Dr. Flea’s a guy after my own heart. He’s been blogging about vaccines, and now he’s getting into specific diseases. He’s posted an installment about the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type B:
The first American children to receive the Hib vaccine are turning 20 years old this year.
Flea wasn’t practicing medicine in the pre-Hib era, so I asked an older nurse what office-based Pediatrics was like before the vaccine.
“About once a year, a kid would come in with an ear infection. They’d write him a prescription for antibiotics, then he’d go home and die.”
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) is a bug that lives up your nose and the back of your throat. It’s passed from child to child by coughing and sneezing. In some children, Hib causes no problems at all. In other children it causes serious invasive infections such as meningitis and pneumonia. About 5% of children with Hib meningitis die despite antibiotic treatment. If the meningitis doesn’t kill your child, it could leave him blind, deaf, and mentally retarded.
Hib can indeed cause horrible disease, and the Hib vaccine has decreased its incidence to rates so low that most younger pediatricians and E.R. docs have never seen it.
He’s also blogged about the elimination of polio by vaccines, complete with a photo of kids in iron lungs:
Only folks a bit older than Flea can remember the Polio panics of the 50’s. Flea knows personally only one person who had Polio as a child. In 1955, everybody knew somebody who had Polio. Public swimming pools and Summer camps were shut down and quarantines were ordered for homes with afflicted family members.
Today, thanks to the Sabin and Salk vaccines and to the hard work of thousands of volunteers, we are very close to eradication of Polio worldwide. Only a few hundred cases are reported each year. The only hurdles that remain are logistical ones, particularly resources and political will necessary to vaccinate remote populations in India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The eradication of Polio will represent a public health triumph greater even than the victory over Smallpox, as the former is a water-borne virus, and the latter is spread person-to-person.
And, to top it off, he discussed the elimination of smallpox through vaccination.