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Public health: Get your shots

Nurse Carrie Drake administers a vaccine to a patient in November 2010. More than 15,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, were reported in the U.S. last year. This disease is preventable with the DTaP vaccine. Health officials encourage everyone to keep immunizations up to date.

Nurse Carrie Drake administers a vaccine to a patient in November 2010. More than 15,000 cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, were reported in the U.S. last year. This disease is preventable with the DTaP vaccine. Health officials encourage everyone to keep immunizations up to date.

ALBANY, Ga. — August is back-to-school time, but it’s also a good time to make sure immunizations are up up to date — even if you’re not headed off to school or college.

“Most of us remember to get vaccinated for diseases such as influenza, measles or chicken pox; but, we don’t always remember to get our booster shots for Tdap, meningitis or check our immunization history for protection against shingles and hepatitis,” said Southwest Public Health District Immunization Coordinator Sue Dale. “Vaccines are important not only to keep ourselves healthy, but also to protect those around us.”

Health officials promote National Immunization Awareness Month each August.

On the list of vaccine-preventable diseases is pertussis, or whooping cough. The childhood vaccine for the illness is called DTaP, with Tdap being the booster vaccine for adolescents and adults.

In the United States last year, more than 15,000 cases of pertussis were reported, including more than a dozen deaths. Most cases occurred in children younger than six months old, officials say.

Georgia had 178 cases of pertussis, including one infant death, in 2011, officials say. So far this year, three cases of pertussis have been reported in Southwest Georgia.

In 2010, there were 18 cases of pertussis reported in the area health district — mostly in Grady and Mitchell counties.

Provisional counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 22,000 cases of pertussis had been reported by Saturday. As of July 5, more than 30 states had reported increases in disease from the same time period the previous year.

Georgia has shown a decrease in disease over the same timeframe, available information from the CDC indicates. Pertussis most commonly impacts infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than a year old, experts say.

“Vaccine-preventable diseases remain a concern for our communities, and as school is getting into full swing, we’re encouraging parents and guardians to make sure their children are up-to-date on their immunizations as well as themselves,” Dale said. “Immunizations are the best way to fight vaccine-preventable diseases and you are never too old to get your shots.”

Immunizations help reduce absences both at school and at work, and decrease the spread of illness in the home, workplace and community, officials say. It has also been said that those who get their vaccinations might benefit those around them who may be unable to get completely inoculated, particularly infants, when it comes to stopping the spread of disease.

“This August, we’re reminding adults to not only check with their health care provider for their child’s current immunization recommendations — but check for themselves as well,” said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, director of the health district. “Safe and effective vaccines are available to protect adults and children alike against potentially life-threatening diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, shingles, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, also known as chickenpox.”