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Diseases & Vaccines

Before immunizations, diseases such as meningococcal made many people sick, sending some people to the hospital, and even causing serious complication and death.

Today, routine immunizations have significantly reduced illness, death, and the spread of these diseases in Canada and around the world. Despite this, vaccine-preventable diseases still pose a threat in places where immunizations rates have dropped or a disease continues to spread and cause outbreaks. An example is measles, a disease that can spread very easily from person to person. With globalization, these diseases that have not yet been eradicated can still come to Canada and cause serious complications and harm, especially to those who are not immunized or who are unable to be immunized due to medication conditions.

To learn more about diseases that can be prevented by routine immunizations, select the disease from the list below.

 

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a contagious disease, caused by bacteria, that affects the nose, throat, or skin.

What are the symptoms?

Some individuals infected with diphtheria do not look or feel sick. Others have difficulty swallowing and develop a sore throat, fever, and chills. People with diphtheria can also suffer from suffocation, paralysis, heart failure, or coma; these may also cause death.

How is it spread?

Diphtheria is spread by direct contact with an infected person. You can also become infected through airborne droplets spread from the nose or throat of an infected person.

Who is at risk?

People who are inadequately immunized or not immunized who travel to areas where diphtheria is common are at higher risk of getting diphtheria.  

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

DTaP-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

DTaP-IPV: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

For adults:

Tdap: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine

Tdap-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Td: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid vaccine

Td-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)

Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) is a bacterial infection that can cause blood infection (sepsis), brain infection (meningitis) and lung infection (pneumonia). Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk of contracting Hib.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Hib change based on where the infection is found: in the blood, the brain or the lungs.

Blood infection:

These symptoms include fever, confusion, headaches, body aches and a general feeling of being unwell.

Brain infection:

These symptoms include fever, severe headaches, changes in behaviour, and a stiff neck and back. Complications can cause deafness, seizures, paralysis, brain damage and death.

Lung infection:

People with lung infections suffer from fever, have difficulty breathing, and may cough up thick mucus.

How is it spread?

Hib is spread through coughing and sneezing. You can also become infected by touching objects that someone with Hib has touched, sneezed on, or coughed on. 

Who is at risk?

Children attending group child care centres, Inuit children, and persons who had received a cochlear implant.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

For adults:

Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver.

What are the symptoms?

People infected with hepatitis A may not develop any symptoms; others can develop fever, fatigue, anorexia due to a loss in appetite, nausea, stomach pain, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (known as jaundice).

How is it spread?

Hepatitis A can be spread when stool contaminated by the virus comes in contact with the mouth, usually through contaminated water or from unwashed hands. It can also be spread through food that has been prepared with contaminated water.

Who is at risk?

Persons at increased risk of hepatitis A infection include:

  • Travellers to countries where hepatitis A is endemic
  • Close contacts of an acute hepatitis A case
  • Those who live in correctional facilities and facilities for developmentally challenged individuals
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Street drug users
  • Close contacts of children adopted from HA-endemic countries
  • Those who live in some Aboriginal communities.

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

HA: Inactivated hepatitis A vaccine

HAHB: Combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine

For adults:

HA: Inactivated hepatitis A vaccine

HA-Typh-I: Combined polysaccharide typhoid and inactivated hepatitis A vaccine

HAHB: Combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a contagious viral infection of the liver. The disease can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic).

What are the symptoms?

Acute hepatitis B can cause fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and yellowing of the skin and eyes. It can also lead to chronic hepatitis B. Some people do not develop symptoms of illness.

Chronic hepatitis B can cause serious liver disease such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.

How is it spread?

Hepatitis B is spread person to person when people come into contact with blood and bodily fluids that are infected with the disease. About half of those infected do not know that they are infected. These people become chronic carriers of the virus; they remain contagious for as long as the virus remains in their liver. The virus is present in the blood, vaginal secretions, semen and saliva of contagious individuals; it spreads most often through sexual contact and shared needles. Infected individuals will likely experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and yellow skin and eyes.

