MOULTRIE -- The similarities between childhood diseases and terrorists are inescapable:

The microscopic creatures that cause the disease are invisible, as terrorists hiding in a crowd.

Both target the defenseless.

Both leave death and suffering in their wake.

One difference, though, is the arsenal assembled to fight childhood diseases -- and the success that arsenal has had in the past few decades. No one fears diphtheria, polio and other illnesses that struck terror into parents just two generations back.

"Most of today's parents have never seen these diseases and the devastation they can cause," said Zezda Lee, immunization coordinator with the Colquitt County Health Department.

The success is largely attributable to immunization -- a series of vaccinations given during childhood that makes the recipient immune to the diseases. Lee said, though, that the battle isn't won. More than 1 million U.S. children are not adequately immunized, she said, and every day 11,000 more are born. Meanwhile, germs are constantly being brought to America by travelers to and from other countries where immunization has not been as successful.

When the migrant germ meets an unimmunized boy or girl, the result can be one very sick child.

But it goes beyond that, Lee said. Because there are so many unimmunized children it becomes a community health issue, she said. Immunization will protect not only the individual child, but the entire community.

Next week, April 25-May 1, is National Infant Immunization Week, a national effort to inform parents and caregivers of the need for vaccination.

Children from birth to 18 months receive about 20 shots, Lee said. They protect them from about 10 diseases, and the children won't need a booster shot until age 4. For those reasons, the national effort is concentrating on infants, Lee said, but all parents need to see if their children's vaccinations are up-to-date. If they aren't, she said, they should visit their pediatrician or the health department.

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