Flu Season Approaching, Take These Preventive Steps

Don’t be caught off guard, beat the flu this season! Flu season can start as early as October. CHOC Children’s and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge that all children ages 6 months or older — that means practically everyone! — be immunized against influenza as soon as the vaccine is available. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications from flu to get the flu vaccine, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions
  • People who are immunosuppressed
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Health care workers

Further, to protect a baby, who cannot get the flu vaccine, make sure that everyone in your home, as well as daycare providers get a flu vaccine. This reduces the likelihood of your baby coming into contact with this common and unpredictable virus.

Lastly, take everyday preventive steps to stop the spread of germs.

  • Wash your hands often and use respiratory etiquette during flu season. There are many other respiratory viruses out there besides the seasonal flu, and the flu vaccine cannot protect against all of them.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Postpone play dates with sick kids.
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.
  • If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Contact your pediatrician or health care provider to check when the flu vaccine is available.

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The Ugly Facts About Measles

The United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases, with California leading the states inDoctor vaccinating small redhead girl. the number of individuals confirmed to have had the disease. While some community members don’t perceive measles as serious, health care providers and agencies encourage everyone to consider the ugly facts about the disease — and vaccinate.

Measles is Highly Contagious

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It’s easily spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed. In other words, even after an infected person leaves a room, an unvaccinated individual could get measles as a result of breathing the contaminated air or touching the infected surface.   In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated individuals in close proximity to a person with measles will become infected.

Measles is Not Simply a Rash

Measles do carry complications, from mild to severe. The most common complications are diarrhea and ear infections, which can result in permanent hearing loss. Severe complications include pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children, and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and leave a child with hearing loss and cognitive delays.

There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the best protection against the disease. Please talk to your health care provider about the importance of vaccinations for you, your child, and your community.

 

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Protect Your Family From Measles

Measles has now been confirmed in ten Orange County residents, in conjunction with the recent outbreak affecting California and more than 20 other states. The Orange County Health Care Agency reminds the public that the best way to prevent measles is by getting vaccinated.

Measles is an acute infection caused by the measles (rubeola) virus. The disease spreads very easily by air and by direct contact with an infected person. The illness usually begins about 8 to 12 days (but up to 21 days) after exposure with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes. Complications of measles include pneumonia and, less commonly, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Anyone suspecting they have measles should call their health care provider immediately, and before going to the medical office to avoid exposing others to the virus. The Orange County Health Care Agency recommends the following guidelines to help protect you and your family from measles:

• Children should receive their first MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine at 12-15 months of age. The second dose of MMR is given at 4 to 6 years of age before going to school.
• Vaccinating children, adolescents and adults is the best way to protect infants who are too young to receive the MMR vaccine.
• Vaccinations are very safe. The benefits far outweigh any risks. Side effects are usually mild, such as soreness where the shot was given.
• Measles is found in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Vaccination before traveling is recommended.

Most people in the U.S. are considered immune to measles from previous measles infection or vaccination. Please contact your health care provider to review your measles vaccination history.

Read this related CHOC article to learn more.

Or, visit the Orange County Health Care Agency or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Protect Your Child From Pneumonia

Pneumonia, an inflammation or infection of the lungs, is a serious condition that can be prevented, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist says.

“Pneumonia is a serious condition and can often be prevented by getting vaccinated for illnesses that can lead to pneumonia,” says Dr. Antonio Arrieta, CHOC’s director of infectious disease and director of infectious disease research.

Several vaccines recommended for infants and young children can help prevent bacterial or viral infections that can lead to pneumonia, says Dr. Arrieta, who encourages parents to seek these vaccines for their children as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many other medical associations.

Vaccines for the following illnesses can help prevent people from getting pneumonia:

  • Influenza (flu): The flu vaccine is given annually at the beginning of flu season.
  • Measles: The MMR vaccine protects against measles, as well as mumps and rubella.
  • Pertussis: A vaccine called DTaP protects against whooping cough, a contagious infection that prompts a violent cough.
  • Pneumococcal: A vaccine for this condition is recommended for children younger than 5, and decreases the risk of acquiring bacterial pneumonia by about 70 percent, Dr. Arrieta says.
  • Chickenpox: The CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine against this condition for children, adolescents and adults.

The streptococcus pneumonia is the most common bacterium to cause bacterial pneumonia, Dr. Arrieta says.

Other bacteria that may lead to bacterial pneumonia include Group B streptococcus, which is most common in newborns; Staphylococcus aureus; and Group A streptococcus, which is most common in children older than 5, Dr. Arrieta says.

Unlike bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia is caused by viruses such as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is most common in babies and children younger than 2, and the influenza virus, or the flu, says Dr. Arrieta.

Though the flu typically lasts for no more than five days, pneumonia can linger for longer. Thus, prevention is key, Dr. Arrieta says.

Talk to your pediatrician for information about vaccines and the recommended vaccination schedule, as well as other ways to prevent your child from getting pneumonia.

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“Herd Immunity” Protects Everyone Against Disease

Under what is called “herd immunity,” when most people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the virus lacks a host and will eventually go away because there are so few susceptible people left to infect, a CHOC Children’s infectious disease specialist says.

An instance when herd immunity broke down and a disease spread rapidly and broadly was in 2010, when a statewide whooping cough epidemic killed 10 infants and sickened 9,120 people in California. Earlier this year, the California Department of Public Health declared another statewide whopping cough epidemic.

“With the last epidemic, it was shown that there were higher rates of disease in geographic pockets where there were lower rates of vaccination,” says Dr. Jasjit Singh, associate director of pediatric infectious diseases and medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology at CHOC.

The herd immunity principle is especially important for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated, including children who are too young to be vaccinated and people with immune system problems. Of the 10 infants who died in the 2010 whooping cough outbreak, nine were too young to be vaccinated.

Unless society eliminates a disease, it’s important to keep immunizing people. If the protection given by a vaccination is removed, more and more people will become infected and spread diseases to others. In time, diseases that today are almost unknown and rare in the United States, such as polio, could return.

And though vaccinations benefit everyone, they do not offer a full guarantee that a vaccinated person won’t get a disease if exposed to an infected person, Dr. Singh says.

“Even those who have been vaccinated are at increased risk from those not vaccinated,” she says. “That’s been shown clearly with measles and whooping cough. By being in proximity or near an individual who has not been vaccinated, you are at a higher risk.”

Click here to learn more about infectious disease programs and services at CHOC Children’s.

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