Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that affects between 600,000 and 1 million people in the United States every year. However, only 2.1 percent of adults have been vaccinated to protect against the disease.
Whooping cough causes uncontrollable deep coughing and is highly contagious. If one person in a family has it, there is a 90 percent chance each person in the house will catch it as well.
"If an adult gets whooping cough, it's an annoyance. You cough for several weeks or even several months," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. "But, if you give it to a baby, it can be very, very serious, even fatal."
See the difference between adult and child whooping cough.
Ten years ago, Amy, 29, was a healthy, active teenager until one day, she began experiencing flu-like symptoms. Within hours, her symptoms worsened, and Amy learned it was something much worse -- bacterial meningitis.
"I was a healthy 19-year-old," Amy says. "I started to feel like I was coming down with something, kind of like a little flu. I had a slight temperature of 101 that night and I was a little bit achy, but overall it just felt like I had the flu. But the next day, everything progressed really fast. And when I stood up, I realized I couldn't feel my feet and I looked down and my feet were purple, my hands were purple. I looked in the mirror and my nose, my cheeks and my ears were purple. And I didn't realize, but at that point I was in septic shock and I was basically dying."
Amy was rushed to the hospital and within hours, her entire body began shutting down, and she fell into a coma. Doctors were forced to amputate both of Amy's legs below the knees, and, at that time, gave her less than a 2 percent chance of survival. Amy defied the odds and later learned that her nightmare could have been avoided.
"We found out that there was a vaccination that could have prevented me from going through this in the first place," Amy says.
"We used to do this vaccine right before college," Dr. Jim says. "But a lot of kids were falling through the cracks. That's why we do it now, starting at age 11."
The vaccine is recommended for any child ages 11-19, as well as anyone who is going to be in close quarters, such as students in dorms, people in the military and camps.
"The crazy thing about bacterial meningitis is that it does start off with flu-like symptoms," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "But it progresses and you'll get a stiff neck oftentimes, this terrible headache. And if you get symptoms like that, you can't ignore it because there are treatments the sooner you get to the hospital."
Seven months after her meningitis scare and the loss of her legs, Amy began snowboarding competitively, using prosthetics. She also teaches others how to snowboard. Amy is also a model, actress and public speaker.
"I don't focus on what I've lost," she says. "I focus on everything that I've gained. I'm happy, I live a pretty good life."
Rabies is a potentially fatal, yet preventable disease that is contracted by the bite of an infected animal.
Its most common carriers are raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes and wolves. Even if your pet doesn't spend a lot of time unattended outdoors, it's imperative to immunize him or her with the rabies vaccine.
Veterinarian Dr. Alan Schulman explains the signs and symptoms of rabies.
Hear from Jeanna, 20, who is the first person to ever survive a rabies infection without the vaccine, and find out what to do if you are bitten by a rabid animal.
The swine flu outbreak has many people are wondering how they can protect themselves against the latest strain of the virus. It's that time of year again. Find out what you need to know about flu shots!
MMR and Pregnancy
It's important for everyone to get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) but knowing when to get it is key, if you didn't have it as a child.
"For pregnant women, it's different, because they can pass on different antibodies and antigens to the fetus," OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. "In pregnant women, if there is a live vaccine, it is usually advised that they don't get it in pregnancy, so a pregnant woman cannot get the MMR vaccine. But she should get it three months before she wants to get pregnant if she's never been vaccinated because it's much more severe if she gets one of those illnesses when she's pregnant."