HOUSTON – The greater Houston area so far this year has experienced two disease outbreaks easily preventable by vaccines. Six children from counties surrounding Houston became infected in early 2019 with measles, a highly contagious disease that can prove fatal, and a mumps outbreak detected mid-year among county jail inmates now totals 20 cases.
The Houston Health Department (HHD) encourages parents to talk to their doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional to ensure all family members are up to date on the recommended vaccines. August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
“Every single medical visit represents an opportunity for parents to ask their family doctor or health care provider if their loved ones are protected against serious disease complications,” said Dr. David Persse, Houston’s local health authority and EMS director. “No matter the reason for the medical visit, it is important to check if the family member requiring health services also needs a new vaccine dose that will help shield them from an array of illnesses.”
Severe complications resulting from diseases that immunizations can prevent include include pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling), heart failure, seizures, meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal cord coverings), paralysis, cancers, liver damage and even death.
Diseases that can cause numerous complications and sometimes even death are diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, flu, H. influenza type b (HIB), human papillomavirus (HPV), measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus and varicella. While they are no longer as common in the United States thanks to vaccines, they still exist and can spread when people aren’t vaccinated.
Doctors, nurses and other health care providers represent a credible source of vaccine information, especially important presently as a massive amount of misinformation exists online. They can provide scientifically-based responses to questions or concerns people may have about receiving immunizations.
HHD offers flu shots at its health centers to uninsured and underinsured people on a sliding scale basis that ranges from free to $15. To find the nearest health center, people can call 832-393-5427 or the City of Houston’s 311 information line. They can also go online to HoustonHealth.org.