Don’t Wait: Why You Should Vaccinate
From sitting in an oatmeal bath to wearing mittens on our hands to keep from scratching too vigorously, many of us have not-so-fond memories of chickenpox. This highly contagious infection is marked by red itchy bumps and caused by the Varicella zoster virus.1 Due to its infectious nature, it used to affect school-aged children in droves – before the vaccine was developed, that is.
Even when chickenpox no longer presents any outward symptoms, the virus dwells in your nerve cells indefinitely.1 In some cases, it rears its ugly head as shingles, usually in older people with comprised immune systems. This related disease manifests as painful blisters and may lead to postherpetic neuralgia – persistent nerve pain that sticks around long after the rash has healed.
Mumps is another viral disease that we hadn’t heard much about for years but is now making big headlines. This viral illness is caused by a strain of the Rubulavirus family.2 A severe swelling of the salivary glands leads to swollen cheeks and a notably sore jaw. Fever, muscle aches, headaches, and a loss of appetite often follow. In the 1960s, a vaccine was created for measles, mumps, and rubella, triggering a significant decrease (99%) in the number of infected people.2
The old guidelines endorsed two immunizations for mumps – one between 12 and 15 months and the second one between ages 4 and 6 years. But vaccines aren’t everlasting. Occasionally they require an extra dosage in adulthood as their potency wears off. People who dwell in overcrowded areas – such as college campuses, the army, or large urban regions – are more susceptible to contracting contagious diseases later in life. For example, in 2016, 2,930 people in a tight-knit Arkansas community contracted mumps. That year Washington State also had 611 reported cases.3 In 2017, the outbreaks continued with Syracuse University struggling to get a handle on its campus’ worrisome outbreak.4
To prevent shingles (which is NOT infectious, unless you have never been exposed to or vaccinated against chickenpox) and future epidemics of mumps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has presented new guidelines for deterring both diseases. With respect to shingles, in 2018 the CDC set forth a formal recommendation for the utilization of Shingrix.5 Approved by the Food and Drug Administration, this two-dose vaccine offers optimal protection against shingles for those over the age of 50 and is significantly more effective than its predecessor, Zostavax.
In response to the abnormally high number of mumps outbreaks in recent years, the CDC is touting the efficacy of a mumps booster shot. People who live in crowded communities, or areas where an outbreak has occurred, are encouraged to seek medical advice and consider the booster’s preventive benefits. The New England Journal of Medicine was just one of the many outlets that have lauded this measure, stating that it reduces the risk of catching mumps by up to 78 percent.6
Speak with your primary care physician about how you can use vaccines to protect yourself from shingles, mumps, and other diseases. Rockville Concierge Doctors prides itself on offering truly personalized preventive care. Discover the difference. Call 301-545-1811 for more information.