EV-D68

8 09 2014

There’s a virus in the US that’s sending kids to the hospital. Symptoms are similar to a severe cold. The virus is called human enterovirus 68 (EV-D68).

This virus affects the respiratory system, which is made up of the organs and tissues that let us breathe, including our airways (nose, mouth, windpipe), our lungs, and many other bits that work to keep us breathing.

EV-D68 was not a common culprit of respiratory disease until about 2009. That’s when the virus started to be identified with outbreaks in different parts of the world.

There are many strains or types of enteroviruses, and they are frequently the cause of our colds. This particular strain, EV-D68, is causing colds, but there are an unusual number of hospitalizations with this infection. Symptoms include coughing and difficulty breathing, which is what’s sending some people to the hospital. In addition, some people may have wheezing, a fever, or rash.

Those with existing respiratory issues, such as asthma, may find their symptoms more severe, as they do with any respiratory infection.

IMPORTANT POINT: This virus isn’t typically life-threatening, and although some who are infected will find themselves battling severe symptoms, most will experience only a mild cold.

There’s no vaccine available. We need to do what we always do to prevent colds—clean our hands throughout the day and keep our hands off of our face, as germs enter through our nose, mouth, and eyes. If someone offers you a bite of their spaghetti or a drink of their soda, politely refuse. Get your own spaghetti and drink.

And CDC reminds us that it’s important to disinfect surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards) to zap those germs where they sit.

It’s scary for parents to hear about kids being hospitalized, but if we practice basic disease prevention methods, we’ll help our families avoid this and other viruses that cause colds.





Flu – You Have a Choice

20 03 2014

Kristi was a beautiful, intelligent elementary school teacher, and my only sibling. She was healthy, and ran or walked several miles many times a week.

She was active in the community, supporting anything for children. And she made sure her own two children were given lots of experiences by visiting zoos and national parks, camping, playing sports, and doing lots of other activities.

She was always on the go somewhere to do something.

She encouraged all of us to spend time with family, and to put aside our daily chores so that we wouldn’t miss out on opportunities to make memories.

She was an avid photographer and literally had thousands of photos stored on memory cards.

Sisters

Sisters

She was always the one to pick up on someone being left out, and took time to show them kindness and love. Kristi developed many strong relationships because of this positive attitude. She was very strong-willed, fighting for what she believed was the right thing in life.

My sister was someone special.

Since Kristi taught first grade, she was frequently exposed to colds and illnesses. Even though she was healthy, on December 12th, 2013, she began to develop symptoms of influenza. She had a headache, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and a hacking cough.

She went to her physician, who prescribed Tamiflu® and told her to take some over-the-counter flu relief medications.

She made a choice to not purchase the Tamiflu because, even with insurance, the cost was $65, and she had Christmas presents left to buy. Kristi didn’t want anyone to do without a precious gift, particularly her children.

The next two days she began to worsen, to the point she couldn’t get out of bed to get herself fluids. Friends came by to help her and brought her Gatorade®. My mother took her chicken noodle broth, and she was able to get out of bed on Sunday, December 15th.

She still complained of a headache, but drank lots of fluids to try to build up her strength. Kristi’s fever continued, and she started noticing some chest pain Sunday evening while in the shower. Once out, she said it went away. Urgent care had already closed, so she told us she would return to her doctor’s office on Monday morning just to make sure she wasn’t developing any complications.

My mother asked her if she had gotten a flu vaccine this year and she said, “No, but I will definitely get one next year!” She was so scared of needles that she opted to not get a vaccine, thinking lots of people get the flu and suffer through it a few days and get better.

She was not this lucky.

On December 16th, at 1:13pm, only four days into her illness, I got a call from my dad saying an ambulance had been called to her house and it didn’t sound good.

Hearing those words from my dad, who was an EMT, made me know it was serious. As I rushed to the hospital, I picked up my mom from her work and tried to reassure her to stay calm. I tried to prepare Mom for Kristi maybe being on a ventilator or unconscious, just in case.

