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CDC Issues Measles Outbreak Alert

The U.S. is currently experiencing a measles outbreak, which started in California and has spread to six additional states and Mexico. This is a great public health concern because of all infectious diseases, measles is one of the most contagious. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people who do not have immunity against the disease and come into contact with an infected patient will develop measles. Therefore, the CDC is disseminating information to empower communities to raise awareness in their homes, workplaces, and places of faith.

While measles is considered a child’s disease, adults who are not immune to measles can catch and spread it. 

Therefore, everyone should take precaution, especially if you are planning on traveling abroad or have small children at home.

Vaccine Immunity

There are some ways to know if you have immunity against measles, such as having written documentation that states you have received one or two doses of the vaccine or laboratory evidence of immunity. If you do not have documentation or are unsure, always consult with your trusted healthcare provider or doctor as each person’s health situation is unique.

Vaccine Recommendations

The measles can be prevented with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. The CDC recommends that if you were born during or after 1957 and do not have evidence of measles immunity, you should get at least one dose of the vaccine. Recommendations vary for children, students at higher education institutions, and international travelers.

Getting Vaccinated

If you aren’t sure where to get vaccinated, check out vaccine.gov’s Adult Vaccine Finder and interactive map that lists immunization requirements and information by state.

Spreading the Word

Here are some bilingual resources you can use to help spread the word about the measles:

Measles: Questions and Answers (IAC, reviewed by CDC)

Hoja Informativa para los Padres (CDC)

Sarampión: asegúrese de que su hijo haya recibido todas las vacunas (CDC)

El Sarampión Puede Viajar (CDC Podcast)

New Year, New Goals: Be an InFLUence in your Family and Community

On January 5, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that last week influenza cases surpassed the “epidemic threshold”, a clear reminder that it is still not late to get vaccinated and protect yourself from the flu. The report indicated that nearly all states experienced high or widespread flu activity, which means that everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable to flu complications— older adults, children under 5 years, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions—should take proper precautions during this flu season.

[Not sure if you are at high risk for serious illness from the flu? Click here.]

Here are the top 3 things everyone should keep in mind during the 2014-15 flu season:

Get vaccinated

The flu shot is always your first line of defense against influenza, and it is not too late to get vaccinated. There are several flu shot options available. If you are at risk for flu complications or think you may be, talk to your health care provider before getting vaccinated. It is important to remember that the flu shot should be administered once a year as its immunization only lasts one flu season. To find the nearest flu clinic, click here.

 

Go to the doctor if you present flu-like symptoms

It is possible to get sick or present flu-like symptoms even if you are vaccinated. This is due to several reasons—being exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting immunized, falling ill to non-flu viruses that cause similar symptoms, or being exposed to a flu virus that isn’t included in the vaccine. In some instances, people who are vaccinated catch the flu. While the flu vaccine generally works best among young adults and older children who are healthy, some older adults and people with chronic illnesses could develop less immunity after vaccination. Regardless, everyone who is able to get immunized, should get the flu shot every year.

 

Practice flu prevention

Check out these practical tips to help prevent the spread of the flu in your home and community.

Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) is a culturally, linguistically, and age sensitive community intervention that aims at increasing adult vaccination rates among Hispanics.

 

Day Eight: Getting vaccinated is a lifelong effort!

Over the next 12 days, we will be sharing daily posts to motivate you to think about your health and well-being during the holiday season. Some posts will focus on handy tips, while others will offer a reflexion. We hope these words will inspire you and we invite you to share them with friends, neighbors and family. 

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When TV icon Barbara Walters came down with the chicken pox almost two years ago, it came as a shock to many who immediately asked, “an older adult with chicken pox?”

A common myth related to chicken pox is that mainly affects children, but the reality is that anyone can catch it as it is highly contagious and spreads easily. While it is usually mild, it can lead to complications, especially among those with weakened immune systems. Also, after recovering from the chicken pox the virus can remain in the body for years and re-emerge to cause shingles or herpes zoster.

In the United States, one in three people will develop shingles, and roughly half of the case of shingles occur among people 60 ears and older.

