Vaccinations, Hygiene and More: Fighting the Back-to-School ‘Bugs’

Schools are back in session this week, but many questions linger regarding infectious diseases – both new and old. The well-established viruses for which children have received routine immunizations for decades are still around – as are threats from COVID-19, meningitis and even monkeypox. 

A lag in routine vaccinations during the pandemic for children – including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) shots — has been concerning and may result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks, public health officials have warned.

Watch the full Resource LIVE:
Fighting the Back-to-School ‘Bugs’

In a new Resource LIVE – Fighting the Back-to-School ‘Bugs’ — hosted by Baptist Health spokesperson Olga Villaverde, experts explain how to keep children healthy as they return to school this week. Joining the panel discussion were: Madeline Camejo, M.S., Pharm.D., chief pharmacy officer and vice president of pharmacy services for Baptist Health South Florida; Katie M. Acquino, D.O., medical director for Baptist Health Urgent Care Express Palm Beach; and Aileen Marty, M.D., professor of Infectious Disease at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University.

“Getting vaccinated is really important for your child and for the community as well,” said Dr. Camejo. “They protect your children from serious disease … and children tend to spread disease. Think about even whooping cough or anything like that. If they have younger siblings at home and they come from school, they can also infect a baby who may not be ready yet to have some of these vaccines.”

Here are some questions and answers from the Resource LIVE (you can see the full program here):

Ms. Villaverde: What are some things that parents should address with their physician, especially because maybe making those doctor’s appointments is not on their mind?

Dr. Aquino:
“Back to school is a really good time for a reminder that every child needs to see their pediatrician once a year, even if they’re healthy, to make sure that they’re appropriately growing and reaching their developmental milestones. And it’s really important to note that people are coming from different states … and even certain schools require entry health exams before they even begin or they’re even allowed to begin. Also, high school students need to do sports physicals if they’re going to be playing a sport. That’s huge. And you need to schedule these appointments with these pediatricians. And, as we all know, it can be difficult to get those appointments. If all else fails, we are here for you. Baptist Express Urgent Cares are seeing all patients, all children for school and sports physicals. And they’re actually running a promo …  So, you can just walk right in or even schedule on”

Ms. Villaverde: I want to talk about the recent drop in childhood vaccinations. Why should parents really understand the importance of these routine immunization shots?

Dr. Camejo:
“From birth until they’re about 18-years-old, there’s always a series of vaccines that your pediatrician would be recommending. And ensuring that every child receives vaccines for preventable diseases is really essential for children’s health. The problem is that many of these diseases still thrive in other parts of the world. And … people come in and out of the United States all the time. They bring back a lot of these diseases to us. Without the protection of vaccines, these diseases can easily spread here again. So, children who fall behind on their vaccines … it’s an opportunity to (for diseases) to reemerge and cause outbreaks in our community. So, really talk to your physician and follow the recommended schedule. Most of the vaccines you’ll need will start be given between birth and six years of age because you want to get them vaccinated before they go to school.

“Then there’s another series of vaccines, from nine- to 12-years-old, that you want to also vaccinate your children against … like HPV and future cancers that some of these vaccines we know today can prevent. And then your 16- to 18-year-olds are ready go to college.”

Ms. Villaverde: We’ve heard a little bit about hepatitis dominating the news. Tell me what’s going on. And should we be concerned about this mysterious outbreak?

Dr. Marty:
“So, the mysterious outbreak that you’re referring to what was first called ‘hepatitis of unknown cause’ in children and we saw a tremendous number of children getting infected. And we couldn’t quite tease out what it was. There was some data suggesting it could be an adenovirus, but many of the children didn’t have an adenovirus. We now know that, in fact, it’s a much smaller virus. It’s an RNA virus … a virus that when you get that, you could get a very, very nasty hepatitis. But the basic principles apply for that disease as to most other diseases — hygiene. Most of the transmissions that we know are fecal, oral transmissions. So, hand to mouth, dirty hands and so forth. So, it’s really good to use hygiene to reduce all kinds of infections at schools, including all the things you’ve just said, flu, colds, diarrhea diseases, monkeypox, and COVID. Hygiene is king.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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