HealthCare8.com - Fighting germs

Fighting germs

Scientists recently unveiled labmade human antibodies that could lead to a universal vaccine for several types of influenza, including the highly lethal H5N1 bird flu and the "Spanish Flu" strain that killed tens of millions in 1918. Vaccines have long been the first line of defence against various diseases, beginning with Edward Jenner's creation of the world's first vaccine for smallpox in the 1790s.


According to http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/24/3/611, vaccination is among the greatest achievements in medicine.

"Indeed, if you asked a public health professional to draw up a top 10 list of the achievements of the past century, he or she would be hard-pressed not to rank immunisation first," it adds.

"Millions of lives have been saved and microbes stopped in their tracks before they could have a chance to wreak havoc. In short, the vaccine represents the single greatest promise of biomedicine - disease prevention."
Jenner, a country doctor living in Berkeley in Gloucestershire, England, is credited with performing the world's first vaccination.

"Taking pus from a cowpox lesion on a milkmaid's hand, Jenner inoculated an eight-year-old boy, James Phipps, Six weeks later, Jenner variolated two sites on
Phipps's arm with smallpox, yet the boy was unaffected by this as well as subsequent exposures.
"His assertion 'that the cow-pox protects the human constitution from the infection of smallpox' laid the foundation for modern vaccinology," says the site.

According to http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi ?artid- 1200696, Jenner came up with the term vaccination from combining two words.

"The Latin word for cow is'vacca, and cowpox is vaccinia. So, Jenner decided to call this new procedure vaccination," it adds.

According to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/immunization.html, vaccinations or immunisation shots are essential to mankind.

"Your immune system helps your body fightgerms by producing substances to combat them. Once it does, the immune system "remembers" the germ and can
fight it again.

"Vaccines contain germs that have been killed or weakened. When given to a healthy person, the vaccine triggers the immune system to respond and thus build
immunity.

"Before vaccines, people became " immune only by actually getting a disease and surviving it. Immunisations are an easier and less risky way to become immune," it adds.

Among the ongoing debate on vaccinations is the side-effects it may have on certain people, especially children and pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any vaccine can cause side-effects.


"For the most part these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days," it says at http ://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vacgen/side_effects.htm.

This site has a list of vaccines and the possible side-effects. For example, the site says that among the 'mild problems' one could experience from the hepatitis A vaccine are soreness where the shot was given (about one out of 2 adults, and up to one out of six children), headache (about one out of six adults and one out of 25 children), loss of appetite (about one out of 12 children), and tiredness (about one outof 14 adults).

"The risk of hepatitis A vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Getting the hepatitis A vaccine is much safer than getting the disease," it adds.

The site, however, says that those who have received immunisation shots should watch out for "any unusual condition, such as high fever, behaviour changes, or flu-like symptoms that occur one to 30 days after vaccination".
"Signs of an allergic reaction can include difficulty in breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot," it says.

"Ask the clinic where you received the vaccination to save any leftover vaccine and the vaccine vial, and record the lot number.

"Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to report the reaction. Reporting reactions helps experts learn about possible problems with vaccines," it adds.

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