Over a year ago, during the height of the Ebola scare, I blogged that the “bugs are still winning”. We made it through that one, and learned a great deal to make our hospitals safer in the process, but today I stand even stronger with what I said back then. The bugs are still winning and we have to do everything we can to beat them at every level.
One of the best ways to avoid infection is to prevent it in the first place through the process of immunization. Incredible progress has been made in this field. We have come such a long way since Pasteur.

Children’s immunizations have changed substantially over the past few years. Today in addition to the usual DPT, MMR and polio, we now have rotavirus, influenza, varicella, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hemophilus, varicella and HPV– and probably more coming down the pike. In fact, just reviewing the childhood immunization schedule from the CDC is pretty mind-boggling. It is far more complex than when I trained. I am glad that the pediatricians and family physicians have this one down. Clearly we have seen a decrease in these diseases and it is getting hard to imagine what a scourge each of these was not so very long ago. How soon we forget…

…Let me pause here; I hope all of you have gotten over that autism garbage. It’s simply BS. I am very frustrated as a physician with parents who are willing to potentially harm their children based upon a very flawed study, and are NOT willing to protect them from the obvious hazards of these horrible diseases that are preventable. I won’t even waste my readers’ time with this drivel.

Back to the adults. With the holidays approaching many children will be visiting grandparents. The flu season is just beginning. I offer you this challenge…. are we appropriately immunizing ourselves!

It is important not only for us individually, but also in order to protect those around us. For example, a recent study by the CDC showed that many of the children that acquired pertussis in recent years, got it from adults. Many adults are simply not appropriately immunized. And with the increasing number of immunizations and ever changing immunization schedules, it can become confusing to keep up with the current recommendations.

The moms, physicians and school districts across the country have done a great job to maximize the effectiveness of childhood immunizations, but who is watching over the adults?

For example, how many adults are getting yearly flu shots? Even though the vaccine is far from perfect, formulated a-priori based upon an educated guess as to which strains of the flu will be most likely to occur later in the year, it has shown a good track record over the years to protect the population.

Are you up to date on a tetanus booster? If you have not had a dose of Tdap, have you had an Td within the past ten years? Unless you stepped on a nail recently and showed up in an emergency room, you probably do not even know.

Particularly if you are over the age of 65, have you had a pneumococcal vaccination?
And how about the zoster vaccine? Most adults have had chicken pox as a child and manifest the varicella virus within the nerve cells, so they are at risk for the development of herpes zoster. I have had the painful experience of shingles a few years ago prior to the vaccine… I wish it had come out sooner.

HPV is still a good idea for some adults, especially if you are sexually active with more than one partner.

Adults at higher risk still should be considered for meningococcal, hepatitis A or B and even hemophilus.

Bottom line, we have done a very good job with our kids, despite having to deal with some of the flack generated by extremist groups that choose to disregard science. As for adults, however, we can do much better.

Please review the current CDC recommendations for both childhood and adult vaccinations: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/

Are you up to date?

Consider the kids and grandkids visiting over the holidays. And the flu season is just around the corner.

The bugs are winning. For these infections, prevention is truly the best medicine.

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