Category Archives: Health care information and trends

Trauma 101: What it means to be a Level I pediatric trauma center

Our pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to children immediately.

Children’s pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to children immediately.

On the surface, it may be difficult to distinguish one hospital from another. Each one has doctors, nurses and operating rooms. Every place has an emergency room, and all ERs are the same, right?

Not exactly.

So then what does it mean when you’re told that Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has a Level I pediatric trauma center in Minneapolis?

Established in June 2013, Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in Minneapolis received the American College of Surgeons’ verification by meeting the highest standards of expertise and level of preparation to care for critically injured children, which increases Children’s commitment to families throughout the region. Children’s – Minneapolis was designated by the Minnesota Department of Health as the first and only pediatric-only hospital in the state with ACS Level I recognition.

Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.

Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.

Trauma

Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability in children.The first hour after an accident, the golden hour, is critical. Children’s can accept injured kids directly from the site of the traumatic injury via ambulance or helicopter instead of being transferred from another hospital after being stabilized.

Children’s – Minneapolis’ transformation from Level III status to Level I took three years, a process that was sped up with help of $17.5 million grant and ongoing philanthropic partnership from Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, in 2010, making the UnitedHealthcare Pediatric Emergency Department and Level I Trauma Center a reality.

The emergency department at Children’s – St. Paul, which is Level III, has been renovated, and its staff go through the same training as those in Minneapolis.

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases.

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases.

Level I standards

At its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, Children’s receives more than 90,000 visits annually and treats nearly 40 percent of Twin Cities pediatric trauma cases. When it comes to ACS-verified Level I attributes, Children’s has:

  • More than 150 emergency department staff, including board-eligible or board-certified pediatric emergency physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and more
  • 24/7 in-house pediatric trauma surgeon; Children’s pediatric specialists in Minneapolis are on site, not on call, so they can get to kids immediately
  • Two large trauma bays, resuscitation rooms, a helipad and dedicated orthopedic room for fractures, featuring advanced X-ray capabilities
  • Research programs and performance improvement efforts to ensure that each patient experience leads to the best possible outcome
  • Injury prevention efforts such as Making Safe Simple, Children’s public education program designed to arm the community with basic safety and injury prevention tips

Subscribe to MightyPlan for the unplanned

You plan everything out for your kids (classes, camps and nutrition). It’s important to have a plan in case they’re in a serious accident. If your child has an emergency, know where to go. Program Children’s ER contact information into your phone. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are located in Minneapolis (2525 Chicago Ave. S.) and St. Paul (345 N. Smith Ave.)

When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

The facts about enterovirus D68

Suspected cases of enterovirus D68 infections recently have popped up, with 12 states (Minnesota and Wisconsin are not included to date) contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help confirming test samples.

Enteroviruses can be spread by close contact with an infected person who may cough or sneeze on you and by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Enteroviruses can be spread by close contact with an infected person who may cough or sneeze on you and by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

It is not a mystery virus – we see it every late summer/early fall. What is different is that this particular strain, EV-D68, seems to be causing more intense asthma symptoms, wheezing and respiratory difficulty for a large number of kids at the same time.

Now is as good a time as ever to learn about EV-D68 and enteroviruses in general.

CDC background on enteroviruses

  • Enteroviruses are common viruses – there are more than 100 types.
  • Most enterovirus infections in the U.S. occur seasonally during the summer and fall, peaking in September.
  • It’s estimated that 10 million to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the U.S. each year.
  • Most people infected with enteroviruses have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but some infections can be serious.
  • Infants, children and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses and become sick. Infants and people with weakened immune systems are at risk of the virus worsening into heart or brain infections.

How is enterovirus spread?

“Enteroviruses can be spread by close contact with an infected person who may cough or sneeze on you and by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth,” said Patsy Stinchfield, pediatric nurse practitioner and Children’s director of infectious disease prevention and control.

Enterovirus D68

Enterovirus D68 is one of many enteroviruses. EV-D68 infections are thought to occur less commonly than infections with other enteroviruses. It first was identified in California in 1962. Compared with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the U.S. in the past 40 years. There have been no known deaths due to the 2014 virus.

Subscribe to MightyWhat are EV-D68 symptoms?

EV-D68 usually can cause mild to severe respiratory illness; however, the full spectrum of EV-D68 illness is not well-defined. Most people who get infected are infants, children and teens. Most start with common cold symptoms of runny nose and cough. Some, but not all, may also have fever.  For more severe cases, difficulty breathing, wheezing or problems catching your breath may occur.

How should I care for my child if I suspect enterovirus D68?

