Friday, August 31, 2018

Has Your Preteen Been Vaccinated for HPV?

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the number of Louisiana teens ages 13-17 up to date on the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is on the rise, and that’s good news.

Louisiana’s rate of 52.9 percent is an 11.1 percent increase since 2016 and is higher than the national average of 48.6 percent.
While those numbers are worth celebrating, there’s still more work to be done to vaccinate for HPV. It’s strongly recommended by the Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Public Health that youths receive the vaccine at ages 11-12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus.
What is HPV?
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses that cause nearly all cervical cancers and many cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum and oropharynx. It’s transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact.
Louisiana currently has higher rates of oropharyngeal (mouth and pharynx) cancer in men and women and cervical cancer in women than the rest of the U.S., as well as the third-highest death rate from HPV-related cancers.
Nearly all men and women contract HPV at some point in their lives. It can be passed along despite a lack of signs or symptoms, which can develop years after being infected. Most men never develop symptoms and the infection clears up by itself. But if it doesn’t, it can cause genital warts or certain types of cancer.
HPV-related cancer usually displays no symptoms until it is advanced, very serious and hard to treat. That’s why women should be regularly screened for cervical cancer. Screening can find early signs of disease that can be treated early.
The HPV vaccine
The vaccine, Gardasil 9, is safe, effective and recommended by the CDC. It’s administered in a series of shots given over several months. The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, as well as the invasive testing and treatment for changes in cervical cells that can develop into cancer.
Side effects include pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given, fever, headache or tiredness, nausea and muscle/joint pain.
The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Fainting and related symptoms such as jerking movements are possible after any medical procedure and can be prevented by sitting or lying down during the vaccination, then remaining seated for 15 minutes after.
To schedule the vaccination, call your health care provider or parish health unit.
Financial help is available through the Vaccines for Children Program for children ages 18 and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, Native American or Alaskan Native. Local information is available at the Louisiana Department of Health's Community and Preventive Health page.
For more information, refer to this HPV fact sheet.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Students Aren't Getting Enough Sleep on School Nights. Here's How to Change That

Author: Dr. Martha Whyte, Region 7 Medical Director

Another summer has come and gone, and with that school is back in session. Now, it's vital for kids to get in a routine of getting to bed early enough to get proper rest.

Adequate sleep contributes to a student’s health and well-being. Getting the proper amount of sleep at night is important. It helps students stay focused, improves concentration and improves academic performance.

Friday, August 17, 2018

There’s No Measles Outbreak in Louisiana

Despite what you may have read or heard recently from media outlets, there is no current danger of a measles outbreak in Louisiana – or in the U.S. 

Reports this week indicated 2018 is on track for the most cases of measles since 2014, when 667 cases were reported across the U.S. However, this was misinterpreted in the press.
The latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 107 people from 21 states have been diagnosed with measles from January 1 to July 14, 2018. Among those states, Louisiana has reported just two cases of measles this year. These numbers are in line with a typical year, and not at elevated levels as was reported. 
The measles cases that are being reported represent cases that come to the U.S. from other countries that have endemic cases. (Endemic means belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place.) 
Measles is not currently spreading from person to person in the U.S. or Louisiana.
Louisiana’s two cases are unrelated
Dr. Frank Welch, immunizations director for the Louisiana Department of Health, says the two Louisiana cases – which happened in early spring – stem from unvaccinated persons who traveled or lived outside the U.S.
The two cases are unrelated. The first report, in April, involved an unvaccinated man traveling from London to New Orleans for WrestleMania. The second report came in May and involved an unvaccinated school-age child who had traveled to a country where measles is endemic. 
Since the two cases occurred separately they do not meet the criteria for an outbreak, which is when a disease spreads rapidly from person to person.
Prevention is key
Even though there’s no measles outbreak, it’s important to be mindful of protection from the disease. The best prevention is two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, also known as MMR. Two doses are about 97 percent effective against measles. Check with your primary care provider if you’re unsure whether you have been vaccinated.
Good hygiene is also important to prevent the spread of measles. Practice good hand hygiene habits, such as washing thoroughly with soap and warm water. Avoid sharing food, drinks and utensils.
Protecting our children
Children, particularly babies and the very young, are especially vulnerable to measles. The disease can lead to pneumonia, lifelong brain damage, deafness and occasionally death.
Children are required to receive two MMR vaccinations – at 1 year to 15 months of age and again at age 4, before starting school – according to Louisiana law. It applies to children in public, private or charter schools and home-schooled children. Exemptions are allowed for religious, philosophical or medical reasons, such as allergies to components of the vaccine.
Among the concerns cited for not vaccinating children with MMR is a belief that the vaccine causes autism. No such link has been found among scientists in the U.S. and other countries who have carefully studied the vaccine.
Louisiana’s exemption rate for the MMR vaccine is less than 1 percent, according to Dr. Welch.
Spotting measles
Signs of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, followed by a rash that typically spreads from the head to the rest of the body. Sometimes, tiny white spots appear in the mouth two to three days after symptoms develop.
Complications commonly found with measles are ear infections and diarrhea, seen in about 10 percent of patients.
Measles is highly contagious and becomes so four days before the appearance of rash and four days after the onset of rash. It is spread by coughing, sneezing or sometimes being in the same room as someone who is infected.
There is no cure for measles, so treatment is merely to alleviate the symptoms. The recommended treatment for measles includes rest, pain and fever reducers, fluids, vitamin A supplements and the use of a humidifier.
A person who has developed measles is considered immune to the disease after it has been contracted. Regardless, vaccination is still recommended to protect against mumps and rubella.

Friday, August 3, 2018

DEET and Long Sleeves: Combating West Nile

With the first cases of West Nile Virus this year being reported, it is more important now to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones from mosquito-borne illnesses.

West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis virus, both from the same family of viruses called flaviviruses which cause similar diseases, are two of several mosquito-borne viruses common to Louisiana.