Inoculations for domestic use
Speaking of the plague, those of us who travel a lot – and are prudent – tend to keep our inoculations up to date.
Those who travel less tend to ignore the risks of disease if the probability of catching them seems low. Thus, for example, we know that yellow fever has occurred of late in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. In most cases the disease has been largely out of cities, but mosquitoes don’t have the best sense of geography, and sometimes drift a bit. We therefore keep our yellow fever inoculation current: It needs to be renewed once a decade, which doesn’t seem all that onerous to us, all things considered. Less sophisticated travelers believe that you are only at risk in the jungle, but not by the pool, and don’t bother. Most of the time this is true, though we would rather get another shot each decade than test the odds. What do we have current? Our little yellow folder indicates yellow fever, hep A, hep B, tetanus, typhoid, and rabies. For more arcane diseases like meningococcal disease, we tend to ignore the inoculations unless we are going to a known area of risk. Cholera vaccinations have been found to give brief and incomplete protection, and are no longer recommended by the CDC, which conforms to our last experience of getting a cholera vaccination, followed shortly thereafter by getting cholera while abroad. Nor is plague vaccine readily available these days.
But what if you don’t travel internationally? Prudence says that you should be current on Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Flu (Influenza), and Tetanus and Diphtheria (Td). We assume you had your measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and chickenpox vaccines and polio vaccines when you were a child. There is some risk in getting vaccinated: The uncle of one our editors died, long before we were born, as a result of getting a smallpox vaccination. While this was a family tragedy, the overall benefit of universal vaccination far outweighed the personal cost.
The need for vaccination increases in times of crisis. We all saw, very graphically, that the counties affected by hurricane Katrina soon resembled a third-world area, with the health risks skyrocketing. Post-Katrina was a time to be glad that your inoculations were current pre-Katrina. Speak with your doctor when you get your next physical, and make sure your vaccinations and inoculations are current.