There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections. Many infections will be mild and self-limited, requiring only treatment of the symptoms such as increasing fluids and rest or fever-reducing medicine.

Some people with severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 may need to be hospitalized and receive supportive therapy such as oxygen and nebulizations. There are no anti-viral medications or vaccines currently available for EV-D68 treatment or prevention.

What do I do if my child has these symptoms?

If your child has these symptoms, Stinchfield says: 

  1. If symptoms are mild, such as common cold, parents should do what they normally do with a sick child – increase his or her fluids, rest, keep home from school, give fever- and pain-reducing medicines.
  2. If symptoms are moderate, such as cold symptoms worsening or not getting better within a week, or new wheezing begins, take your child to your clinic.
  3. If at any time your child is having difficulty breathing or you are seeing blue lips or they are gasping for air, take him or her to the closest emergency room. 

How do I prevent enterovirus?

There are no vaccines for preventing EV-D68 infections.

Ways to help reduce the risk of getting infected with EV-D68:

  • Superb hand hygiene is important. Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay home if you’re ill.

How do I know if my child has enterovirus D68 or another respiratory illness?

Fall and winter seasons see many different viruses circulating in the community. Some of them that look similar with cough and runny nose include:

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Most otherwise healthy people recover from RSV infection in one to two weeks. However, infection can be severe in some people, such as infants, young children and older adults. RSV is the most-common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age in the U.S. RSV is more often being recognized as an important cause of respiratory illness in older adults.

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year – Children’s is hosting vaccination clinics at Kohl’s stores around the Twin Cities metro area.

Family screening tests risk of developing type 1 diabetes

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

The McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center is part of an international research network called Type 1 Diabetes TrialNetThe center is screening relatives of individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to see if they are at risk for developing the disease. The TrialNet research study offers a blood test that can identify increased risk for T1D up to 10 years before symptoms appear.

Subscribe to MightyTrialNet offers screening to individuals:

  • Ages 1-45 with a parent, brother, sister or child with T1D
  • Ages 1-20 with a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, half-brother, half-sister or cousin with T1D

Screening is available in the McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center (located on the fourth floor of the Gardenview building at Children’s  St. Paul, 345 N. Smith Ave., Suite 404. There is no fee to participate, and parking vouchers will be provided to all participating families.

For more information or to refer eligible families, contact Brittany Machus, clinical research associate, at brittany.machus@childrensmn.org or (651) 220-5730.

New Minnesota immunization requirements take effect in September

Minnesota’s new immunization requirements take effect Sept. 1, and with August serving as National Immunization Month, we urge parents to get their children’s vaccinations updated ahead of the upcoming school year.

The Minnesota Department of Health's statewide requirement changes were made to protect kids from measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

The Minnesota Department of Health’s statewide requirement changes were made to protect kids from measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

The Minnesota Department of Health’s statewide requirement changes were made to protect kids from measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases.

Getting vaccinated before September is important.

“Vaccines take about a month or so, in general, to really be full force and working for your body effectively,” Pamela “Gigi” Chawla, MD, Children’s senior medical director for primary care, said in an interview with KARE-TV. “We want kids to be ready for their school year.”

The new requirements include:

  • Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for children enrolling in child care or school-based early childhood programs
  • Pertussis vaccine added to tetanus-diphtheria vaccine for seventh-graders
  • Meningococcal meningitis vaccine for seventh-graders

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinations given to children in the past 20 years will prevent an estimated 732,000 deaths and save $295 billion.

Looking to schedule an appointment? Contact one of our 12 clinic locations.

Changes to state’s immunization law (KARE-TV):

Trustworthy: Vaccines have earned that title

Two doses of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine will prevent measles in 99 percent of those vaccinated.

By Patsy Stinchfield, PNP

The confirmation of 83 cases of measles in Ohio this month and the recent quick diagnosis of a 19-month-old with measles in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s first case of measles this year, brought a timely reminder that the potentially deadly virus has not been eradicated and of the importance of vaccination. Having just wrapped World Immunization Week and National Infant Immunization Week, the importance of immunization is as great as ever.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that the 288 cases of measles in the country so far this year are the highest since 2000. The number of cases reported this year is the highest for the first five months of a year since 1994.

I worry that the numbers are a sign of growing credibility for a small band of celebrities and others who have thrown up an online smoke screen of fear of vaccines against measles, whooping cough and other common childhood diseases.

If even a relatively small percentage of Americans buy into this criticism, it would be disastrous. Measles, one of the most contagious airborne diseases, can be extremely serious, leading in rare cases to pneumonia and fatal brain infections. Infants too young to be vaccinated particularly are at risk.

