Starting with the first vaccine ever introduced to people and all the other numerous flu shots made available until today, vaccines have made an enormous contribution in the world, helping people develop immunity to a few of the most dangerous diseases.
Because vaccines were created, several infectious diseases, such as smallpox and polio, do not exist anymore except in the US laboratories. Their benefits have encouraged researchers to develop new kinds of immunizations that could aid in avoiding life-altering illnesses. Here are six common diseases that made ravages in the world but which are no longer exist thanks to vaccines.
The variola virus originates smallpox, and it is contagious. The illness creates a spotted rash on people’ faces and bodies, which transforms into pustules that cicatrize. On the inside, the virus fights with the immune system, causing rapid death.
When smallpox got to the Americas in the 17th century, it became an outbreak, and it killed three out of every ten people who were infected with it.
Physician Edward Jenner discovered in 1796 that if people received a vaccine of a similar but not so aggressive strain of the virus, people’s immunity system could fight it. Experiments conducted by Jenner led to the creation of the world’s first ever vaccine.
During the next century, vaccines were administrated routinely to people in developed countries. As of 1972, the US announced that smallpox was eradicated. After almost ten years, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox was the first infection ever to be annihilated from the world, and it remains the only disease known to be 100 percent eliminated from the planet.
Polio is a viral disease that thrives inside a person’s intestines and throat. One in four people who are infected have symptoms similar to the flu that disappear, but a small number of people suffer harsh consequences such as paralysis and respiratory failure.
Polio deaths were so common back in the days that companies began selling polio insurances to newborns parents.
The polio virus was caught especially by young people as it was transmitted orally in places such as swimming pools and day-care centers.
However, as a vaccine was made available in 1955, polio infections declined rapidly, and in 1979, the illness was declared eradicated from the US.
As said in a report by the World Health Organization, there are only three countries that have active cases of the virus this year, namely Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Diphtheria virus impacted over 200,000 people in 1921 and triggered about 15,520 deaths in the same year, CDC notes in a report.
Diphtheria’s symptoms are sore throat, weaknesses, and swollen glands. After these symptoms appear, the virus creates a grey-colored mucus that covers the back of the infected people’s throat. If the bacteria spend more time in the bloodstream, the virus can generate toxins that will result in permanent nerve damage and heart failure.
The infection spreads when a contaminated person sneezes, coughs or leaves saliva spots on surfaces or things.
The vaccine for the disease was first made available in 1920, and natural epidemics haven’t been a problem for almost a century in the US. No more than five people were infected with diphtheria virus over the last ten years, CDC says. Even so, the illness is still prevalent in some countries in which people have no access to the vaccine.
Measles virus, also called ‘rubeola,’ attacks people’s respiratory system and other organs, infected patients showing flu-like symptoms such as fever and runny nose, together with an increased red rash on the body.
If the infection is grave, it can lead to severe complications such as brain damage, blindness, and even death. An approximated number of three million people were infected with the disease in the late 1950s before the vaccine was introduced. About 48,000 people were hospitalized because of the complications they developed, and approximately 400 to 500 people died from the illness per year.
Measles is incredibly contagious as it can spread when someone breaths the same air or touches the same places as a contaminated person. The virus can remain in a room for several hours after an infected patient has left. The disease takes a week or two to show any symptoms; therefore, people spread the virus unknowingly.
Measles was eradicated from the US in 2000, according to CDC. In spite of recent epidemics, measles is completely preventable now because of the MMR vaccine.
Rubella is also known as ‘German measles,’ and it has similar symptoms to those of measles, but milder. People infected with rubella develop a red rash, pink eye, and low-grade fever, but about 50 percent of contaminated people have absolutely no symptoms.
Almost 12.5 million people in the US were infected with the disease in 1964. Roughly 11,000 women experienced miscarriages or stillborn births connected to the rubella illness, that same year. Children of contaminated mothers were born with cataracts, hearing disabilities, heart defects, and developmental delays.
The vaccine for rubella was introduced in the late 1960s. The New York Times announced in a report back in 2015 that rubella had been eradicated from the Western hemisphere, and the World Health Organization aims to eliminate the virus in the following years from all over the world.
Mumps is a respiratory illness caused by the paramyxovirus, and it spreads via contact with saliva. Before the mumps vaccine was introduced, almost 186,000 people in the US were infected with the bacteria every year.
A contaminated person has painful and swollen salivary glands. Swelling in the jaw area makes eating almost impossible, which results in weaker patients.
Mumps is not usually deadly, but a few people are left with lifelong complications, such as hearing loss. About 20 to 30 percent of young males who get infected are threatened with swollen testes, which conduct to lessen sensitivity and fertility issues.
After the vaccine was introduced in 1967, mumps contamination in the US declined by 99 percent, and currently, there are only a few hundred cases annually
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca