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Germs Are Everywhere: 5 Easy Steps to Protect Yourself

Bugs-group

Did you know that the flu virus can live on a hard surface — such as a door knob, keyboard, TV remote, telephone, pen, gym equipment, chip bowl, arm rest, gas pump, ATM, elevator button, etc. — for up to eight hours? Or that the flu virus can live on paper money for up to 17 days?

Think about how many of those items you touch in a single day. Now consider one of them – say a gas pump — and imagine: How many other people have touched that same gas pump in the past eight hours?

It’s enough to make a hypochondriac have an anxiety attack; or to make a non-hypochondriac consider becoming a germophobe.

Thankfully, there are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Get a flu vaccine: Not only does it protect you, but it helps stop the virus from circulating in your community.
  2. Wash and sanitize your hands often: Always before eating, and always after being in a public place where many people have touched the same surfaces as you.
  3. Use elbows or the backs of hands to open doors or touch common areas in public places. Better yet, if you’re leaving a restroom, use a paper towel, then discard it.
  4. Keep your hands away from your face: Many of us unconsciously touch our faces throughout the day, which is giving germs a fast track into your body.
  5. Eat right and stay rested: Give your immune system a chance to stay ahead of the game with a balanced diet and between seven and eight hours of sleep each night.
  6. Encourage co-workers to stay home if they feel sick: Many people come in because they feel an unspoken pressure to come to work even when they’re under the weather.  If we start saying it’s OK to work from home or take a sick day to contain germs, you can stop the spread within your office.

So why exactly is it important to protect yourself against the flu?

First, keep in mind that the flu is not simply a “bad cold” or anything related to the stomach. It’s something altogether different — and far more serious.

Need proof? Here are some staggering numbers, compliments of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and www.flu.gov:

  • More than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized and thousands die every year from the influenza virus.
  • During the 2014-2015 flu season, 145 pediatric deaths were reported from 40 states; that number is typically closer to 100.
  • Eight pediatric deaths occurred in Nevada during the 2014-2015 flu season.
  • Flu causes 38 million lost school days and 111 million lost workdays a year, resulting in more than $7 billion in lost wages.
  • About 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized each year from the flu.
  • The median age of children who died from the flu virus from January 2014-June 2015 was 5.9 years old.

 

In summary: You can get the flu from touching something as common as an elevator button, an escalator handle or the door heading into work.

And that simple touch of a button, handle or door can give you something so serious, it can kill you.

Protect yourself and those you love: Get the flu vaccine today.

And stock up on hand sanitizer. Lots and LOTS of hand sanitizer…

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You Can Be a Healthcare Hero, too!

Immunize Nevada is proud to announce that our very own executive director, Heidi Parker, has been named a winner of the Healthcare Heroes Award from Nevada Business. This award honors outstanding healthcare professionals in Nevada.

Heidi Parker leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventive health care across Nevada’s rural, urban and frontier communities.

Under her leadership, Immunize Nevada is deeply involved in community outreach, collaborative projects and fundraising efforts aimed at helping close the vaccination gap that Nevada faces. Heidi lost her best friend to Hepatitis when she was in elementary school and her great-grandfather died in the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. These personal and family losses drive her motivation to ensure that no one suffers from a vaccine-preventable disease, and that vaccines continue to have an influential voice.

Heidi would like to challenge YOU to be a Healthcare Hero, too! If you own a business, host an on-site flu shot clinic. Take your friends and family with you to get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot is the ultimate act of kindness, as it protects everyone you come into contact with from a potentially deadly illness.

healthcare hero

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Experts Advise: Talk To Your Doctor About Antivirals If You Have The Flu

Flu Virus

This is a graphic representation of the influenza virus. Despite its friendly colors, it is not friendly.

The flu is famous for its painfully lingering nature. Fever, achiness, chills, fatigue and other nasty symptoms can last for weeks on end.

But what if there were something you could do to get out of bed and back to life more quickly?

Turns out, there is.

Flu is treatable, but research shows the treatments often go unprescribed.

