Immunizations Still Help Fight Off Serious Illnesses
Infection control nurse
Photo by David Christopher

Jennifer Burns, APN, CPNP, pediatric nurse practitioner for infectious diseases and medical director of the Family Travel Clinic.
By Kelin Hall

If a child has a sore throat, a fever or swollen glands, you might schedule a doctor’s appointment and worry that it’s the latest strain of influenza. Your first instinct probably would not be to double check your child’s immunization record for mumps and measles.
But maybe it should be. These diseases also begin with flu-like symptoms, and this past February, more than 1,500 people in the New York metropolitan area were diagnosed with mumps. In 2006, more than 100 people in Illinois were diagnosed.

“It’s always startling to see that we can have vaccine-preventable illnesses pop up because of under-vaccination,” said Jennifer Burns, APN, CPNP, pediatric nurse practitioner for infectious diseases and medical director of the Family Travel Clinic. “We forget that those diseases still pose such a threat.”

Since widespread vaccination has all but eradicated mumps and measles, most people don’t think about them or remember their serious complications, including pneumonia, viral meningitis, seizures, hearing loss and sterility in men. In 2008, only 78 percent of Chicago’s toddlers had completed the basic vaccination series recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

To prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases, over the past 50 years Illinois legislators have mandated vaccination for those entering institutions with high rates of transmission: daycares, schools and health care centers.

Schools and child care facilities may exclude your child if you cannot produce a health care provider’s signature verifying the date and month of his or her immunization. Students may be exempt from immunization for religious or medical reasons with prior state permission and will not be excluded from attendance if they are homeless.

The required vaccinations immunize against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, hepatitis B and varicella, or chicken pox. Your child should receive his or her immunizations during the first two years of life over the course of several months. Before entering school, children between ages 4 and 6 need several additional shots to boost their immunity. A full vaccination schedule may be found on the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Your primary care physician can explain and administer the vaccines at your child’s yearly physical examination, which also is required by law for children in kindergarten through third grade. For a referral to a Medical Center physician covered by your employee insurance, call the HealthLink physician referral service at 888-824-0200.

Post-secondary educational institutions, including technical and continuing education programs, colleges and graduate schools, also require proof of immunity, with requirements varying by school. Contact your school’s health center for specifics.  

To protect employees and patients, the Medical Center requires tuberculosis screenings and documented immunity to measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B. To check your immunization status or schedule an appointment, contact the Department of Occupational Medicine at 773-702-6757.