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.

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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.

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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





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





Health Information: Social Media’s New Darling?

13 08 2010

When it comes to health information, more and more people are turning to the Internet, and not just to research symptoms.

Increasingly, people are turning to social media for everything from weight management to smoking cessation to exercise tutorials. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of tools like Twitter, Facebook, and mobile applications for the radical behavior modification required to stop smoking, drinking, or eating too much, but the health information landscape has been irrevocably altered by the influence of social media, and vice versa.

When it comes to weightier matters such as fighting infectious disease or increasing communication between doctors and patients, the social media scene is less chock-a-block with information, but most of the heavy hitters, like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization are represented.

For patients with infectious diseases or other serious conditions, there are many virtual gathering places where peer-to-peer information and experiences are shared. Sites like PatientsLikeMe allow users to self-select using “disease communities,” from Fibromyalgia to HIV/AIDS. PKIDs has a listserv for families whose children have been affected by infectious diseases.

And while it’s far too early to tell whether social media will increase doctor-patient communication, some practitioners have embraced social media tools whole-heartedly –using everything from blogs to Twitter.  A New York practice handles nearly all post-consultation communications virtually (ranging from email to Twitter).

From virtual visits to health research to virtual communities for the chronically ill, the Internet is no longer just a way to check out your symptoms. And social media, with its two-way information sharing, has shifted knowledge-sharing hierarchies the healthcare world used to take for granted.

The Mayo Clinic, the seminal leader in the treatment of disease, recently formed a Center for Social Media.

Could a social media center in your hospital or clinic be far behind?