World Meningitis Day is April 24, 2014

Global Health - Meningitis

 

On Thursday, April 24, 2014, the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations (CoMO) joins with 43 member organizations and 28 nations across the world to bring attention to Meningitis via World Meningitis Day. Because Meningitis can affect anyone at any place and at any time, more attention and awareness of prevention, treatment, and control of this serious disease is needed.

What is World Meningitis Day?

World Meningitis Day has been celebrated since 2008. Although Meningitis is a serious and sometimes deadly disease, many people do not realize that there are vaccinations that can prevent the illness. Around the world, people come together on April 24 to spread a message of awareness, information about prevention, and the consequences of infection. In addition to in-person events, online venues including social networks, video sharing websites and idea boards will promote the event and public awareness of this global health concern.

Know the Facts about Meningitis

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. There are five types of meningitis: viral, bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and non-infectious. The most common causes of meningitis are bacterial and viral infections.

  1. The most common forms of meningitis are vaccine preventable.
  2. In the United States, an estimated 4,100 cases and 500 deaths occurred each year from 2003 through 2007 due to bacterial meningitis, which is the most severe form of the disease.
  3. With prompt and appropriate treatment, the death rate for bacterial meningitis can be lowered to 15%.
  4. Viral meningitis may result from common viral illnesses such as enteroviruses, influenza, measles, mumps, chicken pox, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes virus, herpes simplex viruses and arboviruses.
  5. Bacterial meningitis is the only contagious form of meningitis.
  6. Fungal meningitis most often occurs after a person has disturbed the soil in an area where bird, bat or rodent droppings are prevalent.
  7. Parasitic meningitis, which is typically caused by infection with the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, is rare but almost always results in death.

Are You Vaccinated Against Meningitis?

There are vaccines for some types of bacterial meningitis. People who fall into at-risk groups should see a health specialist immediately to make sure they are vaccinated. The high-risk groups for contracting any type of meningitis include:

  • Military personnel
  • College students living in dormitories
  • Infants and young children
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East
  • People who swim in warm bodies of fresh water
  • Sinus rinsing or lavage

The best way to prevent meningitis is to complete the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule that includes vaccination against this disease.

In addition to getting the Meningitis vaccine, individuals can also take other actions to reduce their risk of meningitis. Regular hand washing, disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs and remote controls, avoiding close personal contact with people who seem sick, and controlling insect and rodent populations around the home are also important in reducing the risk of illness. If you are considering traveling to an area where Meningitis is prevalent, you should schedule a pre-travel health consultation to make sure you have proper immunizations, medications, and guidance for packing the right travel supplies to stay as healthy as possible.

Sources:
http://www.comomeningitis.org/news-and-events/world-meningitis-day/wmd-2014/
http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html

WHO Certifies Southeast Asia Region as Polio Free

Wat Phra Keow in Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra Keow in Bangkok, Thailand

 

Polio: No Longer a Threat in Southeast Asia

The World Health Organization announced on March 27, 2014, that polio had been successfully eradicated in Southeast Asia. This incredible news means that millions of young people will never suffer from the effects of this devastating disease. The WHO Southeast Asia region is home to 25 percent of the world’s population, and the countries in this designated area include India, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Thailand, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for the WHO South-East Asia Region, remarked that “This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region.”

The polio eradication efforts in Southeast Asia were successful thanks to an intensive program of education and vaccination. Healthcare workers often put their personal health and safety at risk in order to reach people in remote communities who had little access to medical help and supervision. Many of us living in America often take this vaccine and the freedom from the devastating effects of polio for granted, but this is truly a momentous public health victory in Southeast Asia.

Do I Need the Polio Vaccine?

Prior to the development of the polio vaccine, this infectious disease permanently disabled tens of thousands of people in the United States on an annual basis. It is spread through human contact and through people coming into contact with the fecal matter of those who are infected. In rural Southeast Asia, a lack of modern sanitation means that polio could spread quickly and harm entire communities.

Most people born in the United States or the Western Hemisphere received polio vaccines at a young age. Children tend to receive the first dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at 2 months old, followed by another dose at 4 months old. A third dose is administered at 6 to 18 months old. A final booster dose is administered to the child when he or she is 4 to 6 years old.

You may need a booster dose if you are a healthcare worker treating patients who may have come into contact with the polio virus. However, most people need a booster dose because they are traveling to a region where polio outbreaks occur. If the latter applies to you, then you will receive an initial dose at any time. A second dose is administered one to two months later, and a final dose is given six to 12 months after your second dose. If you think that you may need a polio vaccination or booster dose, then you should make an appointment with a travel health specialist. He or she will examine your medical history and advise you as to what is the best course of action.

