(Salt Lake City, UT) – “It’s better to give than to receive” is a common saying this time of year. But when it comes to immunizations, Utah’s public health departments want to remind everyone that just the opposite is true: It’s better to receive a vaccination, than to give somebody your illness!
A recent report from the Trust for America’s Health highlighted the important role immunizations play in a state’s ability to respond to an infectious disease outbreak. While Utah’s immunization rates for school-age children are improving for some vaccines, there is room for improvement when it comes to preschool aged children being immunized against whooping cough and adults being immunized against influenza.
“The general public can play a huge role in our state’s ability to respond to disease outbreaks,” said Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director Dr. David Patton. “You’re not only protecting your own health by being vaccinated, you’re also protecting everyone you come into contact with by not spreading disease to them.”
Public health departments use various strategies to increase public and healthcare provider awareness about the importance of vaccination, such as assessing childhood immunization levels in schools, childcare facilities, public health and private health clinics and providing feedback on strategies for improving vaccination levels.
“Infectious disease outbreaks can impact the entire community,” said Salt Lake County Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards. “Kids will miss school, parents will miss work, employers will see productivity decline, and the health care system can be stretched to capacity. Fortunately, this can largely be avoided if people are adequately immunized.”
Two key strategies UDOH has implemented to increase vaccination levels include the Vaccination Locator and the Immunization Reminder Service. The Vaccination Locator is a web-based system that allows Utah residents to locate influenza and other vaccines throughout Utah.The Immunization Reminder Service automatically reminds enrolled parents when their children’s immunizations are due. Both are located on the Immunization Program website at www.immunize-utah.org.
Each year in the U.S., approximately 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. In Utah, since 2009, 99 people have died from pneumococcal disease, a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world. Other vaccine-preventable illnesses that have resulted in Utah deaths over the past several years include hepatitis A and mumps. And each year, it’s estimated that 360 Utahns die from influenza. The best way to protect against all these illnesses is vaccination.
To avoid becoming ill, or spreading the sickness to others, follow these simple steps.
• Wash hands often with soap and water.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or cough into your elbow. Wash your hands after throwing the tissue in the trash.
• Stay home if you’re ill and stay away from sick people whenever possible.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone is ill.
• Contact your healthcare provider if you have been exposed to the flu and think you may be infected.
• Take antiviral medication only if your healthcare provider recommends them.
For more information on what immunizations are recommended for adults and children, talk to your health care provider, local health department or visit www.immunize-utah.org.