Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Spread the Love, Not the Disease

By Arathi Shah, MD, Dallas 
TMA Be Wise — Immunize℠ Physician Advisory Panel member

Love is in the air! It’s February, the month of celebrating love and our loved ones. We can fully embrace this caring spirit, going beyond candy and flowers, by keeping the air as free of germs as possible. The best ways: covering our coughs and sneezes, following handwashing hygiene, and staying current on our family’s vaccinations — and our own.

Vaccinations are our best allies to prevent and limit the spread of debilitating and life-threatening diseases. When we get vaccinated, we are protecting ourselves, our family, and our community. Physicians and other health experts call this “community immunity” or “herd immunity.”

When more of us are vaccinated, germs can’t spread as easily within a community, so fewer people are likely to get sick. And if someone does get sick, the chance of an outbreak is less. The goal is that vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio, can be wiped out.

Community immunity protects everyone from illness. Even people who can’t get vaccinated have some protection — such as newborns, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with weak immune systems (like people who have cancer). Community immunity also is important for a very small group of people for whom vaccines are less effective.

The vaccination rate to achieve and maintain community immunity varies by disease, but usually ranges from 83 to 95 percent. So, eight or nine out of 10 people have to be immunized.

Prevention is always better than cure. For the sake of our loved ones and our communities, we all need to stay current on our vaccinations. Consult your physician to make sure your family is up to date on recommended vaccinations.

Protecting our world from serious, vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough requires a community-wide effort. In this day and age, when the world has become one large family of people traveling near and far, it is important for us to remember to bring home the love, not the disease.

Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.

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