Zika Virus And Your Baby

26 01 2016

In 1947, a caged rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda became feverish with what is now called the Zika virus.

Scientists researching yellow fever had stumbled upon something new.

Nearly 70 years later, this virus is making headlines. We first heard of the Zika virus when the media began reporting stories about infected newborns in Brazil.

microcephaly-comparison-500px

Women were giving birth to thousands of babies with microcephaly, a condition where the newborn’s head is unusually small compared to the rest of the body. When microcephaly occurs, the brain is usually underdeveloped, which can cause severe developmental delays and, possibly, death.

In 2014, there were 150 babies in Brazil born with microcephaly. In 2015, there were 4000+ babies born with microcephaly.

Just as mosquitoes carry malaria, yellow fever, and other diseases, so too do they carry the Zika virus. Mosquitoes are vectors, which means they’re living organisms or critters that can carry disease from animals to humans or humans to humans. They accomplish this by sucking infected blood from an animal or human, and then injecting it into the next human on whom they decide to feed.

The typical symptoms of an infection with the Zika virus are, overall, fairly mild. They can include a rash, reddening of the eyes, fever, muscle or joint pain, and headache. These symptoms stick around for about a week, give or take a few days.

The disease does not normally require hospitalization, and death from this infection is rare.

At this time, there’s no way to prevent or even treat an infection with the Zika virus. Perhaps the only thing one could do would be to prevent mosquito bites, but getting through a year without at least a few bites is nearly impossible.

In areas where the Zika virus is common, some pregnant women are becoming infected and then passing that infection to the fetus during pregnancy, or possibly around the time of birth, according to the CDC.

The outbreak is so alarming that the CDC is advising pregnant women to postpone travel to many Latin American and Caribbean countries where reports of significant numbers of Zika infections are coming in.

This virus is a traveler. The World Health Organization expects the Zika virus to spread to every country in the Americas, except for Chile and Canada.

Some researchers are saying that the soonest a vaccine could be developed would be three years, possibly five. Prevention, for the time being, is in the hands of the individual. Mosquito nets and repellents are useful, as is ensuring there is no still water in the area. Community spraying could be beneficial.

It’s important to note that so far there has been no actual link found between the Zika virus and microcephaly. But clues are definitely pointing in that direction.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.

 

 

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of CDC





Why We Think Flu Vax Gives Us Flu (But We’re Wrong)

17 12 2015

My Uncle Wayne will swear that, in 2008, he was vaccinated against flu and within a week was laid up in bed with—yes—a case of flu.

A lot of us believe that getting the flu vaccine will infect us with flu, and here’s why that idea is so common (and so wrong):

Reason 1
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective in our bodies. If we’re exposed to a flu virus anytime just before or after our vaccination, our bodies are on their own.

Getting vaccinated and then getting the flu . . . it’s really just a matter of timing. Coincidence. The two events happen around the same time – getting vaccinated against flu and getting infected with flu – but one doesn’t cause the other.

Reason 2
Around this time of year, flu is what we hear about. The public health people are out in full force to get us vaccinated against the prevailing flu viruses. It’s called cold and flu season, but flu is the star.

But, there are cold germs and other viruses floating around that cause symptoms similar to flu symptoms. Our default thinking is that we have flu, but the reality may be that we have a bad cold, which also stinks, but is not influenza. So, it’s a misdiagnosis.

Reason 3
There are many flu viruses floating around the world. Each year, the World Health Organization and others try to determine which viruses will be dominant during that particular flu season. Sometimes they’re wrong, and the available flu vaccines, which were made to fight those specific flu viruses, don’t do a good job of protecting us from what’s really out there.

Reason 4
No vaccine protects 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. It’s possible to get vaccinated against the flu strains currently in your area and still end up with flu because, for whatever reason, the vaccine simply did not protect you.

Reason 5
You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine because it’s made to prevent that very thing from happening.

The flu vaccines that are delivered through a needle are made from totally dead flu viruses, or tiny specks of deconstructed flu viruses.

There is not a spark of infectivity left in them.

The flu vaccine that is sprayed up the nose has live flu virus in it. But, and it’s a big-sized but, the virus in this vaccine is weakened to such an extent that it can’t make you be sick.

So there we are.

The flu vaccines protect many people. Getting vaccinated is a good idea, and one you should discuss with your provider.

To help prevent infection, get vaccinated as we discussed, and keep your hands clean all day. Try not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with hands that might not be clean. Those areas are prime spots for disease transmission.

See you on the other side of cold and flu season!

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Stomach Flu? No Such Thing!

10 12 2015

The next time your friend says she has stomach flu, you can look her in the eye and say, “Nah, don’t think so. There’s no such thing!”

What she probably has is viral gastroenteritis. In other words, a gastro bug.

The field of gastroenterology has to do with upsets in the stomach and intestines, and it’s called ‘gastro’ for short.

Gastro bugs are caused by any number of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus.

