All Hallows Eve

31 10 2011

Behold, it is a dark and thunderous night (but please, no rain, or the toilet paper will be impossible to lob over the tree limbs).

It is—BOM BOM BOM  . . . All Hallows Eve. The night that invites superstition, just as the dawn invites the dew.

What superstitions have we, this 31st of October? Let’s share—

Parents in remote villages in India believe a measles infection indicates a visit from God, and to vaccinate would deprive their child of that visit. They also believe the vaccine will cause the number “666” to appear on their child’s body.

Spitting three times, or saying “pooh, pooh, pooh” after the birth of a healthy baby will, according to some, ward off the evil eye and protect the babe from demons.

Should you want to get back at the kid who stole your cupcake, surreptitiously rubbing a toad on his skin will cause an outbreak of warts (bwahahahahah).

Hordes of healthcare workers believe a full moon brings chaos and disruptive patients to the Emergency Department and that Fridays, particularly Friday the 13th, bring excessive trauma cases and even more chaos. And, should anyone suggest a shift is “quiet,” all of hell will actually break loose.

In parts of Ukraine, mothers will not bathe children infected with chickenpox until all lesions are crusted over, believing it not safe for the child.

A few baseball players believe peeing on their hands will toughen them up (the hands, not the guys). At least one NHL player repeatedly dunked his hockey stick in the toilet to break scoring slumps and another talked to the net posts to make them his friends, believing they would cause opponents’ pucks to bounce off the posts during games.

In Louisiana, a few years back, some believed that a nosebleed could be stopped by putting cobwebs up the nose, yellow paper under the top lip, or by crisscrossing two match sticks in one’s hair and sprinkling salt in the hair. Teething woes were fixed by tying an animal bone or alligator tooth to a string and hanging it around the neck, although garlic in a pouch would do in a pinch.

One can dive deep to find superstitions, or it’s as easy as asking relatives. Superstitions abound, and the magical thinking is practiced by a surprising number of Americans.

Just what do you believe, on this All Hallows Eve? Will you step on a crack, and risk breaking your mother’s back?

By Trish Parnell





Ask Emily

27 10 2011

I got a flu vaccine one year and ended up getting the flu anyway. Doesn’t that mean the vaccine doesn’t work?

Influenza viruses are notorious for constantly changing. Making vaccines against them is also notoriously difficult because it requires several months of advance preparation before the viral doses can be ready.

If you’ve heard of “bird flu,” you may realize that flu viruses flourish pretty well in the bird-related environment, and vaccine developers grow their viruses within fertilized chicken eggs (that’s why you’ll be asked if you’re allergic to egg proteins). Every vaccine requires about three eggs to yield sufficient (killed) virus, which translates into millions of chicken eggs (i.e., making 300 million vaccine doses would require 900 million eggs).

It also translates into six months of lead time for producing the viruses required to make the vaccine. To find out more about the current year’s strain selection, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site, which offer comprehensive information about influenza vaccines.

That advanced lead time means a delay between growing the viral strains authorities have determined may be most prevalent in the upcoming flu season and the actual arrival of the current season’s viruses. Experts can keep an eye on how flu goes in the southern hemisphere’s winter and use that as a gauge for which strains may be most prominent during winter in the northern hemisphere, but there’s no real guarantee that the viral strains pinpointed as most likely for a given season will turn out to be an accurate prediction.

The global surveillance network consists of 130 centers in 101 countries monitoring which strains are most prevalent. These are the people who try to predict months ahead of time which patterns of infection will prevail in a given geographic area.

So, it’s possible to be vaccinated against the flu and still get the flu. Why? Because if you’re exposed to a circulating strain that’s not included in this year’s vaccination mix, then you’re not vaccinated against catching that particular form of the virus. The good news is, the predictions generally turn out to be pretty on target, preventing most people who receive a vaccine from developing influenza.

Keep in mind that even if the vaccine misses a circulating strain, if you choose not to be vaccinated, you can contract influenza more than once in a season if you’re exposed to two different circulating strains.

Final answer? Yes, you can receive a flu vaccine and still come down with the flu. But that doesn’t mean the vaccine didn’t work. It did work against the strain it targeted, and if it hadn’t, you might’ve had to go through that misery more than once. So, get the influenza vaccine as indicated. It will certainly prevent infection from the strains it targets, and at the least can save you half the misery of flu season.

Do you have a question for Emily? Send it to: pkids@pkids.org

By Emily Willingham





Rebecca’s Son

24 10 2011

(Christopher died from a devastating case of chickenpox. His mom, Rebecca, shared her son’s story until the day she died, and we’d like to share it with you. This is taken from testimony she gave to a U.S. House of Representatives’ committee.)

