By Claire Ninde
Special to The SUN
San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reminds the community that vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent diseases such as measles, hepatitis A, flu and pertussis (whooping cough).
SJBPH has confirmed local cases of flu and one local case of hepatitis A. Three unvaccinated children who are visiting Colorado from another state tested positive for measles after traveling to a country with an ongoing measles outbreak. Additionally, pertussis cases have been reported throughout Colorado in school-aged children.
Colorado has low coverage for MMR (the vaccine that protects against measles), leaving the state vulnerable to an outbreak. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) school report data shows that only 87 percent of kindergarteners are up to date on MMR vaccine, much below the 95 percent community immunity needed to prevent disease from spreading.
The highest burden of preventable illness occurs in infants and young children. Among children in Colorado who were hospitalized for vaccine-preventable disease, 66.5 percent were 4 years of age or younger.
A vaccine-preventable disease can be introduced into a community by under- or unvaccinated individuals. Thus, all Colorado counties have people who are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Following the appropriate vaccine schedule not only protects yourself, but others in your community.
Vaccines are a safe and effective tool for preventing dangerous diseases. Worldwide, vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives each year.
Liane Jollon, executive director of SJBPH said, “We know parents want what’s best for their children. Vaccinating is the best way to keep them healthy when they are exposed to these diseases.”
We can prevent unnecessary illness and hospitalization, especially for those most vulnerable such as young children with asthma, cancer or other high-risk health conditions, and older adults. Safe, effective vaccines are the best way to do that. For more information about the safety of vaccines, see www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html.
About hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a serious, highly contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the feces (poop) of people with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis A is spread by eating contaminated food or beverages, during sex, or through close contact, like living with an infected person.
Those most at risk for infection include:
• People experiencing substance use issues.
• People experiencing homelessness.
• People incarcerated in city or county jails.
• Men who report having sexual contact with men.
Illness can appear 15-50 days after exposure and people can be sick for several weeks. In some cases, people can die.
For hepatitis A information, symptoms and prevention, see www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/hepa.
• Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed.
• If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses or mouths, they can become infected, leading to eye disorders, some of which can be rectified with corrective lens: contact lenses online. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
• Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
For measles information, symptoms and prevention, see www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/measles.
• Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness.
• Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death.
• Some people, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
• There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.
For flu information, symptoms and prevention, see www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.
• Pertussis is a respiratory illness commonly known as whooping cough and is a very contagious bacterial disease.
• People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing or when spending a lot of time near one another. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
• Infected people are most contagious up to about two weeks after the cough begins. Antibiotics may shorten the amount of time someone is contagious.
• Pertussis is most dangerous for babies. About half of babies younger than 1 year who get the disease need care in the hospital.
• While pertussis vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent this disease, no vaccine is 100 percent effective. There is a chance that a fully vaccinated person, of any age, can catch this disease. If you have gotten the pertussis vaccine but still get sick, the infection is usually not as bad.
For pertussis information, symptoms and prevention, see www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html.
If you have questions about vaccines or illness symptoms, see your doctor or contact SJBPH at 247-5702.
By Claire Ninde