These bugs that upset our stomach and intestines can be found in the food we eat or the water we drink. They’re primarily spread through the fecal-oral route. This happens when someone who is infected doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet, and teeny bits of poop are transferred from his hands to the food he’s preparing. We then eat that food and become infected ourselves.

Or, an infected person who hasn’t cleaned her hands after using the toilet might simply touch a surface, such as a tabletop or doorknob, and contaminate it with a one of these viruses. We then come along and touch the same surface. The virus is introduced to our system when we touch our mouth or nose or eyes.

Symptoms of a gastro bug include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Body aches

Gastro bugs and flu share some symptoms, which may explain the conviction held by many that they have “stomach flu” when what they really have is a gastro bug.BristolStoolChart

If you pick up such a bug, you’ll want to watch out for dehydration. With diarrhea and vomiting, it’s likely that you’ll be low on fluids. You should drink sports drinks and oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter.

Pay attention to how you feel because dehydration isn’t something to ignore. It can quickly go from mild to serious. Check with your healthcare provider to determine treatment options.

Your provider will probably suggest certain foods, such as bread, cereal, bananas, and other items, to counteract the diarrhea. If necessary, there are OTC medications to slow diarrhea, or if the infection progresses, prescription drugs may be needed, or even hospitalization.

One thing that you won’t use to fight a gastro bug is antibiotics. Gastro bugs are usually caused by viruses, and antibiotics only fight bacteria.

Clean hands are the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit NIH for more information on gastro bugs.

 

by Trish Parnell





Why We Celebrate National Influenza Vaccination Week: December 6 – 12

3 12 2015

As the holidays approach, parents start to think of all the items they need to check off their to-do list: making travel arrangements, gift shopping, and sending holiday cards. What might not be top-of-mind for parents is protecting their children against influenza (flu) this season.

While most people tend to think about the flu when kids go back to school in the fall, influenza generally tends to peak in January or later and activity can last all the way through May.

We recognize December 6-12 as National Influenza Vaccination Week for this exact reason: if you or your children haven’t yet received the flu vaccine, there is still time to protect your family from this serious infectious disease. It is important to get vaccinated before influenza hits because it takes about two weeks after vaccination to be fully protected.

While anyone can get the flu, children tend to have the highest rates of infection. There is no way to know when or who influenza will strike, and no way to tell how a child’s body – healthy or otherwise – might handle this infection. For some, it can be mild, but for others, it could mean hospitalization or even death.

Despite the fact that getting vaccinated is the most effective way to keep yourself, your family, and your community free from flu this and every season, I continue to see many parents put stock into popular myths about influenza or the vaccine.

To help you make informed decisions about your families’ health, I’ve debunked the top five myths about influenza and the vaccine below:

  • Myth: Flu vaccination is not necessary each year.

Fact: Vaccination is the first, and most important, step to protect your entire family against influenza each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. In fact, the immune protection from the flu vaccine declines over time, so vaccination is necessary each year to ensure complete protection.

  • Myth: You or your child can get the flu from the influenza vaccine.

Fact: The short answer is no; you can’t get the flu from the vaccine, whether you receive the injection or nasal spray. Influenza vaccination is safe, effective, and time tested. The influenza vaccine contains virus strains that are either inactivated (as in the injected vaccine) or weakened (as in the nasal spray) and matched to the most commonly circulating influenza viruses that year.

  • Myth: If your child is healthy, he or she does not need to get the influenza vaccine.

Fact: Even healthy children are at risk for getting sick from influenza. Because immunity to the vaccine weakens, annual vaccination is a critical step to stay healthy. The CDC recommends that children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who did not receive at least one dose of the vaccine last season, should get two doses of vaccine approximately four weeks apart. (Check with your child’s health care provider to see whether your child needs one or two doses.)

  • Myth: The flu is nothing more than just a bad cold or the “stomach flu.”

Fact: Influenza should not be confused with a bad cold or “stomach flu.” Influenza is more serious than the common cold and can cause high fever, head/body aches, coughing for days, and severe fatigue for up to two weeks or more. It is estimated that an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to influenza complications.

  • Myth: You should not receive the flu vaccine if you’re pregnant.

Fact: Influenza vaccination is the best and safest way for pregnant women to protect themselves from the flu. Pregnant women are more prone to severe illness from the flu, including hospitalizations and even death. Because children under 6 months of age can’t receive the flu vaccine, pregnant women who get vaccinated pass their immunity to their newborn baby.

During NIVW, I encourage those who have not been vaccinated yet to do so now.

To learn more about the importance of pediatric influenza vaccination, please visit www.PreventChildhoodInfluenza.org. I hope that you and your family have a happy and healthy holiday season.

By Dr. Carol J. Baker, Chair of NFID’s Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition and Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine





World Hepatitis Summit 2015: Infographic

9 09 2015

WHSummit_infographic





World Hepatitis Summit 2015

9 09 2015

Imagine that you have a unicycle, and this unicycle is your favorite mode of transportation.

