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Back To Vidyya Definition Of Terms Related To Immunization

Information From The CDC

adjuvant: A substance that is used in a vaccine to increase the immune response to specific vaccine components.
adult immunizations: Vaccinations that are given to people over 18 years of age, such as booster tetanus shots, annual influenza shots, and pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine.
adverse event: Any undesirable side effect that may result from a vaccination.
anaphylaxis: An immediate and severe allergic response; a shock reaction to a substance. This can result in sudden severe breathing difficulty, severe drop in blood pressure, and/or loss of consciousness. Anaphylactic shock can kill if not treated promptly. Common causes of anaphylaxis include bee stings (in people who are allergic to bees), ingestion of certain foods (by people who are allergic to those foods), and drug reactions.
antimicrobial agents: A general term for the drugs, chemicals, or other substances that kill microbes, the tiny organisms that cause disease. Among the antimicrobial agents in use today are antibacterial drugs (which kill bacteria), antiviral agents (which kill viruses), antifungal agents (which kill fungi), and antiparisitic drugs (which kill parasites).
attenuated: Weakened. An attenuated vaccine is one in which a live virus is subjected to chemical or other processes to weaken the virus, so that it will produce an adequate immune response without causing the serious effects of infection.
bacteria: Tiny organisms that co-exist with living things everywhere on earth. We tend to think of bacteria as agents of disease and death, but many bacteria are helpful to life and health. Escherichia coli, for example, play an important role in the intestines. If these are killed by an antibiotic, diarrhea can result. However, if this same bacteria gets into an open wound on the skin, it poses a risk of serious infection, illness, and death. Bacteria are the agents that cause diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus (lockjaw), Haemophilus influenzae, and bacterial pneumonia. Since evidence of the presence of bacteria were recently found on rocks from Mars, there is evidence that bacteria may live elsewhere in the universe.
booster: Additional vaccination that results in a "boost" of the immune response of a previous vaccination.
childhood immunizations: A series of immunizations that are given in routinely in childhood to prevent diseases that pose a threat to children. In the United States, these currently include diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and varicella (chicken pox).
community immunity: A concept that a community can protect itself against certain diseases by having a high percentage of its population immunized. Even if a few members of the community are unable to be immunized, the entire community will be protected because the disease has so little opportunity for outbreak. The term "herd immunity" means the same thing. Examples of the key role of community immunity in limiting disease include pertussis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B. Tetanus, on the other hand, is transmitted from spores within soil via skin wounds--not from person to person--thus, the level of immunity in a community has no impact on risk for tetanus.
conjugate vaccine: Two or more vaccines combined to be given at one time; for example, the diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (DTP) conjugate. Like the individual vaccines, conjugate vaccines are developed through scientific research and clinical trials to be certain that the combination is appropriate, safe, and effective before it is licensed and released for use by the public.
conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the eyelid. Sometimes this condition occurs independently, but it can also occur with other illness, such as measles.
disease: Sickness; illness; an interruption, cessation, or disorder of body functions systems, or organs; loss of good health.
encephalitis: Inflammation of the brain and central nervous system.
epidemic: An outbreak of disease that spreads within a specific region or within a country.
Hib disease: Disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b. Until recently, this disease was the most common cause of deadly bacterial meningitis in children. It can also cause infection of the bloodstream, pneumonia, epiglottitis, and otitis media, among other conditions.
immune: Protected against a disease as a result of immunization, previous natural infection, inoculation, or transfer of protective antibodies. For certain diseases, immune mothers may temporarily transfer immunity to their newborns as a result of passage of protective antibodies to the infant via the placenta. Protection can result from this placental transfer of antibodies for up to 4-6 months.
immune system: The body's very complex system for fighting infectious and some chronic diseases.
immunity: The state of being immune.
immunization: The process or procedure by which a subject (person, animal, or plant) is rendered immune, or resistant to a specific disease. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation, although the act of inoculation does not always result in immunity.
inoculation: An immunization or vaccination
international importation of disease: Transmission of a disease from a person in one country to people in another country when that person or group carrying the disease travels and shares the agent that causes the disease, for example, by sneezing or coughing.
live vaccine: Vaccine in which the virus that causes the disease is alive but weakened.
microorganism: Living organisms (plant or animal) so small that a microscope is required to see them.
multi-drug resistance: Resistant to many antimicrobial drugs. A new strain of pathogen may be resistant to many or all of the drugs that previously worked against the disease caused by the pathogen.
outbreak: Sudden appearance of cases of a disease in a limited geographic location (for example, a neighborhood, community, school, or hospital) or population group (for example, school-age children).
pandemic: An outbreak of disease that spreads throughout the world.
pathogen: Bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi that have the capacity to cause disease in humans.
quarantine: To isolate an individual who has a disease or is suspected of having a disease, to prevent spread of the disease to others; alternatively, to isolate a person who does not have disease during a disease outbreak, to protect that individual from catching the disease. Quarantine can be voluntary or, in an emergency, it can be ordered by public health officials.
SSPE, or subacute sclerosing pan-encephalitis: Progressive destruction of nerve cells in the brain, which results in progressive deterioration of the personality, behavior, and intellectual abilities; seizures; coma, and death. SSPE is always fatal. When measles or rubella virus infects brain cells, the immune system responds by attacking the virus. SSPE is the result of the immune system activity, not the virus.
strain: A specific biologic version of a microorganism. The identity of a strain is defined by its genetic makeup, or code; changing just one piece of the code produces a new strain. A strain that responds to a particular drug may evolve to a new strain that does not respond to the drug.
traveler's immunizations: A vaccination or series of vaccinations given to a person who will be traveling into countries where there is a risk for acquiring certain diseases.
vaccination: Injection of a killed or weakened microorganism or components to prevent the disease caused by that microorganism.
vaccine: A product given to produce immunity. Vaccines can be given by injection (usually in the shoulder, thigh, or buttocks muscle), by mouth (liquid or pill), or by aerosol. Use of other needle-less vaccine delivery systems, like jet injection systems, are being evaluated as methods to efficiently give vaccines.
vaccine schedule: A chart or plan for a series of vaccinations and the ages and/or circumstances in which they should be given.
virus: A tiny organism that must get inside a living cell to grow and reproduce. Viruses cause many types of illness; for example, varicella virus causes chickenpox, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes the autoimmune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Antibiotic drugs, which are designed to kill bacteria, do not get rid of or cure virus infections. However, vaccines prevent disease caused by the influenza virus, measles virus, mumps virus, rubella virus, pertussis virus, and hepatitis B virus. Currently, except for influenza, no specific anti-viral therapies are available to treat these viral infections.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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