As a nation, we are continually working to cure major epidemics and illnesses. The cure for cancer has been a hot topic for scientists for quite some time, as well as AIDS. It may seem as though these cures are slow-moving. However, we may take for granted the wide array of diseases that have been tackled by incredibly effective vaccines. In the past several decades, all kinds of vaccines have been discovered for the use of preventing horrific diseases.
These diseases may not have been cured in the traditional sense, but the widespread availability of vaccines against them has turned them into a non-threat outside of the occasional anomaly. To that end, these vaccines have truly triumphed in dissolving the threat of diseases and viruses that once terrorized civilization.
Chickenpox, caused by a virus called Varicella-zoster, is usually something most people experience when they are young. Characterized by red blisters covering the body, having chicken pox once grants lifetime immunity against the virus. Although most people experience chicken pox as a mild nuisance, it actually has a 5 to 10% complication rate, meaning it could be far more serious than the typical case.
The blisters can leave scarring. In Australia, there are annually 240,000 cases of chicken pox, of which 1,200 of them are hospitalized. For this reason, a vaccine was developed. Varivax, the vaccine against Varicella, was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1995. If children are vaccinated, it eradicates chances of getting chicken pox and dramatically decreases the risk of getting shingles later in life.
So while a cure for chicken pox may not be at the top of the list when it comes to serious diseases, we have successfully made this childhood rite of passage unnecessary.
On May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization deemed smallpox dead. Although a vaccine was developed as early as 1796 by a certain Edward Jenner, it was difficult to get the vaccine out. There was difficulty in storing the vaccine, particularly in hot climates. Many countries tried different methods for vaccination, in spite of the known success rate for Jenner’s vaccine.
However, after 150 years of perfecting the vaccine, it has spread enough to eradicate smallpox with the exception of a few anomalies. Jenner’s vaccine ran on the principle that contracting a mild form of smallpox prevented one from ever contracting it again. With this thought in mind, he devised a serum taken from a cow with cowpox, which negated the need for actually infecting the person with potentially dangerous smallpox strains.
In 2007, the U.S. Center for Disease Control proclaimed that vaccinations had paid off and that rabies had finally become eliminated from the U.S. dog populous. While still a major issue globally, the U.S. has proven the success rate of mandatory dog vaccination and licensing and stray dog control. By following the United States’ lead, neighboring countries can get a grip on rabies and work toward global elimination.
Thus, there is a cure — simply aggressively embracing the need for rabies vaccination in our canine friends can eradicate it completely. Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system. It can be transferred to humans when they come in contact with a rabid animal. The anti-rabies treatment with a vaccine is completely effective if administered within 14 days of exposure.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has claimed that SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, has been contained so well that it is no longer considered a legitimate threat to the public outside laboratory strains where it is being observed.
Scientists say that in order for SARS to make a comeback, it would have to escape the labs where it is being studied or reemerge from scratch. It has not been naturally circulating as an epidemic strain since June 2003, when it claimed 774 lives. Several vaccines are available, as well as other precautionary measures should the virus miraculously resurge.
In 1962, four million people were diagnosed with measles and 3,000 people died. A year later, the first vaccine was formulated. Caused by a virus, measles is characterized by fever, pink eye, a rash that spreads from the face outward to the rest of the body, and occasionally pneumonia.
A weakened form of measles itself, the vaccine grows very poorly in the body, which means it never develops into the otherwise life-threatening illness it could be. Yet, once introduced into the body, it produces lifelong immunity to the virus. The vaccine has made it possible to eliminate the risk of measles entirely. However, there are still occasional cases of it due to negligence in getting the vaccine.
Every now and then, a religious group will forfeit the vaccine with lethal consequences. It can be avoided if people simply get the necessary shots.
While 95% of Polio cases are asymptomatic, symptomatic polio can have a wide range of characteristics, from flu-like symptoms to muscle paralysis and death. In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk successfully invented a vaccine for poliomyelitis, also known as the Poliovirus. The vaccine is to be injected and consists of a dead strain of Polio that immunizes the patient against the disease.
Years after Salk’s creation, another vaccine was created using live Polio, which could be taken orally. However, it may have reintroduced the disease, as it did not work as effectively and merely spread the liver disease. When used correctly, Salk’s vaccine eradicates the risk of Polio completely. In most countries, Polio has been entirely eliminated.
Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is also known as herpes zoster. Older adults are most susceptible to it, as they have weaker immune systems. It comes from the same strains that cause chicken pox, but it is not contagious the same way chicken pox is.
In most cases, an antiviral medicine will do the trick after shingles have been contracted. However, a shingles vaccine was developed in 2005 that cannot just treat the disease, but prevent it entirely from occurring. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved Zostavax, the vaccine used to prevent shingles. It is now making leaps and bounds to be completely removed from the list of threatening diseases and viruses that spread throughout the U.S. and surrounding countries.