Because the risk of shingles increases around age 50, the best way to avoid shingles and chicken pox all together, is to get vaccinated. The chicken pox vaccine is highly effective — about 8 out of 10 people who receive the vaccine are protected from the virus. In fact, since 1995 the chicken pox vaccine has reduced the number of related deaths and hospitalizations by more than 90% in the United States.

vacunemonos graphic 2

On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the shingles vaccine for anyone 60 years or older, regardless if they had chicken pox or not. It is also recommended even if the person has had shingles previously as the vaccine can help prevent future bouts.

These vaccines are only two of a larger list of immunizations the CDC recommends for people over the age of 65. However, every person’s health condition is unique, which is why it is important to always consult with a health care provider before getting a vaccination. The holiday season is a great opportunity to review these vaccines and bring it up at your next doctor’s visit. Here is a handy chart you or loved one can take to the appointment.

Remember, getting vaccinated is a lifelong effort!

Feliz Año Nuevo: New Resolutions for 2014

ae25c3c389bab00310e593f279cd83ca741d828dAs the end of 2013 draws near, people around the world are getting ready to celebrate a new year. While traditions vary in different cultures – from eating grapes to kissing a loved one at midnight – one common tradition that people across many cultures share is making resolutions for a fresh start. This year the NHCOA family encourages you to adopt some new resolutions that will not only improve your life, but the lives of those around you too, including our padres y abuelitos.

  1. Get tested for HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 4 people living with HIV don’t know they have it. One of the best ways we can achieve the goal of making an AIDS-free generation a reality is to stop the spread of HIV by practicing safe sex every time and getting tested for HIV regularly.
  2. Each year resolutions around weight-loss and increased gym attendance prevail. This year try adopting a healthy diet and doing physical activity, such as dancing or walking, in an effort to prevent or manage diabetes.
  3. Get vaccinated against the flu. The height of flu season arrives right after the new year, so it’s still not too late to get your vaccine. And while the flu vaccine may be one of the most well-known vaccines, you may need others. Discuss the vaccines you need with your doctor this year.
  4. Help fight Medicare fraud by becoming a volunteer for the National Hispanic SMP program. Scammers often target Hispanic older adults due to their unique vulnerabilities, including linguistic and cultural barriers, lower levels of formal education and social isolation. By getting involved with the NHSMP, you can help protect our padres y abuelitos from Medicare fraud and strengthen the program for future generations.
  5. Advocate for paid family leave in your state. Twenty years after the passage of the Family and Medicare Leave Act, only about 60 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid leave, putting a huge financial burden on new parents and those with sick family members.
  6. If you don’t have health insurance, sign up for a plan through the marketplace. NHCOA’s Navigators can help you as you decide which plan best meets your needs. In 2014, access to health insurance is no longer a privilege, but a right.

No matter the resolutions you pick, the NHCOA family wishes you a happy and healthy Near Year! Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments section below.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

Each year National Influenza Vaccination (NIVW) is observed in order to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination. This year the annual awareness week is observed across the county from December 8-14.

A yearly flu vaccination is the first and best defense against the flu and its related complications that could lead to severe illness, hospitalization and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year.

The flu is among the most common, contagious respiratory illnesses in the U.S., infecting millions of people every flu season. The severity of flu illness can range from mild to severe, and may include symptoms such as fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny of stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. When severe, flu complications can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Some populations, including individuals with certain health conditions and older adults, are at risk for flu-related complications. As a result, it is recommended that these populations always get a flu vaccination each year. However, while the flu is particularly dangerous for certain people, it can cause severe illness and even death for anyone, regardless of whether or not they are “high risk.” Even healthy children and young adults can get very sick from the flu.

“One of the greatest challenges we face from the flu is the uncertainty of the disease,” explains Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on their body’s ability to fight infection.” Since flu viruses are constantly changing and immunity can decline over time, annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection.

Thanks to medical advancements, getting a flu vaccine is now more convenient than ever before. Vaccines are available in a variety of locations, including from your doctor or local health department, and at many pharmacies.

Many employers, schools, and retail stores also offer flu vaccines. Additionally, there are several vaccine options for the 2013-14 season. CDC does not recommend one vaccine over the other, so talk to your doctor or nurse about the best option for you. Use the vaccine finder to find a flu vaccination clinic near you.

