It was frightening for many and heartbreaking for others when the measles outbreak reached 85 people in Washington state and killed one person in the United States.
An even greater tragedy for our state is the 241 deaths from influenza during the 2018-2019 season, including two children. This is so sad: 241 deaths from the flu. These were confirmed by laboratory tests. Not everyone was a senior citizen either: 74 deaths were in people under the age of 65.
These deaths do not have to happen: There is a vaccine for influenza. It is now close to the time of year when we all need to get vaccinated, starting with infants at age 6 months. The Centers for Disease Control recommend getting the vaccine by the end of October but one can still get it through the end of this year and beyond.
Everyone needs to add to the effectiveness of the vaccine by carefully following some simple guidelines:
1) Wash your hands often, at least before eating, after using the restroom, and following contact with others like using someone else’s phone or computer, the ATM or a grocery cart;
2) Use cleaning wipes for things like keyboards (or wipe your hands after using it), your steering wheel, radio buttons, doorknobs (even your own dirt can cause infections if you come back to it later with a cut or abrasion that lets those bacteria into your systems), and shopping carts to name a few;
3) Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, the “T-Zone.”
If you are sick, cover your cough, wear a mask, and stay home while you are contagious. You can also wear a mask if you are healthy but want to avoid germs. Don’t forget to throw away your toothbrush and get a new one: Those bad bugs stay in the bristles waiting for the next opportunity to harm you. Avoid using anyone else’s toothbrush too.
For more information on available vaccines and recommendations for specific age groups check www.cdc.gov and www.doh.wa.gov.
Janet Schade, MS, RPh
Director of Pharmacy