is used in infants to prevent three diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
(whooping cough). The vaccine works by causing the body to produce its own
protection (antibodies) against these diseases.
tetanus, and pertussis are all serious life-threatening diseases caused by
Diphtheria mainly affects the airways and sometimes
the skin. Generally the airways become inflamed
(swollen) causing severe breathing difficulties and sometimes suffocation. The
bacteria also release a toxin (poison), which can cause nerve damage, heart
problems, and death. The risk of serious complications and death is greater in
the very young and elderly.
Tetanus bacteria enter the body through wounded skin. Wounds that are
especially prone to infection are burns, fractures, deep wounds or wounds
contaminated with soil, dust, horse manure or wood splinters. The bacteria
release a toxin (poison), which can cause muscle stiffness, painful muscle
spasms, fits and death. The spasms can be strong enough to cause bone fractures
of the spine. The death rate is 30-40% of cases.
Pertussis is a highly infectious illness. The disease affects the breathing
tract causing severe spells of coughing that may interfere with normal
breathing. The coughing is often accompanied by a ‘whooping’ sound. The cough
may last for 1-2 months or longer. Pertussis can also cause inner ear
infections, long-lasting bronchitis, pneumonia, fits, brain damage and death.
The risk of severe complications and death is greatest in infants under 6
months of age. The death rate is 0.5% for infants under 6 months of age.