Eradicating Polio in Southeast Asia: A Public Health Success Story

Regardless of age, sex, religion, race, or nationality, we are all united by the need to maintain good health. The public health workers who made significant efforts to reach communities in vulnerable areas in order to teach them about vaccination should be commended. Their work has saved an untold number of people from a lifetime of pain and misery. With 80 percent of the world’s population now living in polio-free zones, the next step is to achieve the complete eradication of polio by 2018. If current outreach and educational programs continue to be as successful as they have been in Southeast Asia, then we may very well be celebrating a polio-free world just four years from now.

Sources
WHO Press Release on Polio Eradication in Southeast Asia
Schedule for Polio Vaccination in the CDC Pink Book
CDC Page on Polio Vaccination
CDC Travelers’ Health Page on Poliomyelitis

Yellow Fever Vaccine Still on Shortage

Yellow Fever Vaccine Production

Yellow Vaccine Fever Shortage: What Does it Mean?

Sanofi-Pasteur, the company that manufactures the sole Yellow fever vaccine available in the United States, announced last year that they were experiencing significant problems with their supply chain, and, unfortunately, the impact of these problems continues. Because YF-Vax is in short supply, the manufacturer has had to place limits on the amount of vaccine that can be ordered in both the single dose and five dose vials. Sanofi has been hard at work to get the problems corrected and bring supply back to normal, but the shortage is expected to last at a minimum through April of 2014.

Unfortunately, the shortage has impacted travel to tropical climates, and it could be extra bad news for travelers wishing to go to the World Cup this summer, as the Yellow Fever Vaccine may be recommended for travel to Brazil. The Yellow fever vaccine takes 30 days to provide maximum protection against the disease, so if you are planning to go to Brazil for some of the first matches, be sure to seek out a Yellow Fever provider as soon as possible. However, the vaccine shortage is about far more than having to cancel a football vacation since yellow fever is a very serious illness that kills tens of thousands of people each year.

What is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is a viral infection that is spread through mosquitoes that carry the virus and pass it on to humans by biting them. Once a person becomes infected, he or she may experience symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, backaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches and shivers. Although unpleasant, most people who are infected with the disease will recover within a few days. However, a small but not insignificant portion of Yellow fever patients may relapse within a day of recovering from initial symptoms.

If a patient relapses, then death is a very real possibility. The patient may vomit and experience abdominal pain and may become jaundiced as the liver and kidneys begin to fail. If the patient begins bleeding from the nose, stomach or mouth, then blood will appear in vomit or feces as well. At this stage, death can occur within two weeks. Although most deaths occur in native populations as opposed to tourists, there are approximately 200,000 cases of Yellow fever each year, and 30,000 people die from the disease on an annual basis. Of all deaths from Yellow fever, 90 percent occur in sub-Saharan Africa. There are 44 countries in Africa and Latin America where this disease is endemic.

Mosquito nets and mosquito spray containing DEET are both good ways to minimize the risk of contracting Yellow fever. Using permethrin spray on clothing and bedding can also help repel the mosquitoes that carry this deadly virus. However, the best defense against Yellow fever is vaccination. This is why the shortage of the vaccine is such an urgent issue. Without vaccination before a trip, travelers must rely on other, much less sure methods of prevention. In many cases, this may not be enough.

Can I Still Receive the Yellow Fever Vaccine?

Although the supply of Yellow fever vaccine is extremely limited due to the dire shortage situation, Passport Health can likely still provide you with a Yellow fever vaccination. There are extremely few other medical service providers in the United States who can still offer the vaccine. If you are traveling to an area where Yellow fever is common, then you should definitely book an appointment with a travel health specialist at Passport Health as soon as possible. Don’t wait before it’s too late; your health is not worth the risk.

Sources
Yellow Fever Fact Sheet from the World Health Organization (WHO)
CDC Page on Yellow Fever Vaccination
CDC Announcement on the Yellow Fever Vaccine Shortage
Independent Article on the Vaccine Shortage

Why Should I Vaccinate My Child?

Vaccines

Why Should I Vaccinate My Child? ABC News Chief Health/Medical Editor Dr. Richard Bessner sought to answer that very question and better define the phenomenon of “vaccine hesitancy” during a TweetChat on #vaccinehestitancy hosted yesterday afternoon (April 15, 2014).