As we approached the hospital ER doors, my father came out with tears rolling down his cheeks, and my mother instantly knew without him speaking. She desperately asked, “She didn’t make it?” He quietly shook his head. And as I stood there clinging to my parents as they mourned the death of their child I thought of my mother’s words I had so quickly brushed off, “People die from the flu, Sharon.”

As a registered nurse, I have taken care of many patients with influenza and they have recovered. I brushed it off when my mom had been worrying over the weekend because my sister was healthy! She was active. She was an adult with no complications.

Kristi was so healthy, she gave my dad a kidney 10 years ago. At her regular check-ups, her physician always said things looked great and she was doing well.

Healthy adults don’t die from the flu!

She was a fighter, she was so strong-willed. People like that don’t succumb to the flu.

But, I was wrong. Healthy adults and children die every year from the flu because they do not get vaccinated—the number one way to prevent infection.

Losing a sister, and having to see my parents mourn the loss of their first-born, was the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life.

Seeing the pain in their eyes, the thousands of tears shed, was crushing to me. I not only lost my sister but had to watch my parents’ pain, knowing I could not fix this.

But one thing I know is it could have been prevented. It only takes a minute. The pain of a needle doesn’t compare to the pain of watching your family suffer through grief, trust me! Influenza can be prevented with a simple vaccine taken yearly.

It’s your choice. Please make the decision to vaccinate yourself against this deadly illness.

by Sharon Hicks





Symptom Checkers – Are They Helpful?

11 04 2011

Dawn, our handy dandy Outreach Coordinator, was sick the other day with an assortment of symptoms, including headache, body aches, mild fever, sinus pressure and fatigue. Rather than calling the doctor, she turned to the WebMD symptom checker app on her iPhone to see what was up.

After answering a string of questions, including was her fever “made worse by intravenous drug use” or were her body aches “made worse by swimming in infested waters,” she arrived at a list of possible diagnoses. They ranged from common ailments such as flu, acute sinusitis and sunburn, to the more serious lupus, cryptococcosis and dengue fever.

She wasn’t impressed. “It didn’t help at all,” she said. “I was more dismissive of the usefulness of the tool. It gave me conditions that weren’t even possible, like sunburn, alongside ones that were much more likely like sinusitis.” 

We wanted to know what others had experienced when using symptom checkers, so we did an unscientific study and asked a few people.

One physician, preferring to remain anonymous, said:

I happen to like healthychildren.org symptom checker because most of the time the algorithms are correct and it can take pressure off our phone nurses.

Pam Ladds, a nurse and Facebook fan, said:

When used intelligently, they can be really helpful. Unfortunately, modern medical practices tend not to look at the whole person – merely a part or an orifice. I’ve seen several people who finally got a diagnosis and appropriate treatment by searching symptom sites. Of course, the symptom junkies can misuse these sites and drive themselves to insanity. But they can do that anyway! Balance, repeat after me, balance 🙂

Lynn, from the National Meningitis Association, also replied to the question we posed on Facebook:

I agree that all symptom checkers seem to include a cancer diagnosis.  Being a very nervous person myself, I have to force myself to not look up my symptoms, because I always feel worse afterwards.  I know that’s not the intent of the websites (and I’m only talking about the reputable ones – Mayo, etc.), but they have to cover every possibility.

So, I am not sure about using symptom checkers.  With meningitis, we list the obvious ones – headache, high fever, nausea, vomiting, etc.  But, if I look up one of the many GI symptoms I have, it can range from stress-induced to cancer, so my mind jumps to the worst conclusion. 

What do you think? Do symptom checker sites do more harm than good? Do they help parents put symptoms in perspective? Do we love them or loathe them?





Canker Sores

3 01 2011

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, explains the difference between canker sores and oral herpes, and what you can do to relieve the pain.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (5min/2.5mb)





Don’t Wait – Vaccinate!

