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Diseases Prevented by Vaccines


Pertussis (whooping cough) may be mild or serious and is easily passed from person to person.  Pertussis can cause spells of coughing and choking that make it hard to eat, drink or breathe.  The coughing can last for weeks.

Pertussis is most dangerous to babies under one year old.  Babies with pertussis are so sick, nearly half must go into the hospital. About one baby in 100 with pertussis either dies or is left with permanent brain injury.  Serious illness is less likely in older children and adults.


Polio is a very dangerous disease.   Some children and adults who get a serious case of polio become paralyzed (unable to move parts of their bodies).  Sometimes polio may make it difficult to breathe without the help of a machine.  Some people may even die.


Measles (rubeola or hard measles) is a very serious disease that is easily passed from person to person.  It causes a high fever, cough, runny nose, sore eyes and rash lasting one or two weeks.  Ear infections and pneumonia can also develop.  In serious cases, measles can cause and infection of the brain, hearing loss, developmental disability or death.

Babies and adults who get measles are more likely to be sicker, suffer longer, or die than are school-age children or teenagers.


Mumps can be a serious disease.  It lasts for several days and is easily passed from person to person.  Mumps can cause fever, headache, swollen or painful glands under the jaw, a mild swelling of the brain and spinal cord, and hearing loss.

About one in every four teenage or adult males with mumps will have painful swelling of the testicles for several days.  Most men can still father children after this swelling.


Rubella (German measles) is a mild disease that lasts for a short time.  People who get rubella can have a mild fever, swollen glands in the neck, a rash that lasts up to three days, and  soreness or swelling in the joints.  This soreness or swelling usually lasts for a week or two.  In rare cases, it may last for months or years, and may come and go.  The pain and swelling are more likely to occur in women.

If a pregnant woman gets rubella, it is very dangerous to her unborn baby.  Babies born with rubella can have heart disease, be blind or deaf, or have learning problems.


Hib disease is caused by an infection spread by coughing, sneezing or close contact.   Hib disease can cause a swelling of the brain that can lead to developmental disability, hearing loss, weakened sight, or speech problems.

Before the Hib vaccine was available, Hib infected one of every 200 children before age five.  It is most dangerous for babies under age one.


Hepatitis B is a liver disease that is spread by contact with blood or body fluids of a person who has hepatitis B.  It can lead to severe illness, lifelong disease, scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer or death.

If you are pregnant, get a blood test for hepatitis B!

In the United States, more than 240,000 people get this disease every year, more than one million people have hepatitis B and can give it to other people, and about 6,000 people die from it every year.


Tetanus (lockjaw) can occur after a cut or wound lets the germ into the body.  Tetanus makes a person unable to open his or her mouth or swallow, and causes serious muscle spasms.

In the United States, tetanus kills three of every 10 people who get the disease.  Those who survive have long hospital stays.


Diphtheria is a very serious disease.  It can make a person unable to breathe or cause paralysis (unable to move parts of the body) or heart failure.  About one in every 10 people who get diphtheria die from it.

CHICKENPOX (Varicella)

Chickenpox is one of the most common childhood diseases.  Chickenpox causes a skin rash that starts on the scalp and body and then spreads to the face, arms and legs over a period of three to four days.  The rash forms between 250 to 500 itchy blisters that dry into scabs two to four days later.  It is usually mild, but someone with chickenpox can get skin infections, pneumonia, brain damage, and bleeding problems.  On average, one child dies every week from chickenpox in the United States.


Pneumococcus bacterium can attack different parts of the body and cause many serious infections including meningitis (brain), bacteremia (blood stream), pneumonia (lungs), sinusitis (sinus membranes), and otitis media (ears). These infections can be very dangerous to very young children, the elderly, and people with certain high-risk health conditions.

This information is adapted from the Michigan Department of Community Health brochure "Immunize Your Little Michigander"

Immunization Program

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