 

Vacunemonos: the Flu, Diabetes and HIV/AIDS

For most people, the flu is a respiratory illness that is unpleasant, but remedied by rest and medicine. Common flu symptoms may include a high fever, cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  However, the flu can be more serious for some groups of people, including young children, older adults and individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Diabetes can weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight the flu virus. Additionally, being sick can raise your blood glucose and prevent you from eating properly. This may result in a negative impact in diabetes care because diet and exercise are important components of managing the disease. When the flu and diabetes intersect you are also at risk of flu-related complications like pneumonia.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, also weakens the body’s immune system, gradually destroying the body’s ability to fight infection and certain cancers. Studies show that HIV-positive individuals have an increased risk for heart and lung-related hospitalizations during flu season as a result of HIV/AIDS and serious influenza-related complications. There is also a higher risk of flu-related death in HIV-positive people.

Due to the severity of possible complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals with HIV/AIDS or diabetes receive a flu vaccine each year. It’s important to note that the nasal spray version is not safe for individuals living with HIV/AIDS or diabetes. This vaccine contains a weakened form of the live flu virus and is only approved for use among healthy people, ages two to 49 that are not pregnant.

Vaccines are for everyone, regardless of age, but they are particularly important for Hispanic older adults, who are disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases that can cause severe flu complications. Data shows that Hispanic older adults are five times more like to have HIV than non-Hispanic white seniors and Latinos overall are 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

Despite these facts, Hispanic older adults have lower flu vaccination rates than the general population. As a result of this gap in vaccination rates, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) created Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) – a cultural, linguistic and age-appropriate program that seeks to increase vaccination rates among Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers. Since its inception, Vacunémonos has trained 146 promotores de salud (lay health workers) and reached over 6,000 individuals through interpersonal and one-on-one educational sessions. To learn more about Vacunémonos, please visit the program webpage.

Vacunemonos: What’s Your Flu I.Q.?

The flu and its corresponding vaccine are important to maintaining good health. However, both are surrounded by misinformation. Due to the prevelance of myths surrounding the flu and its vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiled the most popular myths so that people can test their flu I.Q. The National Hispanic Council on Aging encourages you find out your flu I.Q. by using the information below and then improving your I.Q. with materials from our signature Vacunemonos program – a culturally, linguistically and age sensitive community intervention that aims to raise vaccination rates among Hispanic older adults through targeted outreach and education.

A flu vaccine can’t give you the flu: True.
The flu vaccine cannot cause flue illness. The viruses in the vaccines are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.

The “stomach flu” and influenza are the same thing: False.
“Stomach flu” is a popular term for stomach or intestinal disease, whereas the flu is a respiratory (lung) disease. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throate and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea also can occur with flu, but are more common in children than adults.

Getting a flu vaccine in December or later is not too late: True.
CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available and that vaccination continues into December, January and beyond. Influenza activity usually peaks in February most years, but disease can occur as late as May.

People should be vaccinated against the flu each and every year: True.
CDC recommends yearly vaccination for two reasons. First, new flu vaccines are made each year and often updated to fight against the three influenza viruses research suggests will be most common. Second, immunity declines over time, so a yearly vaccination is required for optimal protection.

Washing your hands if the best thing you can do to protect against the flu: False.
CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting aginst the flu. However, preventative actions like cover your cough and washing your hands often are important everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs.

The flu is typically spread through coughs and/or sneezes: True.
Flu virus is mainly spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes.

The flu is not a serious illness: False.
Flu is a serious contagious disease that causes illness and related hospitalizations and deaths every year in the U.S. Flu seasons can vary in severity. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

The flu vaccine is available as a shot or nasal spray: True.
Flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray (brand name FluMist). The nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for “healthy” people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant. “Healthy” indicates people who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.

You can spread the flu to other before you have symptoms: True.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

There is no treatment for the flu: False.
There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat the flu. Antiviral drugs are pills, liquid or an inhaled powder that fight against the flu in your body. The antiviral drugs recommended now are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Antivirals are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine. A yearly flu vaccination is the first and best way to prevent influenza.

NHCOA’s #MeVacuno Campaign

1236568_703266449687673_684301114_nAs the school year begins and vaccines are increasingly promoted, a common myth continues to be pervasive: vaccines are only for young children. However, vaccines are important for maintaining one’s health at every stage of life. Vaccines can be particularly important for older adults because as we age, our immune systems weaken, putting us at higher risk for illness. As a result, a disease may have a more severe impact on an older adult than on a younger adult or child. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.