We’re fortunate that the child in Minnesota, who actually had one of two measles shots and apparently contracted the disease during a visit to India, was diagnosed within minutes at Children’s – Minneapolis. Because the alert medical team picked up the symptoms so quickly, only 16 potentially exposed people had to be notified after the child was quarantined.

Three years ago, as many as 700 contacts had to be reached for some patients during an outbreak at Children’s.

What’s most frustrating is that it’s all so unnecessary.

The virus hasn’t changed all that much. It’s not like the HIV virus, constantly mutating. No; with measles the culprit purely is social – a breakdown in trust of medical experts whose longtime vaccine advocacy made measles and other common childhood infections a footnote.

Fear-mongering online vaccine critics are not winning, in a classical political sense. Thankfully, more than 90 percent of parents still trust their health care providers and nationally recommended vaccines. If they didn’t, we would see frequent headlines about deaths from measles, whooping cough and other diseases.

However, the remaining 10 percent of parents are hesitant, have vague fears and wonder who to trust. They routinely hear or read vehement vaccine bashing in social media circles, which feeds fear and denial – and new outbreaks. New York City and Orange County, Calif., currently are dealing with measles outbreaks.

Measles is so highly contagious that just passing through a clinic waiting room two hours after someone with measles has been there can expose an unvaccinated newborn, which may be devastating.

We all must protect the vulnerable in our community by forming a protective barrier of our own vaccination. That’s a simple point seemingly lost on the peddlers of myth and pseudoscience who have infected too many parents with baseless fear of vaccines that protect their own children and the community at large.

Parents should trust health care professionals who urge vaccination on schedule. At Children’s, we speak from experience. We have seen children die or become permanently impaired from vaccine-preventable disease. Ask our specialists how many unvaccinated, critically ill children they have cared for, and they would answer “too many to count.” And how many they’ve seen with severe vaccine side effect? You’ll get a blank stare, or “I don’t recall any; maybe one at most.”

We have seen children with measles on a ventilator, fighting for their lives. That’s a bitter sight when you recognize that two doses of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine will prevent measles in 99 percent of those vaccinated. There’s no contest between the benefits of vaccines and their extremely rare risks.

Before the measles vaccine was developed in the 1960s, there were 2.6 million measles-related deaths per year worldwide. In 2012, that number was down to 122,000, mostly in children younger than 5 in parts of the world where vaccines are scarce or their parents refuse to allow vaccination. The point is that we can’t afford to let our guard down in the U.S. or elsewhere. In a global society measles is a mere plane ride away for the unprotected.

The safe, effective and trustworthy action for infants, children, adolescents and adults is to get vaccinated on time for all recommended vaccine-preventable diseases.

Aside from sanitary drinking water, vaccines remain the safest, most-life-saving medical intervention we have to protect our children.

Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, is the director of Infection Prevention and Control and the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Kangaroo Care a tranquil experience for parent, child

Newborn Azarias has skin-to-skin contact with his mother, Veronica Engel, as part of a Kangaroo Care exercise. Thursday, May 15, is International Kangaroo Care Day.

This month, the Neonatal units in St. Paul and Minneapolis are celebrating the importance of Kangaroo Care, a technique where an infant is held skin to skin with mom or dad. Kangaroo Care promotes bonding, provides comfort for the baby and parent and has potential to improve a baby’s medical condition. In honor of International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day, a mother shares her experience holding her newborn son skin to skin.

Veronica Engel of Chippewa Falls, Wis., holds newborn son Azarias skin to skin as part of Kangaroo Care.

By Veronica Engel

My husband and I found out at my 10-week ultrasound that we were having a baby boy, but we also found out that our son, Azarias, had a birth defect called gastroschisis.

Due to his condition, doctors informed me that I wouldn’t be able to hold Azarias until after his surgery. This had me worried because I was afraid of missing out on that special bonding time that you immediately have with your newborn. When he was born, I was able to put him on my chest momentarily but then he had to be rushed off in an isolette to be prepared for his stay at the hospital until the doctors could perform the surgery he needed.  He was staying in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s – St. Paul, which has private rooms. I am grateful for this because it allowed me to stay in the room with him around the clock.

I wasn’t able to hold him for the first week of his life due to his condition; however, I was able to hold his hands and feet or rub his head. After his surgery, I was able to hold him the next day. This was special because I got to hold him skin to skin; I held him for three hours straight. It was relaxing and soothing for both of us to be able to have this closeness, which we weren’t able to do at the beginning of his life. I continued to stay with Azarias in the NICU, and each day I would hold him once or twice using skin-to-skin – anywhere from an hour to three hours at a time.

