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6:50 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

Web Exclusive: Travelers should use immunizations

PRESCOTT - Many adults know whether they need an annual flu shot. Some even know they should get a pneumonia shot.

Unfortunately, that is often all they get, when there is a need for many more.

Yavapai County Community Health Services Immunization Coordinator Debbie Savoini said it is important for adults to get new immunizations because "most of the immunizations were given when they were children, and as they age, the immunizations wane."

Savoini said people need flu shots every year because different strains of the disease continue to evolve.

She said pneumonia shots are typically one dose, and officials recommend them for people over the age of 65 and others with chronic illnesses. She said if it has been years since someone received a pneumonia shot, the person should check with their primary care physician about getting another one.

"Your primary care physician knows your history and can help make a determination," Savoini said.

The most noticeable immunizations that people fail to get are shots for tetanus and diphtheria, Savoini said. She said adults should get a Td shot every 10 years, unless they get a new immunization that includes pertussis.

Savoini said the Dtap is a one-dose immunization. Health care officials do not recommend it for people older than 65 years of age.

"A pertussis immunization is not recommended for people over the age of 65, but a Td shot should be given every 10 years," Savoini said.

She said adults typically receive pertussis immunizations as a way to prevent the illness in other age groups, specifically children.

"The pertussis symptoms for an adult are a long, lingering cough. In infants it could be fatal," Savoini said.

Adults traveling outside of the United States should consider vaccinations for Hepatitis B and A, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, and rabies.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne and sexually transmitted disease. Most health care workers receive the vaccine.

"It is also recommended for people traveling to countries that have Hepatitis B. The more people travel the more there is a risk of an accident," Savoini said.

Health officials also recommend travelers get a Hepatitis A vaccination. Food contamination and specific foods can transmit the disease.

"We are seeing more and more instances of Hepatitis A in the United States through food coming into the country. Six years ago, Arizona had the highest rate of Hep A in the country. Since state officials starting recommending a Hep A immunization for students entering Arizona schools, the rate is down," Savoini said.

Health officials recommend polio vaccinations for people traveling outside of the country, even if they got one as a child.

Another childhood vaccination sometimes recommended for adults is an MMR. Savoini said officials recommend this immunization for health care workers, students entering college and international travelers.

Savoini said travelers might also want to get a rabies vaccination if they are visiting countries where the disease is rampant.

Dogs, monkeys and bats transmit the disease through their saliva.

Savoini said anyone who did not have chicken pox as a child may also need a vaccination as an adult.

She said health officials recommend the human papillomavirus to guard against cervical cancer for females between the ages of 9 and 26.

"The vaccination works best when administered before exposure to the virus through sexual activity. The reason it is recommended for children is because of the cost," Savoini said.

The vaccination can cost up to $400 for a series of three shots. The federal Vaccine for Children program covers the costs for girls up to the age of 19.

Savoini said women who are between the ages of 19 through 26 must pay the costs for the vaccine themselves, or with insurance coverage.

She said some vaccines come in an adult dose, but for others adults are the same dose as that given to children.

"Most people don't think about a Dt until they have an injury. Medicare does not cover the cost of the vaccination unless there is an injury. However, Medicare will cover an annual flu shot and one pneumonia shot, and a second pneumonia shot if doctor recommended," Savoini said.

She said most people are "good about getting their children vaccinated. But as they become adults, they become lax. The message is that almost all adults need vaccinations. If you can't remember the last time you were vaccinated, check with your doctor to find out what you need."

Savoini said the community health department keeps most of the vaccines on hand. She said health officials administer the vaccines to adults by appointment.

"We see quite a few adults," she said.

Adults wanting more information about immunizations or wanting an appointment to receive an immunization should call community health services at (928) 445-5581.

Savoini said additional information about travel vaccinations is available at www.cdc.gov/travel.

Contact the reporter a prhoden@prescottaz.com