Baby Armor

6 03 2014

And now, a timely reminder from CDC:PSA-superbaby

It’s easy for parents to think of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or whooping cough as issues of the past, but we know that most of these diseases still persist around the world.

Just last year a higher than normal number of measles cases were reported in the U.S., including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996.

Making sure children get all of their vaccines is the most important thing parents can do to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases before their second birthday. And CDC has created a series of print PSAs encouraging just that (including an adorable  super baby version).

CDC also has immunization schedules available for all ages and a handy scheduling tool that allows you to enter your child’s birth date and print out a custom copy of his or her personal immunization schedule.

As winter begins to fade and a new spring season starts creeping up, don’t forget to schedule your pediatrician’s visits and discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Let’s give our little super heroes the best protection we can.





The Trouble With Some Microbes . . .

7 02 2013

Our battle against bacteria is tilting in our favor. After all, we have vaccines and antibiotics on our side. That doesn’t mean we can get cocky. It’s tilting, not surrendering at our feet.

But we’re still struggling to find ways to kill viruses once they’ve infected us.  At best, we can sometimes control them.

Although we can kill viruses on our bodies and other surfaces with disinfectants, it’s difficult to kill them when they’re living inside our cells.  When we’re infected with a virus, it takes up residence in one of our cells and uses the cell’s machinery to reproduce itself.

Developing a drug that will kill the virus without disrupting the intracellular machinery of uninfected cells is no easy task. It’s like playing Jenga—eventually the whole structure will collapse.

Bacteria, on the other hand, generally live outside of our cells and are easier targets.

There are some bacteria that have developed a resistance to not just one drug, say for instance penicillin, but to many such drugs.  They’re known as multi-drug resistant microorganisms such as streptococcus pneumoniae and mycobacterium tuberculosis, germs that we thought were very much under control and are now surging back into the population.

One major factor in preventing us from understanding the world of microbes is the size of that world.

The folks at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences put bacteria into perspective this way, “Bacteria vary somewhat in size, but average about 1/25,000 inch.  In other words, 25,000 bacteria laid side by side would occupy only one inch of space.  One cubic inch is big enough to hold nine trillion average size bacteria—about 3,000 bacteria for every person on earth.

“Bacteria make up the largest group of micro-organisms.  People often think of them only as germs and the harm they do.  Actually, only a small number of [the thousands of different] bacteria types are pathogenic (disease-causing).  Most are harmless and many are helpful.”

Neal Rolfe Chamberlain, professor at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains viruses in this manner, “Viruses are very small forms of life.  In fact, people still argue over whether viruses are really alive.  Viruses range in size from about 20 to 300 nanometers (nm).  A nanometer is 0.000001 of a millimeter.  A millimeter is 1/25 of an inch.  So in other words, you can place 25,000,000 nanometers in an inch.  If the biggest virus is 300 nm then you could fit 83,333 of that virus in an inch.

“Viruses are major freeloaders.  They cannot make anything on their own.  To reproduce they must infect other living cells.  Viruses infect bacteria, parasites, fungi, plants, animals, and humans.  No one escapes them.  If you have had the flu, chickenpox, measles, a common cold, mono, a cold sore, or a sore throat you have been infected by a virus!”

Some viruses, like HIV and hepatitis C, tend to develop strains that can resist mono drug therapy (treating the patient with one drug at a time).  We have to try and control the viruses with combination, or “cocktail” drugs (treating the patient with several drugs at once), although even that approach does not always work.  Some viruses can keep mutating until we’ve run out of drugs to try.

All this is to say that fighting microbes is seldom a simple task, and seemingly one that is neverending. For example, we have a whooping cough vaccine, but new strains are popping up and new vaccines are needed for this astoundingly infectious microbe.

We will never be rid of our tiny co-inhabitants on this world, and anyway, most of them we want to keep around. It’s those others . . . wouldn’t it be nice to have a jail for nasty microbes?

By PKIDs’ Staff





Whooping Cough – How Quickly it Spreads

10 12 2012

This Seattle mom shares the story of her infection, and consequently, that of her newborn son.





Why Vaccinate? I Never Get Sick!

