It’s May and it’s tick season

11 05 2013

It’s tick season! The CDC says that from May through July is the high season for tick bites and tickborne diseases.

Nearly 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, yet about 20 percent of people in areas where Lyme disease is common are unaware that it’s a risk. And, even in those areas where the disease is common, 42 percent of individuals report taking no preventive measures against ticks.

If you’re wondering about your risk, this is where 95 percent of Lyme disease cases occur in the US:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Other tickborne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. These diseases tend to be concentrated in specific parts of the country. Check with your county health department to see what the risks are in your area.

Diseases reported to CDC by state health departments. Each dot represents one case. The county where the disease was diagnosed is not necessarily the county where the disease was acquired.

Diseases reported to CDC by state health departments. Each dot represents one case. The county where the disease was diagnosed is not necessarily the county where the disease was acquired.

Tickborne diseases can cause mild symptoms to severe infections requiring hospitalization. The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses can include fever/chills, aches and pains, and rash. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications, so see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of these symptoms.

Stay on top of prevention by following these CDC recommendations:

  • Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
  • Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Parents should apply repellent to children; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products with up to 30 percent DEET for kids. Always follow product instructions.
  • Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
  • Treat dogs for ticks. Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and to some tickborne diseases, and may also bring ticks into your home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly “top spot” medications help protect against ticks.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.

Thanks to the CDC for the info!





NIIW 2013 – Resources for Vax Educators

23 04 2013

It’s National Infant Immunization Week!

We put out the call for infant vaccination resources that groups were prepared to share, and this is what we received. If you have any tools or resources you can share with others, either hard copies or downloadables, just add them to the comments section.

Vaccinate Your Baby has a nice section on their website of video FAQs, featuring Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Mark Sawyer, Alison Singer, and Dr. Mary Beth Koslap-Petraco. The videos are very short, and they each ask and answer a question about vaccines. Plus, they have the full transcripts available for download. Nice way to hear how other healthcare professionals answer questions, and something you can show patients.

AAP has a multitude of resources, as you would imagine.

Here’s the Childhood Immunization Support Program Best Practices Summary. Clinicians answer several questions, and their answers are compared to best practices for each question. Sample question: “How does your practice ensure that, whenever possible, immunization appointments are scheduled along with other appointments, to prevent missed opportunities?” Good opportunity to find out how others are overcoming issues related to best practices.

AAP also has a nice page with several provider resources listed for those wanting to communicate with parents of infants, or children of any age.

The Alliance for Immunization in Michigan has a toolkit available for download that addresses infant immunization, as well as immunization in other age groups.

The Illinois Maternal & Child Health Coalition has a Community Immunization Education Guide Toolkit available in English and Spanish. It provides background information that the trainee can use as they train fellow community workers and/or educate the public about immunizations. Key topics include: What is a vaccine preventable disease, what are the five key immunization messages, what do vaccine preventable diseases look like, how to give an excellent presentation.

The Hepatitis B Foundation has a downloadable flyer promoting hep B vaccination.

CDC has an entire infant/toddler immunization section on its website.

Stanford’s Asian Liver Center has a flyer available in multiple languages that addresses HBV and Moms-to-be

CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center has several resources available:

Print materials: – Vaccines and Your Baby booklet; Q and A sheets about related vaccines: rotavirus, hep A, chickenpox, influenza, pertussis; Vaccine safety q and a sheets – facts about childhood vaccines, aluminum, recommended immunization schedule, thimerosal, too many vaccines, vaccine ingredients, vaccines and autism; Clings of the immunization schedule.

Videos: – Vaccines and your baby (for new or expectant parents), Vaccines: Separating Fact from Fear (for parents concerned about vaccine safety)

Parents PACK program – website and monthly e-newsletter (sample)

IAC has several resources for those working with infants:

FOR PARENTS:

Immunizations for Babies  (also available in 8 translations)

Vaccinations for Infants and Children, Age 0–10 Years

Clear Answers & Smart Advice About Your Baby’s Shots by Dr. Ari Brown, MD, FAAP

Cocooning Protects Babies

Personal belief exemptions for vaccination put people at risk. Examine the evidence for yourself.

Questions Parents Ask about Baby Shots   (also available in 8 translations)

Reliable Sources of Immunization Information: Where to go to find answers!

What if you don’t immunize your child?

