No More Meningitis

29 09 2016

Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs) announces the launch of its national educational campaign, “No More Meningitis.”

The campaign warns parents that meningitis is a rare but deadly infection that can kill within hours. If a person is lucky, it lingers, taking a leg or a kidney but leaving them with their life.

Taking the steps to prevent infection is a must for families.

Anyone can become infected, but it’s most common in babies under the age of one, and in teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 21.

The outbreaks of meningitis at university campuses are a reminder that there are vaccines to fight multiple strains, but they’re not being fully utilized.

Meningitis can be a swift and vicious infection, but each year, only about half of teens get immunized against this disease.

serogroups

“As parents, we need to make sure our babies and our teens and young adults get the protection they deserve. Our older kids are at greater risk of becoming infected with bacterial meningitis when living in close quarters with large groups of people, such as youth campers, dorm residents, or military barrack inhabitants,” said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.

Also at risk are individuals whose immune systems are compromised, travelers to regions where meningococcal disease is common, and people exposed to others who are currently infected and infectious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 600-1,000 Americans get meningitis every year. Of those infected, 10-15 percent will die. Even if the disease is quickly diagnosed and treated, 11-19 percent of survivors will experience life-changing consequences, such as loss of hearing or limbs, strokes, or seizures.

Because meningitis initially mimics flu symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose it in time to save a life.

The viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis can spread in many ways, including through a kiss or a cough, a sneeze or a sip on a shared straw.

The campaign stresses these simple ways to avoid infection:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep your hands off of your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Don’t share items like food, forks, lipstick—anything that can transfer germs from another person’s mouth to your own.
  • Get immunized. There are several germs that cause meningitis, and there are several vaccines offering protection. Ask your provider which vaccines are appropriate for your age and immunization history.
  • Keep your immune system strong by doing these things—exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading infections that you may have.

“Too many parents, including me, have lost children to this disease,” stated Lynn Bozof, President of the National Meningitis Association. “I don’t know how my son contracted the disease, but my guess is that someone, who was a carrier, coughed or sneezed on him. It’s as simple as that. Common-sense precautions, and most importantly, vaccination, are a necessity.”

PKIDs’ “No More Meningitis” campaign reaches out through social media platforms and a website, http://www.pkids.org/meningitis, to educate the public on meningitis and how to prevent infection.

Through the use of videos, posters, and fresh informative materials, the public’s questions about meningitis are answered with clarity, and the need to use immunization as a strong tool to prevent infection is made clear.

“The mission of PKIDs is to educate the public about effective disease prevention practices,” said Parnell. “With the ‘No More Meningitis’ campaign, PKIDs hopes to prevent the spread of meningitis and protect our children, no matter their age.”

Please visit our site and use the images and other materials to encourage your community to immunize against meningitis.





Measles – What’s The Big Deal?

2 06 2016

Why are public health people excited about a handful of measles cases?

Right now there’s an outbreak in Arizona. As of the moment I’m writing these words, outbreak in this instance means 11 cases. Doesn’t sound like a big deal.

But, there are reasons for concern.

To put some perspective on this, prior to 1980, before most kids were getting immunized against measles, infection caused 2.6 million deaths each year.

Measles is wildly contagious. Let’s say I’m infected with measles—I pop into the local Walmart’s restroom, do my thing, wash my hands, and cough before I go out the door. Everyone who enters that restroom for the next two hours will be exposed to the virus, which is hanging in the air and also waiting on the countertops, taps, and doorknob.

Just walk into the restroom and you’re exposed. It’s that easy to pick up.

Protection comes through immunization, although there are some who have been immunized who will still become infected. No vaccine protects 100% of the people 100% of the time.

Keeping your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose, and mouth also helps to prevent infection.

When you have measles, you will almost surely get a rash. What most of us don’t realize is measles can bring so much more than a few red spots:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the brain, which may lead to deafness or intellectual disability
  • SSPE – a fatal disease which lurks in the body for years after the initial measles infection disappears
  • Death

When you can become infected by simply breathing the air an infected person passed through two hours ago, it’s reason enough to get excited.

Make sure your family is protected through immunization, and check with your healthcare provider if you’re not clear about your family’s immunization history.

Preventing measles is worth a minute of our time.

 

 

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

 





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





Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E

28 07 2015

It’s World Hepatitis Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins





Gambling With Risk Is Not Worth It

6 04 2015

I can’t think of a vaccine-preventable disease that kills or permanently damages 100 percent of those infected.

It’s a safe bet that if there were such a disease, we’d all be vaccinated against it. We’d all demand to be vaccinated against it.

The diseases we can prevent vary in how they affect us. Some, such as measles, will infect almost every person not protected by a vaccine. They’ll probably not feel good, but the diseases won’t kill or permanently damage every person.

In the case of measles, about one out of 1,000 infected kids will experience swelling of the brain, and one or two will die from the infection.

So not every person will be killed or permanently damaged.

Meningitis may infect a lot of people. Most are walking around with the bacteria in their nose or throat but they’re not going to get sick.

Rarely, someone will become infected and will get sick. And when that happens, it can cause brain damage, loss of hearing, loss of limbs, or death.

But it’s another disease that’s not going to kill or permanently damage everyone infected.

We could go through each vaccine-preventable disease and talk about how many infected people will have permanent damage or die from the infection. In all cases, the majority of those infected will live, and they will have no permanent damage from the disease.

I still get my kids vaccinated against every disease for which there is a vaccine.

No one is more precious to me than my girls and every parent I know feels the same about their kids. Dad and daughter on beach

I can’t risk either of my children living with or dying from an infection I could have prevented with a quick vaccination.

I’ve been reading about vaccines for two decades. We have more scientists on our advisory board than I can count, and I’ve been listening to them talk about every aspect of vaccines and vaccinations for two decades.

There is nothing that is going to happen from vaccinating my girls other than a sore arm or short fever. I can live with that. More to the point, they can live with that. The risk for my girls is not in the vaccine, but in the not vaccinating.

When my girls were tiny, I buckled them in before driving anywhere, and as they grew older, I wouldn’t take the car out of park until they were buckled.

Of all of the cars on the road at any one time, very few of them will be in an accident. And few of those accidents will result in permanent damage or the death of a person. We all know that. We still buckle our kids in before we leave the driveway.

It doesn’t matter how small the risk is to our kids, if we can protect them, we will.

The next time you hear a friend say they’re not going to vaccinate their kids, or they’re going to wait and stretch out the vaccines over time, take a minute to talk to them about why we practice prevention, even when the odds are in our favor.

 

by Trish Parnell





And The National Immunization Survey Says . . .

28 08 2014

In 1994, the CDC began collecting information about the vaccination of children ages 19—35 months. They did this through a survey called the National Immunization Survey (NIS), and they’re still doing it.

The information they collect gives us a good picture of how well-covered our little ones are by the vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

CDC does similar surveys on teens, adults, and also specifically, flu.

The results from the latest survey on children ages 19—35 months are:

  • Most parents are getting their kids vaccinated against preventable diseases.
  • We need to be more vigilant about protecting our two-year-olds through vaccination. They aren’t getting all the recommended doses.
  • Seventeen states had less than 90% coverage with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Communities need 95% coverage to keep measles under control. Even then, when there are groups of people not protected by the MMR vaccine, they’re at risk for measles.

Dr. Alan Hinman does a nice job of getting into the measles outbreak we’ve had this past year in his blog post on the Value of Vaccination website. Recommended reading!

To dive into all the details of the 2013 NIS, CDC’s MMWR provides the facts and figures.