5 11 2012

No matter your age, if you’re sitting in a moving vehicle you’re required to wear a seatbelt or to be in a size-appropriate car seat.

Most states require that anyone riding a bicycle or a motorcycle wear a helmet. And again, it doesn’t matter what age you are.

Kids going to public schools are required to be immunized against several diseases for school entry. How many immunizations they’re required to get depends on the state they live in, and the school they attend.

I suppose I could think up a few public health scenarios that would require adults to be immunized against a particular disease. But as a rule, unless our jobs require it, we adults are exempt from this particular requirement.

There are lots of protections in place for kids, as there should be. For instance, if I don’t feed my daughters, or provide adequate shelter for them, they’ll be taken away from me and placed in a foster home, where they’ll get the care they need. We need that oversight in place, so that no kids fall through the cracks. The heartbreak is that there are still kids falling through the cracks, but we do know that the oversights in place keep that number from being astronomical.

Most adults don’t need that kind of micromanagement when it comes to their health. But, they do need information. Before I became involved with PKIDs, I wasn’t even aware that there were vaccines for adults, other than the flu vaccine.

Now I know.

I don’t have time to get sick. I get vaccinated for me. I also wash my hands, try to get enough sleep, make myself eat green vegetables, and generally do whatever I need to do to keep myself healthy. But because I’ve met and talked with so many families affected by preventable diseases and I know how awful those infections can be, one of my motivations for getting vaccinated is so that I don’t accidentally infect someone else.

For example, it’s the infected adults and teens around babies who infect them with whooping cough, and it’s the infected birth moms who infect their newborns with hepatitis B. Babies infected with whooping cough can end up hospitalized, or worse. And babies infected with hepatitis B usually stay infected for life. This can lead to liver cancer or transplantation—if they’re lucky.

If you’re one of those people who never gets sick and figures you don’t need to be vaccinated—well, who knows, you might be right. But not getting sick is not the same as not being infected. You can and do pass on those germs to little babies who haven’t gotten all of their vaccinations yet, and others whose immune systems are not robust, for one reason or another.

So, you know where I’m going with this. Take just a few minutes the next time you’re at the pharmacy or your doctor’s office and ask what vaccinations you need. Do it for you, but also do it for the vulnerable in your life.

By Trish Parnell





Whooping Cough Can Happen to You or Your Baby

19 07 2012

Whooping cough comes in waves. It’s not a problem every year, but we’re riding a wave right now.

We were on a telebriefing this morning with Dr. Anne Schuchat, director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (CDC), and Mary Selecky, secretary, Washington State Department of Health.

They reported that Washington state is a reflection of the national picture of this difficult-to-control disease.

Washington is in the midst of an epidemic, with 3,000 cases so far this year and nine infant deaths. Pertussis (whooping cough) is most dangerous for babies, and more than half who become infected are hospitalized.

In the nation, nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to date, with many states seeing higher numbers of infected than normal.

In 2010, there were 27,000 reported cases and 27 deaths, 25 of those who died were infants.

There has been a gradual and sustained increase of reported cases in the US, and the CDC is in the field trying to determine why that is.

Potential causes of increased numbers could be:

  • childhood vaccines provide immunity for a number of years, but that immunity wanes over time
  • there has been increased reporting of disease
  • there has been an increase in diagnosis of pertussis

In this current wave of disease, the highest rates of infection are among babies younger than one. Babies depend on those around to be immunized so that adolescents and adults won’t pass on the infection to the baby, who is too young to be fully protected by immunization.

There are also higher rates of infection in 10-year-olds, because early childhood immunizations have waned. A booster called “Tdap” (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) is recommended for children 11 to 12 years old.

One odd thing that’s going on in Washington and elsewhere is that young people ages 13 to 14 years are also experiencing higher rates of infection. A theory as to a possible cause for this is that this group of teenagers is the first to have had acellular pertussis vaccine only as babies and young children, and no whole-cell pertussis vaccine.

In 1997, the switch was made from whole-cell pertussis vaccine to acellular pertussis vaccine in the US.

It’s just a theory. How that might affect immunity, if it does, is being investigated.

Pertussis vaccine is the most effective approach to preventing infection. Unvaccinated kids have an eight times higher risk of infection compared to vaccinated kids.

