No More Meningitis

24 04 2015

Abby says keep feet T

We don’t really need to say more.





Gambling With Risk Is Not Worth It

6 04 2015

I can’t think of a vaccine-preventable disease that kills or permanently damages 100 percent of those infected.

It’s a safe bet that if there were such a disease, we’d all be vaccinated against it. We’d all demand to be vaccinated against it.

The diseases we can prevent vary in how they affect us. Some, such as measles, will infect almost every person not protected by a vaccine. They’ll probably not feel good, but the diseases won’t kill or permanently damage every person.

In the case of measles, about one out of 1,000 infected kids will experience swelling of the brain, and one or two will die from the infection.

So not every person will be killed or permanently damaged.

Meningitis may infect a lot of people. Most are walking around with the bacteria in their nose or throat but they’re not going to get sick.

Rarely, someone will become infected and will get sick. And when that happens, it can cause brain damage, loss of hearing, loss of limbs, or death.

But it’s another disease that’s not going to kill or permanently damage everyone infected.

We could go through each vaccine-preventable disease and talk about how many infected people will have permanent damage or die from the infection. In all cases, the majority of those infected will live, and they will have no permanent damage from the disease.

I still get my kids vaccinated against every disease for which there is a vaccine.

No one is more precious to me than my girls and every parent I know feels the same about their kids. Dad and daughter on beach

I can’t risk either of my children living with or dying from an infection I could have prevented with a quick vaccination.

I’ve been reading about vaccines for two decades. We have more scientists on our advisory board than I can count, and I’ve been listening to them talk about every aspect of vaccines and vaccinations for two decades.

There is nothing that is going to happen from vaccinating my girls other than a sore arm or short fever. I can live with that. More to the point, they can live with that. The risk for my girls is not in the vaccine, but in the not vaccinating.

When my girls were tiny, I buckled them in before driving anywhere, and as they grew older, I wouldn’t take the car out of park until they were buckled.

Of all of the cars on the road at any one time, very few of them will be in an accident. And few of those accidents will result in permanent damage or the death of a person. We all know that. We still buckle our kids in before we leave the driveway.

It doesn’t matter how small the risk is to our kids, if we can protect them, we will.

The next time you hear a friend say they’re not going to vaccinate their kids, or they’re going to wait and stretch out the vaccines over time, take a minute to talk to them about why we practice prevention, even when the odds are in our favor.

 

by Trish Parnell





To Vaccinate Or Not: One Family’s Journey

9 02 2015

When I had my first child over a decade ago, the idea of not vaccinating was one I was wholly unfamiliar with. I followed all of the suggestions of the doctor in regards to care for my baby and didn’t question whether the guidelines I followed were best practice or not.

When my toddler had a reaction after her one-year shots, all of that came screeching to a halt.

Getting online to connect with other parents with similar concerns was a frightening experience. All of a sudden there was a ton of information about vaccinations and none of it felt terribly positive.

I stopped vaccinating. I was afraid more of the shots hurting my child than I was of the diseases the shots are designed to prevent. I didn’t vaccinate my other children at all when I had them and became a part of an online community that supported “natural health” and healing.

I spent many years never questioning this choice. There are so many things that really make vaccinations terrifying online—the idea of doing something that can injure or kill your child while trying to avoid minor diseases seemed simple and clear.

Slowly things started to change. The news started covering more outbreaks of diseases that were previously rare. Weighing out the odds of catching a disease vs. having a reaction seems very different when diseases are no longer mostly eradicated.

Information about the shady dealings of Wakefield about the tie between the MMR vaccine and autism came to light.

I changed where I was reading online at this point, as well. I really found the Red Wine and Applesauce blog to be a source of comforting and factual information.

I talked to other families that had previously not vaccinated and now were. My husband read with me and talked to other families. We talked to our pediatrician about why we had made our previous choices as well as why we were considering changing and listened.

Finally, we decided to try a single shot. We picked DTaP because of pertussis in the area, and vaccinated all the kids.

We then closely watched all of them for something terrible to happen. The hours and then days following that first shot were frightening—despite all that we had read about the low chances of side effects there was still years of seeing people blame vaccines for tons of injuries in children.

Nothing bad happened. Everyone ran a slight fever and then they were fine. The next time we went back we started to use the CDC’s catch-up schedule.

I do not regret catching the kids up on their shots. Talking to vaccine-hesitant people is productive and we can all work together to protect our kids—all of them.

 

The author chose to remain anonymous due to differences of opinion with members of her extended family.





What Is Meningitis, Anyway?

27 01 2015

At PKIDs, we help families affected by infectious diseases, and we work to educate ourselves and others about these diseases. Our goal is to prevent infections.

