Modern Medicine

What diseases have been eliminated by vaccines?
Answered by Discovery Fit & Health
  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. Vaccines are considered by many to be the most successful medical discovery of all time. Many diseases that killed people by the millions are now all but wiped out. Diseases that have been virtually eliminated by modern vaccines include:

    •    Smallpox: Even as late as the 1950s, smallpox was infecting as many as 50 million people a year worldwide [source: WHO]. If it didn't kill you, smallpox could scar you for life or even leave you blind.

    •    Polio: As late as the 1950s, more than 20,000 cases of polio were reported in the U.S. each year, resulting in paralysis or even death. Less than 20 years after a vaccine became available, polio infections were reduced to about 10 total [source: CDC Polio].

    •    Measles: As recently as about 1991, there were 120 deaths from measles in the United States. The disease was practically wiped out in the United States, along with rubella, thanks to the 1971 licensing of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine [source: CDC]. In the first half of 2011, however, there were 156 confirmed cases of measles; these most likely occurred among people who had not been vaccinated and traveled abroad [source: Health Advisory].

    •    Diphtheria: Diphtheria is usually a disease of the throat and nose and is caused by bacteria. Diphtheria is spread through the shared use of personal items and airborne droplets. A vaccine to treat diphtheria was developed in 1913 and has led to a significant drop in mortality rates. However, in parts of the world where people aren't vaccinated on a regular basis, diphtheria still exists. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5,000 people worldwide die every year from diphtheria. In the U.S., diphtheria has been virtually eradicated, with no more than five deaths per year being attributed to it.

    A deadly form of bacterial meningitis has been virtually eliminated among children thanks to vaccines, and vaccines for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, now are being used to help prevent cervical cancer in young women. The World Health Organization has made immunization for many diseases a priority, including an initiative to accelerate development of a vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).


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