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National Infant Immunization Week

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National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is a national observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities.

For 2018, NIIW is April 21-28, 2018, and this year it is celebrated as part of World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization. Since 1994, local and state health departments, national immunization partners, healthcare professionals, community leaders from across the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have worked together to highlight the positive impact of vaccination on the lives of infants and children.

Here are some facts about Vaccines and Immunizations:

  • Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. Just as an example, among children born between 1994-2016, vaccination will prevent an estimated 381 million illnesses, 24.5 million hospitalizations, and 855,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.
  • Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough and measles. Parents are encouraged to talk to their doctor's health care provider to ensure that their child is up-to-date on immunizations.
  • Protecting babies from whooping cough begins before a baby is even born. All pregnant women are recommended to receive the whooping cough vaccine or Tdap during Each Pregnancy. This will help protect babies from whooping cough until they can receive their first whooping cough vaccine at 2 months.

Here are some myths and untrue statements about Vaccines and Immunizations:

  • Myth 1: Vaccines Cause Autism: There was a study in 1997 which made this claim. Since then, this paper has been completely discredited due to procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations. Follow-up medical research did not find any link between vaccines and autism
  • Myth 2: Vaccines can contain preservatives that are dangerous: I get a lot of questions about thimerosal which is a compound that prevents the vaccine from being contaminated by bacteria. It's true that there were concerns about this in 1999, and thimerosal was removed from nearly all vaccines back at that time. Now, there are thimerosal-free vaccines, and follow-up research has shown that there is no connection between a vaccine containing thimerosal and medical problems.
  • Myth 3: Now that major illnesses have largely disappeared, we really don't need vaccines anymore: I wouldn't bet on this. Remember the 2014 Mumps outbreak at Ohio State University? Remember the 2015 Measles outbreak in an Ohio Amish community or the 2015 Measles outbreak at Disneyland in California? And, there are more examples out there which show why adequate and appropriate immunization is required.

If you have questions or concerns about vaccines or immunizations, I encourage you to talk with your physician or health care provider. I also encourage you to check out this link from the CDC about "Recommended Vaccines By Age," and this link from the Ohio Department of Health about "Immunization Information For School." 

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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Do you know what "Pharming Parties" are? This is a dangerous trend where teens come together and bring medicines from their parents and grandparents medicine cabinets, and they take these medications for fun. You can read more about it from WKBN-TV in the article, "Columbiana County survey shows more kids using prescription drugs"

Alarming Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse in Teens

  • 1 in 4 Teens report Misued or Abused A Prescription Drug At Least Once In Their Lifetime
  • 2 in 3 Teens who report Abuse of Prescription Pain killers are getting from Friends, Family, and Acquaintances.
  • Nearly 80% of people who Inject Heroin start by Abusing Prescription Drugs

What can the community to do to turn back this trend? First of all, all of us have to learn more about the problem, especially with kids and adolescents. I encourage people to visit the website of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids at this link, which has great resources. On that website, they outline three steps to help combat the problem: talk with your kids, take action to address medicine abuse (like locking up your prescription medication and participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day), and get help for a loved one.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

  • Saturday, April 28, 2018
  • 10 am - 2pm
  • Dispose of Unwanted Capsules or Tablets
  • Various Drop Off Points In The Area

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of the disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. It is coming up on April 28, 2018 from 10AM to 2PM. Check out their website at this link for more information, including finding a collection site close to you.

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Ohio Prescription To Prevent Falls

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"Prescription To Prevent Falls" is an initiative promoted by the Ohio Department of Aging for April 1-7, 2018. The initiative encourages Ohioans to visit their Family Physician or pharmacist to review their medication list, especially for potential interactions and side effects.

Especially with older people, medication interactions and side effects, and cause detrimental complications, like falls. In addition to prescription medications, it's important to review all over-the-counter medications, especially vitamins and herbal medications.

I encourage to to check out The Ohio Department of Aging website along with the "Steady U Ohio" webpage as well. Thanks to WKBN-TV for including my soundbite in their story.