Vaccinated kids who get pertussis have milder symptoms, shorter illness, and are less infectious.

In 2010, only eight percent of adults in the US had a history of the Tdap booster.

Throughout today’s telebriefing, Dr. Schuchat and Ms. Selecky emphasized the need for pregnant women and all adults and adolescents to be vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but the babies in their lives, as most babies who are infected acquire that infection from adults and teens around them.

This surge in pertussis cases isn’t just in the US. Australia’s rate of pertussis infection right now is even higher than that in the US, and Canada is struggling.

Moms and dads are losing their babies to this disease. Whooping cough is so infectious—you could be infected and pass it on to a co-worker who then takes it home to his newborn daughter.

Because pertussis is underdiagnosed, many people are infected but don’t know it.

Ask your pharmacist, your doctor, or even your employer about getting the pertussis booster shot. Please.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of CDC





A Mother’s Legacy

25 06 2012

I would like to tell you about my mother and all mothers like her who suffered through the loss of a child from an infectious disease. Raising a family in the hills of Kentucky, where most people were too poor to pay for the little, if any, medical help available, my mother struggled to keep her family healthy.

When one of her babies became seriously ill, my mother and her parents did everything they could to try and help her. Despite their efforts, my mother watched her child, Patsy Lynn, die from whooping cough. While making arrangements for Patsy’s funeral my mother learned that another one of her children was gravely ill. Both children were buried on the same day, in the same casket, in the same grave next to my mother’s church.

After the death of two children, my family was able to relocate to the Cincinnati area where medical attention was more readily available. We all had our vaccines as my mother was determined not to lose another child to unseen viruses and she insisted on washing and boiling everything that we touched.

I lived through the effect the loss had upon my mother’s life. The fear of disease was so real then, but many of us today forget what it was like to live in a time when diseases like measles, polio and smallpox were so much more common and deadly.

I remember the time that I was not allowed to play with a friend because her mother had been sent to the “TB hospital” and I vividly remember the Sunday that we spent standing in the long lines to receive our sugar cubes laced with the polio vaccine.

During the early ’60s, I remember being put to bed in a dark room when it was thought I might have the measles. Most of all, I’ll never forget that several of my teachers wore braces because of the effects of polio.

My mother tried her best to prevent us from succumbing to any disease which may shorten our lives, so I’m thankful that when she died of cancer in 1982 she did not know that I had somehow contracted the hepatitis B virus.

In June 1995, I was diagnosed with hepatitis B about a week before my 25th wedding anniversary. A doctor told my husband that I had a sexually transmitted disease and that he should be tested and vaccinated. What the doctor failed to tell us at the time was that this hepatitis could be spread in many other ways. I had complete trust in my husband and, thank God he had faith and trust in me, so this suggestion of sexually promiscuity did not harm our marriage.

Within the week we were informed that my husband tested negative, as did my children, who have all been vaccinated.

I have tried for years to find out where I got the virus. Could it have been from my mother who died of liver cancer? Did I get it in grade school, or from dental work, surgeries? Did I get it in one of the hospitals or clinics where I have worked as an interpreter? Did I get it from a child who ran into me on the playground, or from the little girl who bit me while I was working in the Cincinnati Public Schools?

The only thing I can be sure of is that I did not get hepatitis B from sexual contact, drug use or tattoos. However, I have now arrived at a place of peace in my life by accepting the fact that I will never know the path of transmission—and I no longer search for that answer.

And this is my mother’s legacy to me: protect your children the best you can.

By Barbra Anne Malapelli Haun





Mat Releases are Good!

11 06 2012

We’ve all written more press releases than we can count, and they do the job they’re supposed to do. But, here at PKIDs, we’re also quite fond of mat releases. They reach smaller publications by the hundreds and chances are, the words we write will get published without editing.

They’re a good way to get our news into communities across the country.

A mat release is a short feature story (approximately 400 words) written by you or someone in your organization. It’s distributed to small regional or local daily or weekly newspapers through a service such as NAPS or PR Newswire.

The story is usually run as-is by the editors, but is sometimes given a little editing. Small newspapers like mat releases because most don’t have the budgets to hire enough reporters to create all the features they need or would like, and a mat release is a ready-made story.