Who is at high risk of infection?

Persons at increased risk of hepatitis B infection include:

  • People who live with a person who has hepatitis B virus infection
  • Health care or public safety workers who are regularly exposed to blood or bodily fluids
  • Individuals with bleeding disorders that require transfusions
  • Individuals on kidney dialysis
  • Immigrants from countries where hepatitis B is common
  • People who use street drugs
  • Individuals with a sexually transmitted disease
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Individuals who work with people with developmental disabilities
  • Individuals with chronic liver disease
  • Individuals who work or live in a correctional facility

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

HAHB: Combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine

For adults:

HB: Recombinant hepatitis B vaccines

HAHB: Combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is a painful disease that results from the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes varicella (chickenpox).

What are the symptoms?

You may feel itching, tingling, burning or pain in a specific area of the body, typically on one side of the body or face, prior to the appearance of a blistering rash. For most people, the pain associated with the shingles rash usually lessens as it heals. For some, shingles can cause severe pain after the rash has healed, which can last for months or years.

How is it spread?

After you have the varicella (chickenpox) infection, the virus lies dormant for many years. It can become active again and present itself in the form of shingles. Shingles is an often debilitating and blistering rash that typically affects a side of your body or face. Some people experience severe long-term pain after the shingles rash has disappeared. These people also face other complications, including skin infections and scarring, which can interfere with normal day-to-day activities.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has had varicella (chickenpox) is at risk of infection.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

Zos (herpes zoster vaccine): varicella zoster vaccine, live, attenuated

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection.

What are the symptoms?

Most individuals infected with HPV have no symptoms. They can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it. For some individuals, infections will go away without treatment within a couple of years, but others may develop HPV-related complications such as genital or anogenital warts, cervical, penile, anal, head or neck cancer.

How is it spread?

HPV is passed on through genital contact with an infected person.

Who is at risk?

Those who are most at risk include:

  • Individuals who have several sexual partners
  • Individuals who have had a previous sexually transmitted infection
  • Individuals with immune suppression
  • Individuals with HIV infection
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

HPV2: Bivalent HPV vaccine

HPV4: Quadrivalent HPV vaccine

HPV9: Nine-valent HPV vaccine

Influenza

Influenza, or the flu, is a highly contagious and infectious respiratory disease.

What are the symptoms?

The flu causes fever, sore throat, tiredness, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pain. Complications of the flu can result in trouble breathing, convulsions, seizures, and pneumonia.

How is it spread?

The flu can spread through coughing and sneezing. You can become infected by coming in close contact with someone sick with the flu. You can also become infected by touching objects that someone with the flu has touched, and then touching your eyes or mouth.

Who is at risk?

  • Children under 5 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic conditions such as: heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders diabetes, severe obesity, asthma and chronic lung disease, neurological disorders, cancer or immune-compromising conditions
  • Aboriginal people
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People who are residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities.

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

TIV (Trivalent inactivated vaccine): protects against three strains of seasonal influenza virus.

High-dose TIV (trivalent inactivated vaccine): protects against three strains of seasonal influenza virus.

aTIV (adjuvanted trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine): protects against three strains of seasonal influenza virus.

QIV (Quadrivalent inactivated vaccine): protects against four strains of seasonal influenza virus.

LAIV (Live attenuated influenza vaccine): protects against three strains of seasonal influenza virus.

 

Pandemic Influenza

An influenza pandemic is declared when a new strain of influenza virus emerges that has never been seen before and begins to spread quickly around the world. As it is a new strain, the population has no immunity against it; therefore, new vaccines need to be developed to provide protection against that specific strain.

For example, in spring 2009, a new strain of the influenza virus, the H1N1 virus, caused a pandemic. As it was a new strain of influenza and because humans had little to no natural immunity to this virus, it caused serious and widespread illness.

