This week is National Adult Immunization Awareness Week. Information and materials for participation in the week are available from Amy Shehan at The National Coalition for Adult Immunization.
The following facts illustrate why adult immunization is important:
FACT: Each year in the United States, greater than 30,000 adults die from vaccine- preventable diseases or their complications.
FACT: Pneumonia and influenza together are the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the fifth leading cause of death among older adults.
FACT: Medicare Part B reimburses fully for both influenza and pneumococcal immunizations.
FACT: During most influenza seasons, 10% to 20% of the Nation's population is infected with influenza with an annual estimated cost to society of up to $12 billion during severe epidemics.
FACT: The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S. and over 21 million worldwide. The 1957-58 "Asian flu" and the 1968-69 "Hong Kong flu" epidemics led to 68,000 and 34,000 deaths in the United States, respectively.
FACT: Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease accounts for an estimated 500,000 cases of pneumonia (infection of the lungs), 50,000 cases of bacteremia (bloodstream infection), and 3,000 cases of meningitis (inflammation of the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord).
FACT: Pneumococcal pneumonia accounts for up to 25% to 35% of all adult pneumonias leading to hospitalization, and is the most common cause of pneumonia.
FACT: The hepatitis B virus is found in blood and other body fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions. It is 100 times more infectious than HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
FACT: The hepatitis B vaccine is recognized as the first anti-cancer vaccine because it can prevent primary liver cancer caused by hepatitis B infection.
FACT: In the United States there are 1-1 1/4 million people with chronic hepatitis B infections who can infect other household members and sexual partners.
FACT: An estimated 200,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis B in 1996. Thousands of these victims were adolescents and young adults.
FACT: Vaccines are among the safest medicines available.
FACT: An estimated 180,000 Americans were infected with hepatitis A in 1996.
FACT: Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in travelers to other countries.
FACT: Up to half of Americans over 50 years of age are inadequately immunized against tetanus and diphtheria.
FACT: Forty to fifty cases of tetanus occur each year, resulting in an average of 5 deaths annually in the United States. Most deaths occur in those 50 years of age or older.
FACT: Almost all reported cases of tetanus occurred in persons who have either never been vaccinated, or who completed their primary series but have not had a booster vaccination in the past 10 years.
FACT: One out of every 10 people who gets diphtheria will die from it.
FACT: Unimmunized persons of any age can get measles, but those born after 1956 who do not have proof of immunity are particularly at risk and should be immunized.
FACT: If rubella (German measles) occurs during pregnancy, it can result in severe birth defects, miscarriages and stillbirths.
FACT: As many as 8 million women of childbearing age are susceptible to rubella.
FACT: Approximately one-third of infected people do not exhibit symptoms of mumps.
FACT: Serious complications of mumps are more common among adults than among children.
FACT: Adolescents and adults are 10 times more likely than children to develop severe complications when infected with the chickenpox virus.
FACT: Less than 5% of adults are susceptible to infection with the chickenpox virus, but adults are 25 times more likely to die from chickenpox than are children.