Antiviral influenza (flu) medications can be used by doctors to treat the flu and reduce complications. You may know these by their common names: Tamiflu®, Relenza® and Rapivab®. But scientific study paints a picture of drugs that are severely underused.

One recent study, in fact, reported that only 19 percent of high-risk outpatients who would benefit the most from and who should have gotten treated with flu antivirals actually did.

The CDC is attempting to determine reasons for the low rate of use for antivirals by medical professionals, but overall, the consensus seems to favor the idea that medical doctors are simply unaware of the CDC’s antiviral recommendations.

“This places greater responsibility in the public’s hands,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada. “Because your doctor may not know about the benefits of antivirals, it underscores the need for those who are sick with flu to talk with their healthcare professionals about the use of the drugs.”

This is especially important considering the severity of this year’s flu, which prompted CDC Director Thomas Frieden to say in a recent press briefing that antiviral medicine could prevent “tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.”

But much like lack of awareness by medical professionals of antiviral recommendations, results from CDC research shows that most people simply may not be aware that drugs to treat flu are available.

The CDC has put together a patient fact sheet about antivirals, available here. (link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/whatyoushould.htm)

And some of most important takeaways, according to the CDC:

  • You can only receive antiviral medications if you have a prescription from your doctor or health care provider.
  • Antiviral drugs are used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at high risk for flu complications because of their age, severity of illness, or underlying medical conditions.
  • People at high risk for flu complications who should take antivirals include those 65 and older, children under 5, pregnant women and women up to two weeks after giving birth, American Indians and Alaska natives.
  • Antiviral drug treatment can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
  • Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting antivirals later can still be helpful for some people.

CDC Director Frieden, in a recent interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS Newshour (link: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/facing-widespread-flu-health-officials-encourage-antiviral-drug-use/), said antivirals do cut down on the duration and severity of the illness.

“They can keep you out of the hospital. If you’re hospitalized, they might keep you out of the intensive care unit, and they might be able to save your life.”

And, he added, people need to be realistic about what these medications can do.

“It’s not a miracle cure,” he said. “It doesn’t make you get out of bed and dance the next moment after you take it. But if you look at the weight of evidence, especially for people who have underlying conditions, and especially if they take it in the first 48 hours after the disease starts, then the evidence suggests that it will help you get better.”

The CDC still recommends a flu vaccine as the first and best preventive measure.

“It’s not too late,” Parker said. “Get your flu vaccine, but if you do happen to get the flu, talk to your doctor about antivirals.”

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Local family bonds over flu vaccine. Seriously.

family gets flu vaccine

“Flu immunizations are not a hard sell in our family.  My husband and I are rooted in public health and understand that influenza can be a serious illness, even for those of us who are healthy.

I have witnessed and heard too many heartbreaking stories where real people, including children, who have died from complications of the flu — and to be clear — flu is easily preventable.

So every year, Dan and I schedule a “flu shot date night,” which includes all of the makings for romance — including a strong shot of prevention. Seriously: We get the flu vaccine together.

Years past it was “2 for flu,” however, this year, knowing how hectic our schedules have become, we included our kiddo in our annual flu date to make sure we did not lose track and miss the opportunity to protect him against the flu as well. 1 +2 for flu!”

 

Christi Mackie

Chief, Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness

Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health

Do you have a #2AgainstFlu story or picture to share? Email, post to Facebook, Tweet or Instagram us…and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card in the process! Click here for details.

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Nevadans Can Benefit from Mobile Flu Vaccine

Is someone you know homebound — or do you know someone who cares for homebound residents?

Save Mart Pharmacy has a specialist who can visit and provide flu vaccine and other critical vaccinations. Check out the info below, and please help us spread the word by sharing this with anyone you know who can benefit.

Let’s care for the health and well-being of this important community — this holiday season and always!

Mobile Flu Vaccine

 

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Baby on Board: Flu Shot in Arm

By Mikalee Byerman

Like many women, I had babies in my late 20s — at a time in my life when I was more trusting, less discriminating and (regrettably) far more likely to be spoon fed my decisions.

