Explore the health and wellbeing issues concerning vaccinations and viral infection.
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Learn about Vaccinations and Viral Infection
Host: People have been inoculating themselves against diseases for thousands of years. In ancient elevated medicine, mild doses of small pox in the form of powdered scabs were administered to the populace in an effort to build up protection against the potentially deadly pandemic.
But it wasn’t until Louis Pasteur developed his cow-pox vaccine that this style of medicine really took off in the late 1700’s. Pasteur had developed a controllable, safe and predictable way in which to safeguard people against infectious disease. Most countries have free programs by which people are immunized against diseases such as polio, whooping cough, rabies and many others.
Yet in western culture there was a growing movement against the child immunization due to the low risks associated with vaccination. Could this lead to a return of currently dormant disease?
Dr. Sandy Macara: We have children suffering from measles and other diseases in which they could and should be protected and I find it intolerable that they have a situation in which not only repealed because of people but parents are either careless enough or wavered enough not to be concerned with the health of their own children and to recognize this is a duty to society as a whole.
Host: Vaccines can be administered via injections or as a few drops taken orally or as a nasal spray. Locally, a lot of vaccinations are combined which saves time and pain at the doctors. Thanks to this wonderful modern invention based on ancient principles. The world hasn’t seen a case of small pox since 1977 and this was a disease responsible for 20% of deaths in some countries. Currently, vaccines are being developed for HIV and malaria.
Infectious disease can be contracted in one of two ways by humans and animals. Something like food poisoning is due to bacterial infection while diseases such as small pox, measles and mumps are viral. Modern medicine can successfully fight pathogenic bacteria with antibiotics. That viruses are little more complicated. They are smaller and less complex than bacteria thus they are actually inside human cells because they need that cell to perform some functions for them.
Modern experts worry about the potential of viral infections such as the avian flu and swine flu due to their highly contagious nature. Viruses spread rapidly through sneezes, coughs, vomit, insect and animal bites and sexual intercourse. While the body’s lymphocytes can readily recognize a mountain attack against an obvious bacterial invader your immune system finds it difficult to recognize viruses cloak in your own cells until they multiply enough that the cell surface begins to change in appearance.
Vaccinations give the immune system a head start in recognizing viruses. A vaccination will contain a number of weakened viral proteins which looked identical in shape to the original virus but have some of the genetic material missing so they actually can’t multiply. But your lymphocytes get a sneak peak of what the virus looks like and can start manufacturing some prototype weaponry in preparation for a real attack.
But while major viral infections such as small pox and polio have almost been entirely eradicated, thanks to some very effective vaccines, there are other viruses such as the common cold that just keeps leaping past modern science. These types of viruses are hard to pin down because they mutate so by the time a vaccine has been prepared it no longer resembles the chameleon like virus it was trying to replicate.
Remember to cough and sneeze into your elbow not your hands in order to slow the spread of influenza and other viruses and wash hands regularly.
Australian scientists are currently working on a diabetes vaccine.