A monthly column featuring topics and information to improve health, promote wellness and to inform readers about local health resources and issues.
It’s amazing what a little pandemic scare can do to heighten health awareness and create teachable moments.
I’ve never heard terms like sanitizing gel, anti-viral treatment, protective protocols and emergency preparedness bantered about as casual conversation, but in the past week I have. Up until last month, I’m not sure many folks used the words Public Health Department in a sentence or knew the role of the Centers for Disease Control in our state and nation.
It must have been all the media coverage. As the saying goes, “You can’t buy that kind of publicity.” And gratefully, at the time of the publication of this column, the status of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) in our county is zero. However, it has not gone away — 43 cases in 11 Colorado counties as we remain vigilant in monitoring any changes that might impact our community.
A year ago, I don’t think the man or woman on the street would have known how many people die each year of the ordinary influenza: about 36,000. They seem to now. And although there is no vaccine as yet for the H1N1 (Swine) flu, there is a vaccine available every year for the seasonal flu and for pneumonia infections.
The number of adult deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases is great. Illness is expensive and for influenza treatment alone the annual bill is about $4 billion.
So while I have your attention, let me take advantage of this time in history to applaud the interest and cooperation demonstrated for proper hand washing techniques and the importance of covering sneezes and coughs — simple but powerful medicine to take with us into the summer travel season and to prepare us for the anticipated impact of this year’s fall flu season.
Adults would be well served if they considered immunizations for seasonal flu this fall and immunizations any time for tetanus and diphtheria (td); Hepatitis A and B; measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. For women 26 years or younger, the HPV vaccine is important, and for people 60 years and older, a shingles vaccination should be considered. We are often asked about the shingles vaccine, but some are put off by the cost of the shot, which can be more than $100.
Clear Creek Public Health is making available to adults free singles shots for those whose annual incomes qualify them for the program. If you have ever had an outbreak of shingles or have known someone who has, this is a painful and debilitating illness that can cause severe pain and last four weeks or more. For information on this program and to see if you qualify, call Jean Barta, public health nurse at 303-567-3147.
Renewed attention to infectious disease is a good thing, so while we’re on a learning curve, let’s keep it up! Take charge of your health. Think healthy thoughts. Think prevention.
Linda Trenbeath is a health education and development specialist in the Public Health Department of Clear Creek County. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-567-3143.