Heed The Hidden Hazards

My Memorial Day weekend was supposed to be spent poolside soaking up some sun, but a nasty little stomach bug had other plans for my family (as you can see by the picture of our Memorial Day festivities!).   I ended up spending the weekend washing sheets, giving baths, and spraying Lysol on every inch of our home!  It has not been the fun little mini vacation I had been hoping for.  Here is a look at our Memorial Day festivitiesI thought I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but based on the fact that my shirt is now covered in my daughter’s breakfast I guess we still have some road left to travel.  On Thursday everyone was happy and healthy, but by Friday morning my son was the sickest I have ever seen him (and of course my daughter followed soon after).   We haven’t even been around anyone who was sick.  Or have we?  None of our friends showed any signs or symptoms of the illness, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t carrying the virus.  And then I remembered our trips to the museum, the playground, and even church where we directly and indirectly had contact with hundreds of people.  There is no telling where we picked this up.  Our pediatrician told me that my son could have been exposed to this virus days before having ever shown any symptoms.

Did you know that you can be exposed to and transmit a vaccine-preventable disease before showing signs or symptoms, that is if you ever show any at all?  An unvaccinated person who is exposed to the measles virus  can be symptom free for up to fourteen-days which gives an ample amount of time to spread the disease to others without any indication of illness.  Just imagine how many people you and your family come into contact with over a two-week span.  The possibilities of disease carrying hosts are endless.  Then there is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).   Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems from it, but the virus is linked to multiple cancers, most notably cervical cancer.  Cervical cancer does not usually show any symptoms until it is quite advanced, making it all the more crucial for young girls and women to receive their recommended vaccinations at the recommended times.  But did you know that HPV immunizations are not just for women?

“The HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls AND boys at age 11 or 12 years.”

The vaccine not only protects boys and men, but also their female partners.

I can sanitize and disinfect every surface I come across, but odds are my children and I will still succumb to stomach bugs and colds.  The good news is that I have the power to protect myself and my family against vaccine-preventable diseases as long as our vaccinations are kept up-to-date.  A stomach bug, while inconvenient, lasts a few days, but many vaccine-preventable diseases have consequences that last a lifetime.

The Past Is Present

The past is still present.  This comment could not be more relevant to the topic of vaccinations.  After attending a Lunch & Learn about the importance of protecting ourselves and our families against Pertussis (or “whooping cough”), I walked away with a new found interest in the history of vaccine-preventable diseases.  I know I always find myself looking at current news and stories about vaccines, but taking a moment to look back at what once was, and what still is, has opened my eyes even further to the importance immunizations play in our lives.

At any given time, we are all guilty of living in the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mantra, but that is a risky game to play when making decisions about our health or the health of our loved ones.  For the longest time, I never heard about, or paid attention to news concerning outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.  As recently as five-years ago I honestly thought that these were diseases of the past.  They were merely afflictions of the dark ages that we were fortunate enough to live without.  So why did I stay up to date on my vaccinations?  I did it because it was recommended.  No thought went into my actions.  As I prepared to welcome my first child to this world, I suddenly became aware that I had to make responsible decisions about his health and mine.  My reasons for vaccinating changed as I stepped back and acknowledged that these vaccinations are still necessary.  Not because of some outdated protocol, or old-school way of thinking, but because these diseases still exist and pose a threat to our lives.

I could not imagine being the cause of a child’s illness, or even death, because I chose not to vaccinate.

With a disease like Pertussis, young infants typically contract the illness from their mother, father, or close relative.  It is just not a risk worth taking.

As recently as 1963 (the year of the first measles vaccine) virtually every person in the United States contracted measles by age twenty. This serious and highly contagious disease resulted in an estimated three to four million cases each year in the United States alone, resulting in four to five-hundred deaths.  Thanks to the measles vaccine, there has been a greater than ninety-nine percent reduction in reported cases.  But do not allow such a positive message about vaccines to mislead you into a false sense of security.  This year alone, measles outbreaks and exposure have been reported in Indiana, Delaware, California, and Kansas.  These outbreaks are certainly not contained to the United States as unvaccinated Americans acquire this disease, and many others, when traveling to countries where outbreaks are widespread due to low vaccination rates.

As people continue to opt out of vaccinating against vaccine-preventable diseases, a resurgence of these deadly illnesses continues to rise.  Don’t let the diseases of the past become the problems of today.  Always remember, the past is still present.

Welcome To MOMmunizations!