Kids Juuling At School: What You Need To Know

Facts about Juuling Parents Need To Know

  • Juuling = Smoking
  • Small Enough To Hide In Your Hand
  • Kids Believe They Are Safe
  • One Juul Pod = 1 Pack Of Cigarettes
  • Can Lead To Lung Damage, Cancer, and Addiction

Do you know what "Juuling" is? Well, your kid does, and he or she has probably tried it, and you don't even know it. Of course, kids don't say they smoke these days, because it's not cool. The term "vaping" has bubbled up in the past couple of years, but kids have now moved on from that. The term now is "juuling," and the scary part is that smoking, vaping, and juuling - they all mean the same thing - the intake of nicotine.

Juuling is another name for e-cigarettes, and kids and adults are noticing them because they are the fastest growing e-cigarette in the US market. Why are they so popular? The first reason is that they are so small and easy to hide - from, say, school officials. They look like a computer flash drive, and, in fact, they can charge in a computer USB port. Secondly, they're popular because they're flavored with names like creme brûlée, cool cucumber, and mango. And, the most important reason they're popular is because of the perception that they're safe. Kids say, "I mean, I'm not even smoking or vaping. I'm juuling."

We're now starting to see research studies that are confirming our health fears. In March 2018, there was a study in the journal "Pediatrics" which showed that teenagers using e-cigarettes are exposing themselves to chemicals which may cause cancer. The Surgeon General of the United States has already outlined the other potential health dangers like Brain Risks and Addiction. 

What is a parent to do today? I advise three things. First, learn more about e-cigarettes, vaping, and juuling by checking out the facts at the Surgeon General website. Secondly, I'd have a dialogue with your child and start by asking them what they know about juuling. And, finally, emphasize to your child that juuling still means using nicotine, and the health and addiction dangers that go with it. 

Flu Shot = Heart Attack Prevention?

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If you need another reason to get your flu shot, how about this one: The Flu Shot may prevent a heart attack. Research from Public Health Ontario was announced this week, which makes this exact claim. In addition to the original research, I encourage you to check out the following article from CNN: "Bad Heart? Don't Forget Your Flu Shot." Also check out the following article from WKBN-TV: "Not just the flu anymore - study claims flu shots also prevent heart attacks."

We don't really know why this happens. We don't know the exact mechanism. But, it does make sense that infections like influenza cause inflammation, potentially increase the chance for blood clots, and increase the stress of the heart when one has an infection like influenza.

The study also claims that getting the flu shot may be as important as quitting smoking and taking your blood pressure medications. I think that's a little bit of a leap of faith, but I'll have to check out the data more carefully. 

As I said in the video (and in real life), it's never too late to get your flu shot. I think that the flu season may extend into March, and even April. So, whether you have heart disease or not, talk to your personal physician about getting a flu shot.

March Is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

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Colon Cancer Risk Factors

  • 3rd Most Common Cause of Cancer Death
  • Family History of Colon Cancer
  • Smoking & Alcohol Use
  • Diets High in Red Meats & Processed Meats
  • Physical Inactivity & Overweight

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. If you want to learn some alarming statistics about colon cancer, I direct you to The American Cancer Society website. In 2018, there will be an estimated 97,220 new cases of colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States. It's expected to cause about 50,630 deaths during 2018.

Unfortunately, many of my patients only focus on the family and genetic factors related to colon cancer, especially those who have no family history of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society website does a great job of outline those family and genetic history factors. However, there are other factors to keep in mind, including lifestyle factors like being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, certain types of diets (like those high in red meats and processed meats), a history of smoking, and heavy alcohol use. All of these factors may increase your chance of colon cancer.

Many patients tell me, "Doc, I'm never getting a colonoscopy." These days, there are many ways to screen for colon cancer, more than and in addition to colonoscopy. Cancer screening of all types and wellness issues are great topics to talk about with your personal physician. Talk about your risk factors with your physician, and talk about what type of cancer screening is best for you. Unfortunately, I'm seeing more and more instances of colon cancer that could have been prevented. Make that appointment with your physician. Don't become a statistic.