FOR PROVIDERS:

Vaccine Administration Record for Children and Teens

Summary of Recommendations for Child/Teen Immunization

Recommendations for Pneumococcal Vaccine Use in Children and Teens

Meningococcal Vaccination Recommendations by Age and/or Risk Factor

Screening Checklist for Contraindications to Vaccines for Children and Teens   (also available in 9 translations)

Decision to Not Vaccinate My Child (declination form)

Standing orders for all routine childhood vaccines

PKIDs has several infant-specific resources that anyone may use. There’s a nice section on pertussis with video and audio PSAs, , and other materials for use by providers and parents. For the Make On-Time Vaccination Easy program, there are radio PSAs available for download . There are also videos covering a variety of vaccine-preventable diseases that may be used by anyone as PSAs, or there are longer versions for showing in waiting rooms .





CDC – Working 24/7

20 04 2013

Welcome to NIIW!

Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. Millions more children survive, but are left severely disabled. Vaccines have the power not only to save, but also transform lives by protecting against disease – giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school, and improve their lives.  Vaccination campaigns sometimes provide the only contact with health care services that children receive in their early years of life.

Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions—it currently averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles.

cdc blogImmunization is a global health priority at CDC focusing on polio eradication, reducing measles deaths, and strengthening immunization systems. CDC works closely with a wide variety of partners in more than 60 countries to vaccinate children and provide technical assistance to ministries of health to strengthen and expand countries’ abilities to create, carry out, and evaluate their national immunization programs.

Too few people realize that the health of Americans and the health of people around the world are inextricably linked. Viruses don’t respect borders, so they travel easily within countries and across continents. By helping to stop vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) globally, CDC is also helping to protect people in the United States against importations of VPDs from other countries.

For example, in 2011, there were 220 reported cases of measles in the United States—200 of the 220 cases were brought into the U.S. from other countries with measles outbreaks.

The most effective and least expensive way to protect Americans from diseases and other health threats that begin overseas is to stop them before they spread to our shores. CDC works 24/7 to protect the American people from disease both in the United States and overseas. CDC has dedicated and caring experts in over 60 countries. They detect and control outbreaks at their source, saving lives and reducing healthcare costs. In 2012, CDC responded to over 200 outbreaks around the world, preventing disease spread to the U.S.

CDC’s global health activities protect Americans at home and save lives abroad. They reduce the need for U.S. assistance and create goodwill and good relationships with global neighbors.

Thanks to the CDC for sharing this information.





Flu – The Last Push

18 02 2013

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!

Following are some ‘in the home stretch’ flu tips and resources from the CDC.

This patient’s brochure is spot-on for this year’s (or next) flu season. And if you’re worried about getting the flu, take a look. It includes tips on prevention and what you can do to make it better, should you become infected.

If you’re a health educator and your message is getting a little tired, here are some free resources, including audio/video, badges, and widgets.

We hope you got a flu shot this season. If not, take this year as a lesson and do so next year and all the years after. The vaccine works for the majority of those who take it. Don’t miss out on this crucial first step in flu prevention.

The US flu season continues; flu-like illness has fallen in the East and risen sharply in the West, so take care for the next month or so.

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity usually peaks in the US in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

Symptoms of the flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

To find out what’s going on in the world of flu, get timely information at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm

If you’re infected, get to your provider and start on antivirals.

And next year, as soon as you hear about flu vaccine being available, hightail it to your pharmacy or provider and get vaccinated!





Why Get The HPV Vaccine?

22 01 2013

HPV is short for human papillomavirus. About 20 million people in the United States, most in their teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV.

Not only does HPV cause almost all cervical cancers in women, it’s also responsible for other types of cancer.  HPV causes mouth and throat cancer, as well as anal cancer in both women and men.

HPV can cause cancers of the vulva and vagina in women, and cancer of the penis in men. In the United States each year, there are about 18,000 women and 7,000 men affected by HPV-related cancers.

Most of the HPV infections that cause these cancers could be prevented with vaccination.

HPV-related cancers can be devastating, as Jacquelyn, a cancer survivor and mother of two preschoolers, attests.

Soon after her second child was born, Jacquelyn was diagnosed with cervical cancer and needed a total hysterectomy.  “My husband and I had been together for 15 years, and we were planning to have more children—that isn’t going to happen now,” says Jacquelyn.

Although they caught Jacquelyn’s cervical cancer early, she still has medical appointments that take time away from her family, friends and work. “Every time the doctor calls, I hold my breath until I get the results. Cancer is always in the back of my mind.”

HPV vaccines offer the greatest health benefits to individuals who receive all three doses before having any type of sexual activity. That’s why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.

