Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to #BeLikeBen when Caring for our Communities

Dr. Benjamin Franklin cared about others in his community. He worked to make his community, and indeed, his country better.
Among his many contributions to colonial American society, Dr. Franklin was an avid supporter of a collective focus on public health and safety. He helped establish the nation’s first public hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, and contributed to a variety of medical discoveries (see Did You Know section). As a public health activist, Dr. Franklin is remembered as an avid supporter of smallpox inoculation in the 1730s. At that time, protection from smallpox was afforded by a process known as variolation. Variolation involved taking pus from a smallpox pustule of an infected person and either injecting it into a non-immune person or drying it for later inhalation as a powder by a non-immune person. While the process would typically cause a mild form of the illness, it also produced lifelong immunity. (CHOP Ben Franklin — Pro-vaccine Before Vaccines Were Invented?)
Dr. Franklin supported using variolation to protect against smallpox after losing his own son to the disease. Sadly, his son had not been inoculated.

Like Ben Franklin, nurses work to make their community and country better. Every day, in communities around the country, nurses care for people. They work to make them better; they work to prevent them from getting ill. The educate communities and families on importance of healthy living and infection prevention.

Doctors are also an important asset to community health. One particular doctor has made it his life's mission and recently received recognition. Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (VEC), recently received the 2016 Benjamin Franklin Founder Award for his contributions to public health and medicine. To celebrate this award, this month’s issue of the VEC’s Parents PACK newsletter  shares stories of Ben Franklin’s accomplishments and those of other groups working to make our communities better.

You don't need to be a doctor, nurse or Ben Franklin to make a difference. Shot Of Prevention provides 5 simple things you can do to support public health and immunizations:

  •  With Your Comments and Posts On Social Media
  •  With Your Family At Holiday Functions
  •  With Your Friends While Out to Dinner
  •  With Your Neighbors At the Bus Stop
  •  With Your Vote On Election Day

Check out their blog post for more info.

The Vaccine Education Center is also promoting use of #BeLikeBen on social media to recognize people you know, who like Ben Franklin, Paul Offit and all the Nurses Who Vaccinate, make their communities better places to live. Be sure to use the hashtag often and spread the word how we can can support public health.

This guest post was contributed by Matthew Chando who is member of Nurses Who Vaccinate. He is the Parents PACK program manager at the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When You Share Zika Virus Rumors, the Mosquitoes Win

The Zika virus is a hot topic right now and you may be seeing articles being shared from various sources and websites. As research progresses, more information is being discovered and shared about the link between the virus and the developmental disorder, microcephaly. Unfortunately, like many new and mysterious medical topics, myths and rumors are bound to pop out and be passed around as truths. It only took a few weeks for the stories and conspiracies theories to poke their head and make their way to social media concerning the Zika Virus and increased reports of microcephaly in Brazil, and they are already damaging public health efforts.

One of the most damaging myths being passed around online is about how a group of physicians claimed that the thousands of cases of microcephaly reported this year aren’t due to the Zika virus, but are instead due to pesticides. There's another rumor that a British biotech company released genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue fever in Brazil and that caused the thousands of cases microcephaly as an adverse effect. Neither of these stories or theories hold up under rational scrutiny. These are stories that are merely fear pieces that ignore the scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, it's not only laypeople falling for this myths, but also celebrities and widely-recognized figures, who then share them as potential theories and thus increase the likelihood of more people reading and falling victim to them.

Let's quickly debunk these two myths and move on to how this hurts our efforts in battling the Zika virus. The larvicide pyriproxyfen, a chemical that kills mosquito larvae, has been thoroughly studied. It is used worldwide and it's only effect is reducing the number of mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases. Pyripyroxyfen has been used for decades, with no reports of increased birth defects.

Using genetically modified mosquitoes and bacteria is a prevention method being supported and encouraged by the World Health organization (WHO). The modified mosquitoes receive a modified gene, usually male mosquitoes, so that when they mate with females in the wild, they will produce offspring that die before they reach adulthood. There is no evidence to support rumors tying Zika to genetically modified mosquitoes.

The conspiracy theorists aren't limiting themselves to accusing genetically modified mosquitoes or
larvicides. The New York Times wrote a collective article about the many types of conspiracy theories about Zika spreading through Brazil. Frontline also gathered a collection of debunked Zika myths involving a falsified claimed that expired vaccines are to blame.

"The rumor exasperates Patricia Ismael de Carvalho, general director of information and strategic actions in epidemiological surveillance for the Pernambuco State Secretariat of Health. She insisted that vaccines present no danger to pregnant women, and that there is nothing to support the theory.
“It’s impossible. Vaccination given to pregnant women are all inactivated viruses. There is nothing active in the vaccine, nothing to cause harm,” she said."