My name is Rebecca Cole, and I am the mother of five children. I am speaking to you today because I have faced the worst nightmare any parent can possibly face. There is no experience on earth that compares to the horror and devastation of losing a child. It is shattered dreams, crushed wishes, and a future that suddenly vanishes before our eyes. It cannot be wished away, slept away, prayed away, or screamed away. It is darkness, agony, and shock. It leaves our hearts broken, bleeding, and bursting with pain.

My life changed forever on June 30, 1988, when I had to stand by helplessly as an infectious disease claimed the life of my oldest child, Christopher Aaron Chinnes, at the age of 12.

Christopher was a beautiful little boy who had light blonde hair, and deep, brown eyes. He was full of compassion, joy, and energy. He loved baseball, and every living creature on the earth. He wanted to be a scientist or doctor. I can honestly say that my son was one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever known, and I am proud to have been his mother.

Christopher was born a very healthy child, but at the age of eight he developed asthma. It was never a problem for him, and it never kept him from doing the things he loved. But, on June 16, 1988, four years after he was diagnosed, he suffered his first and only severe asthma attack. He had to be hospitalized and was treated with all of the normally prescribed drugs, including a corticosteroid. (Anti-inflammatory drugs used in asthma, arthritis, allergies, etc.) He was released four days later with several medications to finish at home, and he was well on his way to recovery.

On June 23, exactly one week after the asthma attack, he broke out with the chickenpox. “Don’t worry, you’ll get over it,” I told him. What I didn’t know was that the corticosteroid had lowered his body’s immune response and he could not fight the disease. The chickenpox began to rampage wildly through his young body. As I drove him to the emergency room, on June 27, my four younger children watched silently in shock and horror as their brother went into seizures, went blind, turned gray, and collapsed due to hemorrhaging in his brain.

That afternoon, Christopher was flown from Camp Lejuene’s Naval Hospital to East Carolina University’s Medical Center, but the chickenpox was uncontrollably sweeping through him like a wildfire, and there was nothing anyone could do.

The next day Christopher suffered a cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma. As my son lay swollen beyond recognition, and hemorrhaging from every area imaginable, including out into the blisters on his skin, I learned that a vaccine existed, but was not yet licensed by the FDA—a vaccine that could have prevented the unimaginable suffering of my child, and all who knew him.

On June 30, 1988, exactly one week after breaking out with chickenpox, Christopher passed away. The chickenpox virus had destroyed every organ in his body, and it cut pieces from the hearts of everyone who witnessed its devastation.

Christopher wanted to be a scientist or doctor, but because of the unavailability of a vaccine, we will never know what contributions he might have made to society.

Vaccines prevent countless deaths each year. Without them the number of valuable human beings we’d lose would be staggering. There are children and adults who come in contact with the public everyday who would die if they were exposed to the diseases we can prevent.

If everyone around them is vaccinated, they are also protected. We owe it to them and to ourselves as a nation to achieve the highest level of protection possible. We must win the war against infectious disease, and vaccines are our most powerful weapons. We cannot win, however, if we do not use them. Leaving any of our population unprotected is like surrendering to a defeatable foe. We must never surrender.

Rebecca Cole





ABCs of Audio PSAs

20 10 2011

Audio PSAs (public service announcements) are the nonprofit equivalent of commercials. They are either scripts you’ve written for radio announcers to read over the air, or audio recordings you’ve made for radio staff to play over the air.

The radio stations don’t charge you when they read or play your PSA. It’s free advertising for your program, event, or organization. Radio’s still popular, so it’s an opportunity for publicity that shouldn’t be ignored.

If you want to create a PSA, there are a few things to consider:

  • Radio stations need lead time to get the PSAs into the rotation. If your PSA is associated with a specific date—say you’re hosting a flu clinic on a certain Saturday—get the recording or script to the station three to six weeks prior to that date.
  • PSAs usually come in three lengths: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds. Don’t limit your PSAs to one type, but offer versions in all three lengths if possible. After the announcer runs the paid ads and the music, any small clumps of seconds they have in between or left over go to PSAs.
  • Local groups approaching local stations with community activities have the best chance of getting their PSAs into the mix. Even if the PSA has no mention of local events, your pitch and the letter accompanying the PSA can tie it to a local angle, allowing you to use a more generic PSA that’s been professionally produced.
  • Assigning a person to make follow-up calls to the station a few days after delivery helps catch the attention of the decision-maker. Reiterate the importance of the PSA message and emphasize the local connection or need.
  • Record or script your PSA in multiple languages. Make sure these versions are culturally appropriate and not just translations. Choose the languages based on the demographics of your area.

