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





A Thoughtful Choice

17 04 2014

I remember lining up at school in the ‘60s to get vaccinated against smallpox and a few other diseases for which there were vaccines.

I also remember the years when my brothers and I took turns at getting measles, mumps and other diseases for which there were no vaccines.

In the end, we three were fortunate—no permanent harm from our maladies.

Fast-forward 30 years. My daughter was four months old when she was diagnosed with hepatitis B. She had not been vaccinated and subsequently developed a chronic infection.

It all sounds mundane when read as words on a screen. But in those early years, the heartache and anger I felt at having my daughter’s life so affected by something that was preventable . . . well, it was almost more than I could bear.

But again, we were fortunate. After years of infection, her body turned around and got control of the disease. Although we have bloodwork done every year to keep an eye on things, she has a good chance of living the rest of her life free of complications from this infection.

Over the years, I’ve met other parents whose children were affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. Some, like Kelly and Shannon, chose not to vaccinate their kids and ended up with horrible consequences. Kelly’s son Matthew was hospitalized for Hib and they came within a breath of losing him. Shannon did lose her daughter Abigale to pneumococcal disease, and almost lost her son. He recovered and was released from the hospital, at which time they had a funeral for their daughter.

Because of my job, I talk to and hear from many families with similar stories. Some children have died, some remain permanently affected, and some have managed to recover.

Also because of my job, I hear from parents who believe vaccines are not safe, and that natural infections are the safer choice. I understand and have experienced the emotions we as parents feel when something happens to our children. In a way, I was lucky. I knew exactly what caused my daughter’s problems. A simple test provided a definite diagnosis.

If we can’t identify the cause of our children’s pain or suffering, we feel like we can’t fix it and we can’t rest until we know the truth. When the cause can’t be found, we latch onto if onlys. What could we have done differently to keep our kids safe? If only we hadn’t taken her to grandpa’s when she didn’t feel good. If only we hadn’t vaccinated him on that particular day. If only. The problem is, the if onlys are guesses and no more reliable routes to the facts than playing Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.

The deeper I go into the world of infections and disease prevention, the more obvious it is to me that the only way to find the facts is to follow the science. Now granted, one study will pop up that refutes another, but I’ve learned that when multiple, replicable studies all reach the same conclusion, then I can safely say I’ve found the facts.

In our family, we vaccinate because for us, it is the thoughtful choice.

By Trish Parnell

Originally posted on Parents Who Protect





Pneumo – It’s All About the Numbers

3 03 2014

DDWhen we are immunized, we usually have to get several shots, or doses, before we’re protected against a disease.

Nearly all vaccine-preventable diseases require more than one dose of vaccine to provide us with a strong immune response. It’s not fun, but it’s better than fighting all those infections.

Last summer, an article in Pediatrics described a study which looked at the cost-effectiveness of removing a primary dose of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13).

This vaccine helps to prevent pneumococcal infections, which can mean anything from an ear infection to pneumonia to meningitis. It can be a dangerous and deadly infection.

Right now, this vaccine is a four-dose series. The first three doses are primary doses, and the fourth dose is a booster.

A primary dose “primes” the immune system, allowing our bodies to develop stronger immunity with each primary dose we receive. The booster dose is the last shove to get us over the top, helping our bodies to develop long-lasting immunity against a particular disease.

The study in Pediatrics was the topic of conversation at PKIDs for several weeks, and, while we were surprised that removing a dose was up for consideration (and you’ll see why in a minute), we thought it was probably more of an intellectual exercise than a course of action that our public health leaders in the US would take.

After all, our tradition in the US is to use all of the tools we have to protect our citizens and prevent infections.

Come to find out, this is more than an exercise in “what if.”

In February, I attended the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting in Atlanta.

(As noted on their website, the ACIP “is a group of medical and public health experts that develops recommendations on how to use vaccines to control diseases in the United States. The recommendations stand as public health advice that will lead to a reduction in the incidence of vaccine preventable diseases and an increase in the safe use of vaccines and related biological products.”)

Based on that meeting, it sounds like they’re looking at removing a primary dose as a real option.

This may give us an opportunity to save money—$400 to $500 million—but it’s not a risk-free deal. In order to save that money, we have to be willing to see harm come to a lot of people.

This flies in the face of what we, as health advocates, say every day to the folks we meet, which is: Get immunized! Use the safe and effective prevention tools available to protect yourself and your family from unnecessary infections.

It’s easier to make this kind of money-saving decision if the conversation is all about the numbers: the dollar amount saved, the numbers of increased cases of disease, the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

Numbers are easy to talk about because they’re not personal.

But this decision to remove a primary dose of vaccine is personal. The consequences will be felt by our people, our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbors. We can’t dehumanize this process by just talking about the numbers.

If the third primary dose is removed, an average of 2.5 more people will die each year. Who are those people? One could be my niece, Millie, who’s just learning to crawl. Another could be your grandson, who loves cheerios and bananas.

Forty-four more people will get invasive pneumococcal disease. My daughter could get meningitis, and your son could get a bloodstream infection.

Fifteen hundred more people will be hospitalized for pneumonia. When my oldest was a toddler, she was hospitalized for pneumonia. It’s a terrifying experience and one that I would not have anyone else go through, if possible.

An additional 10,000 of our friends and neighbors and loved ones will have to be treated for pneumonia as outpatients.

Twenty-three hundred more ear tubes will have to be inserted into the tiny ears of children that we know.

A staggering 261,000 more children will get earaches, fevers, and possibly ruptured eardrums.

All of this happens if we decide to save money and remove a primary dose of PCV13.

