Healthy for the holidays
Public Health recommends checking your immunity
December 5, 2019
Are you sure you’ve had all the vaccines available to keep you in good health? Is mom hazy about whether you had a pneumonia shot as a kid, do you not have access to your vaccine records, or has blood work for a job or school come back saying you have low immunity?
No problem, says Becky Tinsley, Crook County Public Health – that’s a problem easily fixed. Vaccines are available at all times in your local public health office along with help to decide whether you need them.
“Any time it gets cold and people are having drier air, maybe breathing in smoke from wood-burning stoves, or during the holidays when we get around loved ones and share germs, that’s when you want to make sure that your respiratory tract especially is protected,” Tinsley says.
There is a push right now to identify adults who are not immune to the measles, Tinsley says.
“There’s a small group of people who fall into a gap where they wouldn’t have experienced mumps, measles or rubella, so they wouldn’t have natural immunity, and they didn’t get an effective vaccine for it,” she explains.
“It’s a very small group of people and we really need people to call us so we can determine whether they fall into that group. Most adults and all children have protection if they’ve been vaccinated.”
Most adults in the U.S. are at low risk for measles and there is high immunity among adults. However, between January 1 and May 10 this year, 839 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and 26 percent of those cases were adults.
If you’re not sure whether you have immunity, says Tinsley, give Public Health a call.
“We do a blood test to determine whether or not you’ve got immunity,” she says. If that test indicates that you may not have immunity, Public Health has vaccines available.
Certain adults are considered to be at higher risk of acquiring or transmitting measles, including post-high school students, healthcare personnel and international travelers.
“If people are traveling to areas where they have had outbreaks, particularly the west coast and the east coast, and they have a concern over whether they have immune status, they can come in and do a blood test and it usually takes a couple of days to get the results back,” she adds.
Crook County doesn’t have a high rate of non-vaccinating, Tinsley continues, which is good news for people who can’t get the vaccination or those who fall into that small group.
“Those people who are immune-compromised are well protected in our community because of herd immunity,” she says. “But it’s still a good idea, particularly if you’re going to travel, to just get it checked out – especially if you don’t know for sure.”
Measles outbreaks are occurring around the country and across the world, so Public Health has been working with people to make sure they are vaccinated, says Tinsley. As of October 3, the United States was experiencing the largest outbreak since 1994 at 1250 cases, according to reports; meanwhile, measles is resurfacing in areas that had previously been declared measles-free, such as the UK.
Meanwhile, two studies recently released suggest that skipping the vaccine is not only a risk for catching the disease. Individuals who survive an initial measles attack may become more vulnerable to other kinds of infections for months or years after they recover.
“If you are unvaccinated, it actually leaves you wide open to a lot of different infections and a lot of different problems,” says Tinsley. Vaccination is a simple, proven procedure and worth considering even though Crook County has so far escaped the spread of measles seen elsewhere.
“We have had nothing in our area. That being said, it has popped up in states around us,” Tinsley says.
Though whooping cough is widely considered to be a childhood disease, adults may still want to consider making sure they are vaccinated.
“Especially with babies being born in the winter, you want to make sure you have pertussis protection, because even adults can get a mild case and then spread that to babies who maybe don’t have the natural immunity from their moms or it’s too early for them to get vaccinated against it,” Tinsley says.
“The recommendation right now is that all women when they are pregnant, before they deliver, receive a booster dose of it just to make sure they’ve got good antibodies that they’re passing on to the baby.”
Meanwhile, she adds, “Anybody who is in the immediate cocoon of the baby – dad, grandparents, siblings and anybody else who hasn’t had recent vaccinations – should get a booster dose of it.”
Some people aren’t sure whether they received the pneumonia vaccine as a child, says Tinsley, but this one has a pretty easy fix.
“For adults, between the ages of 19 and 64, you can get the adult vaccine that we used to just give to elders. Now we give it to anybody but particularly those with diabetes, any kind of chronic lung issues – especially asthma and anything that has them on inhalers – smokers, people who have chronic renal failure, issues with their internal organs or heart disease,” she says.
Most insurance plans cover one PPSV-23 pneumonia shot for every adult, says Tinsley, which you won’t need again until you turn 65. Unlike for measles, there’s no need for a blood test.
“The original vaccine we give to babies and young children is the PCV-13, which has 13 different components to it to protect against respiratory illnesses. When you get be an adult, we give you PPSV-23, which contains those 13 plus an additional ten,” she says.
Especially if you are traveling internationally or have had respiratory issues of any kind, it’s a good idea to get protected via a PPSV-23 shot, Tinsley says.
“Just come in and tell me and if you’ve never had it or I don’t have record of it, we can give you a dose of that and consider you good to go until you turn 65,” she says, assuring that there is no potential harm associated with repeating the shot if you do happen to have had one in the past.
More than 50 percent of Wyoming counties have already reported flu or flu-like activity this year. In what can only be described as a mixed blessing, Public Health has seen so many people come through the door for a flu shot that doses have been completely used up.
“We had amazing uptake this year,” Tinsley says. “I ordered in what we normally order and we usually have it until January, but it was gone before the beginning of November.”
The hospital should be getting more in shortly, she says. Meanwhile, if you haven’t had your shot yet, the clinics in Moorcroft, Hulett and Sundance should also have some available, as well as Weston County Public Health and pharmacies.