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Public Health Column for the Times-News

Vaccines, books and health of community

Published: Wednesday, March 4, 2015

By KIMBERLY HORTON
Health Department columnist

Sometimes choices are difficult. I usually focus on one topic to write about, but this month I couldn't choose. So much is happening in public health, and every bit is important to share with you.

Vaccines

A topic you hear daily in the news is vaccine-preventable diseases that have reemerged in every population all across the United States and beyond. Whether measles or whooping cough, we should all be concerned about the potential this has in spreading disease. And concern is appropriate; as many people say, a disease is only a plane ride away. Travel is swift and international, which means disease can travel just as quickly.

Currently, measles has been the main disease topic. And it should be. It's one of the most highly contagious diseases there is. It spreads quickly in children and adults who are not vaccinated with the highly effective, safe and readily available MMR vaccine.

One concept to keep in mind is called herd immunity (or sometimes community immunity). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that “when a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines — such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals — get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained.”

Confusion about vaccines does exist, but our Communicable Disease and Immunization Nurses are always available to answer your questions. Call them at 828-694-6015 if you have concerns.

Another critical vaccine is one for the pets we keep. State law and county ordinances require all cats, dogs and ferrets 4 months of age and older to have a current rabies vaccine. Rabies is a deadly viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, particularly mammals. The virus can infect domestic pets, agricultural animals such as cows and horses, and people when they are exposed to rabid wildlife.

It's important for residents to realize that if your pet is not currently vaccinated and is bitten by an animal that is or might be rabid, animal control is required by law to either quarantine the pet for six months or euthanize it. This results in a costly and possibly sad situation for the owner.

To make it easier and less costly to vaccinate your pets, Henderson County Animal Services and Henderson County veterinarians are sponsoring a Rabies Vaccination Clinic for cats this week through Saturday.

The clinic will be held at each participating veterinarian's office by appointment only and for a reduced fee of $8 per cat.

A vaccination clinic for dogs will be held in May. A list of participating veterinarians for this clinic is available at www.hendersoncountync.org/health.

Free books

Sometimes an offer seems too good to be true, but I assure you what follows is the truth. Because reading is essential to school success, books are one of the tools. To encourage reading, free books are available to children in Henderson County through two different programs. Surrounding children with books is the best way to prepare them for a lifetime of learning.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library and Smart Start of Henderson County offer a program that mails new, age-appropriate books to enrolled Henderson County children every month. Books are free for children from birth to 5 years.

If you don't have young children, please share this opportunity with your family members, friends and neighbors. Online registration for the Imagination Library is available at www.smartstarthc.org, or parents and caregivers can call Smart Start at 828-693-1580 to have registration materials mailed.

The Henderson County Department of Public Health participates in the Reach Out and Read childhood literacy program. At each well-child visit from 6 months through 5 years of age, providers give parents an age-appropriate book and guidance on the importance of reading aloud to their children and ways to make reading fun to children of all ages.

Electronic cigarettes

Sometimes I hear interesting conversations at the checkout counter in the grocery store between clerks. The topic of the day last week was the safety of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Have you wondered if e-cigarettes are safe? Health Promotion Coordinator Amanda Vranich has written an article that details the facts about electronic cigarettes in Henderson County's E-Newsletter. If you don't receive this monthly newsletter, register your email at www.hendersoncountync.org/manager.

Board of Health

Most folks realize by now that tobacco is a harmful choice. Policies that limit tobacco use contribute to a healthier Henderson County population. This is one reason the Henderson County Board of Health has increased tobacco use prevention policy discussions.

Because of this and other public health advocacy initiatives such as increasing efforts to prevent prescription drug abuse and expanding the health department's school-based influenza vaccination campaign, this board was selected as a N.C. Outstanding Board of Health for 2015.

The Board of Health meets monthly on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m., and the public is always invited.


Kimberly Horton is the communications manager at the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at khorton@hendersoncountync.org.

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Department of Public Health • 1200 Spartanburg Highway, Suite 100 • Hendersonville, NC 28792 • (828) 692-4223