NV: Vaccinations urged as flu bug emerges

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Vaccinations urged as flu bug emerges

By Erika Fricke Reno Gazette-Journal July 7th, 2001

The sudden appearance of a virulent strain of influenza that attacks preschoolers underscores the need for parents to know which inoculations their children need and see that they get them, Washoe County health officials said this week.

An 8-month-old girl was checked into the emergency room June 13 with Haemophilus Influenzae, a disease that is largely preventable with vaccination.

“These people told everyone at the hospital that the child was up to date with immunizations,” said Christine Paige, registered nurse with the immunization project out of the Washoe District Health Department. “But when we checked, the child had only had one (inoculation) and should have had three. Parents, when they’re guessing intuitively, they’re usually wrong.”

Health officials would not identify the infant’s family or city of residence other than to say the child was brought to a local emergency room.

The disease, known as Hib disease, used to be a primary cause of meningitis in children under 5. Now most children are vaccinated and the disease is uncommon.

“It’s not anything that people need to be concerned that their child is going to get this,” said Denise Stokich, the health department’s epidemiologist who investigated the case. “It’s an important reminder of getting immunizations and getting them on time.”

Children should be vaccinated for Hib at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, and again between 12 and 15 months of age.

The disease is spread like the flu or a cold, when someone infected with the bacteria sneezes or coughs, and another person breathes the bacteria in, or if they sneeze and get the bacteria on their hands and then don’t wash them.

“When we used to see this disease prior to the vaccine, it was quickly progressing and children ended up with meningitis and neurological problems following that, even death,” said Stokich.

Once a vaccine was developed that could be given to infants, the number of cases plummeted.

“They feel like it’s definitely a public health success story,” said Paige. “Hib used to be the cause of most cases of meningitis. There’s no other disease that’s been cut down so dramatically in just a few years.”

Data show that in the eight years before 1991, when vaccination of infants for Hib began, Washoe County saw 95 cases of the disease. In the 10 years since the vaccinations began, there have been only two cases. Nevada has had no more than two cases in the last five years.

This is the first occurrence of the disease in Washoe County since 1993, Stokich said.

The Hib vaccine is among those now required for children, along with measles, mumps, and rubella. Children must be vaccinated for Hib before entering day care or kindergarten.

The 8-month-old who caught the disease did not go to day care. The health department looked for people who might have become infected, but didn’t find any. She did not get meningitis or any of the more severe symptoms of the disease. Stokich credited the one inoculation with limiting the severity of the disease.


The Washoe County District Health Department holds walk-in immunization clinics 8 a.m. - 5p.m. Monday through Friday at the district health office at the corner of Ninth Street. and Wells Avenue in Reno. The cost is $15, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. Additional clinics are held Saturdays and at branch offices in Stead, South Reno, Sun Valley and Sparks. For more information: 328-3724.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 08, 2001


Correction to the news story above: this is NOT a form of influenza virus; rather Haemophilus influenzae serogroup B ("HiB") is a bacterium that once was a major cause of devastating meningitis and other infections in infants and young children. In the "developed world" at least, a highly effective vaccine has led to its decline, now it causes only a few cases a year.

The confusing name relates to the search for the actual cause for 'flu, namely influenza VIRUS types A and B. The bacteria was identified and named back in 1892 (the incorrect claim was made that it was the cause of epidemic influenza).

-- Andre Weltman, M.D. (aweltman@state.pa.us), July 09, 2001.

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