The last week has been a tough one for Texans, and especially for those who live in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast. Having my son, brother and mother all with houses in Houston, I have been watching the “Harvey” situation quite closely. Fortunately, my family is lucky enough not to have flood damage and they have not had to leave Houston. But, too many other families have suffered flooding and have been forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in shelters not only in Houston, but in Dallas where I live as well.
There are many families who are now living in very close quarters where they may be for sometime…as it will take weeks and months if not years to recover from this disaster and to rebuild the homes, schools, churches and businesses that have been either damaged or destroyed.
The necessary relocation of families and children into shelters is also “a perfect storm” for the possibility of the spread of infectious disease. This is an important time in which managing the spread of illness and infection is paramount. What this means is that EVERYONE needs to be up to date on their immunizations to prevent the spread of vaccine preventable diseases.
If you have ever “skipped” a vaccine by choice or missed a vaccine, now is the time to get your child’s vaccines updated. This is not only for those who have had to evacuate, but for everyone, as infectious diseases are spread outside of the shelters and as well. We pediatricians are working in the shelters to try and make sure that everyone is vaccinated as they arrive, but there are those who are too young to be vaccinated and others who do not have their medical records to ensure accuracy of their vaccines. It is an arduous process.
But, for the public health system which will be stretched even more so during the flood recovery, vaccines are one of the most important ways to protect people. It only takes one person who might get mumps, measles or whooping cough to spread it to hundreds of others….all living in close proximity. These people will then also leave their shelter to go to school, church the store or even a temporary job where they may put others at risk, you never know if you might be exposed.
Lastly, it is really time to get those flu shots!!! The last thing we need is an early flu season with a large group of un-immunized people…and most doctors have already received shipments of flu vaccine.
Please please pray for these families who have lost so much and protect everyone by immunizing your children (and yourself).