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.





No Time For Flu

15 09 2016

We’re launching our national educational campaign “No Time For Flu.” Hooray!

The campaign sounds the alarm about the dangers of flu, and alerts the public to the need for everyone six months of age and older to be vaccinated against influenza to prevent transmission of the disease.

NoTimeForFlu

Flu sweeps around the world each year, and is a contagious and potentially deadly viral infection that can be dangerous for anyone—healthy young adults, pregnant women, babies, and seniors.

Commonly known as flu, influenza is marked by some or even all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone experiences fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in kids than adults)

“Some people infected with flu feel achy and tired, or they might have a sore throat, cough, or fever. They might even have a runny or stuffy nose. Many flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, which is why people sometimes mix them up and think it’s no big deal, just a cold,” said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.

Flu symptoms can last for days and are usually gone by the end of two weeks.

Flu viruses are transmitted in various ways—even with a kiss. Or, an infected person can cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny infected droplets into the air. Those droplets are then breathed in through the nose or the mouth of anyone nearby.

An infected person can also cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny droplets into the air, which then plop onto tables, or doorknobs, or other surfaces. Individuals later touch those surfaces and get the droplets on their hands. When those same hands touch the nose, mouth, or eyes, the droplets are transferred from the surface to the body, and transmit the virus.

An infected person can transmit the flu virus even before he or she starts to feel ill.

The CDC states that 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.

Flu doesn’t treat everyone the same. It can lead to pneumonia or perhaps, in children, sinus or ear infections. It can make an existing medical condition such as asthma much worse, and one can even die from flu

The fact that flu can take perfectly healthy individuals and kill them in a matter of days is the most confounding aspect of infection.

PKIDs’ “No Time For Flu” campaign reaches out through social media platforms and a website, www.pkids.org/flu, to educate the public on flu and how to prevent infection.

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

“It’s so easy to catch the flu, and so easy to prevent it. Plan ahead, roll up your sleeve, and protect yourself and your loved ones,” said Ari Brown, MD, pediatrician and author of Baby 411 book series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination. There are rare exceptions, and an individual’s healthcare provider will be the person to address those issues.

NOTE: For the 2016-2017 flu season, CDC recommends that only the injectable flu vaccines be used, and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Ongoing studies are determining the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine.

Because the flu strains change each year, an annual vaccination which matches the existing strains is required.

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





FluMist Doesn’t Make The Cut

27 06 2016

Bad news for people 2 through 49 years of age: it’s back to the needle for your annual flu vaccine.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) advises the CDC on immunization matters. At their last meeting, they advised against using the nasal spray flu vaccine during the 2016-2017 flu season.

The live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is one we all love because it’s a simple spray up the nose. But, the data from the last three years say the spray vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t great. It just doesn’t seem to work that well.mom and daughter

When the nasal spray vaccine was first licensed, data showed it to be as effective as the vaccine given in a shot. Researchers have yet to figure out why the nasal spray isn’t currently protecting people from flu.

The ACIP made its recommendation, but the CDC’s director has to review and approve it before it becomes an official policy.

The final recommendation should be published in August or September 2016.





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





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





To Vaccinate Or Not: One Family’s Journey

9 02 2015

When I had my first child over a decade ago, the idea of not vaccinating was one I was wholly unfamiliar with. I followed all of the suggestions of the doctor in regards to care for my baby and didn’t question whether the guidelines I followed were best practice or not.

When my toddler had a reaction after her one-year shots, all of that came screeching to a halt.

Getting online to connect with other parents with similar concerns was a frightening experience. All of a sudden there was a ton of information about vaccinations and none of it felt terribly positive.

I stopped vaccinating. I was afraid more of the shots hurting my child than I was of the diseases the shots are designed to prevent. I didn’t vaccinate my other children at all when I had them and became a part of an online community that supported “natural health” and healing.

I spent many years never questioning this choice. There are so many things that really make vaccinations terrifying online—the idea of doing something that can injure or kill your child while trying to avoid minor diseases seemed simple and clear.

Slowly things started to change. The news started covering more outbreaks of diseases that were previously rare. Weighing out the odds of catching a disease vs. having a reaction seems very different when diseases are no longer mostly eradicated.

Information about the shady dealings of Wakefield about the tie between the MMR vaccine and autism came to light.

I changed where I was reading online at this point, as well. I really found the Red Wine and Applesauce blog to be a source of comforting and factual information.

I talked to other families that had previously not vaccinated and now were. My husband read with me and talked to other families. We talked to our pediatrician about why we had made our previous choices as well as why we were considering changing and listened.

Finally, we decided to try a single shot. We picked DTaP because of pertussis in the area, and vaccinated all the kids.

We then closely watched all of them for something terrible to happen. The hours and then days following that first shot were frightening—despite all that we had read about the low chances of side effects there was still years of seeing people blame vaccines for tons of injuries in children.

Nothing bad happened. Everyone ran a slight fever and then they were fine. The next time we went back we started to use the CDC’s catch-up schedule.

I do not regret catching the kids up on their shots. Talking to vaccine-hesitant people is productive and we can all work together to protect our kids—all of them.

 

The author chose to remain anonymous due to differences of opinion with members of her extended family.