The season is upon us again. No, not fall or football or even holiday—I’m talking about flu season, and all the sneezing, aches and pains that come along with it.
Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made their annual announcement encouraging Americans young and old to get a flu shot.
“Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to prevent influenza, which is a serious disease that can result in hospitalization or death, especially for young children or people with underlying health conditions,” says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, an infection control expert and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Flu is very contagious and can be spread from one person to another even before symptoms develop, so having a high proportion of people vaccinated is important to help limit transmission of the virus during flu season.”
Clearly getting the flu shot is a good idea; especially for families with young children, but one of the questions that at least my family asks every year is where can we get the shot? After all, we have more options now than ever. The corner drugstore? Our doctors’ office? Our neighborhood’s health clinic? And how much does it cost?
We’re not alone, and luckily a tool offered by Boston Children’s HealthMap team can help. Called the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, it’s essentially like a Google Maps for tracking down the flu vaccine. Plug in your address and city or zip code, and it pulls up a map listing pharmacies, clinics, etc. in your area offering the vaccine.
Apart from basic information like address, hours and phone number for each location, the tool can also tell you which kind of flu vaccine they offer (shot, intradermal shot, high-dose shot or nasal spray), what they charge (if anything) and whether they accept insurance.
There’s even a function to help you figure out which version of the flu vaccine could be appropriate for you.
“People sometimes have a hard time deciding where to get a flu shot because there are lots of factors involved in the decision,” says John Brownstein, PhD, who leads the HealthMap team and who last year showed how getting the shot really can make a difference. “We’ve been working with lots of different companies and agencies to pull all information on location, price and vaccine type together into one place for consumers. We hope it helps encourage more people to get the shot.”
You can use the finder here:
Or by visiting flu.gov. Keep checking it, because later this year the HealthMap team will expand the Vaccine Finder to include information on another 10 adult vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, MMR, meningococcal, pneumococcal, Td, Tdap, varicella and zoster).
And webmasters and bloggers: Help your readers and users get vaccinated by putting this Vaccine Finder widget on your website!
On September 9, the new feature film Contagion from Warner Bros. Pictures, Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi will be released in theaters nationwide. The picture sports an all-star cast and revolves around a rapidly spreading virus that threatens to infect millions of people.
Of course it’s a fictional movie, but that’s not to say it’s completely fake. The film’s depiction of how public health workers track the deadly outbreak shows them using a technology similar to HealthMap, a real-life online surveillance system designed to track emerging infectious disease threats. Co-founded by John Brownstein, PhD and Clark Freifeld of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Informatics Program, HealthMap has over a million users a year including regular users from the World Health Organization, the CDC and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. …
Here’s a look at what Thrive did this week.
A cutting-edge tool called a chromosomal microarray could help make genetic testing for disabilities more accurate and help explain their causes. David Miller, MD, PhD, clinical geneticist in the Division of Genetics at Children’s Hospital Boston talked to Thrive about the findings, and what they mean for the future of genetic testing.
A study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics takes a closer look at the relation between the ingestion of certain pesticides and cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Children’s Hospital Boston’s Robert Wright, MD, MPH, and David Bellinger, PhD were co-authors on the study. Wright explained to Thrive readers what the study found and what it means for parents.
Children’s Hospital Boston, in association with Harvard Medical School, just launched an updated version of HealthMap, a web-based global surveillance tool used to monitor infectious diseases and their effect on the populations where outbreaks occur. Co-created by John Brownstein, PhD of Children’s Informatics Program, the webpage is an easy to read site that operates in real time and lets users track current disease outbreaks by pulling data and news stories from over 20,000 sources.
With as many as 150,000 visitors a day, HealthMap has users from all reaches of the medical community. From concerned moms keeping an eye on a rash of new chicken pox cases in their hometown to members of the World Health Organization collecting aggregated data on the pattern of H1N1 outbreaks in rural China, HealthMap is a user-friendly way for people of all backgrounds to quickly assess data and news stories on infectious disease, from anywhere in the world as they are occurring.