Having just celebrated our mothers this past weekend, it seems like the perfect time to introduce our new mommy blogger, Alana Bethea.  Alana graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Community Health.  After working for five years in clinical research at MD Anderson Cancer Center, she became a stay-at-home mom to take care of her now three-year-old son and ten-month-old daughter.  Alana’s roles as a concerned wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend have pushed her to educate herself on the importance of vaccinations and she is passionate about sharing her experiences with the community.  Her new blog, cleverly entitled “MOMmunizations” will be a personal look at the importance and relevance of vaccines in the lives of our families, our community, and the world.   Please join me in welcoming Alana to our team!

Anna C. Dragsbaek, JD
President & CEO

___________________________________________________________________________________

We all answer to a number of names, but the one I am proudest to bare is that of “Mom.”  Spending this past weekend celebrating that title with my own mother was such a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all she has done for me over the years.  My mom has always been there to love and protect me; a responsibility that I strive to carry on with the same grace and dignity.  While she may seem quiet and reserved, the truth is she is a Mama Bear, just as most moms are.  She has always looked out for the well-being of not only her children, but all those she knows and loves.  I too have this persistent desire to protect.

“It is because of that quality, whether innate or taught, that I have such a passion to spread the message that vaccines save lives.”

The science is there.  It is frightening to think of what once was, and what could be in an unvaccinated community.  Thanks to vaccination programs in the United States, the incidences of vaccine-preventable diseases have been significantly reduced if not eliminated, but without high levels of vaccine coverage, these diseases can once again become common and deadly.  Immunizations are the most effective and safest way to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  My hope is that by sharing my experiences, I will encourage readers to take responsibility and vaccinate.  I do not claim to have all the answers, but I hope to document my journey to further educate myself and others on a topic that has such substantial meaning for us all.

-Alana

Vaccinations: Don’t Leave Home Without Them!

It’s almost that time!  Can you believe that in a few short weeks school will be out and the lazy days of summer will begin?   That pesky algebra homework will soon be a distant memory and afternoons of pool time fun will be the new norm.  Sunscreen and bug spray always seem to make it to the top of the summer checklist, but you don’t want to forget your most important must-have summer items—vaccines!  Between summer camps, traveling and sleepovers, children and adults alike are exposed to a wide spectrum of vaccine preventable diseases.   In addition to vaccines that keep your family healthy throughout the year, you should also talk to your doctor about any additional vaccinations you and your family may need before jetting off on that well-deserved vacation.
It is also important to remember that domestic travel poses the same risks as international travel.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

“Travel—both within the United States and to other countries—can expose you to infectious viruses and bacteria.  If you and your loved ones are not protected by up-to-date vaccinations, you are at risk of catching serious diseases.”

Planning a vacation can be stressful, so eliminate concerns about the health of you and your family by making sure that you are protected before you even pack your bags.  After a fun filled family vacation, the last thing you want is to come home and find out that a few germs decided to stowaway and make a one way trip with you.  Vaccine preventable diseases don’t take a vacation so make sure they don’t ruin yours!

Alana’s Story: How One Mom Overcame Her Vaccination Fears

Through research, Alana discovered that vaccinations were the best way to protect her family from disease.

Good morning all!  My name is Alana and I am so excited to be guest blogging for The Immunization Partnership!  As a mother to two young children, the topic of vaccinations is of utmost importance to me, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts, experiences, and findings on the topic.

With this being my first post, it only seems fitting to go back to the beginning and relive the always dreaded 2-month shots.  As a first-time mom, so many thoughts race through your head.  “Is it safe?” “Do vaccines cause autism?”  And of course the idea of someone inflicting pain on your perfect-little-one is traumatizing in and of itself! So I started doing my research.  I spoke to physicians, called my girlfriends and began to search for the facts.    Thanks to reliable and informative articles provided by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and well respected physicians, there are an endless number of resources to make an educated decision.

In the end the simple truth was there; vaccinations were the best way to protect my son from a host of preventable diseases.”

Now, to say that I walked into that appointment with my head held high, full of confidence would be an outright lie.  I had read all the criticisms of vaccines and even though I believed we were making the right decision, those frightening images were still in the back of my mind.  Apparently the nurse could see the fear in my face as she entered the room because she put her arm around me, gave me a little squeeze, and said it would be alright. There were some tears (admittedly most of them were mine), but within a minute, my happy little man was smiling and cooing again in my arms.  There were no fevers, no swelling, no nothing.   Life was back to normal as soon as we walked out of those doors.

Ask yourself this question: Why do you buckle your child in a car seat?  The answer is to protect them in case they are exposed to danger.  The same can be said of vaccinating your child.  By making sure that your children are up to date on their immunizations, you are protecting them in the event they are exposed to a multitude of serious and possibly life-threatening illnesses.

For more information on childhood vaccinations please visit the CDC website.