Tag Archives: measles

Protect yourself, others against the flu during National Influenza Vaccination Week

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

With the spirit of giving resting upon us during this holiday season, there is no better public gift you can give than providing flu vaccinations for yourself and your family. The annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Although we are already two months into the flu season, it is not too late to get vaccinated. As a matter of fact, with this being National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 2-8) this is a perfect time to get vaccinated.

This is about more than avoiding the flu so you won’t be forced to miss the annual Christmas party. Illness with the flu can cause hospitalization or even death. Each flu

L.Bell headshot

Dr. Linda Bell

season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict, making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

 

Last year’s flu season was one of the worst we’ve seen in recent years, with a high number of deaths and hospitalizations here in South Carolina and across the nation. It is important to get vaccinated now, before any significant spread of the flu virus begins in our community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone 6 months old and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider, the vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. Find the facility that works best for you.

Some people are more likely to get serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or inflammation of the heart or brain. This includes infants and young children, older adults, pregnant women and anyone with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart or lung disease and diabetes. Making sure that you — and those in these vulnerable groups — are vaccinated will provide much needed protection.

There are significant benefits to getting the flu vaccine:

  • It gives your body the ability to fight the flu if you are exposed to someone who is ill.
  • It is effective in protecting against several different strains of the flu that circulate each season.
  • It offers lasting protection against the flu for at least six to eight months.
  • It is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, take other preventive measures, such as avoiding people who are sick and staying home from work, school and other places if you are sick. Also, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Other habits that can help you stay healthy year round include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

But we can’t overlook the critical role immunizations play in protecting children, families and communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Whether it’s getting young children vaccinated against diseases such as whooping cough and measles, ensuring teens are protected against conditions such as HPV, or making sure those in your circle get vaccinated against the flu, immunizations help us stay healthy.

So, don’t forget your flu shot. The protection it will provide for you and others around you will be one of the best gifts you will give this holiday season.

For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you visit www.scdhec.gov/flu.

DHEC in the News: Measles, protecting children against contagious diseases, improving health for mothers and newborns

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

DHEC: Measles Confirmed in Georgetown County Resident

Columbia, SC (WLTX) The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) received a report of a confirmed case of measles in a resident who lives in Georgetown County on Friday, August 10, from a local healthcare provider.

DHEC has begun a contact investigation and is notifying people who may have been exposed in specific settings.

School starts soon in York Co. Is your child protected against contagious diseases?

ROCK HILL – Cases of hand, foot and mouth disease have been popping up in York County. But that’s just one of several contagious diseases parents should watch for as school starts Aug. 20.

Parents also should also be mindful of pink eye, respiratory infections and other illnesses that are easily transmitted in a school setting, said Dr. Arash Poursina, infectious disease specialist for Piedmont Medical Center.

“As school starts, we do usually see a spike in the number of upper respiratory infections,” he said.

General Interest

Opinion: South Carolina is focused on improving health for new mothers and newborns

A recent USA Today story called attention to the fact that the United States is falling behind other developed nations with an increase in maternal mortality.

For South Carolina’s hospitals, our top priority is to implement a “Zero Harm” culture at our facilities, focused on providing the highest quality care to the patients we serve. That’s why we are committed to working with stakeholders to improve maternal health in our state.

Benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control
State Epidemiologist

Thanks to vaccinations, diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rare in the United States. Some physicians rarely — if ever — treat a case of measles.

That’s what makes vaccination one of the most successful public health accomplishments of the 20th century. It reduces the spread of disease and prevents complications and deaths.

But that success does not mean that the diseases vaccines help prevent are no longer a threat.

Although we have seen significant reductions in – even the elimination of – certain diseases, there were nearly 7,800 reports of vaccine-preventable diseases in South Carolina in 2016.  Of 238 disease outbreak investigations the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control conducted last year, 29 percent were influenza outbreaks.

Many of those flu cases occurred in schools and nursing homes, which serve people who often have complications from the flu.  The age groups with the highest rates of hospitalizations for flu included children ages 4 and younger and individuals older than 65. Unfortunately, 94 deaths from the flu have been reported in South Carolina during the 2016-17 flu season, which ends the end of September.

