Diphtheria – a vaccine preventable disease

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Volume 29 Number 2

ISSN 1059-6518

By Frank Hubbell, DO

The use of vaccines to prevent disease has been around for over 80 years and the number of vaccines has grown to over 25. For some individuals this is an area of confusion, debate, and disagreement. The reality is that vaccines are very well-studied and profoundly safe to use. As with any medication, there are risks, but the risks are far out-weighed by the benefits of not getting that particular disease.

I doubt there is anyone on this planet that would want to see the return of small pox or an increase in the cases of polio, or diphtheria. It is the vaccination process that builds up immunity to these diseases by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies to defeat the illness before it could cause symptoms and potentially death. However, there are those who, for whatever reason, refuse to be vaccinated, thereby putting themselves and others at risk.

To follow are a series of articles that will discuss and explain the various vaccine-preventable diseases and the consequences of acquiring that particular illness for which the vaccine was created. As stated above, currently, there are a total of 25 vaccines to prevent disease. For no particular reason, we will start with diphtheria.


A vaccine-preventable disease.

It is caused by a bacterium – Corynebacterium diphtheria.

It is an aerobic, gram-positive bacillus.

The reservoir in nature is us, human carriers.

The primary vector is droplet-spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.

There are toxigenic and non-toxigenic forms of diphtheria.

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Japanese Encephalitis

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Travel Immunizations

Japanese Encephalitis

By Frank Hubbell, DO

Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is more correctly known as Japanese B Encephalitis.

It is a virus in the family Flaviviridae.

The reservoirs in nature that harbor the JE virus are pigs and herons.

The vector for JE is the mosquito – Culex tritaeniorhynchus & C. vishnui.

JE is not contagious, in that it cannot be transferred from human-to-human. It has to be spread by the Culex mosquito vector.

The incubation period from mosquito bite to symptoms is 5  – 15 days.

The vast majority of those infected are asymptomatic.

Only 1 in 250 cases develops into encephalitis.

Still JE is the leading cause of encephalitis in Asia with 30,000 – 50,000 cases per year.

One in four patients that develop JE encephalitis will die. There is a 25% fatality rate caused by brain damage.

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November/December 2011  ISSN-1059-6518  Volume 24 Number 6

Vaccines and Our Immune System

 By Frank Hubbell, DO


What is the Immune System?


A better way to ask this simple question is, “what protects us against infectious disease”? Simply answered, it is our immune system. The whole purpose of the immune system is to recognize self from non-self. Any type of cell or protein that does not belong in us will be found, recognized, and destroyed by our immune system.


This defense system, against invading pathogens, is a multilayered system. The first layer of defense is the physical barrier, our skin. The second layer is the innate immune system, which is an immediate reaction to a threat, but very non-specific. The final layer of defense is the adaptive or acquired immune system. Although this system is slower to respond, it is very specific, and it produces an immune memory. It is this system, adaptive immunity, that our bodies take advantage of to create immunity against various diseases by using vaccines.

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The Risks of International Travel

Statistically speaking, the most common cause of death for the international traveler while abroad is motor vehicle accidents, and second, is death from a pre-existing condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. However, there are a number of other medical issues that can disrupt or ultimately ruin an international trip. With regard to the two top problems: drive carefully and defensively. If you are not comfortable behind the wheel, take other methods of transport or hire a driver. While these measures cannot insure accident avoidance, they can minimize the risk. Before traveling to a region where medical care may be difficult to obtain, have a thorough physical and make sure you are carrying a sufficient amount of any medications that you may be taking. Also remember that some conditions may not be detectable before you leave, so having good international insurance that will provide for treatment at the closest major medical facility and evacuation back to your home country is a wise decision.

September/October 2011 ISSN 1059-6518

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