The connection between vaccinating kids now to protect them from cancer later isn’t lost on Jacquelyn.  “I will protect my son and daughter by getting them the HPV vaccine as soon as they each turn 11.  I tell everyone to get their children the HPV vaccine series to protect them from these kinds of cancers.”

HPV vaccines are given in a series of 3 shots over 6 months.  It is very important to complete all 3 shots to get the best protection. More than 46 million doses of HPV vaccine have been given out, and vaccine studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe.

If your son or daughter hasn’t started or finished the HPV vaccine series yet—it’s not too late! Now is a good time to ask their doctor or nurse about vaccines for your preteens and teens. Visit www.cdc.gov/hpv  to learn more about HPV and HPV vaccines.

By the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention





NIVS Weekly Call

10 09 2012

The National Influenza Vaccine Summit was created about a dozen years ago to address and resolve “influenza and influenza vaccine issues.” The CDC, the AMA, and 400+ other partners work together in this year-round effort.

During the flu season, there are weekly calls to keep all of the partners updated on the ups and downs of influenza in the US. And, just last spring in May 2011, there was held in Brussels, Belgium, the first European Influenza Summit. The two groups are now working collaboratively to reduce influenza infections.

The calls are brief and to the point. We thought you might find use for these few notes from the 6 September US call:

  • Scott Epperson from the CDC reported on flu surveillance. He said that there are low numbers of seasonal flu and most of those are H3N2 and influenza B viruses. However, there are 288 confirmed cases of the H3N2v (variant) virus, which is a swine flu strain. (New numbers are posted every Friday, so this figure may change by the time this post runs.) Sixteen of those infected were hospitalized and there was a death—an older individual with multiple, high-risk medical conditions which led to complications of influenza infection. Ninety-three of those infected were under the age of 18, with an average age of six years. Fifty-two percent were female and 48% were male, and of those with a known antiviral treatment status, 60% had been treated, and of those with a known vaccination status, 53% reported being vaccinated within the last year.
  • Harvard has now taken over the Flu Shot Finder started by Google, and they’ve done an excellent job expanding its capabilities. John Brownstein provided slides on the new features and the new site can be found at http://flushot.healthmap.org. There’s a widget available for use on your own websites that will allow people to put in their zip codes to find flu vaccine near them.
  • Christine Harding from the National Council on Aging’s Flu + You campaign presented on their program and the many free resources available to flu educators and healthcare providers. Stop by their site and take a look—there’s bound to be something you can use.

That’s it for this week. We didn’t cover everything, but what’s left out has been covered extensively elsewhere.

Do you have any flu educational resources you’d like to share? Let folks know about them in the comments, and thanks!

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of NIVS





CDC Asks for Help

28 06 2012

(From the CDC and HHS)

June 26, 2012

Dear Pharmacists and Community Vaccinators,

Thank you all for your tremendous efforts this past year to raise immunization rates in the United States. Outbreaks of pertussis (“whooping cough”), influenza, and measles, and continued low vaccination rates for human papillomavirus (HPV), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), zoster vaccines and others are critical reminders of the ongoing efforts that are needed.

Pharmacists and community vaccinators are uniquely positioned to promote and provide vaccines to people in a wide range of communities. In addition, their extensive reach into diverse communities allows greater access to vaccines for those who may not have a medical home, and who traditionally have had lower rates of vaccine use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) ask for your continued support and efforts to help address vaccination needs in your communities. We know you are asked to do a lot to help your patients, but as trusted health care professionals, research shows that your recommendation to receive needed vaccines is vital.

As just one example, only about 10 percent of adults living with an infant report having had Tdap vaccination.1 But, a 2012 survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 45% of unvaccinated adults who have been in contact with babies under 2 years in the past 5 years or expect to be in contact with them in the next 12 months would consider getting Tdap vaccine if a family member asked. However, 83% would consider getting Tdap vaccine if they were asked by their doctor or other healthcare professional.2 These results underscore the importance of your recommendation for protecting your patients and their families.

Specifically, CDC and HHS are asking pharmacists and other vaccine providers to:

1. Increase awareness among their patients about recommended vaccines, especially for adults and adolescents where vaccination rates are lagging.

