Disease Profiles





The following diseases or conditions are those featured in the JABBED documentary. Here you'll find background information about each condition, and some relevant links.

• Whooping cough (or Pertussis)
• Measles
• Dravet syndrome
• Polio (poliomyelitis)
• HPV (Human papillomavirus)
• Pneumococcal disease

Information about the diseases that are vaccinated against under the Immunise Australia program can be found here: www.immunise.health.gov.au

Fact sheets also available here: http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/Jabbed/about/page/i/8/h/Resources/


Whooping cough (Pertussis)


What is it?
Infection of the upper windpipe by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.

How do you get it?
When an infected person coughs, bacteria are carried into the air in droplets and can be inhaled by other people. Unless treated with antibiotics, people can spread the disease for three weeks after they first develop a cough.

Whooping cough is very infectious and can spread easily through families, childcare centres and schools: 70 to 100% of people living in the same house as someone with whooping cough, and 50-80% of an infected child's schoolmates, will catch it unless they have been immunised in the last 10 or so years, or have already had the disease.

What does it do to you?
The bacteria release toxins that cause inflammation (swelling) and a build-up of sticky phlegm in your airway. You may have bouts of uncontrollable coughing followed by vomiting, choking or taking a gasping breath (‘whoop'). Newborn babies can stop breathing and turn blue.

1 in 4 babies hospitalised for whooping cough suffers serious complications, like pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs). For every 250 babies hospitalised with whooping cough in Australia in 2010, one died.

How is it treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat the symptoms of whooping cough in its early stages, and can help stop the disease spreading to others; however, there is no cure for pertussis and the cough often persists for many weeks.

How common is it?
38,675 cases of whooping cough were reported in Australia in 2011 - the highest rate since 1953, and more than any other country reported to the World Health Organisation that year. Worldwide, more than 162,000 cases were reported in 2011.

Sources
NSW Department of Health (Australia):
http://www0.health.nsw.gov.au/factsheets/infectious/pertussis.html
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (Australia):
http://www.ncirs.edu.au/immunisation/fact-sheets/pertussis-fact-sheet.pdf

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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Measles (Rubeola)


What is it?
Infection of the windpipe and lungs by a virus of the genus Morbillivirus.

How do you get it?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, even before they have started to show symptoms, they spread mucus or saliva droplets containing live viruses into the air and onto surfaces. Measles viruses can stay alive in these droplets for several hours; so if someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their own mouth or nose before washing their hands, they can become infected.

Measles is extremely contagious - if you're not already immune and you come close to an infected person, there's a 90% chance you'll be infected.

What does it do to you?
Measles causes inflammation of the skin (a rash) and sometimes in the lungs or brain - 1 in 20 children with measles develops pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) and around 1 in 1,000 suffers encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can cause permanent brain damage or death.

In the US, around 2 in every 1,000 people infected with measles die of the disease. In populations with high levels of malnutrition and inadequate health care, as many as 1 in 10 measles cases can be fatal.

How is it treated?
There is no cure and no specific treatment for measles. Most people must rest and drink plenty of fluids. Antibiotics cannot kill the measles virus, but are often used to treat associated (‘secondary') bacterial infections in the ears or lungs.

How common is it?
354,820 cases of measles were reported worldwide in 2011, including 222 cases in the USA - the highest number since 1996.

Sources
Better Health Channel (Victorian Department of Health, Australia): http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Measles
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA):
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/meas.html
World Health Organization (WHO):
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/index.html
http://apps.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/timeseries/tsincidencemea.htm

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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Dravet syndrome

What is it?
Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a rare genetic disorder that causes ongoing and often prolonged seizures.

How do you get it?
Dravet syndrome is usually caused by mutations in a gene, called the SCN1A gene. This impacts key sodium pathways in the brain. 90% of these mutations occur ‘de novo’ - they are new mutations, not passed on from either parent.

The first seizure occurs in an otherwise healthy infant usually around 6 months of age. This first seizure can be triggered by fever, illness or sometimes, vaccination.

What does it do to you?
Development remains on track initially, with plateaus and a progressive decline typically beginning in the second year of life. There are developmental and behavioural delays, such as delayed language and speech, and movement and balance issues. Individuals with Dravet syndrome face a higher incidence of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy).
 
How is it treated?
Dravet Syndrome has no known cure. Seizures may be reduced by anticonvulsant drugs, but options are limited.

How common is it?
Dravet is estimated to occur in around 1 in 30,000 births. It occurs in both genders equally, and has no known geographic or ethnic boundaries.