Yes, I was educated — I had a few degrees under my belt by then — but I probably left it to the “experts” more than I’m proud to admit regarding the health and well being of my babies.

I believed what I was told, and when my doctors recommended vaccinations, I happily obeyed.

Fast forward a decade or so, and I found myself surprisingly pregnant at the age of almost-40. I had raised my two older children, and in the process, had learned a thing or two about that crazy thing called parenting. I also had become far more distrustful of what I was “told.” And I’ll admit, the fear mongering promoted by some facets of the media undoubtedly played a role in that.

So when my obstetrician told me I needed a flu shot — while pregnant — I immediately became suspicious.

Thanks to the media, Jenny McCarthy and her ilk, I heard the word “vaccination” and immediately thought of the worst: autism, brain damage, stunted growth and more. I wouldn’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist by any measure, but I guess a healthy dose of skepticism is an unwanted side effect of maturity.

I immediately went all “Mama Bear” protecting her unborn cub (thanks a million, silly hormones), and I set off to do some research. There was no way I was allowing anyone to inject anything into my incubator of a body without knowing the effect it would have on my growing baby.

Jill holding her baby sister -- in utero.

Turns out, my older daughter was also protective of her baby sister.

But the evidence was overwhelming. Every peer-reviewed journal article I could find, every bit of sound scientific research, promoted the idea that a flu vaccine during pregnancy wasn’t just recommended — it was essential to keep my baby (and me) healthy.

We live in an age where information is available at the click of a mouse. It allowed me to see the truth, but it also opened my eyes to some of the tactics undertaken by far less scientific organizations promoting their own ideas. It turns out, the people who are anti-vax are also pretty darn good at search engine optimization.

But it’s fairly easy to discriminate between the experts and the pseudo-scientists. Sometimes, credentials aren’t enough — look beyond an “MD” or “PhD” and look for professional affiliations, peer-reviewed journal status and sources of expertise.

If you’re pregnant (or know someone who is) and flu vaccination comes up, please spend some time doing the research. And in the meantime, for a snapshot of just a few of the benefits and recommendations, here’s a start:

  • According to the CDC: “Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu.”
  • According to the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the flu shot is safe for pregnant mothers — no increased risk of adverse effects for those vaccinated.
  • According to the New England Journal of Medicine, vaccination during pregnancy substantially reduces the risk of an influenza diagnosis. Additionally, the risk of fetal death was reduced with vaccination during pregnancy.
  • According to the American Journal of Public Health, flu vaccination was associated with improved fetal and neonatal outcomes.
  • According to the Journal of American Medical Association, flu vaccination also may reduce children’s risk of other conditions, such as bipolar disorder, associated with exposure to gestational influenza.
  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Association, “Is it safe for pregnant women to receive an influenza vaccine that contains thimerosal? Yes. A study of influenza vaccination examining over 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine.”
  • According to the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, even after a child is born, mothers who got the flu shot while pregnant have provided their babies with extra protection against acute respiratory infections.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, a flu shot during pregnancy is essential. “Pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart and lungs. Pregnancy can also affect your immune system. These factors increase the risk of becoming severely ill due to the flu.” It also adds that flu vaccine prevents potential pregnancy problems due to the flu. “Flu during pregnancy seems to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. In a recent study, babies whose mothers had a flu shot during pregnancy were nearly 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized with the flu during their first flu season than were babies of unvaccinated mothers.”

The other day, I was driving my older children — 15 and 12 — to school. My baby was in her car seat between them, and we were all listening to NPR.

Yeah, I know: I win Boring Mom of the Year.

Anyhow, the story was discussing flu vaccination in detail, including advice from Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical School. He emphasized that pregnant women ESPECIALLY should get the flu shot.

“The protection that the woman builds up passes through the placenta and goes into the newborn baby and helps protect that newborn baby during the first six months of its life when the baby is too young to be vaccinated itself,” he said. “And so there’s a double reason to vaccinate pregnant women.”