2. Ensure that the people who visit your pharmacies or clinics are aware of which vaccinations they need by assessing their vaccine needs and offering those vaccines, e.g.:

a. Offer Tdap vaccine to replace one dose of Td. This is especially important for anyone who will be around infants given outbreaks of pertussis in the United States.

b. Inform pregnant women that they are recommended to receive Tdap vaccine after week 20 of pregnancy and influenza vaccine anytime during pregnancy.

c. Offer yearly influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.

d. Offer zoster vaccine for adults 60 years and older.

e. Offer pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine for everyone 65 years and older.

3. For patients with certain medical conditions, recommend and offer vaccinations specifically recommended based on their high risk conditions, e.g.:

a. Remind patients with diabetes that they need influenza vaccine, pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, and hepatitis B vaccine.

b. Consider targeting immunization messages to patients within your prescription database based on their medications and/or age.

c. Incorporate immunization reminders to patients and caregivers during counseling and medication therapy management (MTM) encounters.

4. Enter adult immunizations into vaccine registries (i.e. immunization information systems) in states where this is possible and provide documentation to the patient (consent form and/or immunization card) and/or their primary care provider to ensure appropriate recording of immunizations.

5. Partner with state and local health departments, immunization coalitions, medical providers, and others in your communities to increase collaboration and outreach to those who need vaccines.

Details about the vaccines recommended for adults and for children can be found at:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ and an adult scheduler and “quiz” for patients to find out which vaccines they may need can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/Schedulers/adult-scheduler.html. Additional information about pertussis for patients and healthcare professionals can be found at www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html.

Additional links to find contacts for state and local health department immunization programs and coalitions, and educational resources for vaccine providers and patients are included below.

Thank you, again, for your energy, enthusiasm, and efforts in improving the health of our communities.

Sincerely,

Anne Schuchat, MD

RADM, US Public Health Service

Assistant Surgeon General

Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

Immunization education and outreach resources and links to identify contacts in state immunization programs and immunization coalitions

State immunization program managers

These individuals are the state point of contact for immunization efforts and are usually housed within the state health departments.

Further information is available at the following link: http://www.immunizationmanagers.org/about/index_about.phtml

Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program

The VFC program is a federal program that provides vaccines to uninsured children at no cost to the child or their family.

Information on contacts for the VFC program in each state and certain cities is available at the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/contacts-state.htm

Further information about Vaccines for Children Program is available at:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/default.htm.

Information addressing pharmacists and the VFC program is available at:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/projects/faqs-doc.htm#enroll

State vaccine registries/immunization information systems

Can your pharmacy participate in your state’s immunization registry? Contact the state immunization registry person to find out if this is an option in your state. Participating in state immunization registries can greatly help facilitate communication about vaccination between providers.

Further information is available at the following link:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/iis/contacts.htm

Immunization coalitions

There are numerous immunization coalitions around the country, pulling together partners from diverse sectors to unite efforts to improve immunization rates.

Further information about linking to coalitions is available at the following site:

http://www.izcoalitions.org/

Free communications resources

CDC produces a variety of resources to promote immunizations, such as print materials, audio/video tools and web tools that can be downloaded free of charge. Immunization campaign materials can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/campaigns.htm and support childhood, adolescent and adult immunization with some materials also available in Spanish.

The Immunization Action Coalition has many different handouts on a variety of vaccines that can be downloaded free-of-charge from their website. More information can be found at: http://www.immunize.org/handouts/.

National, regional, and state Offices of Minority Health contact information

The US Department of Health and Human Services has both federal and regional Offices of Minority Health and states also have Offices of Minority Health.

Pharmacies interested in collaborating with these offices to reduce disparities in vaccination may contact these offices at the following links.

Office of Minority Health, Office of the Secretary:

http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=1&lvlID=7

Offices of Minority Health in Regional Offices:

http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=188

Offices of Minority Health in States:

http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlID=187

Interactive adult and child schedulers

Do you know about the interactive adult and child schedulers? Immunization schedules are complex….and always changing. The CDC website has tools that allow you to enter key patient information and produce an individualized immunization schedule. Patients really like to see that one-of-a-kind individualized, customized set of immunization recommendations, along with their pharmacist’s recommendations.

Further information regarding the schedulers is available at the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/default.htm.

Preventing Vaccine Administration Errors

As a refresher for healthcare providers on correct vaccine administration technique and vaccine-related adverse events, please consult these resources:

1. Guidance from the Pink Book:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/D/vacc_admin.pdf.

2. Quick Fact Sheet: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p3085.pdf.

3. Vaccine Administration Technique video: http://www.immunize.org/dvd/.

4. Institute of Medicine report on Adverse Effects of Vaccines: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13164#toc.

