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Meningitis Vaccine Update

Many of you and your kids appropriately received vaccines to get protected from Bacterial Meningitis. The original guidelines recommended that adolescents get a one time shot around 11 years old, which many did. In November 2015 a new recommendation came from the Centers for Disease Control .(  Now, a booster (a 2nd shot) is now strongly recommended for all teenagers, especially those who are going to be living in dormitories away at college or those going into the military.  While these are higher risk groups based on potential exposure, SHFM recommends ALL teens (16 and over) get a SECOND shot – regardless of their post High School plans.  Bacterial meningitis can kill quickly. There are VERY few circumstances where getting the shot isn’t recommended. Talk to your (or your child’s) doctor at the next visit about getting the booster.


Letter to Patients about longterm pain medicine usage

This is a copy of the letter that we are giving to our patients who use opiate pain medicine as part of their treatment:


Dear Patient-

                We are writing to you because part of your care involves opioid medicines. As you likely know, there is an epidemic of prescription drug misuse in this area of the country. Opioid pain medicines are not inherently evil but they do have certain properties that (like all medicines, really) can cause problems for people – even if they are taken as directed. Of course, if one takes these medicines in ways other than intended, or takes more than directed or mixes with other substances – it can be very dangerous!

                One of the ways that we can help protect patients and ourselves is through having a thorough understanding of expectations. Therefore, if you have not filled out a Pain Medicine Contract you will likely be asked to do so shortly. Additionally, it is our policy to ask patients who use opioid medicines regularly to submit random toxicology tests. Please understand that this is NOT an accusation or personal issue, it simply safe protocol at SHFM.

                Additionally, should you any concerns about your medicines at all – whether about usage, over-usage, alternatives, and especially if have questions of tolerance or addiction, feel free to ask at anytime. We are very willing to help and it is always better for all if patients broach the subject rather than the providers do. We have resources to assist patients who may require them.


Joshua M. Usen, DO          Angelika Snyder, DO         Jennifer J Barwell, PA-C       Dawn M Dolan, PA-C


Ebola and the Flu

The Ebola virus is out there. It does kill about half the people that get it. The virus is in the US. Yes, those are scary facts.   But should you be actively worrying about it? Sure, but there are other things – things that you can actually control – that you should be doing. At this time of year, pretty much everyone should be getting their seasonal flu shot. While the seasonal flu (parainfluenza a) does not have the impressive mortality percentage that Ebola does, I assure you that the flu will kill WAY more Americans in the next six months than the Ebola ever will. Over the past 20 years or so, the flu kills approximately 30000 Americans per year.(1)

A key point to know is the mode by which the two viruses are transmitted. Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids of a person who is actively sick. Flu is a respiratory virus – which means that it can be coughed and sneezed onto people. It is significantly easier for respiratory viruses to be transmitted than those which require direct contact. Case in point, look at all of the concern about the passengers who were on the planes with those who ended up being stricken with Ebola – how many of them ended up contracting the disease – ZERO. Think how many times you’ve caught the cold that “everyone had at work.” – why? Respiratory transmission!

Some of the concerns you may have:

  1. You cannot get the flu from getting the shot (except POSSIBLY from the FluMIST nasal spray, because it is a live virus – although EXTREMELY weakened) because there is no live flu virus. What could happen is that you MIGHT experience some mild “flu like” symptoms. However, this is your body mounting an immune response. As bad as this might be, which shouldn’t be bad anyway, it will be way better than getting the actual flu.
  2. Even if you personally would survive a bout of the Flu, and feel that you don’t need to immunize yourself, part of the way a community protects itself is by blocking transmission. In a way, I feel that we all have somewhat of responsibility to help keep the health of our community as high as possible. Hypothetically, you could get the flu, head to the supermarket to get some ibuprofen and orange juice and while there you cough on some nice senior citizen who was not able to get the shot. Guess what, you might have just killed someone!
  3. Flu shots are not a government conspiracy. Pharmaceutical companies don’t make a lot of money on shots – that’s why so few make them. Doctors only make a few bucks on the shots and the pharmacies often lose They hope you buy something else when you’re in the store that they DO make money on.

What should YOU do? Except in rare cases, get a flu shot. You doctor, pharmacist, nurse will review the list of people who shouldn’t get the shot. But, again, just about everyone SHOULD get immunized. Now.