Dr. Jennifer Arnold addresses Zika virus concerns and the importance of parents getting their kids vaccinated against life-threatening diseases

Dr. Jennifer Arnold, a neonatologist specializing in the medical care of premature or ill newborns, is on a mission to raise awareness about immunizations and the importance of parents becoming the best advocate for their child's health and well-being, but she also addresses the newest concern this summer for some: the Zika virus.

"So I think there are a lot of concerns around Zika this summer. And that is a challenging new disease which has come into our healthcare system and environment."
Dr. Arnold advises parents, or pregnant moms, to ask their own doctors about the issue and ask for the best information for their region. As a general rule, the prevention of mosquito bites will decrease the chance of getting the Zika virus, but Dr. Arnold warns concerned mothers and fathers to get the best information from their own physicians, because they will have access to specifics for them. Check out her website and Facebook, too.

In her own experience, Dr. Arnold notes recently in an interview that most parents are concerned about getting their newborns out of the Neonatal ICU and growing up to have a healthy and happy life, she said. "We all want what's best for our kids."

Vaccines can prevent diseases

"As a physician who specializes in treating very sick babies, I've seen first-hand just how devastating vaccine-preventable diseases can be."
"Both of my kids came from countries which did not have these immunization opportunities," said Dr. Arnold. So, she made sure to get them caught up on all of the recommended immunizations, of course, and she is now trying to raise awareness about vaccinations for children as a way to better their chances for a happy and healthy life. Her website for parents who need to find information on immunizations is found at this link for Baby Vax Facts.

Dr. Arnold also proposes questions on her website which parents might bring to their own doctors or the child's pediatrician. One important issue these days is for parents who question why they should give immunizations to their young child, and her answer underscores the point that younger children are at higher risk for diseases. "Why is it important for my child to be vaccinated so early in life?"

"Vaccine-preventable diseases may be dangerous or even deadly. Children younger than two years of age are among those at a higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases due to their still-developing immune systems. You may be able to help protect your child from these serious infections through vaccination."
Placing a higher priority on vaccinations

Dr. Jennifer Arnold addresses vaccinations for children.
Migrants sleep in a park,July 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

With the influx of refugees into the county, parents may want to give a higher priority to getting their babies and children the recommended immunizations offered in this country, which perhaps were not available to those seeking refuge and now in the United States. While refugee issues were not specifically mentioned by Dr. Arnold, who is teaming up with Pfizer to raise awareness on the importance of immunizations, there is enough in the news and on the internet to help motivate all parents. Information is available on the internet, of course, and from links at the United Nations regarding measles and rubella, or the information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provided here, it all reflects the seriousness of the problem.

From the UN, measles and rubella are a concern in refugee populations. "Research by UNU-IIGH's I.K. Kouadio and colleagues illustrates the importance of disease surveillance and laboratory testing for both measles and rubella during outbreaks of rash and fever in refugee settings. The study highlights the importance of administering combined vaccinations for rubella and measles immediately after an outbreak," the report stated.

From the CDC, Tuberculosis is addressed.

"Although TB is decreasing overall in the United States, there is a disproportional increase in TB in foreign-born individuals. For example, in 2007, the TB rate among foreign-born persons in the United States was 9.7 times that of U.S.-born persons.... In cities that are home to many newly arriving immigrants and refugees, rates of TB can be well above the national average. Additionally, the prevalence of drug-resistant TB and extrapulmonary disease is higher among foreign-born persons, making the diagnosis and management of these cases both challenging and essential for effective prevention and control of TB among newly arriving refugees."
The information also includes the statement that "[t]he rate of TB disease appears to remain high for many years after immigration, making it essential that clinicians identify and treat latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) prior to the development of TB disease. In addition, because of the high rate of reactivation, health-care providers who serve immigrants and refugees should maintain a high index of suspicion, regardless of the results of medical examinations performed overseas."

Also provided on her baby vaccination website are immunization schedules for busy parents who want to prevent diseases from seriously impacting their child's health and well-being, as well as a link to the CDC which offers more science for parents who need to understand the issue thoroughly, including this important point.

"If an unvaccinated child is exposed to a disease germ, the child's body may not be strong enough to fight the disease. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent, such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. Those same germs exist today, but because babies are protected by vaccines, we don't see these diseases nearly as often."
Childhood illnesses

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2009 file photo, a sign at Pfizer world headquarters in New York is shown. Federal health experts say an updated version of Pfizer's best-selling anti-infection vaccine is safe and effective for infants and toddlers, despite company studies that failed to meet certain goals. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

"You know, I am a person of short stature who has had many medical complications," Dr. Arnold said. "And I have seen and gone through the healthcare system with lots of issues."

The doctor added that this experience in her own childhood has encouraged, and even "inspired," her "to give back to other kids." Working in this field of medicine is Dr. Arnold's way of helping new generations of parents and children stay healthy and live happier lives.

"And so, with my medical hat it has been a great opportunity not only to care for patients at the bedside but to even raise awareness through opportunities such as the vaccination program," Dr. Arnold said. "Immunizations," Dr. Arnold added, "it is such a key and critical element for pediatric healthcare."

[Image via AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman]