Published in: Today Digital
Author: Dr. Claudia María Scharf, Pediatrician, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the General Hospital of the Plaza de la Salud.
The warning issued recently by the health authorities about the occurrence of cases of diphtheria and secondary deaths from this disease in Haiti, has caused great stir and concern in our country and comes to remind us of the importance of immunization programs against preventable diseases and their maintenance over time with due supervision.
Examples we find daily in the recent press about the danger that threatens us in relation to the issue of virtually eradicated diseases that are returning, and is that as never now, the saying of the grandmothers that "the world is a handkerchief "It had been so true. We were warned last year by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) about the return of measles to the Americas; Countries such as Argentina, Canada, the United States and Venezuela reported numerous confirmed cases of the disease and in the first months of this year Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru joined the list.
Previous cases of measles and diphtheria have already been reported in some European countries, and recent outbreaks of mumps have been reported in some cities in the United States. If we continued to investigate, the list of safe countries would continue to grow.
The reasons for the reappearance of diseases that were thought controlled vary depending on the country, but two main ones can be mentioned. In the industrialized countries the emergence of anti-vaccine groups has been the main cause; These groups have blamed the vaccines for being responsible for other illnesses in vogue today (autism, among others) and they have carried out very intense campaigns that have progressively penetrated the thinking and action of many communities. It must be clarified that until now it has not been possible to seriously prove a cause-effect relationship of the vaccines with the aforementioned diseases, but that has not stopped the rejection by these groups. In countries with less advanced economies, the reason almost always arises from the complete non-compliance with immunization norms and protocols in terms of universal coverage, follow-up and reinforcements, a situation that promotes and allows the sporadic appearance of outbreaks and the inability to control and eradicate of certain diseases.
Both one reason and the other interfere with the possibility of directly and actively preventing certain disease and protecting the general population not yet immunized through what is known as "herd immunity" or group, where protection is given in the presence of a high percentage of protected individuals.
The risk of this is obvious: increase in cases of illness, sequelae and secondary deaths, not to mention the emotional and economic expense that brings families, society and the country in general, forced to redirect the investment of time and health resources.
The globalization, and therefore the diminution of the distances between the countries, makes that the uncontrol of certain diseases in a certain place becomes a concern and a problem for the rest of the world; Borders exist, but diseases do not respect them, so this warning should not leave us indifferent and it is necessary to take the appropriate actions, in a particular way, community and state.