The nuts and bolts

Let’s assume you don’t have the funds to hire outside help to record your PSA. You’ll need:

  • A computer
  • A quality microphone you can plug into your computer (via USB or 1/8” jack)
  • “Talent” with a clear and pleasant voice
  • A script
  • Sound editing software
  • Background music for an added touch
  • A stopwatch

You’ll need to find software that will capture your recording and allow you to edit that recording. Audacity is a free and popular software, and there are many other free programs available through the Internet.

Write the script, read it, and time it. You want it to be exactly :15, :30, and/or :60 seconds. Whomever you choose to be the “talent” (the person reading into the mic) will be the one you want to time, if possible. Each person reading it may read it at a different speed, so if you’re the writer but not the reader, timing yourself will get you close, but may not be accurate.

Once the recording is done, you will need to edit it as you see fit. The specifications (specs) that one PSA distributor gives for radio PSAs are:

  • Redbook Audio (this refers to the CD you use for distribution)
  • No lead-ins or countdowns (you don’t have to say anything leading up to the actual recording)
  • Each PSA should be a separate cut on CD master (make them separate files on the CD)
  • Audio to stay within specified lengths
  • Preferred order –  :60, :30, :20, :15, :10 (This distributor added in :20 and :10, which you may do if you like. You never know what length they need to fit in a space on their programs.)
  • No compression
  • 44.1 khz
  • 16 bit

If you plan on working at a local level to produce and distribute audio PSAs, it’s best to visit the local radio station(s) and ask for direction on how they like to receive their PSAs. Many times they’ll have a sheet printed up with all the information you’ll need. In addition to getting the specs, the visit will give you an opportunity to make your cause known to the station staff. Establishing a good relationship with them will get your PSAs played (or read) more often.

Scripts

We suggest you start out by writing a couple of paragraphs and see how much information you can include. Have someone read it while timing them. That will let you know if you need to edit out words or if you have room to add in information.

It’s easier, when writing the scripts, to start with the :60 and work your way down. That way, you start with the “fat” in the piece and can edit it out for each of the shorter versions.

SAMPLE: Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign

(Radio PSA Cover Letter—copy onto your letterhead)

(Date)

Dear (Public Service Director Name):

Influenza is an ancient disease that still circles the globe each year. We ask you to please have your announcers read frequently the enclosed PSAs. Here’s why:  Every year in the United States, on average:

5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and

About 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year.

(Your organization’s name) urges you to use your broadcasting power to alert your listeners to the need for influenza vaccination. You will save lives, prevent tragedy, and truly provide a public service!  Thank you.

Sincerely,

(Your name and org name)
Enclosures

(Include radio scripts on a separate sheet)

(Copy the PSA scripts onto your org’s letterhead)

Sample Radio Psa Script

FLU’S GONNA LOSE
Radio Public Service Announcement
(:60-:30-:15- seconds)

:60 SECOND SPOT

Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and everyone from newborns and schoolkids to parents and seniors is at risk.

Every year, up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people in the United States end up in the hospital. About 36,000 people die each year from influenza.

There’s a lot you can do to stop the flu before it starts.

Just follow these simple steps to help you stay healthy this season:

Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick, and check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g or call 1-877-557-5437. That’s w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g, or call 1-877-557-5437.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.

:30 SECOND SPOT

Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and everyone from newborns and schoolkids to parents and seniors is at risk.

Every year, up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 end up in the hospital, or die from influenza.

Prevent the spread of flu by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, staying home if you’re sick, and checking with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.

:15 SECOND SPOT

Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and we’re all at risk of infection.

Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick and check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.

***********

And that’s it! If you have some PSA scripts you’d be willing to share, please paste them into the comments.

Adapted from PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program.





Annie’s Dad

17 10 2011

(This testimony was given on behalf of PKIDs to a U.S. House of Representatives’ committee a few years ago. It is so compelling—and, unfortunately, still relevant—that we wanted to share it with you now.)

My name is Dr. Keith Van Zandt, and as a practicing family physician, I appreciate the opportunity to address this committee regarding hepatitis B vaccines. I have degrees from Princeton and Wake Forest Universities, and completed residency training in family medicine here in Washington at Andrews AFB.

Today, however, I am here as a dad. I have five children, two of whom my wife Dede and I adopted from Romania. Our youngest, Adrianna, was nearly four years old when we adopted her from the orphanage, and was found to have chronic active hepatitis B when we performed blood work prior to bringing her home.