In 2015, we’re turning the spotlight on meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease.

Meningitis is scary—and confusing. For instance, if I say that I have meningitis, it sounds like I’m saying I’m infected with a No More Meningitisgerm called meningitis. But, there is no germ called “meningitis.”

Adding to the confusion is the fact that we tend to use that term loosely for what should be called “meningococcal disease.”

Meningococcal disease causes meningitis, and it may also cause blood poisoning (septicemia).

WHAT IS MENINGITIS?

Our brains and spinal cords are protected by three layers of tissues, one on top of the other, along with a thin river of fluid that runs between the middle and bottom layers. That river, the cerebrospinal fluid, helps the tissues cushion the brain and spinal cord. It also brings in food and takes out trash from the brain.

These tissues that protect our brains and spinal cords are called membranes, or meninges. The whole setup reminds me of a hand in a baseball glove; the hand and wrist are the brain and spinal cord, and the layers of the glove are the meninges.

When I say that I have meningitis, I’m saying my meninges, those tissues layered over my brain and spinal cord, are swollen or inflamed.

This swelling usually causes symptoms that are typical and a tip-off that a person is suffering from meningitis. Those symptoms include fever, a stiff neck, and a severe headache.

There are other symptoms that may be happening, but those three are the most common.

Lots of things can cause meningitis, and they’re not all germs. But the cause of most concern is bacteria.

When certain bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidis, cause meningitis, it’s called bacterial meningitis.

The bacteria can get into the bloodstream, cross the blood-brain barrier, and cause meningitis, as described above. They get into the river, the cerebrospinal fluid, and multiply like crazy, spitting out poison. The tissues react to the poison by becoming swollen and inflamed. If it gets bad enough, the swelling may cause seizures, or even brain damage.

WHAT IS BLOOD POISONING?

When bacteria such as Neisseria meningitidis get into the bloodstream, they can cause septicemia, or blood poisoning.

The poison released by the bacteria into the bloodstream makes the immune system wake up and start fighting. This war between the bacteria and the immune system can cause inflammation, or sepsis, which in turn can cause blood clots, and it may stop oxygen from getting to the organs. If this happens, the infected person may lose limbs, organs, and sometimes, his or her life. This can happen within hours of initial infection.

HOW TO PREVENT MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE

The bacteria that cause meningitis, and possibly septicemia, can spread in many ways, including through a kiss or a cough, a sneeze or a sip on a shared straw.

To avoid infection, we do the same things we do when we’re trying to avoid influenza.

  • Wash our hands.
  • Keep our hands off of our nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Don’t share items like food, forks, lipstick—anything that can transfer germs from another person’s mouth to our own.
  • Get immunized. There are several germs that cause meningococcal disease, and luckily, there are several vaccines to protect us. Ask your provider which vaccines are appropriate for your age and immunization history.
  • Keep our immune system strong by doing all those things we hear about: exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Be responsible and cover our coughs and sneezes. We don’t want to spread infections that we may have.

There are certain groups that are at greater risk of becoming infected with meningococcal disease: those living in close quarters with large groups of people, such as youth campers, dorm residents, or military barrack inhabitants; individuals whose immune systems are compromised; travelers to regions where meningococcal disease is common; or people exposed to others who are currently infected and infectious.

The harm that can come from this infection is so great, it’s simply not worth the risk. We all need to get ourselves and our loved ones in to see our provider for vaccination against this truly horrible disease.

by Trish Parnell





Meningitis B Vaccine – Who Gets It?

19 01 2015

My whole life is on the Outlook calendar. Birthdays, meetings, to-do lists, reminders—when anything pops up, it goes on the calendar. Doesn’t matter if it’s four days or four years from now, it gets noted.

In a few months, my younger daughter will be 16. If you sat at my computer and clicked to that day, you’d find two things: 1) Bug’s birthday and, 2) Call to get mening booster for Bug. (Don’t tell her I called her Bug in this blog, but that is what you’d read in my calendar. It stands for Love Bug.)

Meningitis, or more accurately, meningococcal disease, is the real version of the monster under the bed. That’s how scared I am of this disease.

Love Bug - the early years.

Love Bug – the early years.

It’s not as common as flu, but when it strikes, it can kill or do horrendous damage to the body within hours of the first symptom appearing.

In the US, we have vaccines we use against several strains of the disease.

In the fall of 2014, the FDA approved a vaccine against serogroup B, a strain not found in our current vaccines. There’s at least one other vaccine against serogroup B that’s waiting for approval from the FDA, and I’m guessing that approval won’t be long in coming.

Because we haven’t had a vaccine against serogroup B, we’ve left our at-risk populations defenseless. When Princeton and Santa Barbara had their meningitis outbreaks in 2013, the culprit was serogroup B.