As I listened to these words, I thought to myself: For me, there’s triple reason — two teens and one baby, all healthy potentially because of that fateful decision to vaccinate while pregnant.

My three healthy children

I chose vaccination in my 20s, and I chose vaccination again at 40. Different reasons perhaps, but the same outcome: A house full of healthy, happy children.

Mikalee Byerman is Director of Audience Engagement for the Estipona Group, a Reno-based communications agency, and is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. She also is mom to three happy, healthy children. Well, mostly happy — the picture above notwithstanding. 


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Mythbusters: Flu Vaccine Edition

You’ve undoubtedly heard the myths again and again…and again.

A human tooth will dissolve overnight in a glass of Coca Cola. Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen. Eighty percent of dust is made up of dead skin cells.

And one of our favorites: The flu vaccine will give you the flu.

Myths about the flu are everywhere. According to many experts, misconceptions and rumors about the flu are as hard to contain and as hard to fight as the virus itself.

“There are urban myths and rural myths about the flu,” says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. “Flu myths are everywhere.”

As we mentioned above, perhaps the most prevalent myth we hear when out in the community: The flu vaccine game me the flu!

The fact is, it is scientifically impossible to get the flu from a vaccine. The following, from WebMD:

This is the flu myth most likely to drive experts bonkers. “There is simply no way that the flu vaccine can give you the flu,” Christine Hay, MD, assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “It’s impossible.”

Why? For one, injected flu vaccines only contain dead virus, and a dead virus is, well, dead: it can’t infect you. There is one type of live virus flu vaccine, the nasal vaccine, FluMist. But in this case, the virus is specially engineered to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick.

So why does this myth prevail? There are lots of reasons:

Likely, people are mistaking general “fluish” symptoms or the common cold for the actual flu. Luckily, there’s a good chance this only happens to people who haven’t actually ever had the flu, because once you’ve had it — well, there’s just no mistaking it!

According to the CDC, flu vaccine side effects are rare but can be “mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of a bad case of the flu.” You may have a slightly sore arm for a few days, or a slight runny nose after the nasal spray–much better than a fever, cough, aching body and inability to move off the couch, go to work, school, or anywhere, really for days.

(At least in our opinion).

Another reason for this myth? It’s always possible that you’ve contracted the flu before getting your vaccine or that you became infected shortly after it, considering it takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

Our response to that: Get your vaccine early! We encourage everyone 6 months and older to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available and it is currently available now at clinics, pharmacies and physician offices. You can find a location near you here.

So please be a voice of reason. Do you know people who believe you can get the flu from the flu vaccine? If so, please share this post with them.

And let us know in the comments below: What’s your “favorite” flu myth? We’ll be exploring more myths in the upcoming weeks, and maybe we’ll even pick yours!

And in the meantime: Interested in winning a $25 Amazon gift card? Just enter our #2AgainstFlu or #YouAgainstFlu social media contest. Details and rules are here.

Flu vaccine followed by a chance to win an Amazon gift card: It’s a win-win!

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Use #2AgainstFlu and Win!

Thelma and Louise, Bert and Ernie, Ross and Rachel, Simon and Garfunkel, Batman and Robin. These dynamic duos taught us that sometimes two is better than one and things in life can be a lot more fun when done with a buddy.

Exercise can be a drag — unless you drag along a friend.

Solo tennis? Not so fun.

Even shopping is better when you have someone to show off your fabulous find to.

So this flu season, Immunize Nevada and the Southern Nevada Immunization and Health Coalition (SNIHC) are encouraging Nevadans to pair up for the annual trek to get their flu vaccine, launching a “2 Against Flu” campaign. 

Nevadans are encouraged to post photos of themselves getting flu shots in pairs using the hashtag #2AgainstFlu on the Immunize Nevada Facebook page , Instagram (IMMUNIZENV) or Twitter (@ImmunizeNV); or on SNIHC’s Facebook page.

All statewide entries for #2AgainstFlu (hashtag must be present for consideration) will be entered into a drawing, with one random winner each week receiving a $25 Amazon gift card, October through February.

