Adult Immunizations
Lots of people think "shots" or immunizations are just for kids. They're not! As an adult, you need to be protected against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, pneumococcal disease, influenza and varicella. You may also need protection against hepatitis A and B. Your best protection against these diseases is immunization. Many people think diseases like polio, mumps, and measles have been wiped out. This is not the case. During 1995, at least 39 percent of all reported measles cases in the United States occurred in persons 20 years of age or older.

If you were never immunized or never had these vaccine-preventable diseases, you are at risk. If you were immunized as a child, you may need updating because some immunizations lose their effectiveness over time. To find out what shots you may need contact your doctor.

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by a virus. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is spread by contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected person. HBV can enter the blood stream, attack the liver, and cause severe illness-even death.

Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for the following moderate- to high-risk groups: health care workers likely to have blood or needle-stick exposures; clients and staff of institutions for the developmentally disabled; hemodialysis patients; men who have sex with men; people who have more than one sex partner in six months; people with sexually transmitted diseases; users of injectable street drugs; recipients of certain blood products; household members and sexual contacts of HBV carriers; infants born to HBV-positive mothers; inmates of long-term correctional facilities, and people who were born in countries where hepatitis B is common.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver that can cause fever, yellow skin and eyes, loss of appetite, and nausea. It is spread by household or sexual contact with an infected person. You can also catch it by eating contaminated food (including shellfish from polluted water) or drinking contaminated water.

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for international travelers; persons in communities with high rates of the disease and periodic outbreaks; men who have sex with men; street drug users; recipients of certain blood products; and individuals with chronic liver disease.

Varicella, or chickenpox, is generally considered to be a mild disease of children. However, five percent of reported cases occur in people over 20 years of age. Chickenpox in adults is often more severe and complications are more frequent than in children. About 100 people die from complications of chickenpox every year in the United States.

Adults who have not had chickenpox should consult their physicians regarding vaccination.

Measles was once thought to be a disease of young school-age children, but now it often affects teenagers and young adults. Measles is a virus spread by contact with an infected person or the airborne virus. The symptoms usually include a high fever, rash, runny nose, red eyes, and cough.

Measles can cause serious illnesses such as pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). A pregnant woman who contracts measles is at increased risk for miscarriage or premature labor.

The measles vaccine is routinely administered as part of the combination Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shot. Two doses of measles vaccine generally provide lifelong protection and are required for entrance into post-secondary institutions in at least 29 states.

Mumps is mainly a disease of young children, but about 15 percent of reported cases occur among teens and adults.

Mumps vaccine is routinely administered as part of the MMR shot. Mumps vaccine is recommended for children, teens, and susceptible adults.

Rubella (German measles) is caused by a virus that is spread by contact with infected people or articles they have used. Symptoms can include rash, muscle pain, low-grade fever, and swelling in the neck. If a pregnant woman gets rubella, especially during the first three months of pregnancy, she may miscarry, or her baby may be born with birth defects or even die. As many as five million women of childbearing age are unprotected from rubella.

Over 90 percent of adults 40 years of age and older are immune to rubella, but if you are concerned about your risk, consult your physician. Rubella vaccine is routinely administered as part of the MMR shot or may be given as a single component vaccine.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is caused by bacteria that enter the body through a break in the skin (often a puncture wound or deep scratch). Tetanus causes painful muscle contractions, especially in the jaw and stomach. About 40 percent of people who get tetanus die.

Diphtheria is caused by bacteria passed from one person to another in the droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of diphtheria include sore throat, fever, and swollen neck glands. As the disease progresses, a membrane is formed in the throat that blocks breathing, and which may cause death. One out of every 10 people who gets diphtheria dies from it.

Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, causes coughing spells that can make it hard to eat, drink or breathe. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Two out of 100 teens that get whooping cough will have serious complications and may require hospitalization. Complications are far more common and more serious among infants however, and teens and adults who get whooping cough can easily spread it to unprotected infants who are too young to be fully immunized.

Adults should have a tetanus booster once every ten years. Two kinds of booster vaccines (Tdap and Td) are now available. Tdap vaccines is now recommended for the booster dose. It provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in one injection. Td vaccine protects only against tetanus and diphtheria. Parents and teenage siblings of infants, health care workers and anyone who provides care to infants under one year of age are encouraged to get a dose of Tdap if it has been at least two years since they received a routine tetanus booster. Td is still used to complete the initial vaccine series in children over age 7 and adults.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can cause pneumonia as well as other serious complications. Pneumococcal disease kills about 40,000 people each year in the United States. The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended once for all people age 65 and over, as well as for people of any age with certain chronic illnesses. A second dose may be recommended for certain individuals with medical conditions, as suggested by a physician.

Fewer than 30 percent of people age 65 and over have had their recommended "pneumonia shot."

Influenza is a very contagious disease with symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, dry cough, runny nose, and body aches. This disease is spread by direct contact with an infected person or through contact with the airborne virus.

Influenza vaccine is recommended every fall for all people age 50 and over, for people of all ages who have chronic diseases, or for anyone of any age who wants to reduce the risk of contracting "flu." A flu shot can be given at any time during the autumn or winter but is most effective when it is given from October to November.

The risk of getting Polio is very small in the United States today due to the widespread use of polio vaccines. Adult immunization is usually NOT recommended, unless you are traveling to a part of the world where polio is still common or if you are a laboratory or health care worker who may come in contact with the virus at work.

Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles is also called zoster and herpes zoster virus. The words "shingles" and "zoster" both translate from different languages into the word "belt," which describes the pattern of the rash of blisters as they appear on the body-generally a band (dermatome) on one side of the body.A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body

After the chicken pox blisters have healed, the varicella zoster virus lies dormant (inactive) in neurons (nerve cells) next to your spinal cord, sometimes for decades.When the virus becomes active again, it travels down the nerve fibers that extend to your skin, and a rash develops.Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching generally located on one side of the body or face. The pain can be severe. Rash or blisters are present anywhere from 1 to 14 days.

Unfortunately, it isn't yet known exactly what causes the varicella zoster virus to become active again.An important factor, though, is the immune system, which helps keep viruses at bay.Shingles tends to appear when your immune system is weakened.For example, the chances of getting shingles are higher as we get older.But other things can also weaken, or suppress, the immune system's ability to fight infection, such as HIV, anticancer and transplant drugs, stress, and depression.

A dose is recommended for people 60 years of age and older.

For The Record
The best way to be sure you're protected against these preventable diseases is to keep a complete lifetime immunization record.

Every time you receive a shot, have your doctor update your record. If you're not sure which immunizations you've already had or which additional immunizations you may need, ask your doctor or visit to see recommended vaccine schedules. For questions about immunizations or clinic appointments, call (562) 570-4315.