But, the good news is that the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) will now take a look at the vaccine that protects against meningitis serogroup B and decide what recommendations it will make. The ACIP exists to make “recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States.”

It could be that the ACIP will decide to recommend that all young people ages 10 to 25 should be vaccinated. Or, they may recommend that the vaccine only be given in the event of an outbreak.

The CDC has a specific definition of outbreak when it comes to meningitis, and that is: An outbreak occurs when there are multiple cases in a community or institution over a short period of time. Specifically, an outbreak is defined as three or more cases of the same serogroup (“strain”) occurring within three months. Sometimes having just two cases in a school or college can meet the outbreak definition.

For a more precise definition, check out this Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on the Evaluation and Management of Suspected Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease.

My personal feeling is that we’re a country that can afford to protect ourselves against vaccine-preventable diseases and we should take advantage of that fact. Why wait until an outbreak to start vaccinating? Let’s get the at-risk populations vaccinated and not worry about an outbreak.

I suspect that as discussions ensue, the cost of vaccinating pre-outbreak will be a major factor in determining what the official recommendations will be. After all, the federal government does have a budget. Maybe a few more zeroes in their budget compared to yours or mine, but still.

I know that other interests are clamoring for their share of the pot. Alzheimer’s research, foodborne illness, alcohol poisoning—everyone deserves some of the health and medical dollars available. As do those with other interests, such as agriculture, space exploration, or marine biology.

But still.

Preventing meningococcal disease has always made more sense to me than hoping treatment works and burying those for whom it does not.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. We will share them with ACIP members as they meet to discuss what recommendations to make for the new vaccines.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Childhood Diseases Reaching Out to Adults

16 12 2014

Angelina Jolie has chickenpox, and a passel of NHL players suffers at home with mumps. What’s going on?

Adults are getting knocked sideways by childhood illnesses because (1) when they were children, they missed one or more recommended vaccines, (2) there were no vaccines for certain diseases when they were young, or (3) the protection they received as children from vaccines is waning.

It’s also possible that a vaccine simply didn’t work for this or that person. It happens.

I was already an adult when the chickenpox vaccine first became available. A couple of years prior to the release of that vaccine, my little nephew became infected. He was miserable, and as his parents were out of town, I was the go-to person.

I bathed him in cool water to help bring down his temperature (does that really work?). I cuddled with him, and generally took care of him until his parents came home.

A couple of weeks later, my face erupted in what I thought were spectacularly huge pimples. They flattered my shiny new adult braces and first-ever pair of glasses.

I could not understand why I was breaking out, and then I remembered. My nephew.

I called my mom to see if I’d had chickenpox as a kid, and you already know the answer.

Well, that was a long time ago, and I can happily report my nephew and I had complete recoveries.

All this is to say that diseases lurk. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, if we’re not protected, we’re open to infection. And, diseases from our childhood pose just as much risk to us as adults.

It takes one phone call or email to the healthcare provider’s office. Ask about all vaccine-preventable diseases, and where you are in your level of protection.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Flu and the drifting virus

5 12 2014

HiResWe get immunized against flu every year. It’s annoying, but the strains or types of viruses that cause flu are constantly changing, so the vaccines have to change.

Scientists track the viruses and figure out what will be dominant each year, and they keep those in mind as they concoct the vaccines.

This year, as has happened in the past, one of the dominant strains “drifted.” Over time, it’s changed enough that now the vaccines won’t protect against it because they no longer recognize it.

No one realized this strain that had drifted was around until this year’s vaccines had already been produced.

The vaccines we have will protect against a chunk of flu viruses floating around, but not this one. Which means, if you’re unlucky enough to become infected with this particular strain of flu virus, you’ll need to get into your provider ASAP if you have flu symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Your provider will put you on antivirals, which will help your body fight the infection. You need to get started on antivirals within a couple of days of symptoms appearing.

Don’t mess around with flu. It sounds like an old-timey illness that doesn’t mean much these days, but based on reports covering a 30-year span from 1977 to 2007, CDC estimates that, in any given year, there are between 3,000 and 49,000 flu-related deaths.

In addition to immunizing, make sure family members are cleaning their hands many times each day. The areas in the home that are frequently touched, like doorknobs, desktops, remotes, and faucets should be disinfected daily.

Keep your hands off of your eyes, nose, and mouth. Our hands pick up germs which enter our bodies when we rub our eyes or touch our noses or mouths.

Protect others by covering your coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you feel ill. Well, stay home AFTER you visit your provider.

That’s about it for flu right now. If you have questions, call the office or drop a line in the comments section.

 

By Trish Parnell








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