She had contracted this from her mother, who died when Annie was nine months old, from the effects of her liver disease as well as tuberculosis. We have been very fortunate to have had some excellent medical care for Annie, but her first year with us was an endless procession of liver biopsies, blood draws and over 150 painful interferon injections I gave to my new daughter at home. Interferon is a form of chemotherapy for hepatitis B that has many side effects and only a 25 to 40% success rate.

We know first-hand the pain and family disruption this completely preventable disease can bring.

You have already heard testimony from some of the world’s leading experts on hepatitis B and its vaccine, and I can add little new information to that. As a family doctor, though, I see patients every day whose lives have been significantly improved by the immunizations we now have available. My forebears in family medicine struggled in the pre-vaccination era with the ravages of horrible diseases that are now of only historical interest.

Preventive immunizations have so changed our world that I am afraid that we no longer remember how horrible some of these diseases were. My family and I have made multiple trips to Romania to work in the orphanages, and unfortunately I have seen the effects of many of these diseases there.

I am certainly aware of the potential for adverse reactions to our current vaccines, but we must maintain the perspective that these reactions are extremely rare. My partners and I in Winston-Salem care for over 40,000 patients, and I can honestly say that in over 20 years of practice we have never seen a serious adverse reaction to any vaccine. I believe that the vast majority of family physicians around the country can say the same. Certainly, I do not wish to minimize the suffering and losses of families who have experienced these problems, but we must remember that immunizations remain the most powerful and cost-effective means of preventing disease in the modern era.

Personally, it still sickens me to know that the disease my daughter has was completely preventable if hepatitis B vaccines had been available to Annie and her mother.

Whereas 90% of adults who contract hepatitis B get better, 90% of children under the age of one go on to have chronic disease, and 15 to 20% of them die prematurely of cirrhosis or liver cancer.

I know first-hand the gut-wrenching feeling of being told your child has a chronic disease that could shorter their life. I know first-hand the worry parents feel when their hepatitis B child falls on the playground, and you don’t know if her bleeding knee or bloody nose will infect her playmates or teachers. I know first-hand the concern for my other children’s health, with a 1 in 20 chance of household spread of hepatitis, and the thankfulness I feel that they have had the availability of successful vaccines. I know first-hand the pain a parent feels for their child as they undergo painful shots and procedures for their chronic disease with no guarantee of cure.

I am not the world’s leading expert on hepatitis B or the hep B vaccine, but I am an expert on delivering the best medical care I can to my patients in Winston-Salem, NC. I am also not the world’s leading expert on parenting children with chronic diseases, but I am the world’s best expert on parenting my five children.

I know professionally that immunizations in general have hugely improved the lives of those patients who have entrusted their medical care to me. I know personally that had the hepatitis B vaccine been available to my daughter, her life and mine would have been drastically different. I am also thankful that my other children have been spared Annie’s suffering by being successfully vaccinated.

Anecdotes of vaccine reactions are very moving, but they are no substitute for good science. Please allow me to continue to provide the best medical care I can with the best system of vaccinations in the world, and allow me to keep my own family safe.

Thank you very much for your time.

Keith Van Zandt, M.D.





Flu’s Gonna Lose

13 10 2011

Medical historians believe that influenza became a human disease about 6,000 years ago. Despite the enormous scientific, medical and technological sophistication we enjoy today, influenza, combined with pneumonia, is a leading cause of death in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says:

Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-related deaths in the United States range from a low of 3,000 people to a high of about 49,000 people. Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from the flu, including an average of 20,000 children younger than 5 years of age.

The 2009-2010 flu season is an example of how unpredictable flu can be. That season followed the emergence of a new H1N1 influenza virus in the spring of 2009. This virus caused the first influenza pandemic (global outbreak of disease) in more than 40 years. Thousands of healthy children and adults had to visit the doctor or were hospitalized from flu complications.

As individuals, we want to protect ourselves against a largely preventable disease. As a community, we must get vaccinated to protect our youngest and oldest citizens—those most at risk not only for infection, but for the complications that can arise from infection.

If you’re wanting some materials or ideas for this flu season, we’ve developed a program that may be used by anyone wishing to promote flu vaccination.

PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign urges family and community members to spread the health by refusing the opportunity to experience the vagaries of this deadly disease and instead, offer up an arm to immunization, wash our hands, cover our coughs and sneezes, and stay home to stop the spread of disease.

There are many free materials, both branded and unbranded, available for download from our website, including:

If you have any educational materials to share with others, will you provide URLs in the comments? Sharing ideas and materials is a great way to make our budgets stretch.

Adapted from PKIDs’ website





Why Multiple Shots?

10 10 2011

Dr. Ed Marcuse explains why we sometimes need more than one shot when getting immunized.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (1.5mb/3min)