Journalists reported on the ongoing battle to educate and spread accurate information. Health departments are trying to reach out in any possible way: leaflets; TV and radio advertisements; the mobilization of businesses, churches and nongovernmental organizations; weekly press conferences and near daily coverage by local media.

At the current moment, there is no specific treatment for Zika patients. Without a cure, treatment focuses on supportive care such as rest, re-hydration, managing fever and pain. In regards to preventing the virus, it will be at least 18 months before any vaccines are tested in large-scale clinical trials. In the meantime people traveling and living in the Zika areas are advised to follow strict mosquito prevention strategies throughout the entire day, not just at dusk.

Recommendations for Those Traveling/Living in an Area of Zika Virus Transmission 
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants 
  • Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA registered insect repellents 
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing and gear 
  • Staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms
  • Follow these steps to prevent your home and living space from mosquitoes.

Healthcare professionals are asked to monitor the CDC and state/local health departments for evidence-based, accurate information and updates on the progress of Zika virus treatment and prevention. (

Nurses, when you come across myths and rumors- counter them with appropriate sources from the CDC and and health departments. Don't be afraid to speak up!

Remember- when you share dangerous Zika misinformation, you're hurting science and letting the mosquitoes win.

The Zika Virus may seem to be a world away, but with recent cases appearing across the United States,
this not-so-new virus is grabbing the attention of the media and medical professionals alike.
With the upcoming summer Olympics scheduled to take place in Brazil, the epicenter of the recent Zika outbreak,
concern is growing over the threat the virus may pose, particularly to pregnant women. New York
is far from Brazil, but many in our area have questions and concerns.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Don't Wait to Vaccinate for Meningococcal Disease.

Two cases of serogroup B meningococcal disease have been confirmed at Santa Clara University in California. The university will now have to scramble to implement vaccine clinics to protect other students. We urge communities and schools to please be proactive - not reactive - and vaccinate now for MenB and the other four serogroups of this disease. Serogroup B is the most common serogroup in the US right now. Please do not put these vaccinations on your "to do" list or think this disease can't strike your child. And remember this is not just a college disease.

This is an issue near and dear to our hearts here at Nurses Who Vaccinate. Executive Board member Patti Wukovitis's daughter Kimberly was a high school senior when she contracted meningitis B and passed away. Please note that 11-25 years old are the ages of highest risk.

We will keep these students in our prayers and also pray that this does not turn into an outbreak situation.

Please see below for a recent statement from Patti Wukovits, RN, Executive Director, The Kimberly Coffey Foundation


In light of today’s news of two confirmed cases of serogroup B meningococcal disease at the University of Santa Clara in California, we urge all adolescents and young adults ages 10-25 to be vaccinated with a serogroup B vaccine series in addition to a quadrivalent (serogroups A,C,W and Y) meningococcal conjugate vaccine. This will offer you the best protection against all five serogroups of meningococcal disease (more commonly referred to as bacterial meningitis). Please do not assume that you are protected against serogroup B (MenB) if you have been vaccinated for meningococcal disease unless you have received this very important ADDITIONAL vaccine. Serogroup B currently accounts for 40% of meningococcal disease in the U.S. and is not just a college disease.

My 17-year-old daughter, Kimberly Coffey, died in 2012 from serogroup B meningococcal disease just three days before her high school graduation.  As a parent, I had the false sense of security that Kimberly was fully protected because she had been vaccinated for meningococcal disease. As it turns out, she was not because the quadrivalent conjugate vaccine does not include or protect against serogroup B. In 2012 Kimberly didn’t have the opportunity to be protected against serogroup B. But because serogroup B vaccines are now available as of 2014, you do. Please, please get vaccinated.

Visit our website for further information about the symptoms, protection and transmission of meningococcal disease.  If you require assistance in finding vaccination for MenB, we can help you locate a provider in your area. Contact Patti Wukovits, RN at 

Patti Wukovits, R.N.
Executive Director

Patti Wukovits, R.N. Secretary of Nurses Who Vaccinate
Patti Wukovits has been a registered nurse for 9 years. She is the Executive Director of The Kimberly Coffey Foundation, a foundation she and her husband established after the loss of her daughter Kim. The Kimberly Coffey Foundation’s mission is to educate the public and healthcare professionals about bacterial meningitis (meningococcal disease), including the symptoms of the disease and the importance of prevention through vaccination. Patti has also made The Kimberly Coffey Memorial Nursing Scholarship available in Kim's name as Kim’s dream was to be a pediatric nurse. She is a M.O.M. (Moms on Meningitis) with the National Meningitis Association. Married with 4 children (her son Chris, her daughter Kim, her stepdaughter Jaclyn and her stepson John).