Numerous concerned parents, healthcare professionals, and immunization organizations used this chat to share information and resources about children’s health and about the importance of vaccination, per the CDC’s immunization schedule. Indeed, every parent feels a duty to research his or her child’s health, but it is crucial to do so using quality sources with research based in fact. Some of those reputable resources that were shared during the chat include:

Any parent wants to do everything possible to make sure his or her children stay as healthy as possible. For that reason, most parents choose immunization, as nothing has been scientifically proven to protect babies better from 14 serious childhood diseases. However, even with the mountain of evidence in support of vaccination, some parents still hesitate when it is time to vaccinate a child, be it due to concerns over preservatives, other components of vaccines, or worries about giving a child too many shots in one medical visit.

If you are a parent hesitating over vaccination, know the facts. Begin with the resources above and make an informed decision. After you do, we hope you will come to the same conclusion the CDC noted during the chat, “Delaying or skipping vaccines can leave a child vulnerable to disease that could have been prevented.”

Don’t Hesitate on Vaccines!

Vaccine Vials

What is vaccine hesitation?

This new term has been coined to describe parents who hesitate to give their children routine vaccinations on the recommended schedule, or they choose to not give their children vaccines at all.

Why the hesitation? Here are a few reasons parents choose to not vaccinate their children:

  • Vaccines have been incredibly successful. Due to high vaccination rates, many formerly debilitating, painful, infectious diseases have been largely eliminated in the developed world. Polio, measles, mumps, and rubella simply do not take the toll they once did, so parents may be lulled into a false sense of security.
  • The anti-vaccination movement has spread false assumption about vaccines. A shocking large number of parents refuse vaccines for their children during doctors’ visits under false assumptions that children should not receive multiple vaccines during a single visit or that the child’s immune system could become “overloaded,” an assertion that has no grounding whatsoever in scientific fact. Some parents even choose to arbitrarily space out vaccines longer than recommended by the vaccination schedule. Unfortunately, doing so puts children at risk and does not allow optimal immunity to develop.

What are the results of vaccine hesitation?

  • Unnecessary suffering. Measles causes high fever, cough, rash, and painful feelings in the eyes. Whooping cough starts with cold-like symptoms and progresses into coughing fits that can last for weeks. All of this unpleasantness is completely preventable, however, via immunization.
  • Unnecessary risk to your community. There are medical conditions that may preclude vaccination for some members of your community. Young infants may not be old enough to be scheduled for vaccination, and people undergoing chemotherapy or with a compromised immune system may not be able to be vaccinated. All it takes is exposure to a single infectious child for the health of these vulnerable community members to be devastatingly compromised.

Don’t hesitate. Do your part to protect your child and you community. Make sure for family is fully up to date on all their recommended, routine vaccinations.

New Study Supports the Importance of the MMR Vaccine

Infant getting Vaccinated

The MMR Vaccine: Can it Prevent Other Infections?

New research has revealed that children who receive an on-schedule measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination are less likely to be infected with other illnesses. In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that the half a million Danish children they studied were less likely to be admitted to hospitals for respiratory infections or other general illnesses if they were vaccinated properly and received the regular scheduled vaccinations, including MMR. In addition to its protection against mumps, measles, and rubella, the study seems that the MMR vaccine may have a positive effect on a person’s immune system, enabling them to fight off these general infections, including those of the lower respiratory tract, which often require longer hospitalization periods.

However, there are still misconceptions about the effects of the MMR vaccine on children. This is due to a combination of misinformation and personal beliefs, even when studies such as these continue to highlight the importance of receiving the MMR vaccine on time.

What is the MMR Vaccine? Should I Get One?

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The shot contains weakened, live versions of these viruses in order to promote immunity from them in the patient. Most children receive their first MMR vaccination between the ages of 12 and 15 months. A booster dose is administered between the ages of 4 to 6 years old. The child should ideally receive both doses before they start to attend school.

In the past, these diseases were responsible for a large number of infant, toddler and child deaths. For a good part of the 20th century, mumps, measles and rubella were under control thanks to dedicated vaccination efforts. Measles were even considered to be eradicated in the West. In recent years, misinformation about the MMR vaccine has made many parents decide against immunization for their children. These decisions have unfortunately resulted in a resurgence of diseases such as measles, pertussis, mumps and rubella.

If you were born after 1956 and you have not received an MMR immunization at any point in your life, then you should strongly consider visiting a health specialist for a consultation. He or she will talk to you about your medical history as well as the current state of your health. If you are traveling abroad in the near future, it is highly recommended that you make an appointment with a travel health specialist for a consultation and to receive a booster MMR vaccine. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the near future should not get the vaccine. People who are immuno-compromised are also discouraged from getting an MMR vaccination.

The MMR Vaccine: a Path to Lifelong Health

This exciting new research can be a great opportunity for specialists who want to help educate the public about the importance of vaccination. As the debate over vaccination continues, officials can hope that this study helps sway people toward getting themselves and their children immunized against these terrible diseases. Vaccination is one of the easiest ways to guarantee long-term health for children and adults alike.