Flu Season 2018 Not Over Yet

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Flu Season 2018 Not Done Yet

  • 84 Pediatric Deaths Nationwide
  • More than 10,000 Ohio Hospitalizations
  • Watch for Rebound Flu
  • Flu shot 60% effective in kids; 36% Overall
  • Never Too Late For Flu Shot

Flu Season 2017-18 has been very unique. And, while there have been many articles starting to trickle out saying that the current Influenza season may be leveling off, I don't believe it. I can share anecdotally, that our office is still getting positive influenza tests in our office. And, I've heard that in other facilities as well, presuming that your facility has not run out of flu tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been 84 pediatric deaths nationwide this flu season, as of their February 10th report. In addition, according to the Ohio Department of Health, there have been more than 10,000 Ohio hospitalizations secondary to influenza this flu season, including 233 hospitalizations in Mahoning County, as of their February 10th report. 

What is "Rebound Flu?" This is a term that I've seen in main stream press articles. What this means is that a person gets initially infected with influenza, and sometimes the person doesn't seek medical attention, and the person gets better on their own. The danger is that they get sick again, and they are worse. Many people ignore these symptoms, and this is where they get in trouble, especially those with chronic medical conditions like chronic heart problems, chronic lung problems, etc. Unfortunately, many of these people end up in the hospital, and sometimes worse.

Bottom Line: This year's influenza (flu) season will go on longer that in past years. Some, like me, believe that flu season will extend into March, and maybe even the beginning of April. So, if you're not feeling better, please, please, please see your doctor to be evaluated and/or re-evaluated. And, finally, it's still not too late to get your flu shot. Current numbers show that the flu shot is even better in children, approaching 60% effectiveness in kids, and 36% overall. 

#HCSM Chat Sunsets: Best Medical Twitter Chat Ever

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Tonight will be the last #HCSM chat ever. As I write this, it is literally minutes before the chat. What is #HCSM chat? In health care social media circles, it is regarded as the best medically related twitter chat ever. HCSM stands for "Health Care Communications and Social Media" and it was created in 2009 by Dana Lewis.

People forget that in 2009, the concept of a "chat" on twitter was in its early days. And, having a medically related twitter chat was even more foreign to the medical community. I admit that I did not totally understand how people could communicate on twitter - with just 140 characters (at the time).

Then, when I joined my first #HCSM chat, it must have been in early 2010 (during its 2nd year), and I was totally intimidated and overwhelmed by the speed of the conversation. And, I think I forgot to add the #HCSM hashtag to my tweets. Sheesh!

Dana Lewis and #HCSM chat have given me so much through the years. First of all, it was through #HCSM chat where I received one of my first invitations to be on a medicine social media discussion panel in 2010 in Seattle, Washington at the Swedish Health Care Symposium at Swedish Medical Center. One of my many memories from that meeting Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson and Dr. Jen Dyer for the first time. That meeting opened so many doors for me, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Dana Lewis for the opportunity to be a part of that event.

From a practical standpoint, #HCSM chat really helped me increase the number of my twitter followers. In addition, it really helped me develop the skill of being a "power tweeter" - meaning focusing on how to type/speak in small bites, and how to read, interpret, and evaluate lots of tweets at the same time during a quick #HCSM chat hour.

I could on and on and on about what #HCSM chat has meant to me, but I won't :) I just wanted to express my sincere appreciation to Dana Lewis for creating the chat and for maintaining the chat for all these years. I know the #HCSM community is not going away, but I wanted to express my appreciation to the #HCSM community for helping to teach me more about the patient perspective and the great variety of medical and community topics of which I was not familiar.

To help my nostalgia, I reflected back on the video and audio interviews below with my friend Dana Lewis from October 2010 which was in preparation of the Swedish event. If you have been affected and/or touched by the #HCSM chat in any way, I encourage you to express that out there in social media. There will never be anything like the groundbreaking and iconic #HCSM chat ever again. I feel honored to be a part of the #HCSM community.

How Does Weather Affect Your Health?

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What an amazing January day here in northeast Ohio! It was around 60F, and I actually thought about getting on my bicycle today. In less than 48 hours, the forecast low temperature will be below zero. How do extreme temperature changes affect the body? This was the subject a story I was interviewed for. Thanks to WKBN-TV and reporter Brittany Bissell for interviewing me for the story "Why extreme weather swings have you feeling under the weather."