HCPs, Clean Your Hands Please!

24 05 2016

It’s hard to believe the number of posters, lectures, threats, and gimmicks that are produced each year just to get healthcare professionals to clean their hands.

Why, oh why won’t caring nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and others who tend to our medical care clean their hands as often as they should?

We know there are some who prevent infections by keeping their hands clean throughout the day. Thank you for that. This discussion isn’t about your habits, but the poor habits of some of your colleagues.

Common excuses for not cleaning hands are no time, no sinks around when you need them, patient care is more important than hand hygiene, can’t find soap and/or paper towels, simply forgot, or don’t agree with the recommendations.

CDC says that “Studies show that some healthcare providers practice hand hygiene less than half of the times they should. Healthcare providers might need to clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift, depending on the number of patients and intensity of care.”

That breaks down to cleaning your hands eight times an hour on average, or once every 7.5 minutes. Of course, that number varies depending on your duties during a shift.

No matter what the precise number, we can all agree that healthcare professionals need to clean their hands a lot while at work.

On the one hand, it seems that such repetition would form strong habits. But on the other hand, if repetition isn’t there, if hands aren’t cleaned every single time a patient’s room is entered and every single time one is finished with a patient, habits won’t be acquired.

Acquire the habit. Please.

provider-infographic-2-know-how-germs-spread

 

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Immunizing Against Meningitis B

12 05 2016

I have two children—one is in high school and the other is in college.

It’s time for the older one to leave her pediatrician and connect with an adult doctor. But before waving goodbye to her childhood medical home, I asked her pediatrician to immunize both girls against meningitis B.

Meningitis (meningococcal disease) can be caused by any one of several germs, or fungi, or even cancer.

Mening B Immunization

We can’t easily prevent all cases of meningitis, but there are vaccines to stop infections from certain germs.

We have good vaccines that protect against several strains of bacterial meningitis, but until recently, we didn’t have any approved vaccines to protect against meningitis B.

This strain has caused outbreaks at colleges around the country because the young people aren’t protected.

In the US, we now have approved vaccines for use against meningitis B. They require two or three doses, depending on which one you use.

Because the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) doesn’t yet recommend that all young people be immunized against meningitis B, the girls’ pediatrician doesn’t stock the vaccine in her office.

When I told her I wanted the girls protected, she ordered it and we received a call from her office after a few days, telling us it was in.

I also checked with my insurance company to make sure they would cover the cost of the vaccine, and they said yes. That was a relief! The price to fully vaccinate both girls would be a hit to my pocketbook.

After vaccination, the girls complained of sore arms for a couple of days, and we go back in a few weeks for a second shot, but I have to say, it’s a load off of my mind and I’ll be happy when they’re fully protected.

We’re lucky that insurance covers the vaccine, and that we have insurance.

It’s worth a call to your older child’s healthcare provider to see if he or she has received the meningitis B vaccine. If not, please get your child protected against this rare and awful disease. You know the old saying: Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

 

 

 

By Trish Parnell

 





The Informed Parent

28 03 2016

The Informed Parent is about to hit the streets, and it’s perfect for parents and parents-to-be.

Science writers Tara Haelle and Emily Willingham, PhD, pooled their strong individual talents and produced “a science-based resource for your child’s first four years.”

It is definitely that, and wow, what a resource.The Informed Parent

I got my hands on an advanced copy and started flipping through it last night. It’s a condensed encyclopedia covering everything from Accutane to marijuana, and poky labor to vasospasms.

Are you concerned about childhood obesity and diabetes? These days, that’s not an irrational worry. Haelle and Willingham interviewed experts in the field, dug deep into available research, and then broke it all down for us so that we can understand the science and make informed decisions for our kids. Well, it is aptly named The Informed Parent.

Are you breastfeeding and find you have, oh, about nine million questions? Tongue-ties and lip-ties are discussed, D-MER (dysphoric milk ejection reflex) is explained, and secondary lactation insufficiency is explored, along with so many other issues that can crop up about or around breastfeeding.

This book covers your child from the time he or she was a wishful thought in your head through gestation, birth, infancy (possibly the scariest time for new parents), solid foods, crawling, walking (waddling, really), sunscreen and mosquito repellent, air pollution, TV, mobile devices, discipline, toilet training (we all have our favorite toilet stories, don’t we?), preschool, and, well, it’s easier if you simply read the book.

It’s 309 pages of reliable, science-based information.

This is my new gift for parents of young ones, and parents-to-be.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





New Year, New Immunization Schedule

18 02 2016

Immunizations are good for grams and gramps, moms and pops, and little ‘uns of all ages. But, wow it’s hard to keep up with who’s supposed to get what, and when they’re supposed to get it.

Every year about this time, the CDC puts out a revised immunization schedule. I’m not sure how many people wait on the edge of their seats for the schedule to come out. I think it’s one of those things that we should care about, that some of us actually do care about, but that’s not as exciting as waiting for the next Star Wars movie to come out.

Exciting or not, immunizations do help keep us healthy. They’re important! So, let’s briefly go over the changes for this year.

For all of us, the usual vaccines are on the schedule, plus there are a few vaccines that need particular attention.

In addition to the existing meningitis vaccines, there are currently two vaccines that protect against meningitis B. The ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) approved the recommendation that kids 10 years of age and older who are at higher risk for infection should get vaccinated against this strain of meningitis.

Young people ages 16-23 years who are not at higher risk for infection may get vaccinated, and should check with their providers to see about doing so.

We strongly encourage young people to protect themselves against meningitis B through immunization, unless their providers determine there are medical reasons not to do so.

There is a vaccine that protects against nine strains of the human papillomavirus. There are also vaccines available that protect against fewer strains of HPV, but we believe it’s important to protect kids as thoroughly as possible. We suggest you talk to your provider to see which HPV vaccine you or those you love should get. This vaccine is typically given between ages 11 and 12, but as with all vaccines, you can usually follow a catch-up schedule if you miss some immunizations.

There are more vaccines on the schedule. What you should get depends on many factors—check with your healthcare provider about what you need to stay up-to-date on your immunizations.

For a complete list of current recommendations, click here.

 

 

by Trish Parnell





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