You Need to Be Immunised Against these 3 Diseases

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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One of the most effective ways to prevent some infectious diseases in humans is immunisation. In one of our previous health tips, we talked about immunisation.

Immunisation is the ability of the body to produce antibodies against disease-causing microorganisms to wipe them out before they cause any symptoms in the person through vaccination. Vaccination involves the use of vaccines to stimulate the human body to produce antibodies against disease-causing microorganisms.

These vaccines are weakened forms of disease-causing microorganisms which are able to stimulate the body's immune system to produce antibodies but are not deadly enough to cause disease in the person. So, when the person becomes exposed to the real microorganism, let's say, during an outbreak of meningitis, his or her body, already sensitised before through vaccination, will quickly produce antibodies against the meningitis-causing bacteria. The antibodies will get rid of these bacteria before they can multiply enough to cause the symptoms of meningitis.

The World Health Organisation has set aside this week as the World Immunisation Week and as part of the awareness on the importance of immunisation, below are 3 diseases you should be vaccinated against irrespective of your childhood immunisation status:

1. Meningitis

There's currently an outbreak of meningitis in some states in northern Nigeria with thousand of people affected and hundreds already dead. These people were infected because they didn't receive a weakened form of the meningitis-causing bacteria before the outbreak. Hence, their immune systems had no prior knowledge of the bacteria and could not produce enough antibodies to prevent an active infection.

However, the government is making available meningitis vaccines. It is advisable that every person comes out to receive this meningitis vaccine when it gets to his or her area. If so many people are vaccinated against meningitis and become immune to it, there will likely not be any meningitis outbreaks in the future like the current one. Hence, people will not die from the disease or develop terrible complications like deafness, eye or speech problems for those who survive the disease.

2. Hepatitis B virus

The hepatitis B virus infection is another disease that can be prevented with a vaccine.

The hepatitis B virus can be contracted through sexual intercourse with an infected person, transfusion with blood from an infected person, sharing of sharp objects such as needles by drug addicts or piercing objects for tattoos, handling infected blood samples or other fluids without proper protective measures by hospital workers. If untreated, the infection can go on to cause liver cancer or cirrhosis many years later.

To receive the hepatitis B vaccine if you have not, you need to be screened. If the screening test result is negative, you will receive the first dose of the vaccine immediately, the second dose 4 weeks after the first dose and the last dose 3 months after the second dose. This full regimen confers immunity against the hepatitis B virus if you are exposed to it.

3. Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women in this part of the world. It is caused by a virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which has various types. It can take up to 30years after a woman has been infected with HPV to develop cervical cancer.

The main route of infection with the human papilloma virus is through sexual intercourse at a young age or with multiple sexual partners.

While there are tests to screen for cervical cancer for women above 20 years of age, the best way of dealing with cervical cancer is vaccination against HPV which enables the body to develop immunity against the virus hence, preventing infection.

HPV vaccines are available for girls and women between 9 and 26 years of age to protect them against the virus and in turn, prevent cervical cancer later in life.

Also very important: parents should ensure their babies receive all the recommended immunisations according to the National Programme on Immunisation. Let us embrace immunisation, and discuss its importance with friends and family, as it is the cheapest way to prevent infectious diseases and their complications.

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Published Monday, April 24th 2017

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