We also continue to see cases of whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, hepatitis A and B and other vaccine-preventable diseases, and they will increase unless we get more people vaccinated. The number of people receiving vaccines in South Carolina and the U.S. has declined in recent years.

Still, the fact remains that vaccines protect entire populations from multiple diseases. But questions remain.

Are vaccines effective? While no vaccine offers 100 percent protection, they are extremely effective.

How well a vaccine prevents illness varies based on the type of vaccine and the individual’s health status.  For example, the flu vaccine does not protect the elderly as well as it protects younger people. However, studies suggest that elderly people vaccinated against the flu have less severe disease, are less likely to be hospitalized and are less likely to die from the flu.

While there can be adverse effects from vaccines, severe adverse events are rare and occur far less often than complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. Although questions have been raised about whether there is a relationship between autism and vaccines, research does not show any such link.

Do vaccines have risks? Yes, vaccines — like all medications — have potential risks that must be weighed against the benefits. The risks are quite low and are comparable to those associated with prescription and over-the-counter medication.  The benefits are significant in protecting the public health and in cost-savings.  Ask your health care provider about what vaccines are best for you as well as potential risks based on your health factors.

In July the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics published a study showing that a 5 percent decrease in the number of children ages 2 to 11 vaccinated against the measles in the United States could triple the number of measles cases in that group and significantly increase the cost of controlling disease outbreaks. Of great concern is that the article reveals that several regions in the country are just above the level of vaccine coverage needed to prevent measles outbreaks.  If vaccination levels drop further, we could see a sharp rise in measles cases, one of the most highly contagious diseases known.

We continue to see preventable illness, hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths in South Carolina from influenza, whooping cough, meningitis, hepatitis B, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Every year U.S. travelers are infected after being exposed to diseases while abroad. Infected people can begin spreading a disease before they show symptoms. Numerous outbreaks have occurred in communities with low vaccination rates.

DHEC is working to increase vaccine coverage in South Carolina by enhancing partnerships with other vaccine providers, offering vaccines in schools and communities, improving technology that tracks vaccinations and simplifies access to immunization certificates, and — most importantly — educating people about the risk of diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.

While vaccines help prevent the spread of disease, their effectiveness relies on people being vaccinated. That’s where you can help. It is important that everyone – not just children – get immunized.

We have had great success combating diseases through vaccination. Let’s not lose ground now.

No Measles Cases in South Carolina

By Jennifer Read, Public Health Outreach Director

measlesBy now you’ve likely heard about the measles outbreak associated with travel to Disneyland in California. CDC is reporting 102 measles cases so far this year in multiple states, most of them stemming from the Disneyland outbreak that began in late December 2014. The vast majority of these cases occurred among individuals who had not been vaccinated.

Here in South Carolina, we’re fortunate that no cases of measles have been reported to DHEC. In fact, a review of our current and historical records shows there have not been any instances of measles in South Carolina as far back as 1999.

Measles is among the most contagious diseases known. It is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. After an infected person leaves a location, the measles virus remains alive for up to 2 hours on surfaces and in the air.

There are countries where measles is still active and unvaccinated travelers returning from one of these countries could become infected and bring measles back to the U.S. Thus, the concern for outbreaks is related to transmission to people in our communities who are not adequately vaccinated.

From a public health perspective, the current outbreak underscores the ongoing risk of measles and the importance of getting vaccinated to protect yourself and your family. The measles (MMR) vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the measles and to prevent potential outbreaks.

The MMR vaccine is recommended for all infants at 12 months of age and is a requirement to attend day care or school in South Carolina. Based on school reports to DHEC for 778,588 students on the 45th day of school for the current school year (2014-15), most South Carolina students were up to date on all their vaccines; 5,826 (0.75%) students had a religious exemption and 1,540 (0.2%) students had a medical exemption.

Our Division of Acute Disease Epidemiology will continue to monitor the national outbreak and have sent out a CDC Health Advisory through our Health Alert Network to help keep health care providers, school nurses and our partners updated on this national outbreak investigation.

If you haven’t been vaccinated against the measles, DHEC encourages you to talk to your health care provider.