To report adverse events, see the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System at: http://vaers.hhs.gov/index.

Immunization training offerings

CDC invites pharmacists to take advantage of CDC immunization training offerings. The most recent summary of all the new immunization developments and recommendations can be found in CDC’s Immunization Update 2012, scheduled for August 4, 2012.

Please visit the following link for further information:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ed/imzupdate/default.htm

These programs supplement pharmacist-specific immunization education programs provided by pharmacist associations. Check with your pharmacist association for additional training and support resources such as web-based immunization resources, discussion groups and electronic newsletters.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adult Vaccination Coverage — United States, 2010. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012;61(04);66-72. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6104a2.htm.

2 Online survey of 4,247 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 237 were parents of children aged 2 and under, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Sounds of Pertussis®, May 9-11 and May 11-15, 2012.





The Flu Ends with U. Get a flu vaccine, Not the flu.

13 02 2012

(CDC has something to say about the flu and vaccination. Welcome, CDC!)

The holidays have come and gone, the gift returns are complete, and New Year’s resolutions are underway. But did you cross “get a flu vaccine” off your to-do list? If not, it’s not too late.

Last year, the flu peaked in February. The timing of influenza outbreaks is unpredictable. They can occur as early as October and as late as May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.

Vaccination is particularly important for people at high risk of serious flu complications including young children under the age of 5, but especially those under the age of 2 years, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

The steps to protect yourself from flu are simple.

1. Educate yourself about the flu at http://www.cdc.gov/flu
2. Find where to get a flu vaccine using the flu vaccine finder http://www.flu.gov/
3. Get vaccinated and encourage your friends, family and coworkers to do the same.

Remember: The Flu Ends with U. Get a flu vaccine, not the flu.





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





World Rabies Day – 28 September

26 09 2011

Anyone who’s read Old Yeller knows (spoiler alert!) what happens to the title dog in the book. In this day of vaccinations against rabies, though, many people don’t give rabies more than the thought required to take their pets to the vet.

Yet rabies is still around, present in many mammals, including raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes, and contact with any infected animal can mean infection for you or an unvaccinated furry pet.

In fact, about 55,000 people still die every year from rabies, which translates into a death every 10 minutes.

To make people more aware of the continued threat and precautions to take, national and international health organizations have designated September 28, 2011, as World Rabies Day.

Rabies is a viral disease. The virus attacks the central nervous system—the brain and spinal cord—and eventually is fatal (although there are extremely rare cases of survival). Symptoms, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are non-specific in the beginning—a fever, a headache, a general feeling of being unwell. But eventually, they progress to neurological symptoms, including hallucinations, confusion, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (as the disease is called in Old Yeller). Once these symptoms are present, death is only days away.

Usually, rabies is transmitted through a bite, transferred via the saliva of the infected animal, although rarely it transfers through other routes, such as via the air or transplantation of infected organs. The virus itself triggers no symptoms for up to 12 weeks even as it multiplies and invades the brain and spinal cord. When symptoms finally show up, an infected organism dies within about seven days.

Vaccines against rabies are available for animals, but worldwide, dogs remain the most common source of rabies infection in people, and children are at greatest risk. Vaccination could reduce or eliminate this risk, and a goal of the World Rabies Day campaign is to ensure more widespread vaccination of dogs. Since the campaign began in 2007, 4.6 million dogs have been vaccinated thanks to awareness events. This year’s goal is to grow that number even more.

Vaccinations also exist for people, especially post-exposure vaccinations. They once had a dire reputation as painful shots administered in the stomach, but now they’re shots in the arm and no more painful than other vaccinations. These shots include a shot given the day of exposure followed by more shots in an arm muscle on days 3, 7, and 14, according to the CDC. However, there is a short window of time for these vaccines to be effective; they must be administered preferably within a day of exposure. For people who have already had rabies vaccinations, a briefer round of further shots is required.

What should you do if you think you’ve come into contact with a rabies-infected animal? The CDC has a few guidelines:

  • Consider the situation urgent but not an emergency. Get medical help as soon as you can.
  • Wash a wound immediately with soap and water, which decreases the chance of infection.
  • Get immediate medical attention for acute trauma from a wound before worrying about rabies infection.
  • Once immediate considerations are addressed, your doctor and the relevant health department will determine if you need vaccination.

Remember, above all, keep your pets vaccinated against rabies, and stay away from wild animals, especially those known to carry the virus. For more information, see the World Rabies Day website.

By Emily Willingham

Image courtesy of secad.ie