Text & photos by Zen S. Laluna
LAS VEGAS – The Medical Community Coalition of various entities working together for the health of members of marginalized communities in Las Vegas continues to provide free immunization to combat flu brought about by the cold season.
The Coalition works in coordination with Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) and spearheaded by Philippine Medical Association of Nevada (PMAN), Philippine Nurses Association of Nevada (PNAN), Shots4Tots, Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDCP). The Coalition networks with healthcare volunteers like individual doctors and registered nurses, business organizations like the Las Vegas India Chamber of Commerce (LVICC) and Filipino American Veterans of Nevada (FAV-NV), and private businesses such as Asian Seafood Market which provides the venue and free lunch for the Coalition volunteers.
The Community Healthcare Coalition was initiated by Dr. Ben Calderon, president of PMAN; Cristy Sampal, RN, president of PNAN; and Dr. Tessie Melocoton, PMAN Immunization coordinator, in coordination with Lawrence Sands, DO, MPH-Chief Health Officer of Southern Nevada Health District, and Veronica Morata-Nichols, RN, Commuity Health Nurse Manager for Immunization at the SNHD.
The PMAN and PNAN, have been at the forefront of the free immunization campaign around ethnic communities in Las Vegas while conducting education and information campaign on the importance of getting vaccinated, who should get vaccinated, and where, when, and why.
Dr. Calderon started the Coalition by forming a network of volunteers with other healthcare providers, along with community and business organizations. His mission is to bring healthcare prevention and care to marginalized members of ethnic communities who would otherwise shun flu vaccinations due to economic reason, or remained uninformed about the importance of getting the influenza vaccine as a means to prevent getting the flu. The success rate of the Coalition did not go unnoticed. The project was commended not only by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) but by all the communities the Coalition serves.
Dr. Calderon personally believes that prevention and education are likewise as important in order to avoid long lines in clinics and hospitals when the flu epidemic hits. “Each year, thousands of people die from seasonal influenza and even more, require hospitalization,” he says.
Records show that every year onaverage, 5% to 20% of U.S. population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications. About 36,000 people die from flu-related cases.
As part of the Coalition education campaign, they disseminated information through the media, distributed flyers, and conducted healthcare seminars and workshops with the media to create awareness and prevention of the spread of the flu.
Influenza or flu is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. The virus can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, one must cover his mouth and nose, not with his hands, but with a tissue paper when he coughs or sneezes. When a tissue paper is not available, cough or sneeze into the sleeve of his dress or shirt. Using the hands can also spread the virus when he shakes hands with others, or touches objects that other people touch like door knobs, etc.
Simple habits like washing hands regularly with soap and warm water or with alcohol-based hand cleaners is a good way to prevent the spread of flu virus. Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are easily spread that way from prviously touching objects contaminated with the virus. Strengthen the immune system by getting plenty of sleep, get physically active, avoid stress, drink plenty of fliuieds, amd eat only nutritious foods.
No one is immune to influenza. Anyone can get it but rates of infection are highest among children. Among the symptoms are fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle pains. Among the worst hit are those who are infant, elderly (geriatric), pregnant women, and those already afflicted with heart, asthma, diabetes, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system.
The flu can cause high fever and pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It causes diarrhea and seizures in children.
Part of the PMAN education and information campaign explains who should get inactivated (“killed”) influenza vaccine ( where flu shot is given by injection into the muscle), and when. People six months of age and older should get flu vaccine. Healthcare personnel who are in close contacts with people at higher risk of influenza, or taking care of children younger than six months, must get vaccinated.
However, people who are moderately or severely ill should wait till they recover before getting the flu vaccine.
Dr. Calderon makes exceptions on who should get influenza vaccine. “Some people should not get inactivated influenza vaccine if they have severe or life-threatening allergies. Since influenza vaccine virus is grown in eggs, people with severe egg allergy should not get influenza vaccine,” he explains.
Dr. Calderon also warns of people experiencing a severe reaction to any vaccine component, or a severe reaction after mistakenly getting a doze of influenza vaccine. His advice? “Call and tell your doctor or any healthcare provider right away, and not to wait till it gets more serious.”
Dr. Calderon explains that mild reactions can occur like soreness, redness, or welling where the flu shot was given, hoarseness, sore, red or itchy eyes, cough, fever, or aches, and usually begin soon after the shot. They usually last one to two days.
However, severe reaction to the flu vaccine occurs when one experiences high fever, behavior changes such as difficulty breathing, hoarseness, whizzing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. One must call or see the doctor or any healthcare provider at once.
Influenza can occur at any time but most influenza occurs from November through May. Getting vaccinated in December, or even later, is still beneficial.
The Coalition is scheduled to provide free immunization at the Sikh Temple on West Lone Mountain Road, and Chaiya Meditation Monastery on Virtue Court in Las Vegas.