TETANUS VACCINE: NOT ONLY FOR KIDS
The bacteria that cause tetanus enter the body through wounds or cuts. Tetanus can lead to severe muscle spasms, stiffness, and lock-jaw – the inability to open your mouth or swallow. A one-time DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine and a td (tetanus-diphtheria) booster every 10 years are all it takes to prevent it. If you get a wound at any time more than ten years since your last booster, a tetanus booster will be given you by a vigilant nurse or doctor.
STAY AHEAD OF CHICKENPOX
If you’ve avoided chickenpox (varicella) so far, don’t push your luck. It is exceedingly easy to catch from someone who has it, even by being in the same room. Adults with chickenpox have a higher risk of complications, hospitalization, and death. For instance, varicella pneumonia may be more severe in pregnant women and is a medical emergency. Untreated, almost half of pregnant women with varicella pneumonia die. Since chickenpox puts you at risk for shingles, chickenpox vaccine may offer some protection against shingles, too. It also reduces risk of infection in the community, especially among those who are susceptible but can’t be vaccinated, such as pregnant women. Two doses of the vaccine are administered four to eight weeks apart to people 13 and older. The pediatric age group can also be vaccinated.
SHINGLES VACCINE: IMPORTANT AFTER 60
The virus that gave you chickenpox as a child can strike again as shingles or “herpes zoster” when you’re an adult. It is most common after age 60, is very painful, and the blistering shingles rash can damage your eyes and cause long-term pain called postherpetic neuralgia. If you get this rash, you can also infect others with chickenpox. If you’re 60 or older, a one-dose vaccine is recommended to prevent shingles.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) VACCINE FOR SOME MEN AND WOMEN
HPV vaccines protect against some strains of HPV that cause most cervical cancers in women and some throat cancers in men. One of the available HPV vaccines also protect against most genital warts in men and women. HPV is spread by sexual contact. The vaccine can be given to children as early as age 9, (this has been a source of controversy in parts of the U.S.) but young adults, especially those who have not had sexual activity, can receive the vaccine, too. It’s available to men and women through age 26.
PROTECT AGAINST MENINGITIS
Young adults who live in military barracks or university dormitories, travelers to certain areas, and some people with weakened immune systems are among those who should be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Many people the world over die from this disease. Many others suffer brain damage or hearing loss. Ask your doc about your risk.
DON’T MESS WITH HEPATITIS
You can get one of the hepatitis viruses without knowing it. Risk factors for hepatitis A transmission include consuming contaminated food or water, injecting street drugs, or men having sex with other men. Hepatitis B can spread by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person, such as during unprotected sex or use of others’ personal items, such as razors. Sharing needles with an infected person when injecting drugs can also spread hep B. Hepatitis A and B can lead to serious liver damage and even death. Ask your doc if you should get a hepatitis A vaccine. In Dominica, hepatitis B vaccine is part of the immunization schedule.
DON’T FORGET YOUR FLU SHOT
Flu experts and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend that just about everyone get a flu vaccination every year. Why? Each year’s vaccine is based on the three strains if influenza virus that are expected to be widespread that season. Short on time? No problem. Throughout the U.S., flu shots are available at supermarkets, pharmacists, schools, and churches, as well as doctor’s offices. And you can get one anytime during flu season. Can’t ask for anything easier.
PNEUMOCOCCUS: PROTECT YURSELF
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine(PPSV) protects against almost all pneumococcal bacteria that can cause pneumonia, blood stream infections and meningitis. Pneumococcal pneumonia can be severe and deadly, killing scores of thousands per year. Bloodstream infections (septicemia) occur in 25% of those with pneumonia and cause about one third of bacterial meningitis cases in the U.S. Ask your doc about PPSV. It’s recommended if you’re over 65, or if you’re 2-64 and smoke or have asthma, a chronic illness, or a weakened immune system. Doc may recommend this vaccine if you’re over 50 and live in an area with an increased risk of pneumococcal disease.
MEASLES/MUMPS/RUBELLA: 3 VACCINES IN 1
The “Big 3” childhood diseases – measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) – can hit harder when you’re an adult. One MMR vaccine protects against all three. Many people have either had the measles or been vaccinated against it. If you haven’t, you’re still at risk for this highly infectious virus. Even worse, you may be at risk of serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
MUMPS AND ITS’ COMPLICATIONS
Mumps vaccine is included in MMR. Mumps is contagious and is marked by swollen salivary glands primarily the parotid. In adults, mumps can often have complications like meningitis, orchitis (testicular inflammation), pain and swelling of the ovaries, pancreatitis, neuritis, arthritis, mastitis (breasts), nephritis, thyroditis, and pericarditis. Anyone born after 1956 (U.S) should get the MMR vaccine, unless you have evidence of prior infection of MMR diseases or medical reasons not to be vaccinated.
RUBELLA. DON’T RISK IT
Rubella vaccine is also part of MMR. Spread through the air, rubella is especially serious for pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, and congenital rubella syndrome – a group of severe birth defects. Most women of child bearing age should already be vaccinated for MMR. If you are not vaccinated but are thinking about getting pregnant, wait until 4 weeks after vaccination before getting pregnant. If you’re already pregnant and not vaccinated against rubella, get the vaccine after you’ve given birth.
POLIO: NOT FORGOTTEN
The polio vaccine is still part of our immunization schedule, although it only exists in four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. Recently some cases showed up in a small part of China. The status of the response is unknown to me. The point is, it’s a small world, and travel is a piece of cake. One never knows when one may be exposed. So still always be careful. We take no chances with the temples of the Creator.
See you next week.
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