Visiting Nurse Association: Herd mentality

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Ranchers understand the concept of “herd immunity”: Immunize the majority of the herd to protect the entire herd. The same disease concept applies to us: A highly vaccinated population protects everyone.

To help keep our local community safe, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is participating in National Immunization Awareness Month.

The whooping cough epidemic in Washington state (with more than 3,000 cases reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) offers some important public health lessons. According to a recent Associated Press survey, 7 percent of parents chose to exempt their Colorado kindergartners from required immunizations in 2010-11 while Washington’s exemption rate was lower at 6 percent. This same epidemic could happen here. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a very contagious disease easily passed from person to person. It can be serious, even fatal, for babies and can cause them to cough so much that they can’t breathe. It’s necessary for all ages to be vaccinated against pertussis to stop transmission because infants may be too young to be immunized.

Everyone age 6 months and older needs a seasonal flu shot to protect themselves and others against Influenza, a disease that kills an average of 36,000 people in the U.S. every year. Protecting the most vulnerable in our community, our youngest and oldest, may require shots at certain ages. Here are some general guidelines:

■ Children need a series of shots from birth to age 6

■ Preteens need recommended shots at ages 11 or 12

■ All adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years

We are all part of the “herd” in the face of disease. By getting immunized, we protect ourselves and others.

Drop-in clinics are held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays in the VNA’s Steamboat Springs office. Immunizations are always available by appointment, too.

Vaccines are our most effective public health tool against pertussis, measles, diphtheria, rubella and other diseases. People in the U.S. still become seriously ill, and even die, from vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s important to talk to your health care provider or call us today to find out which immunizations you and your family need. For more information, visit www.nwcovna.org.

Frannie Johnson, RN

Jacque Malley, RN

Janice Poirot, RN

Toni Rietveld, RN

Beth Watson, RN

Diane Miller, RN

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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