Remember: The CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine. And you have two options: nasal spray or the shot.

Do your part to make Nevada healthier, and take a friend or family member with you to get your flu vaccine today. And don’t forget to snap a picture, with someone else or by yourself,  send it our way and tag it #2AgainstFlu!

 

 

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Nevada turns 150 this month. We want to know 150 reasons why you get a flu vaccine.

“Most of the time we make medical decisions based on what we perceive to be in our individual best interest,” wrote Oregon family doctor Michael Grady in an opinion piece he wrote for the Statesman Journal. “In getting a flu shot, we remind ourselves and teach our children that as members of a community, we can take opportunities to make our society stronger, regardless of whether we personally benefit. Our vaccination may protect that frail elder in church on Sunday and our child’s immunization may protect her classmate with asthma.”

We in Nevada are members of a community. Whether we live in Las Vegas or Reno, Winnemucca or Elko, Lovelock or Tonopah, we have an obligation to care for each other.

There are so many good reasons to get your annual flu vaccination. For some, they’ve had the flu before — and they never, ever, ever want it again. For others, it’s to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Whether you are getting the flu shot or flu mist, you’re making our community a healthier place. (And we thank you for that!)

We’re guessing, there are at least 150 reasons to get a flu vaccine. Give or take.

To commemorate Nevada’s 150th birthday this year — culminating in a November 1st Nevada Day celebration —InFLUence Nevada is asking you to help us come up with 150 reasons to get a flu vaccination.

Join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #150ReasonsNV or leave a comment below. And on November 1st , we’ll select one contributor at random to win a Nevada-themed prize from InFLUence Nevada.

So, we want to know, why do you choose to get a flu vaccination?

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The World is a Sick Place; Stay Healthy and Get a Flu Vaccine

You’re in a meeting at work, and your three co-workers in your teeny-tiny meeting room are all sniffling, sneezing and hacking.

You’re at Raleys, and the grocery cart you choose has some slimy substance on the handle…and you’ve just stuck your hand in it.

You’re walking into church, and you walk directly into the path of someone who just sneezed.

We don’t need to tell you the world is a sick place, do we? Because you see evidence of that on a daily basis.

 But one of our jobs at Immunize Nevada is talking with Nevadans about research-based, scientific information about the flu — in a way that makes sense and has some personality.

And one of the best ways to do that: through this blog.  

So…welcome, if you’re a first-time reader! We hope you’ll stick around, contribute, comment, share and enjoy. But most of all, we hopeyou’ll spread the word…we need our friends to help us tell the important stories about vaccinations.  

So let’s start with some basic flu stats, shall we?

According to the Centers for Disease Control: 

  • Annually, 20 percent of Americans get the flu.
  • Each year, an average of 226,000 Americans are hospitalized due to influenza A.
  • Between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans die of influenza and its complications; the majority are adults.
  • The flu leads to economic losses of more than $10 billion in direct medical expenses and more than $16 billion in lost earnings in the U.S. alone.

Those numbers are pretty scary, right? But what if we told you that you (yes, I’m talking to YOU), making a commitment to get a flu vaccination annually, could dramatically change those numbers?

As it stands, about 45 percent of the U.S. population gets a flu vaccination.

But Nevada remains in the bottom tier of vaccination stats, with less than 40 percent of the population receiving vaccines for the last flu season reported.

The bottom line: There’s room for improvement. We’re excited to be able to tell some of the important stories about flu vaccinations, with the goal being to encourage everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu vaccine this year.

 We’re going to launch a campaign. We’re going to debunk myths. We’re going to tell you how to find a flu vaccine, what to expect from it and why it’s important.

We hope you’ll stick around. Let’s offer the voice of reason to our friends and relatives. Let’s make Nevada healthier.

 The world is a sick place, after all…

 Now, it’s your turn:

  1. What do you want to learn through this blog?
  2. What excuses do you hear from friends/relatives about why they do  NOT get a flu vaccine?

 

 

Disclaimer: this communication channel does not constitute doctor’s advice; please consult with your physician about your specific questions.

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