Highly Contagious: Measles

Friday, January 23, 2015 2:02 PM comments (0)

measlesMeasles is extremely contagious, infecting nearly 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come into contact with it. Why is it so contagious? It’s spread through the air (via coughing/sneezing).  People standing in the airspace around the infected person can become infected by breathing in these respiratory droplets; they do not need to be sneezed or coughed on directly.  Those infected with measles are at their most contagious the four days prior to the appearance of the rash, meaning they are extremely contagious before they themselves are aware of the virus. 

Measles symptoms develop approximately 8-12 days after exposure but the measles rash will not develop until 3 -5 days after symptoms first appear. The first symptoms are similar to a severe cold:

  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • And white-to-bluish spots may appear in the mouth immediately following the above symptoms

The measles rash begins on the face but quickly spreads downward, covering the body. Fever may be at its highest—topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit—at the appearance of the rash.  

Before the measles vaccine, more than three to four million people in the U.S. would contract the virus each year. Infected individuals can develop mild-to-severe complications including pneumonia, blindness, deafness, brain swelling, permanent neurological damage and even death. 

Julie Holland, MD, Head of General Pediatrics at NorthShore, discusses who should receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and when: 

Everyone should be vaccinated. Vaccines like MMR are a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of the virus. While there have been small outbreaks in the U.S., measles is very common in other parts of the world and can spread easily to the unvaccinated and under-vaccinated in the U.S. 

  • Children. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine in childhood: the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four to six years.
  • Teens and young adults. For unvaccinated individuals, two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for individuals in this age group: The first dose is given and then followed with a second dose a minimum of 28 days after the first.
  • Adults. For those born after 1957, the CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine. 

Make an appointment or call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to ensure you and your children are adequately vaccinated.

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Shingles: Reducing Your Risk and Pain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:53 AM comments (0)

shinglesShingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.

Shingles is a painful blistering skin rash that often appears in a strip or band on a single side of the face or body. The rash may not be the first sign of shingles. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching  or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and chills. 

The rash produces chickenpox-like blisters and irritation, and pain can be very severe. In most cases, blisters will heal within 2-4 weeks and pain will subside with the rash. However, severe cases of shingles can leave the skin permanently scarred or discolored and pain caused by damaged nerve fibers can last long after shingles blisters have healed. 

Matthew Plofsky, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares information on how to shorten the duration of the infection, lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly prevent shingles altogether: 

Relieving symptoms and reducing severity: 

  • Antiviral drugs. The prompt use of antiviral drugs can reduce the severity of a shingles infection and help you heal quickly. Antiviral drugs also help prevent complications associated with a shingles infection.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers. Aspirin and acetaminophen may help with pain as will anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. 
  • Keep skin clean. The infected area should be kept clean, dry and exposed to air as much as possible. You shouldn’t scratch shingles blisters at any time but make sure your hands are clean and that you are only touching infected skin with clean, dry hands. 
  • Keep skin cool. Ice and cold compresses applied to a shingles rash can help relieve pain and inflammation. 
  • Over-the-counter lotions. Calamine is an effective treatment for mild itchiness. 

Preventing shingles:

  • Vaccinate! The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends shingles vaccine for people aged 60 years and older. Even people who have had shingles can receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. Almost 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime, and the risk increases as you get older.
  • Prevent chickenpox. Adults can possibly prevent two infections with one vaccine—chickenpox and shingles. If you’ve never had chickenpox, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get the chickenpox vaccine and you’ll help prevent a future case of varicella zoster infection. The chickenpox vaccine is given to most infants before they reach one year.

Have you been vaccinated for chickenpox or shingles?

