced, healthy nutrition as well as good hygiene practices.
There is no doubt that vaccines save lives and prevent childhood diseases that are potentially quite devastating.
Vaccines that NPH strive to provide to the children living in NPH homes are:
MMR – this vaccine prevents against measles, mumps and rubella. All three can be very contagious human to human
- Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus and spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing. Measles start with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. It’s followed by a rash that spreads over the body. The virus infects the lungs and it can cause pneumonia. In older children, it can cause inflammation of the brain called Encephalitis, which can cause seizures and brain damage. Measles can be prevented with vaccination.
- Rubella (German measles) is a viral infection milder than measles but with teratogenic effects to the fetus if the mother gets infected during the first semester of pregnancy with at least a 20% chance that the child will have a birth defect such as blindness, deafness, heart defect or mental retardation.
- Mumps is a very contagious disease caused by a virus that usually causes swelling in glands just below the ears affecting the parotid glands. Before the vaccine, mumps was the most common cause of meningitis, deafness, infected testicles that can and lead to infertility.
- Vaccine safety experts, including CD and AAP, agree that MMR is not responsible for the increase in the number of children with autism.
DTP/Dtap vaccine. Prevents against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. All three are very serious diseases caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread person to person.
- Diphtheria is, still not eradicated and remains an endemic in many parts of the developing world including some countries of the Caribbean and Latin America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. During the past decade, many developing countries have achieved a high coverage DTP/DtaP resulting in reduction in diphtheria incidence. Sporadic outbreaks can still occur if adolescents and adults have not received routine childhood vaccines or booster doses. Rarely outbreaks occur in well vaccinated populations.
- Tetanus is an acute and potentially fatal disease, through a potent toxin reaching the nervous system causing painful and often violent muscular contractions. Usually the first muscles involved are the jaw (lockjaw) and neck. It is not transmitted from person to person. Hospitalization and treatment are required to administer the tetanus toxoid. During the devastating earthquake in 2010 in Haiti, NPH had to take care of several tetanus cases.
- Whooping cough or Pertussis debuts among other symptoms common with other diseases though a prolonged paroxistical cough lasting for months. The severity varies with age and history of previous exposure or vaccination. Young children may need attention in a hospital setting caused by the severity of the respiratory problems; adolescents and adults with some immunity can get more mild symptoms.
OPV/IPV, Poliomyelitis, affects mostly under 5 years of age and causes irreversible paralysis by invading the nervous system. Polio can be spread person to person through contaminated water or food by feces.
- Wild polio still exists in countries in Asia and Africa. It is essential to have high immunity among children to prevent outbreaks from an imported virus.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause acute and chronic disease. It is transmitted through contact with blood and other body fluids from an infected person.
- Hepatitis B has some life-threatening complications. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. The Hepatitis B vaccine has been available since 1992 and is more than 95% effective in preventing infection and complications.
- Advice for travelers: when planning a visit to a developing country, visit your doctor and check your immunization status. If you are well vaccinated you are not only protecting yourself but also the ones living with you and the one you will visit.
Contributed by NPHI Medical Services