August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to make sure you and your family are up to date on vaccinations. It’s also a great time to recognize the many benefits of immunization, which is one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century.
Before vaccines were available, people could have expected diseases such as polio to have lifelong negative impacts on their lives. Today, however, diseases that can be prevented through vaccines are at record lows (PDF). However, the bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases still exist. So if people decide to stop getting vaccinated, the diseases can spread.
That’s a lesson that California residents have learned lately with a recent outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, which has killed at least seven infants and caused more than 2,000 cases of illness this year. Health officials in the state are reminding residents that both children and adults who come into contact with those who are sick need to keep up on their pertussis vaccinations, which is a message that should resonate with everyone.
"The pertussis epidemic is a sobering and tragic reminder that diseases long-thought controlled can return with a vengeance," said Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.
With both school and the flu season just around the corner, August is a great time to remind family, friends and co-workers to catch up on vaccinations. To find out what vaccinations you and your family need, check out CDC’s immunization schedules for children and teens or for adults. Remember: Keeping a community healthy and safe from infectious disease involves everyone.