Health

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 four years, Illinois averaged 560 chicken pox cases a year (McHenry County averaged 26). In 2016, there was about a 60 percent increase in whooping cough cases identified in McHenry County, the highest case count in the past four years.

Mumps cases hit a high in the United States in 2016 with almost 6,000 cases reported, the highest number in 10 years. So far in 2017, the U.S. has identified more than 2,500 cases, including more than 100 in Illinois and 13 in McHenry County. Many Illinois mumps cases occur when large groups of people spend time in proximity to each other, which is why schools frequently are affected. The largest outbreak identified was in the northeastern Illinois region, with about 40 cases reported to date.

There are 12 diseases that easily are prevented by being fully vaccinated. Being vaccinated against these diseases is required for school-aged children. The minimum immunization requirements for kids entering a child care facility or school in Illinois (for fall 2017) can be found by searching school immunization requirements at www.dph.illinois.gov. Check with your school to see whether there are additional requirements.

The McHenry County Department of Health offers vaccines to infants through adults with the Medicaid/All Kids cards, without insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover specific vaccines. MCDH also offers vaccines to private pay clients with sliding scale discounts for those who qualify. Please call ahead for vaccine availability and discount qualifications.

Clinics are held at both the Woodstock office at 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Building B, and at the Crystal Lake office at 100 N. Virginia St. For clinic availability and appointments, please call MCDH at 815-334-4500.

To learn about immunizations and the diseases they prevent, visit MCDH at www.mcdh.info or the CDC at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

• Sara Boline coordinates the Communicable Disease Program at the McHenry County Department of Health. She can be reached at 815-334-4500.

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