Protect your Children: Get them Vaccinated

By Gail Burke, DO, Family Medicine Physician

GettyImages-532334752.jpgWith a new school season starting, many parents are making lists to make sure their child has everything to begin the school year prepared. Protecting your child’s health should be number one on your list.

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One of the best ways to keep your children healthy is to get them vaccinated. From newborn to college age, you can protect your children from 16 serious diseases, including polio, meningitis, diphtheria, flu, rotavirus and tetanus. Vaccinations work! Some terrible diseases that ravaged human beings for centuries were eliminated with the discovery of vaccination, such as the dreaded small pox virus, which the World Health Organization declared globally eradicated in 1979.

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Vaccinations save lives

Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent, such as polio, measles and whooping cough. Those same germs exist today; because most children are vaccinated, we don’t see those diseases as often. Vaccination not only protects your child; it also protects the other children in the classroom and school, by something known as “herd immunity.” Germs can travel quickly through a community, such as your child’s classroom, and make a lot of children sick. If enough people get sick it can lead to an outbreak. But when enough children are vaccinated against a disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person and the whole group is less likely to get the disease. That is “herd immunity!”

As a very busy parent, you’ve got enough to keep track of with your child’s multiple school and afterschool activities.  Keeping track of a vaccination schedule is one less thing for you to worry about, because your child’s doctor will do this job.

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Well-child visits and immunizations

Vaccinations are designed to be given automatically during well-child visits. Your family doctor or pediatrician will schedule these well-child visits and keep track of your child’s vaccinations and give you a health record with the history of your child’s vaccinations. This record is often required by your child’s school and other programs to ensure the health of all the children. And don’t worry. If your children have missed any vaccines, your doctor can use a “catch up” vaccination schedule to get them back on track.

There are free resources to help parents such as the CDC charts, “2018 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth through 6 Years old” and the “Recommended Immunizations for Children 6 years old through 18 years old.”

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Vaccination safety

Some parents are confused and worried about vaccinations. They’ve heard that vaccinations can cause autism or long-term neurologic problems. Moms and Dads want to do what’s in the best interest of their children. All parents, and children, deserve the best science-based information on this topic. The CDC and many scientific groups have done extensive research on vaccine safety; their studies continue to find there is no scientific basis for this claim. Based on these major research findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Medicine support vaccinations for all children, infancy through college age. You are encouraged to bring your questions and concerns to your family doctor.

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Additional benefits of vaccinations

There is another important benefit for parents who vaccinate their children. Their children are less likely to develop the childhood illnesses which require time off school for kids and time off work for parents. It also cuts down on need for doctor’s visits, and with very sick children, the need for hospitalization.

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Programs that can help

Vaccinations can be expensive and many families cannot afford to pay for vaccines on their own. If you are unable to afford vaccinations for your child or if the vaccinations are not covered by your health insurance, do not let this stand in the way of protecting your child. He or she may be eligible for programs such as the Vaccines for Children program, a federal program established in 1998.

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Finding your ‘Medical Home’

When you register as a patient at the UMC/LSU Family Medicine Clinic, this becomes your “Medical Home,” for you and every member of your family, no matter his or her age. One of the key beliefs of family medicine is disease prevention! We are dedicated to promoting your child’s health, through vaccinations and lifelong education on healthy lifestyle. We believe that vaccinations are one of the best lifelong strategies to prevent serious life threatening diseases and keep you and your loved ones healthy.

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Dr. Gail Burke is a board certified family physician in the UMC/LSU Family Medicine Clinic. To learn more about Family Medicine at UMC, visit http://www.umcno.org/familymedicine or call (504) 962-6363 to schedule an appointment.

Is HIV How you ID?

Author: Lauren Richey, MD, MPH, FIDSA, UMC Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist and LSU Health Sciences Center Associate Professor of Medicine

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that can cause serious damage to your body and immune system if not treated; however you can be without symptoms for many years. The lack of symptoms makes people think they are healthy, and, as a result, they often do not seek out or request testing.

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It is important to find out about the infection early because there are simple, effective treatments which can keep you healthy and prevent any damage to your immune system.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

How Do I Get HIV?

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HIV can be transmitted through:

  • sexual fluids during sexual activity,
  • mother to child during birth,
  • breast feeding, and
  • blood.

Blood transmission can occur through blood transfusions and the use of intravenous (IV) drugs.

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How is HIV/AIDS Diagnosed?

As mentioned before, early HIV infection often causes no symptoms, and must be detected by testing a person’s blood for the presence of antibodies — disease-fighting proteins — against HIV. These HIV antibodies generally do not reach levels high enough to detect by standard blood tests until 1 to 3 months following infection, and may take as long as 6 months to do so.

People exposed to HIV should be tested for HIV infection as soon as they think they may have been exposed to HIV.

When a person is highly likely to be infected with HIV and, yet, antibody tests are negative, a test for the presence of HIV itself in the blood is used. Repeated antibody testing at a later date, when antibodies to HIV are more likely to have developed, is often recommended.

Who Should Get Tested?  Everyone! 

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There are a lot of misconceptions about HIV and how it is transmitted but anyone, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or educational level, who has had sex should be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. About 1 in 7 people in the United States who have HIV don’t know they have it.

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People at higher risk should get tested more often. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

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If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to protect you and your child from getting HIV.

What are My Options for HIV/AIDS Treatment?

As with many other conditions, early detection offers more choices for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that not only can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system, but  may keep HIV in check so that the individual has a chance to live a normal life span.

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Unfortunately, there is no cure for an HIV infection.

Talk with your healthcare provider for more information regarding various drug therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Where Can I Get Tested?

We offer testing at University Medical Center New Orleans in the Infectious Disease Center (ACB building, Clinic 4C). There is also routine HIV testing in our Emergency Department. So if a medical condition or any risk of exposure to HIV brings you to the ED, you can get tested!

To find other testing centers near you, you can enter your zip code into: gettested.cdc.gov.  Other places include your primary medical doctor, OB/GYN doctor, or at a community testing event.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Acquiring HIV?

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  1. Use Condoms: Using condoms during sexual encounters is one of the simplest ways to prevent HIV transmission.
  2. Take PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): PreP involves taking a daily medicine to prevent HIV acquisition and is very effective.
  3. Use Clean Needles: If you inject drugs, using clean needles, and never sharing needles, is another way to prevent HIV transmission.
  4. Talk to Your Partner: Before having sex for the first time with a new partner, you and your partner should talk about your sexual and drug-use history, disclose your HIV status, and consider getting tested for HIV and learning the results.

Where Can I get PreP? Where Can I Receive Treatment for HIV?

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The HOP (HIV Outpatient Program) clinic nested in the Infectious Disease Center of the ACB building Clinic 4C provides both comprehensive HIV care and PreP.

Call (504) 702-4344 to make an appointment or to refer a patient. 

Click here for more HIV Resources.

About the Author

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Dr. Lauren Richey, MD,MPH, FIDSA is an Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has more than 11 years of diverse experience with HIV and other infectious diseases.