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    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Talladega Germs: This was some overly cautious and politically foolish advice:

    NASCAR fans might seem rabid, but are they actually contagious?

    Getting a hepatitis shot is standard procedure for travelers to parts of Africa and Asia, but some congressional aides were instructed to get immunized before going to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord and the racetrack in Talladega, Ala.

    ....Staff who organized the trips advised the NASCAR-bound aides to get a range of vaccines before attending -- hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria and influenza.

    Some thoughts: 1) It isn't influenza season, so getting a flu shot now to protect you in Alabama for the weekend is useless. (But not a bad idea if you're thinking forward to January or February 2008.) 2) The hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots given over six months. They won't be getting much protection from one shot given just before the trip. Unless the staff is travelling to Alabama with the expectation of one night stands and IV drug needle sharing, the hepatitis B vaccine seems a bit superfluous. (Even for international travel, it's only recommended if a person is expected to have contact with blood or the sex industry.) 3) If there's been an outbreak of hepatitis A among food vendors at the race track, then that makes sense, but evidently that isn't the case. 4) Tetanus is everywhere. Always keep your tetanus booster (which comes included with diphtheria) up to date.

    In defense of Congress, the organizers say that their staffers were going to be visiting hospitals and police stations where they had the potential to be exposed to hepatitis. Maybe. But unless they were planning to subdue the criminal elements and nurse the ill themselves, they didn't really need the shots. As it turns out, what they really needed was carpal tunnel splints:

    Walker said he hadn't recommended the immunizations, nor were they necessary. He suggested a possible health risk to them was the voluminous notes they took.

    "I'm sure they needed to soak their wrists, they wrote so much," he said.

    UPDATE: More on the thinking behind the advice:

    Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said he never meant to offend or scare anyone about health risks at the races. The measure was advised to provide congressional staff with the same disease protection first responders get, especially as they head out on a series of fact-finding missions around the country.

    "It's not about whether the people have shots. ... Our staffs as they go forward will be going into sterile areas, they will be working in public health facilities, they will be talking to many holding facilities where criminals are being held....

    "The NASCAR event is just one date, but after that they will be doing a number of things," said Thompson, adding that the World Series and Super Bowl are two other mass gatherings that are going to be researched for readiness.

    During the trip to North Carolina, staffers were to visit a medical facility with patients at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. They were also set to inspect an empty mobile hospital. After the House physician told Republican staffers that shots were not necessary to go to North Carolina, they didn't get them. Democratic staffers reportedly did.

    That explains the influenza shots, anyway.

    posted by Sydney on 10/14/2007 11:53:00 AM 0 comments


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