Mat releases are usually not too topical, as they take time to get into circulation and they’re picked up and used by editors for months after the release date.

If you include some sort of contest or other fun component in your mat release, it will increase the likelihood of its being picked up by editors. This isn’t always possible, but keep this approach in mind.

Artwork (usually a photo) will need to be included in any mat release you distribute. Editors love artwork and will sometimes use a story, or a bit of it, just to get artwork into their papers.

What A Mat Release Isn’t

Mat releases are not press releases. In a mat release, you share information in the format of a feature story that is of value or interest to a large group of people. You don’t “advertise” your services or products.

Cost

As a nonprofit, you should get a discount from the distributor. Even so, mat releases aren’t cheap—costing about $5,000. The upside is that they eventually reach lots of readers, so they’re considered a solid way to spend funds.

Writing

Distributors work with you on the writing of your mat release. They want you to be happy and will be diligent about editing and improving your work, if you need the help.

You have about 400 words to tell a story and share your important information.

Sample Mat Release (writtten for a program we did a few years ago, with notes on content)

Silence the Sounds of Pertussis

(The headline matters, so take your time to come up with something of interest.)

(NAPS)—New parents know to vaccinate their babies to protect against a number of childhood diseases. But what about vaccinating themselves to keep from spreading illnesses to their child? (This makes readers curious, so they want to read further.)

Most parents do not think of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, when they think of potential threats to their child’s health. However, this disease is making a strong comeback in the U.S., with a total of more than 25,000 reported cases in 2004 alone. (A strong fact that sets the expert tone of the piece and lets the reader know this is a serious problem.)

Luckily, there is a simple way to ease new parents’ minds: immunize mom and dad with the whooping cough booster. (They’ve heard the problem, and now they know there’s a solution. They want to find out more.)

Because of the growth of this disturbing trend, new mom and award-winning actress Keri Russell is teaming up with the nonprofit organization, Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs), to launch a public awareness campaign: Silence the Sounds of Pertussis. The initiative aims to educate new parents about the dangers of this disease (especially to babies), and to encourage them to get the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis booster (called the Tdap vaccine) to keep their babies safe. (Here’s your solution to the problem: Talk about your program, clinic, or other topic you want people to know about.)

A recent study out of the University of North Carolina found that parents are the source of more than 50 percent of infant cases of whooping cough.

“When I found out that parents were infecting their children with this dangerous disease, I asked my doctor what I could do to prevent it from happening to my infant son,” Keri Russell said. “He recommended that my husband and I get the Tdap booster.” (Get some quotes in the piece from spokespersons/experts as this helps keep it personal.)

The Tdap is strongly recommended by the CDC for anyone who has close contact with a baby.

In adults, whooping cough symptoms often disguise themselves to look like a common cold, making the disease difficult to diagnose and easy to spread. (More facts to enhance the piece.)

Babies under 12 months of age are not only the most vulnerable to whooping cough, they are also the age group for which the infection is most life-threatening. Babies too young to have completed their primary vaccine series account for the majority of pertussis-related complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. In fact, more than 90 percent of pertussis-associated deaths were among babies less than six months old.

“The good news is that whooping cough is a problem that has a solution,” said Dr. Gary Freed, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. “If every new and expectant parent receives the Tdap booster before or immediately after the birth of their baby, we could really reduce the risk of young babies getting whooping cough. If you provide care for a baby, talk to your doctor about how to protect him or her from pertussis.”  (The “ask” or what you want the reader to do.)

For more information on how you can help Silence the Sounds of Pertussis, visit the PKIDs website. (Give them contact information so they can find out more.)

Bottom Line

Are mat releases worth the cost?  Yes, if you can include that cost in a grant budget, it is worth it. Mat releases stay out for months and continue getting picked up long past the point you’d think they would. This release that we’re sharing in the blog ran for months and months. We were surprised (and happy) at the shelf life it had, and at the number of editors who ran it.

If you have any mat releases you’d like to share with others, put them in the comments section. We’d all benefit from seeing them!

Remember, these are not advertisements or advertorials. Keep them as features full of information people want, and editors will pick up the stories.

This article comes from PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program.