Protect Your Family from Infections

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The most effective way to avoid infectious diseases is getting vaccinated. Learn about four common contagious viruses, and how to protect your family from them.

Hepatitis B

What is it

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus that typically lasts less than six months, but if your immune system cannot clear the infection, it will last a lifetime.

What you need to know

Hepatitis B is not spread through airborne contact such as coughing or sneezing; it is transmitted through contact with infectious bodily fluids such as blood or semen. Common exposures include sharing needles or accidental needlesticks. The virus is also transmitted through sexual intercourse or from an infected mother to her child.

Symptoms include jaundice, fever, profound fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or dark urine.

How to protect yourself

Vaccinate. Infants receive the first dose at birth, the second at least one month later, and the third at least two months after the second. For adults who did not receive the vaccine as a child, there is a two-dose vaccine for those ages 18 and older and given one month apart.


What is it?

Influenza is an acute, contagious respiratory infection that generally lasts from two to seven days. Influenza is caused by a virus that has been shown to have numerous genetic variations. This means that a person builds up antibodies to one form of the virus, but is not protected from other variations of the virus.

What you need to know

True influenza is not just the runny nose or congestion with which many people associate it. Influenza is a severe illness characterized by sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, aches and pains that leaves you in bed and miserable.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 80,000 people died from influenza in the 2017–2018 season. With recent medical advances, influenza can be treated with antiviral medications so it is important to be diagnosed by a physician.

How to protect yourself

Get a flu shot. Everyone over the age of 6 months should get an annual flu shot.

How flu shots work

Ever wonder how flu shots work? The flu runs on an annual cycle, generally beginning as early as September and can run through April or May in the Pacific Northwest. However, the cycle is different in different parts of the country and the world. The flu cycle usually begins in Southeast Asia and China in the spring and summer. Pharmaceutical companies fly to these parts of the world and obtain cultures from sick patients. Based on these samples the vaccine created contains the 3-4 predominant flu viruses detected.


What is it?

Measles is a highly contagious disease spread through cough or sneeze and can stay in the air up to two hours after an infected person was in the area. Serious complications can occur from the infection, such as pneumonia or brain swelling.

What you need to know

Initial symptoms of measles include high fever, cough, redness of the eyes and inflammation of the nasal passages as well as fatigue and general malaise. Watch for a rash, which usually starts about 3 to 5 days after initial symptoms and presents as flat red spots on the face that spreads over the rest of the body; the spots can become raised. Some people develop Koplik spots, which are spots on the sides and back of the mouth.

How to protect yourself

Children should get two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people born before 1957 are thought to be immune. If you are an adult born after 1957 and have never been vaccinated, you should have the two-dose vaccine series. If you are unsure, you can have your doctor check your blood for measles titers to determine whether a booster is required.


What is it?

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a contagious disease caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis that live in the mouth, nose and throat. At first, pertussis presents like a common cold with sneezing, runny nose, fever and a mild cough. After one or two weeks, the severe coughing spells begin. A person with pertussis can have difficulty eating, drinking or even breathing, if the illness is severe.

What you need to know

Many infectious diseases have a cyclic nature. Pertussis appears to run on a four- to five-year cycle.

How to protect yourself

Make sure your children receive the five doses of DPaT vaccine recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pertussis is a severe illness in young children with potentially devastating results. The danger of getting this disease far outweighs any risk of reaction to the DPT vaccine in children. Vaccination for adults is now available. The name of the vaccine is Tdap and includes tetanus and diphtheria. This vaccine should be given to all pregnant women and if a woman becomes pregnant more than once it should be given during each pregnancy.

To ensure you're up to date on immunizations and to get your flu shot, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider today.

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