20 12 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. Even healthy adults 19 through 24 years of age should get vaccinated.

Life can get pretty hectic sometimes. Whether it’s school, work, or your social life, you probably think you have other, more important things to do than get vaccinated against the flu. Last season, the flu attacked adults 19-24 years of age much more than usual, which resulted in missed classes, missed work, and far worse–trips to the ER, hospitalization, or even death.

Fortunately, there’s a quick and easy way for you to protect yourself, and to keep from spreading the flu to friends and family. Get a flu vaccine. One shot or nasal spray will help protect you against the three strains of virus predicted to cause illness this season—including the 2009 H1N1 strain, which is still circulating.

If you think you don’t have time to get vaccinated, think again! It’s easier than ever to get a flu vaccine.  And if you ’re healthy, you can get the nasal spray if you’re afraid of needles! You usually don’t even need a doctor’s appointment. Most pharmacies, drugstores, and supermarkets offer walk-in clinics that are usually very quick and have convenient hours.  In addition, most university clinics offer free or reduced-price flu vaccination for students. But the longer you wait, the longer the lines are likely to be. Flu vaccine is now available in various locations. So don’t wait–vaccinate.

The few minutes it will take you to get a flu vaccine is much shorter than the days you might have to take off from school, work, or both if you get sick with the flu. It takes about two weeks to build immunity against flu, so it’s important to act now in order to be fully protected by the time flu outbreaks begin. By immunizing yourself against flu you’ll help protect your family, friends, classmates, and co-workers, too.

For more information, visit http://www.flu.gov/, http://www.cdc.gov/flu or call 1‐800‐CDC‐INFO (800‐232‐4636).





Pregnant? Protect Baby and You Get a Flu Shot

16 12 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

Your mood can change on a dime. Your feet are swollen, you have heartburn, you can’t sleep, and you can’t stay away from the bathroom for longer than fifteen minutes. A lot of discomforts come with the joy of pregnancy. Adding flu to that could be overwhelming, or much worse. Pregnant women who get the flu are at risk to have serious illness that could harm them or their unborn child. But one step can protect against flu: a flu vaccine.

The risk from flu is greater for pregnant women because pregnancy can reduce the ability of lungs and the immune system to work normally. This can be bad for both you and your baby.

Although pregnant women are about 1% of the U.S. population, they made up 5% of U.S. deaths from 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from April 14 – August 21, 2009. According to a study done during the first month of the outbreak, the rate of hospitalizations for 2009 H1N1 was four times higher in pregnant women than other groups.

While CDC is recommending that everyone get vaccinated against the flu this season, the agency has a special message for pregnant women: “Please don’t pass up this chance to protect yourself and your baby against the flu,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy can reduce the risk of getting the flu while pregnant and after,” says Dr. Schuchat. “And babies younger than six months can get very sick from flu, but are too young to get vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to have their caregivers and close contacts vaccinated.”

“Pregnant women should get flu shots, not the nasal spray vaccine,” says Dr. Schuchat. “The flu shot is given in a single dose, and is safe, effective, and cannot cause the flu.” Schuchat adds that the vaccine can be safely given in all nine months of pregnancy, and is also safe for breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding mothers can get either the nasal spray vaccine or flu shot.

Seasonal flu shots have been given safely to millions of pregnant women over many years. As in previous years, vaccine companies are making plenty of preservative-free flu vaccine as an option for pregnant women and small children. The flu shot (not the nasal spray) is safe for pregnant women during any trimester. Nursing mothers can receive a flu shot or the nasal spray. One shot will last all flu season, even if you get it early in the season.

Usually worse than the common cold, the flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and weakness. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. If you think you may have the flu, it’s important to call your doctor or nurse right away.

For more information, talk to your doctor or contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or www.cdc.gov.





Got Flu?

13 12 2010

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, helps you get through nasty influenza.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (6mins/2.5mb)