It’s all about the numbers. We just have to decide which numbers are more important to us as a nation—the dollar amounts or our people?

by Trish Parnell





Flu Then and Now

12 12 2013

The CDC came out with a lot of flu info today. Here’s a rundown on the highlights with a link to the rest at the end of the post:

CDC says that during last year’s flu season, 45 percent of the U.S. population aged 6 months and older was vaccinated against flu.

Influenza vaccination during 2012-2013 prevented 6.6 million illnesses, 3.2 million medical visits and 79,000 hospitalizations. Overall, this resulted in 17 percent fewer illnesses, medical visits, and hospitalizations than would have happened without flu vaccination.

The numbers are big, but the percentage is small. We need to increase the numbers of those vaccinated, and we need to come up with a more effective vaccine.

CDC estimates that during 2012-2013, there were 31.8 million flu-associated illnesses, 14.4 million medically attended illnesses, and 381,000 hospitalizations in the United States.

As for this year, CDC is recommending that those who have not yet been vaccinated do so. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to develop immunity.

Most years, the flu season in the US peaks between January and March, which is reason enough to get immunized in December.

This year looks to be typical. Get vaccinated now and save yourself and your family the misery of infection.

The recommendation is that everyone six months of age and older get immunized against flu.

Visit the CDC Flu website for more info: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/





I’m Immunized! (Pass it on!)

12 11 2013

At PKIDs, we have seen the awful reality of children affected by preventable disease: horrible illnesses, hospitalizations, chronic infections, and sometimes death. C

We share our stories with the hope that others will learn from them and get their families fully vaccinated to protect themselves and the ones they love.

In the same way that we are intimately familiar with the harm that comes from not vaccinating, we are also joyously aware of what happens when a family is fully vaccinated.

We want families to understand that getting vaccinated isn’t just about avoiding the horrors of disease. It’s also about experiencing the happiness of health.

Our I’m Immunized! campaign is a visual depiction of immunized people living happy, energetic lives.

We invite you, as immunization advocates, to share these images through your social media platforms, and to use them in your organizations’ educational outreach.

Immunization advocates at PKIDs share their families’ personal stories of illness and loss with the hope that those who hear the stories will be motivated to protect themselves and their loved ones through vaccination.

We humans are certainly motivated by empathy for others and a feeling of vulnerability for ourselves and those we love.

We are also motivated by positive messages that make us aspire to attain positive goals.

Both approaches may be effective, as noted by Angela Y. Lee and Jennifer L. Aaker in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: “A positive frame that promotes something desirable is more effective than a negative frame that laments the absence of something desirable. At the same time, a negative frame that threatens the onset of something undesirable is more effective than a positive frame that promises the absence of something undesirable—a concept known as ‘regulatory fit’.”

RRAs parents, we at PKIDs share the realities of vaccine preventable infections with those who question the need for protection by immunization. We also propose to share the benefits of a vaccinated life.

Staying healthy is good. When you’re healthy, you can play and party and easily tackle life’s challenges. Vaccinating is a beneficial choice because it makes one’s life healthier and therefore happier. Adding that messaging through the I’m Immunized! campaign to our current communications mix is just what we all need to help spotlight the positive aspects of vaccination.

We encourage you to send us pictures (pkids@pkids.org) of family members of various ages who have been immunized. We’re looking for good, impactful photography. We will format them and add them to the growing library of images depicting the positive that comes through immunization.

Or, upload your pictures to your social media platform of choice (Google+, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and use the hashtag #I’mImmunized! or, #We’reImmunized! if there’s more than one of you in the photo.

We’d love to hear or see how you’re using these images to promote immunization. Share with us directly at pkids@pkids.org, or in the comment section below.

Thanks!





Universal Immunization Symbol

5 11 2013

immunize_rgb_fullcolorGood news! The universal immunization symbol is ready and available for use by all immunization advocates.

It is designed for all immunization organizations and advocates to display as a way to show solidarity in their awareness of and support for immunization.

The concept is that, just as a pink ribbon is associated with breast cancer, and a puzzle piece with autism, so this image is the recognized symbol of immunization. Organizations are encouraged to work together and use this symbol as a statement of broad support of immunization.

It is a reflection of all of our voices and is a solid addition to each organization’s individual image library. The symbol does not replace organizational or campaign logos, but is rather a symbol to be used when we wish to collectively present a united front in support of immunization.

The symbol’s use is limited only by our imaginations. It’s envisioned that the image will be used on anything from Web sites, brochures and other print materials, to T-shirts, pins, and social media sites.

In the spring of 2013, immunization coalitions around the country voiced a desire for a universal symbol. Putting thought into action, a small group representing the coalitions worked together to identify several potential designs.  These designs were put forward, and through a public vote, this symbol was chosen.

The umbrella, representing protection of the community, tells the story of the power of immunizations. The symbol, in several formats, is housed on Google Docs, and is available to all immunization advocates as a free download.

In addition to the logo in full color, black, or white, there is also a Style Guide and Read Me guide on how to download and use the symbol: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B07MTd0yDhmyY05hTFFFRElITTg&usp=sharing

For questions, please contact one of the following:

 

Joanne C. Sullivan, RN, BSN

Pennsylvania Immunization Coalition

joanne.sullivan@immunizepa.org

 

Lynn Bozof

National Meningitis Association

lynn.nma@gmail.com

 

Litjen (L.J) Tan, MS, PhD

Immunization Action Coalition

lj.tan@immunize.org

 

Trish Parnell

PKIDs

pkids@pkids.org

 

 





Whooping Cough – How Quickly it Spreads

10 12 2012

This Seattle mom shares the story of her infection, and consequently, that of her newborn son.








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