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Childhood Vaccines: Myths, Misconceptions and the Important Health Benefits

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:23 AM comments (0)

vaccinated babyWith so much conflicting information circling Internet about vaccines and whether they are safe or unsafe for children, especially via social media and blogs, Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, reminds us why childhood vaccines are so important and addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions that parents encounter online:

“I love being a general pediatrician because of the unique privilege I have of getting to know families in a meaningful way and seeing the children in those families grow up over weeks, months and years. There is no greater reward than helping a child become and then stay happy and healthy. To that end, it is my goal to not only treat a child’s illness and address immediate problems, but, more importantly, to prevent illness whenever possible. That’s why I’m so passionate about immunization for my patients and my own loved ones.” 

Should I have my child vaccinated? Why?
Yes.
The simple answer: to prevent your child from contracting life-threatening illnesses. Vaccines have been incredibly successful at reducing the prevalence of diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, meningitis and chicken pox, but these diseases have not been completely eradicated, especially in other parts of the world. We live in a global society, and thanks in part to lapses in vaccine rates throughout the U.S., we are seeing a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in our country. The ability of vaccination to reduce the incidence of disease depends on herd immunity, meaning the vaccination of a significant portion of the population. So, if children are vaccinated, that provides protection for everyone in the community, including those receiving chemotherapy for cancer who are unable to receive the inoculations themselves.  

Vaccination Schedule for Infants & Children 

  • Birth: HBV (Hepatitis B)
  • 1-2 months: HBV second dose
  • 2 months: DTaP (Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), IPV (Inactivated poliovirus), PCV (Pneumoccoccal conjugate), Rota (Rotavirus)
  • 4 months: DTaP, Hib, IPV, PCV, Rota
  • 6 months: DTap, Hib, PCV, Rota
  • 6 months and annually: Influenza
  • 6-18 months: HBV, IPV
  • 12-15 months: Hib, MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella), PCV, Chickenpox
  • 15-18 months: DTaP
  • 4-6 years: DTaP, MMR, IPV, Varicella
  • 11-12 years: HPV, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria pertussis booster), Meningococcal vaccine and then a booster at 16

Do vaccines cause autism?
No. Vaccines, especially the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, were inaccurately linked to the rise in autism rates. This claim, which grew from Andrew Wakefield’s small (only 12 subjects) and now discredited 1998 case report, has been disproven in large-scale studies.

Another reason that MMR may have been linked to autism is due to the timing of the vaccine, which is administered between 12 and 15 months of age. Autism also begins to present itself around 12 months when affected children do not meet social and language skills milestones.  But it has been proven repeatedly in large-scale studies that there is no link between vaccines, including the MMR, and autism.  

Are vaccines “too much” for children’s immune systems?
No.
Our immune systems, including those of babies and children, are exposed to tens of thousands of foreign substances (i.e., antigens) every single day, which is significantly higher (1000-fold) than what children are exposed to in a vaccine. Administering multiple vaccines at the same appointment is both safe and effective. Combining vaccines into one visit also leads to fewer appointments and, more importantly, fewer tears.

Are preservatives in vaccines harmful?
No.
Preservatives (the purpose of which are to keep vaccines hygienic and free from bacteria) and stabilizers in vaccines have also been proven in many large, controlled studies to cause no harm.  Babies are exposed to larger amounts of preservatives in their natural environment, including preservatives transferred from mother to baby in breast milk.

What about “alternative”, “slow”, or “delayed” vaccine schedules?
No. The medical community (The Centers for Disease Control, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Institute of Medicine, The American Medical Association) advocates following the Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons 0-6. This schedule has been specifically designed, researched, and tested to be the safest and most effective way to immunize children. Deviation from this schedule leaves children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and illnesses like whooping cough, meningitis, measles and more, all of which can be life-threatening. 

Where can I go to read reliable information about vaccines? Your child’s pediatrician is the best person to come to with any questions, concerns or the recommended schedule of vaccinations. The following are links to reputable organizations and studies for more information:

  1. Summaries of numerous studies on vaccine safety, including those referenced in this post.
  2. The CDC on Basics and Common Questions   
  3. Every Child By Two
  4. VaccinateYourBaby.org
  5. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ parent website
  6. AutismSpeaks.org

 

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