Measles

Measles is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. It causes rashes, high fever, runny nose, coughing, and inflammation of the eyelids.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include fever, runny nose, drowsiness, irritability, red eyes, and red blotchy rashes. These symptoms can take 7-14 days to develop.

How is it spread?

Measles is very contagious; it can spread quickly when airborne droplets from an infected person are released when they cough and sneeze.

Who is at risk?

Those who have not had the measles or who have not been vaccinated are at risk of infection.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

MMR: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine

MMRV: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a very serious disease that can lead to brain infection (meningitis) or blood infection (septicemia).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of meningitis include fever, change in behaviour, loss of appetite, vomiting, sore muscles and joints, and stiff neck. Some people have seizures, convulsions or skin rashes. Those who have blood infections may suffer from fever, headaches, body aches, and red spotted skin rashes.

How is it spread?

The meningococcal bacteria can be found in the nose or throat of healthy children, teenagers and adults. You become infected from direct contact with an infected person.

Who is at risk?

Individuals at risk of meningococcal infection include those:

  • with functional or anatomic asplenia (including sickle cell disease)
  • with certain genetic risk factors
  • exposed to an infected person
  • with a respiratory tract infection
  • with a recent influenza infection
  • living in crowded housing
  • with HIV.

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

4CMenB: Multicomponent meningococcal vaccine 

Men-C-C: Monovalent conjugate meningococcal vaccine

Men-C-ACYW-135: Quadrivalent conjugate meningococcal vaccine

Men-P-ACYW-135: Quadrivalent polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine

 

Mumps

Mumps is a disease that causes fever, headache, and swelling of the salivary glands around your jaw and cheeks.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, sore muscles, earaches, a loss of appetite, and swollen salivary glands under the ear or jaw (which can cause your cheeks to bulge out).

How is it spread?

Mumps is spread through direct contact with the saliva of an infected person.

Who is at risk?

People who are at risk of infection include those who have not had mumps or who have not been vaccinated. Students in secondary and post-secondary educational settings, military personnel, health care workers, and travellers are at the greatest risk of getting mumps.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

MMR: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine

MMRV: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. Infection can lead to uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing. It is most severe in infants under the age of 1.  

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms are similar to that of the common cold, which include mild fever, coughing, a runny nose, and watery eyes. As the disease progresses, the coughing gets worse; problems with coughing can last from six to 12 weeks. Severe symptoms can include choking, vomiting, or brain damage; infection can even lead to death.

How is it spread?

Whooping cough is spread by coughing or sneezing. You can be infected while in close contact with others or from sharing personal items or things such as drinks or utensils.

Who is at risk?

People of any age can be affected, although whooping cough is most common in children and most severe in infants under one year of age.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis, and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

DTaP-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

DTaP-IPV: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

For adults:

Tdap: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine

Tdap-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal is a bacterial disease that may lead to three serious infections:

  1. Meningitis (brain infection)
  2. Bacteremia (bloodstream infection)
  3. Pneumonia (lung infection)

 

What are the symptoms?

People with this disease may have a fever, be irritable, and may lose their appetite. Those who have meningitis and bacteremia may have headaches, vomiting, and a stiff neck. Those with pneumonia may cough up thick mucus and have difficulty in breathing. Those with otitis media will have severe ear pain.

How is it spread?

The bacteria are spread from an infected person to another by close contact such as kissing, coughing, and sneezing or sharing items such as cigarettes, toys, and musical instruments.

Who is at risk?

Children:

  • those under the age of 2
  • with cochlear implants
  • who are Aboriginal
  • who attend child care centres
  • with a chronic illness such as sickle cell disease, pulmonary disease, kidney disease, etc.

 

Adults:

  • those who have a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD, splenectomy
  •  who smoke
  •  65 years of age and older.

 

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

Pneu-C-10: Conjugate 10-valent pneumococcal vaccine

Pneu-C-13: Conjugate 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine

For adults:

Pneu-P-23: Pneumococcal 23-valent polysaccharide vaccines

Polio

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a contagious disease that attacks your immune system; it can paralyze muscles and cause death. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who are infected with polio do not show any symptoms. Others have fever, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, headaches and tiredness. As the disease progresses, you may have severe muscle pain and stiffness in your neck and back. This illness can also leave you paralyzed.

