McHenry County Department of Health: Vaccines help prevent many contagious diseases

What can you do to keep from contracting a number of communicable (contagious) diseases? The answer is to get fully vaccinated. Although all communicable diseases don’t have vaccines, many do. A communicable disease such as smallpox that used to be common is now considered eradicated, thanks to vaccines. Other diseases that used to be considered typical in childhood are now infrequent. The Illinois Department of Public Health states that “Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.”

Although vaccines are not 100 percent effective, they offer between 80 to 98 percent effectiveness, depending on the disease. By being vaccinated, you help protect the people in our community who cannot receive vaccines because they are immunocompromised or have other medical conditions. The more people that have immunity, the safer the community. This is called “herd immunity.” If you should become ill with a disease for which you’ve been vaccinated, typically the disease will be much milder.

In 2015, 17 cases of measles were reported in the state, compared with two the year before. This increase was due in part to an outbreak at a Cook County early learning center.

Over the past…