Sources
The Dravet Foundation:
http://www.dravetfoundation.org/dravet-syndrome/medical-information
Pub Med:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22704920
Dravet.ORG:
http://dravet.org/about-dravet/what-is-dravet
Australian Science Media Centre:
http://www.smc.org.au/2010/05/rapid-roundup-vaccination-linked-with-early-onset-of-seizures-in-dravet-syndrome-lancet-neurology-–-experts-respond/

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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Polio (poliomyelitis)

What is it?
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause paralysis and death. It is caused by infection by any one of three viruses, called polioviruses.

How do you get it?
You can pick up the virus if your hands, food or drink are contaminated with even tiny amounts of faeces (poo) or coughed up droplets from an infected person.

What does it do to you?
Most infected people do not have any symptoms (but can still spread the virus). 1 in 10 gets sick - developing a fever, headache, vomiting and in some cases severe muscle pain.

If the virus spreads to your brain or spinal cord it can paralyse your arms, legs, neck muscles or even the diaphragm muscle that you use to breathe. Most people paralysed by polio recover, but 1 in 200 infected people is permanently paralysed - e.g. they could need help to walk or breathe for the rest of their life.

For every ten people paralysed by polio, one or two die because they cannot breathe.

How is it treated?
There is no cure for polio. Antibiotics are used to treat secondary (bacterial) infections, while muscle pain and spasms are treated using medication and physiotherapy. For patients who need help to breathe, portable ventilators now replace the 'iron lung' chambers of the 1950s.

How common is it?
650 cases were reported worldwide in 2011. Polio is still 'endemic' in three countries (Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan) - that is the disease is self-sustaining without new cases being brought in from abroad - but large numbers of cases have also been reported in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Australia's last reported case was in 1986, but the World Health Organization warns that as long as even one person remains infected somewhere in the world, all countries are at risk.

Sources
NSW Department of Health (Australia):
http://www0.health.nsw.gov.au/factsheets/infectious/polio.html
Better Health Channel (Victorian Department of Health, Australia): http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Polio_explained
World Health Organization (WHO):
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en
http://apps.who.int/immunization_monitoring/en/globalsummary/timeseries/tsincidencepol.htm

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

What is it?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, a common virus that affects both males and females. It is passed from person to person through sexual contact.

What does it do to you?
HPV can stay in the body over decades, causing changes to cells that can lead to HPV-related cancers and disease in males and females. Different types of HPV can affect different parts of the body, and some types are more harmful than others.

HPV can cause cervical, penile, anal, vulval and vaginal cancers, and some head, neck and throat cancers.

HPV can also cause genital warts, which can be distressing but do not cause cancer.

How is it treated?
There is no treatment for the virus itself, but there are various medical treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause.

How common is it?
Almost all sexually active people (over 80%) will have a HPV infection at some point in their lives. In most cases (around 90%), HPV goes away by itself within a year or two. But in a small percentage of people it can persist and progress to serious health problems, including cancers. It is not yet known why some people will progress and others do not.

HPV doesn’t usually cause symptoms, so people infected with the virus often may not know they have it.

The vaccine is most effective when given before a person becomes sexually active.

Sources
Immunise Australia Program (HPV):
http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-hpv
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HPV):
http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation:  
http://accf.org.au/

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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Pneumococcal disease

What is it?
Pneumococcal disease is caused by infection with the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Infection can cause a variety of diseases including: pneumonia (infection of the lungs), otitis media (infection of the middle ear) and meningitis (infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord). Infections are more common in winter and spring.

How do you get it?
Most people carry S. pneumoniae in their nose or throat. You can pick up the bacteria by breathing in droplets from a carrier's cough or sneeze, or by touching something they have coughed or sneezed on. In most cases, this won't cause illness, but if your immune system cannot keep the bacteria in check, they may invade other parts of your body.

What does it do to you?
S. pneumoniae bacteria can infect various parts of the body, including ears, lungs (causing pneumonia), blood (causing sepsis) and the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (causing meningitis).

In developing countries, pneumococcal disease kills up to 1 in every 100 people born, and half of the children who survive infection are left with major life-long disabilities such as deafness, mental retardation or seizures.

How is it treated?
Antibiotics are used to help control the bacteria, and other medications for fever and pain.

How common is it?
Pneumococcal disease is the world's number one vaccine-preventable cause of death, killing more than a million people every year. 7% of all deaths among children younger than five years old, worldwide, are thought to be caused by S. pneumoniae bacteria.

Sources
Better Health Channel (Victorian Department of Health, Australia): http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pneumococcal_disease
Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) PneumoADIP team, Lancet 2009 Sep 12; 374(9693):893-902:
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61204-6/abstract
Medical Research Council Laboratories, Gambia, Trop Med Int Health 2000 Mar; 5(3):207-13:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-3156.2000.00535.x/abstract

This is a general summary only. For advice concerning your own health situation, you should seek independent medical advice.

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