Thursday, April 02, 2009
Vaccines help keep children safe from serious infectious diseases
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Meningitis is an infection of the coverings around the brain and spinal cord. It is a serious infection. One of the more common types of meningitis is caused by a bacteria called H. flu. The name sounds like the flu. That is because in the old days people who developed the flu often had infections with this bacteria on top of it. It is a completely different disease. The good news is that we have had a vaccine for this for about 20 years. It has done a great job of cutting down on the cases of meningitis that we see. I used to see two to three cases a year. I don't think I have seen one since I arrived in Delaware in 1995. Like many vaccines, the H flu vaccine has greatly helped the health of children. Unfortunately, not all children get their vaccines in a timely fashion. Some parents for a variety of reasons do not make all the well baby appointments that a child needs. Others think that vaccines are not safe. It is proven that vaccines save lives. There is no proof that vaccines are harmful. Much of that is pure conjecture by people who want publicity. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has recently had a problem with children who did not get their H. flu vaccine. In the last six months, they received reports of H flu disease in seven children. All the children were either unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. All children were under the age of five. That is the typical age when this disease strikes. Thus you cannot expect the catch up immunizations when a child goes to school to be of much help in prevention. The bad news in this story is that three of these seven children died. Those were all preventable deaths. We sometimes forget about how severe diseases can be that children get. We forget that thousands of children died of diphtheria, whooping cough and measles before we had vaccines. We also may forget how serious meningitis can be. Three deaths in seven children is pretty serious. Parents need to make sure their children receive protection against these serious illnesses before it's too late.

Look Good, Feel Better program Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. LOOK GOOD...FEEL BETTER, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems, and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The program is geared towards helping people look their best, even as they are undergoing cancer treatment. Although almost all of the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment are temporary, they can be very distressing. The program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, April 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2588.

Safe Sitter Class offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is offering a Safe Sitter class for girls and boys ages 11 to 13. The one day course will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 10. The Safe Sitter program teaches youngsters how to handle emergencies when caring for younger children. The cost is $35 and participants are to bring a bagged lunch. All medical information will be taught by a certified professional. Students get hands-on practice in basic life-saving techniques so they are prepared to act in a crisis. Instructors also provide tips to make sitters more confident caregivers. They teach safety and security precautions, such as what to do if a stranger comes to the door and when and how to call for help. They give information on child development and suggest age-appropriate activities. Participants will also learn about the business aspects of babysitting. To register, call 629-6611, ext. 2540.

CHEER plans healthy living expo On Tuesday, April 21 the CHEER Community Center in Georgetown will host a free Healthy Living Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Healthy Living Expo, which is open to the public, has room for more vendors to set up a table at the expo. The fee is $75 or $50 if you offer a health screening. For registration or more information, call 302-854-9500.

Diabetes education classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford will hold a four-session diabetes educational program beginning Wednesday, April 8 and continuing April 15, 22 and 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. Registration is required and the cost of the four-session program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend. For more information and to register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education Department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Stroke and Osteoporosis Screening Residents living in and around the Seaford community can be screened to reduce their risk of having a stroke or bone fracture. The Seaford VFW Post #4961 will host Life Line Screening on April 8. The site is located at 9767 Middleford Road in Seaford. Appointments will begin at 9 a.m. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for both men and women. Packages start at $139. All five screenings take 60-90 minutes to complete. For more information call 1-877-237-1287 or visit Pre-registration is required.

Caregiver training available The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series four times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. Delaware Hospice Center at 100 Patriots Way in Milford will host the training on Friday, April 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. Training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by Delaware Hospice. Pre-registration is required by Friday, April 17. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee at 302-854-9788.

Hospice promotes Decisions Day Have you thought about your future health care? The term "Advance Directive" may sound intimidating or irrelevant, but the reality is that every adult should have one. An Advance Directive enables individuals to make legally valid decisions regarding future medical treatment, in the event that they are unable to speak for themselves, and ensures that those wishes are carried out in the manner they have chosen. This document records your medical care preferences for your physician, loved ones and clergy, and relieves the decision-making burden from your family members. Delaware Hospice is participating in a national effort to highlight the importance of advance healthcare decision-making–an effort that has culminated in the formal designation of April 16 as National Healthcare Decisions Day. Representatives from Delaware Hospice will be available throughout April to speak to your organization about Advance Directives. For more information, call 1-800-838-9800, and ask for the Community Ed representative for your area.

Nurses' assistant program Become a member of the rapidly expanding health care field by taking the evening nurses' assistant course, offered through Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus. Instruction will be given at LifeCare at Lofland Park in Seaford and Delaware Tech in Georgetown from April 27 to June 25; classes will meet on Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. This 150-hour course teaches students to safely perform basic nursing skills under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Graduates will be prepared to take the Nurse Aid Competency Exam for certification. All nurses' assistants must take this exam to be certified to work in Delaware. Funding through the Department of Labor and limited scholarships are available for this course. For complete information, contact Delaware Tech's Corporate and Community Programs at 302-854-6966.

WIC revises menu of foods Delaware's Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) recently announced the first revisions to its menu of supplemental foods since 1974. The changes were made to align WIC food packages with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and current infant feeding practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The changes, which better promote and support long-term breastfeeding, effect nearly 22,000 women in Delaware with incomes at 185 percent of poverty. WIC assists income-eligible pregnant women, mothers and children by providing vouchers that are redeemable at grocery stores for specific foods. Historically, the supplemental foods authorized for WIC packages were good sources of five target nutrients; vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and protein because those nutrients were lacking in the diets of eligible clients. Residents interested in applying for WIC should call the Milford State Service Center at 302-424-7220.

Race for Autism is April 26 The Lower Delaware Autism Foundation's 7th Annual Race for Autism is Sunday, April 26 at Cape Henlopen High School. The race features a half marathon, two person relay, 5K run, 5K family fun walk and a kiddie fun run. The half marathon will begin at 8:10 a.m. and if you register on or before April 25 the cost is $40. All other start times and registration fees vary. Pre-registration is requested. Pre-race packet pick up will take place on Saturday, April 25 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Greene Turtle in Lewes. The Greene Turtle will donate a portion of the proceeds of sales from 5 to 9 p.m. Fundraising is highly encouraged but not mandatory to run/walk. Those who raise more than $100 will receive a Race for Autism Bag; over $500, a $50 Walmart gift card; and those who raise more than $1,000 will receive a $100 American Express gift card. A grand prize will be given to the person who raises the most money over $1,000. "We are hoping that families and friends of those affected will begin forming teams and walk and fund raise together," said Mary Landon Green, LDAF program and event coordinator. Many volunteers are needed for this event. Church groups, civic groups, high school sports teams, businesses and families are encouraged to help. For more information or to register for the race online, visit or call Green at 302-644-3410.

Cancer Networking Support Group The Wellness Community of Delaware offers a "General Cancer Networking" support group the third Monday of each month from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. held at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center second-floor library, Seaford. Professionally led cancer support programs offer hope, education, and emotional support for adults with cancer and their loved ones who want to fight for recovery and the quality of their lives. Learn how to feel less isolated and more in control. All programs offered through The Wellness Community of Delaware are free of charge to people affected by cancer. For further information, or to register, call 645-9150.

Laurel Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.