You have a handful of friends around the country who also own and ride unicycles, but where you live, you’re the only one-wheeler to be seen.

Now imagine you go to a meeting in a far off land that brings hundreds of people from 80+ countries together to discuss—unicycles.

It’s comforting and uplifting to be among your tribe, isn’t it!

That’s what happened to me when I attended the World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, last week.

Granted, I’m always talking to parents about hepatitis. Many of our families have children living with a chronic, viral hepatitis infection. Some parents have lost their child to such an infection. Treatment, treatment side effects, prevention, testing—these are all frequent topics at PKIDs.

But, to be with so many people representing organizations around the world hard at work on issues surrounding hepatitis, well, that’s why it felt like a homecoming.

wha 1

Our hosts, the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), did a bang-up job on this first summit. They and their partners, the Glasgow Caledonian University, Health Protection Scotland, and the Scottish government, made us feel welcome and provided a well-run meeting.

For five days, volunteers were everywhere, eager to help and always smiling. Seriously, they smiled the entire time. And word has it, most of them were out of bed by three o’clock each morning so they could be in place, ready to serve when we arrived.

Let me just say, there’s only one cranky person in all of Glasgow. He drives a white cab and hangs out at the SECC in front of the river Clyde. Every other Glaswegian treats you like a favorite cousin come to visit for a spell.

And the WHA members! A nurse from Wales and a physician from Egypt talked collaboration over lunch on Thursday, an attendee from Botswana gave funding tips to a few Americans as they all lounged around waiting for a passageway door to be unlocked, and the man from Pakistan impressed everyone with his sparkly evening attire at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum dinner.

Three vignettes from the thousands of interactions that happened at the World Hepatitis Summit this year. All of the members were eager and ready to band together in the fight against hepatitis.

wha 2

So what did we accomplish at this week-long event? We found out we’re not alone—that we’re actually part of a strong global network fighting to reduce and, one day, eliminate hepatitis B and C infections.

We found our voice, and by closing our many fists into one, we found that we are mighty.

Join WHA. You’re not alone!

 

by Trish Parnell





Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E

28 07 2015

It’s World Hepatitis Day.

We want to use this day to remind moms and dads that hepatitis is around and some of it can be prevented by vaccination.

Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that attacks the liver. It is not vaccine-preventable. If babies are infected it’s usually from their hepatitis C+ mothers or, and this is unlikely these days, from a blood transfusion. It’s unlikely because the screening process of donated blood is pretty darn thorough. But, germs have slipped through that screening process.

Teens and young adults may become infected, primarily through sharing of needles, sex with an HCV+ person, or sharing personal items such as razors or toothbrushes that may be contaminated with HCV.

There are effective treatments that work on a good portion of hepatitis C-infected children. But not on all infected children. Work is ongoing in this area.

Hepatitis C is frequently a chronic infection, meaning that if treatment is not effective, you will be infected for your lifetime.

Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable. Normally, it’s passed person-to-person through the fecal-oral route, which is when something you eat or drink has been contaminated with hepatitis A+ poop. If you haven’t been vaccinated, chances are you will become infected.

This virus makes you feel lousy and can, rarely, do serious damage to the body. It does not become a chronic infection. It infects you and then goes away, like a cold virus.

Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable. It’s transmitted in a lot of ways—mom to newborn, sharing needles or personal items, sex with an infected person, even household (nonsexual) contact. If a mom is aware of her infection prior to giving birth, shots can be given to the baby within 12 hours of birth that are effective at stopping tranmission of the virus from mom to baby. However, when babies are infected, almost half of them in the US will become chronically infected. In developing countries, that figure shoots up to 90 percent.

Today, despite the vaccine, approximately 1,000 babies become chronically infected with hepatitis B each year in the US. Many of the moms-to-be who are infected are unaware of their infection. Every pregnant woman should be tested for hepatitis B so that action can be taken at birth to prevent infection of the newborn.

Hepatitis D is an odd virus. You have to be infected with hepatitis B before you can get hepatitis D. It’s vaccine-preventable in that, if you get immunized against hepatitis B, you won’t be able to get hepatitis D.

Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A in the way it is transmitted—the fecal-oral route. It’s rarely a chronic infection. For most people, they get it, get sick, and get over it. It can however be dangerous for pregnant women, with a 10% – 30% fatality rate for this group. It’s not often found in the US but can be easily picked up in some other parts of the world.

That’s about it for hepatitis in the US. To prevent a hepatitis infection (and lots of other infections), wash your hands throughout the day, put barriers between yourself and another person’s blood or body fluid, and use the available vaccines. The trick is to do these things with everyone. It’s impossible to tell who is infected with what, most of the time, so the safest course of action is to assume everyone is infected with something and then act accordingly.

Got any tips? Hope you share them will us in the comments.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins








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