How is it spread?

Polio is spread through the fecal-oral route. You can also become infected by coming in contact with the stool of a person who is carrying polio.

Who is at risk?

Polio infections are more common in children under five years of age; however, any person who is not immune to poliovirus can become infected.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

DTaP-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

DTaP-IPV: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

For adults:

Tdap-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Td-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

IPV: Inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a very contagious virus that causes severe inflammation of the stomach and intestine called gastroenteritis. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of rotavirus include fever, vomiting, and non-bloody diarrhea that can lead to mild to severe dehydration.

How is it spread?

Rotavirus is very contagious and can spread by coming in close contact with someone who is infected with the virus. You can also become infected through contact with infected objects (such as toys, doorknobs, counter tops); the infection can occur when you touch the infected object and then touch your mouth or eyes.

Who is at risk?

Rotavirus infection occurs in most healthy children under the age of five; it is the most common diarrheal illness associated with hospitalization. Children under the age of 2 are at the highest risk of being infected.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

Rot-5: live, oral, pentavalent rotavirus vaccine

Rot-1: live, oral monovalent, attenuated human rotavirus vaccine

Rubella

Rubella (German measles) is a disease that causes fever, sore throat and swollen glands. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who are infected with rubella do not show any symptoms. Those who do can have a low fever, cold-like symptoms, a pink or red rash, achy joints, and slightly swollen glands. 

How is it spread?

Rubella is spread through coughing and sneezing. You can also become infected by coming in close contact with someone who is sick with rubella.

Who is at risk?

People of any age who have not been vaccinated or have not had rubella disease are at risk of being infected.

A pregnant woman who becomes infected with rubella can pass the disease on to her child before it is born. Rubella infection affects all the fetus' organs, and can cause congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) – a serious disease that can cause major birth defects in the baby, or miscarriage or stillbirth. Babies with CRS may be affected by deafness, defects of the eye, heart, or brain, or other lifelong physical or mental disabilities.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

MMR: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine

MMRV: Live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine

Tetanus (Lockjaw)

Tetanus is a serious and often deadly disease caused by bacteria that live in dirt, dust and soil.  

What are the symptoms?

The toxin that is released into the body affects the nervous system, causing painful muscle spasms. The first symptom is usually spasm of the jaw muscles ("lockjaw") followed by painful spasms of muscles in the face, neck, chest, abdomen, arms, and legs.

How is it spread?

Most people think they can get tetanus from stepping on a rusty nail. While this is true, you can get tetanus just as easily from a small scrape or a cut. You can get tetanus from any object that breaks open your skin while working in the garden or doing repairs to your home, or even from an animal bite.  

Who is at risk?

People of all ages can be affected by tetanus.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

For children:

DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated poliomyelitis and conjugated Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine

DTaP-IPV-Hib: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine

DTaP-IPV: Diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

For adults:

Tdap: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine

Tdap-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine combined with inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

Td: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid vaccine

Td-IPV: Tetanus and diphtheria toxoid and inactivated poliomyelitis vaccine

 

Varicella (Chickenpox)

Varicella (chickenpox) is a viral disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include a slight fever, headaches, a runny nose, fluid-filled blisters, and a general ill feeling.

How is it spread?

The virus is spread by direct contact with fluid in the lesions, or through airborne spread from the respiratory tract of an infected person.

Who is at risk?

Most infections, and most of the severe cases, occur in children under the age of 12 who are unvaccinated. However, the risk of severe varicella infection increases with age. Adults, particularly pregnant women, are at increased risk of severe disease. Children with impaired immunity are at risk of severe varicella and death.

What vaccine is used to prevent it?

Var: live, attenuated, univalent virus vaccine

MMRV: live, attenuated, combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine


Last Updated: 25 August 2017