What is chickenpox and what causes it?
Chickenpox is a very common illness. It is caused by a virus and most people catch it during their childhood. If you haven’t had chickenpox as a child you can still get it as an adult. Chickenpox is also referred to as varicella, which is the name of the virus that causes it. Once you have had chickenpox, you’re usually immune for life but you could develop shingles at a later point in life.
Chickenpox signs and symptoms:
Although it’s not usually dangerous, chickenpox can be very unpleasant as it causes an itchy rash and a fever. In most cases, the symptoms clear within a week. The virus can be dangerous for patients with an impaired immune system, newborn babies and pregnant women.
You need two doses to be protected and the second dose should be given at least four but no later than eight weeks after you have received your initial dose. Once you have completed the course, you won’t need further boosters.
What is HPV and what causes it?
The human papilloma virus HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
The vaccine is routinely offered to girls between the ages of 12 and 13 as part of the NHS vaccination programme and is offered for free to girls from age 12 up to their 18th birthday, but it is also recommended for men and women under the age of 27 in order to help protect them against these diseases.
The vaccine protects against the HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts. Genital warts are benign growths which occur in the genital area. They are not dangerous but they need to be treated, and you can also pass them onto other sexual partners. Once you have been infected, you may remain contagious for life and the warts can recur at any point in life, especially if your immune system is weakened. Types 16 and 18 (and others) are the primary cause of cervical cancer in women and they are also associated with cancers of the vagina, throat, penis and anus.
HPV Signs and Symptoms:
In many cases, infection does not cause any symptoms, but it can cause genital warts, and even lead to genital cancers, including cervical cancer (the second most common form of cancer in young women). The infection often clears by itself due to your body’s immune response. In some cases, however, the infection persists and remains unnoticed. In these cases, it could lead to cancerous lesions. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer and infection with certain types of HPV greatly increases your risk of getting cervical cancer
How to minimise risk of HPV:
The use of condoms reduces your risk of contracting HPV. However, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing HPV infection as the virus can be present on the skin in the entire genital area.
The HPV vaccines consists of two or three doses depending on age. If you are 15 or older, you require three doses to be protected. The second dose should be given at least one month after the first. The third dose has to be given at least three months after the second dose. All three doses have to be given within the course of one year.
What is influenza and what causes it?
The flu is a common viral infection. It is an airborne virus that spreads by little droplets, usually by coughs and sneezes. It is particularly common during the winter months and causes unpleasant symptoms, which can last for days. Although the symptoms tend to clear within a week in people who are otherwise healthy, it can cause serious complications in pregnant women, patients over the age of 65, children and people with an impaired immune system. Free flu vaccinations are available for eligible patients aged between 18-65 years; please ask us for more details.
Flu signs and symptoms:
Common symptoms include fever, headache, shivering, body temperatures, sore throat, muscle aches, tiredness, difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite, pain, shivering, cough, nausea and vomiting.
The vaccine is seasonal and you require one dose every year as the strain of flu is constantly changing and the vaccine is specific to this.
These are highly infectious conditions that can have serious or potentially fatal outcomes, such as deafness, meningitis or swelling of the brain (encephalitis). Children have been routinely vaccinated against them since the vaccine was introduced in 1988. Outbreaks don’t happen very often in the UK but it is still important to keep your vaccine status up to date.
Due to an increased risk of these diseases, it is advised to don’t travel to the following places without getting vaccinated for MMR:
- Much of Asia
- The indian sub-continent
- South America
- Saudi Arabia (for Hajj or Umrah for example) – this is strongly recommended due to recent outbreaks
MMR Signs and Symptoms
Measles is characterised by an increased temperature, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and a red, pinpoint rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. If the measles virus infects the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Some older children infected with the virus suffer from encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can cause seizures and permanent brain damage.
The mumps virus usually causes swelling in the salivary or parotid glands, just below the ears, giving the appearance of “hamster face.
Rubella is also known as German measles. In children, rubella infection causes a mild rash on the face, swelling of glands behind the ears and in some cases swelling of the small joints and a low-grade fever. Most children recover quickly from rubella with no lasting effects.
The vaccine consists of two doses; doses are spread out over months depending on age and if the vaccine is required for travel.
What is Meningitis B and what causes it?
Meningococcal meningitis is caused by bacteria easily passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimately kissing. If the bacteria passes into the bloodstream it quickly multiplies and releases toxins that can cause widespread damage to the body.
Blood vessels are damaged preventing the vital flow of oxygen to all organs of the body. Damage to the lining of the brain can lead to the infection of the cerebrospinal fluid and the inflammation and pressure around the brain can lead to nerve damage.
Meningitis Signs and Symptoms
Bacterial meningitis symptoms may develop within hours. Viral meningitis symptoms may also develop quickly or over several days.
High temperature, headache and neck stiffness are the main symptoms of meningitis. Below are the more common signs and symptoms of both types, though not all will necessarily appear, and they may not appear in this order:
- A severe headache
- Nausea (feeling sick)
- Vomiting (being sick)
- Feeling generally unwell
As the condition gets worse it may cause:
- Seizures or fits
- Being unable to tolerate bright lights (less common in young children)
- A stiff neck (less common in young children)
- Rapid breathing
- A blotchy red rash that does not fade or change colour when you press a glass against it is a sign of septicaemia (blood poisoning) and is not always present and when it does appear it is in the later stages of the illness
The course consists of two to three doses depending on your age and you only require a booster if under the age of 2.
What is Pneumococcal infection and what causes it?
The pneumococcal vaccine protects you against pneumococcal infections, which can be dangerous and potentially fatal. It is sometimes called the ‘pneumo jab’ or the pneumonia vaccine.
There are more than 90 different strains of S. pneumoniae, and some are much more likely to cause serious infection (virulent) than others. Some strains can be easily killed by the immune system, while others are resistant and likely to cause a more serious infection.
It’s important to emphasise that pneumococcal infections are far less contagious than a cold or flu. This is because most people’s immune systems are able to kill the bacteria before they have the opportunity to cause an infection.
Pneumococcal signs and symptoms:
Some common symptoms include a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, chills, sweats aches and pains, headache a general sense of feeling unwell.
How to minimise risk of catching and spreading pneumococcal?
Simple hygiene methods include washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, particularly after touching your nose and mouth, and before handling food, coughing and sneezing into a tissue, throwing it away immediately and washing your hands and not sharing cups or kitchen utensils with others.
There are two different types of the vaccine and both consist of a single dose:
- the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for children
- the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) for adults
The vaccination is free on the NHS for those who are at high risk so please check beforehand with your GP if you are eligible for this.
What is shingles and what causes it?
Shingles is a viral infection of the nerve and surrounding skin, also known as herpes zoster. It is caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. While you will usually only get chickenpox once in your life, the virus that causes it remains in your body. If it becomes active again at a later date, it causes shingles rather than chickenpox.
Shingles Signs and symptoms
These early symptoms can include a headache, burning, tingling, numbness or itchiness of the skin in the affected area, a feeling of being generally unwell and a high temperature (fever). An episode of shingles typically lasts around two to four weeks. It usually affects a specific area on just one side of the body. There is sharp pain and this is followed by a rash which can be red and scab over after 4 weeks.
The shingles vaccine is a live vaccine, which means it contains a weakened version of the virus that causes shingles. You only require one dose and no booster is needed.