Sources
Fox News Article on MMR Study
CDC Information Page on MMR Vaccine
Medline Plus Page on MMR Vaccine
USA Today Article on Rise in Measles Cases

Still No Link Found Between Vaccines & Autism

Vaccines do not cause Autism

We truly appreciate the countless hours leading scientists have put into understanding the root causes of Autism. April 2, 2014, was World Autism Awareness Day, a day when research, advocacy, and policy organizations promote awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and autism, a complex group of disorders of brain development. Science is clear that there is no single cause of autism, just as there is not just one type of autism.

Indeed, most scientists concur that it is a variety of genetic and environmental factors that lead to the onset of this condition. As a result of the lack of clarity, many untruths have entered into the discussion about the causes of autism, and one of the chief untruths is that autism is caused by vaccines.

However, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, a scientist, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and father of an autistic child, “there is no scenario where it is even remotely possible vaccines could cause autism.”

What is this assertion based on? A recent paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that the brains of children with autism have distinct disorganization in their cortical tissue. The organization of the cortex begins in the second trimester of pregnancy. Thus, the events that result in the malformation of this brain region must begin before or during the second trimester, well before the child even has the possibility of receiving a vaccine.

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of parents decline to vaccinate their children due to misinformation and unwarranted fears about vaccine side effects. The result? Preventable illness — which takes a completely unnecessary physical and emotional toll on the sick child as well an equally unneeded economic toll on the healthcare system.

We honor the tremendous efforts of scientists to uncover the causes of this debilitating condition, and we honor the efforts of loving parents who care for these special needs children.

Traveling to Brazil for the World Cup? Follow These Top 6 Tips!

World Cup Brazil

 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is an exciting month-long event and the trip of a lifetime for soccer fans. If you’re itching to get to the festivities and see your favorite players, you’ll want to ensure that you’ll be healthy during and after your trip. These top six tips will prepare you for optimal health, so you can fully enjoy yourself during your visit to Brazil.

The World Cup

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup is held in a major international city. Teams from around the world compete for the winning title. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place over 12 cities throughout Brazil and will certainly draw millions of fans from around the world.

Protect Yourself Before Your Trip

Before departing on your trip, taking steps to protect yourself can prevent you from experiencing a wide variety of illnesses. Learn how to say a few phrases in Portuguese that are health-related, such as “I feel sick,” or “I need a doctor.” When packing for your trip, be sure to bring a personal travel health kit stocked with first aid supplies, anti-diarrheal medicine, sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Bring the contact information for your travel health clinic and physician. You should also:
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Passport Health Attends the Society of Petroleum Engineers Conference

Passport Health Attends the Society of Petroleum Engineers Conference
Kara and David of Passport Health at the Conference in Long Beach, California.

 

From March 16th-19th, 2014, Passport Health joined over 900 other attendees from all corners of the globe at the Society of Petroleum Engineers Conference on Health, Safety and Environment in Long Beach, California. This truly international audience included Oil and Gas industry representatives from Norway, Brazil, Thailand, the UK, and France, among many other countries with whom Passport Health was pleased to have had the opportunity to share our travel medicine expertise. Other exhibitors included United Healthcare International, Remote Medical, IBM, Schlumberger, and Halliburton.

Passport Health Attends the Society of Petroleum Engineers Conference

Passport Health found the conference to be extremely useful in that not only were we able to educate many people on the importance of travel medicine, but we were also able to discuss our ever growing list of services. Indeed, Passport Health does not only provide travel vaccines and destination advice via our nationwide network of travel clinics, but we also have the ability to provide Oil and Gas Industry-specific (OGUK) physical examinations, in select markets. We were happy to share this expertise and connect with representatives from industry leading companies such as Shell and Schlumberger.

Passport Health looks forward to attending this biennial event again in the future and continuing to make new contacts and shore up existing relationships in the Oil and Gas Industry.

Passport Health Expands into Canada

Passport Health Expands Services into Canada
Toronto’s Skyline

 

First Travel Medicine Clinic Opens in Toronto

Passport Health has long been recognized as the largest and leading provider of travel medicine and vaccination services in the United States with an ever growing footprint in the specialty examinations and wellness space. Our 230+ domestic clinics see over 95,000 individual travelers and corporate clients each month, and our highly trained clinical staff thoroughly educates each and every person who passes through our clinic doors. Passport Health is now pleased to take our vaccination expertise international, with the opening of our company’s first travel medicine clinic outside of the USA in Toronto, Canada.

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