CINCINNATI—School is closing for the summer, but vaccinations are a good idea for youngsters entering summer camp and also recommended for college students living in residential dormitories, says a UC Health physician.
"Summer is a good time to have your children immunized,” says Oded Zmora, MD, UC Health family physician and assistant professor in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. "College students also need to have their immunizations updated.”
A vaccine stimulates the production of antibodies and provides immunity against one or several diseases and commonly helps protect children against a range of diseases including chickenpox, diphtheria, Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B), hepatitis A and B, flu, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, pneumococcal, rotavirus, rubella and tetanus, says Zmora.
There is a growing number of parents who chose to forgo vaccinations and that has led to sporadic outbreaks of preventable diseases, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 169 people from 20 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles from Jan. 1 to May 1, 2015. Most of these cases—117, or 70 percent—were traced back to an outbreak at Disneyland in California in December 2014.
"What we do know is that there is a minimum number of people in a community who need to be immunized in order to prevent measles,” said Zmora. "This is called ‘herd immunity.’ The outbreak we saw in the winter, which started in Disneyland, was caused by a group of children who weren’t immunized. The regular schedule of immunization for children protects against infectious diseases.”
Some parents worry about a connection between vaccines and autism, though a discredited study that once made that claim was retracted by the British medical journal Lancet. "The only study which claims this was pulled back and the main author was suspected of fraud,” says Zmora.
For college students, vaccinations may be particularly effective in reducing the spread of meningitis and hepatitis B, says Zmora. Meningococcal infection is the major cause of bacterial meningitis and is spread from person to person through close contact, not by causal contact or by touching contaminated objects. Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening.
Hepatitis B is spread when the blood, semen or other body fluids infected with the virus enter the body of a person who is not infected. It can be spread through sex with an infected partner, sharing needles or syringes or other items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person. Untreated hepatitis B can cause liver damage, says Zmora.
"Immunizations are among the greatest successes of modern medicine,” says Zmora. "With school out, it’s a good time for parents to think about which immunizations their children may need. Speaking with your family or primary care physician is recommended.”
Oded Zmora, MD, sees patients at UC Health White Oak, 5575 Cheviot Road, Cincinnati. For more information, call 513-475-7788.