However, the flu and many other common diseases can be prevented by maintaining up to date vaccines. The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) seeks address this issue through its signature Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated!) program – a culturally, linguistically, and age sensitive community intervention that aims at increasing adult vaccination rates among Hispanics.

Most recently, the Vacunémonos program has focused on the diverse and meaningful reasons that Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers choose to get vaccinated through its social media campaign “#MeVacuno.” In the campaign, participants choose their reason for getting vaccinated and pose in a picture to promote vaccines via social media. NHCOA hopes that by sharing these relatable reasons, more people will begin to understand the importance of vaccination at every age.

Among the common reasons to get vaccinated are:

  • Me vacuno contra la influenza cada año porque el doctor me lo recomendó.
  • Me vacuno porque las vacunas previenen enfermedades.
  • Me vacuno porque quiero estar sano.
  • Me vacuno porque sé que muchas enfermedades prevenibles no han desaparecido.
  • Me vacuno porque quiero disfrutar de mi familia.
  • Me vacuno porque quiero proteger a mis nietos.

NHCOA encourages everyone to join in the conversation by submitting your reasons for getting vaccinated. You can submit your reasons to our blog, Facebook page or Twitter.

Immunizations for Travelers

As the calendar rolls deeper into summer, vaccines, which many people associate primarily with the flu, are not on many people’s minds. Most are focused instead on their summer vacation travel plans, not realizing that vaccines can be an important part of a traveler’s pre-departure checklist. The National Hispanic Council on Aging’s Vacunémonos program aims to increase the immunization rate among Hispanic older adults by promoting the importance of immunization for everyone, regardless of age. Since many people take advantage of the summer months to travel, vaccines are particularly important now in order to maintain one’s health and well-being.

Generally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) perceives the risk of exposure to infectious diseases in most industrialized countries (i.e. Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe) to be no greater than in the U.S. However, the world extends beyond these popular destinations and so does the curious traveler. In certain countries, infectious diseases that are uncommon in the U.S. still exist. Therefore, the CDC created a traveler immunization website that shows the recommended and required vaccines for travelers, based upon several factors.

The CDC divides travel immunizations into three categories:

  • Routine Immunizations and Vaccines, which are recommended for babies, children and adults to protect them at home.
  • Recommended Immunizations and Vaccines, which are recommended and vary based upon the country, travel plans, age and health.
  • Required Immunizations and Vaccines, which are required for travel to certain parts of the world.
    • Yellow fever: for travel to certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America
    • Meningococcal vaccination: for travel to Saudi Arabia during Hajj, Islam’s annual pilgrimage

Most travel immunizations take four to six weeks to take effect, and some may require more than one shot, so travelers should discuss their travel plans with a medical professional before their trip.

Vaccines are for Everyone

Many people associate vaccines with childhood and therefore stop getting vaccinated when they become adults. However, vaccines don’t have an age limit – they are for everyone, at any time in your life. In fact, there are many vaccines that are specifically recommended for older adults.

With age, immune systems tend to weaken, putting older adults at greater risk of infectious diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines help strengthen the immune system and decrease the risk of getting vaccine-preventable diseases. Additionally, immunity from vaccines can wear off over time and new strains of viruses may develop, making it essential to maintain up to date immunizations.

The CDC recommends that older adults (aged 60 and older) get vaccinated with the following:

While there are many myths surrounding vaccines, the reality is that they are a safe and effective way to protect against many infectious diseases. Additionally, they help protect your family, friends and co-workers.

Studies show that Hispanic older adults are significantly less likely to get vaccinated when compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Like many older adults, Hispanic elders often believe that adult vaccines are unimportant and that vaccines are only necessary for children. However, due to the fact that Hispanic older adults are socially isolated, they are often not reached by health education and promotion efforts (unless they specifically target them), and they retain this misconception about adult vaccines.

As a result, NHCOA developed Vacunémonos (Let’s Get Vaccinated) – a proven community-based intervention that effectively closes the gap in adult vaccinations among Hispanic older adults and the mainstream population through targeted community outreach and education. The program uses a two-pronged approach that combines one-on-one outreach through the deployment of promotores de salud (lay health workers) and a locally-focused bilingual communications campaign built around the message of the importance of adult vaccination.

To learn more about Vacunémonos and the importance of vaccination at any age, please visit http://www.nhcoa.org/vacunemonos/.