The doctors told me that he was doing excellent for his condition. Not only was he gaining weight at a good pace, but he also was moving along quickly for what he was able to consume and digest.

When I’m holding Azarias skin to skin, I don’t even notice the time fly by; it’s such a relief to be able to help calm and comfort him just by this simple action. Kangaroo Care truly is a tranquil experience for parent and child and has helped us build a lasting bond with each other. I believe that being here and holding him skin to skin has made a difference in Azarias’ ability to recover and heal from this whole ordeal.

Tanning turmoil: Why getting ‘bronzed’ is hazardous to your teen’s health

For teens, one visit to a tanning bed increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

A guest post by Gigi Chawla, MD

Every spring, many of us weary from a long winter head south to warmer climes; teens across the country attend prom with their sweethearts. And what do kids tend to do before events like these?

Hit the tanning salon.

Looking “pasty white” in a swimsuit or a new dress just won’t do, right? Think again.

Here’s a brief warning to help dispel the myth of “getting a base tan” before these events. Or ever.

Currently, 35 percent of 17-year-old girls in the U.S. are using tanning beds and 55 percent of college-aged kids have used one at least once.

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported earlier this year that, “a third of white 11th-grade Minnesota girls have tanned indoors in the past year, according to a state survey … and more than half of them used sun beds, sunlamps or tanning booths at least 10 times in a recent 12-month period.”

What isn’t immediately clear to our kids is that during a tanning-bed session they may receive up to 12 times the ultraviolet (UV) exposure as they receive being outside in the natural sunlight. This UV radiation exposure from tanning beds is dangerous and linked to three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Here’s the potential damage that one tanning-bed session alone can cause a teen:

  • The risk of developing melanoma increases by 20 percent
  • The risk of developing basal cell carcinoma increases by 29 percent
  • The risk of squamous cell carcinoma increases by 67 percent

For people using a tanning bed under the age of 35, the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer of any type increases by 74 percent.

Specifically, it increases the lifetime risk of:

  • melanoma by 75 percent
  • basal cell carcinoma by 150 percent, and
  • squamous cell carcinoma by a whopping 250 percent

Moreover, skin cancer now is the leading form of cancer in 25- to 29-year-olds.

Another startling fact: More skin cancer cases arise from tanning-bed use than lung cancer cases do from smoking; yet, in our culture, bronzed skin is seen as a form of beauty.

Some advice to parents: Remember to reinforce to your teens that they are beautiful or handsome no matter the shade of their skin. What’s important is what’s inside. I like to think that we live in an era in which we can look past skin color, where we are not judged by skin color and we should not see beauty based on skin color.

It’s time to remind your kids to “go with your own natural glow.”

Gigi Chawla, MD, is a pediatrician, hospitalist and the Senior Medical Director of Primary Care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Her areas of interest are the care of complex special needs patients, premature infants, ventilator dependent children and care of hospitalized patients.

Sources: The Skin Cancer Foundation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Minneapolis among 10 best U.S. cities for health care

Minneapolis was named one of the 10 best U.S. cities for health care, according to Becker’s Hospital Review and a release from iVantage Health Analytics and its Hospital Strength INDEX, a rating system analyzing publicly available data to measure hospitals across 10 pillars of performance and 66 metrics.

Minneapolis was named one of the 10 best U.S. cities for health care. (2014 file / Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota)

List of cities in top 10 (in alphabetical order):

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Chicago
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland, Ore.
  • St. Louis
  • Washington, D.C.

The 10 cities serve approximately 60 million people, 19 percent of the U.S. population, according to the report.

Sources: Becker’s Hospital Review and iVantage Health Analytics

Influenza is now widespread in Minnesota. Here’s what you need to know.

By Patsy Stinchfield, MS, CPNP

Patsy is a pediatric nurse practitioner in infectious disease and the director of infection prevention and The Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Update

Influenza is now “widespread” in 35 states, including Minnesota.

There is still time to get vaccinated if you and your family have not yet done so.

To learn more about how Children’s is helping prevent the spread of influenza in the community, click on over to www.childrensMN.org/flu.

This post originally appeared on the Mighty Blog on Jan. 2.

As of Jan. 2, 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health has declared influenza “widespread” across the state, the highest designation level. Over the past two weeks, influenza cases at Children’s have more than doubled, however they still remain below where they were at this time last year. Now that influenza has arrived, it’s likely that it will remain in full swing in Minnesota for the next two months.

So what can you do? The No. 1 way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. And it’s not too late. Anyone 6 months of age and older who has not received their flu vaccine should do so now. Most clinics and pharmacies are still vaccinating and have a good supply of vaccine. The most common influenza strain we’re seeing is the H1N1 strain which is contained in this year’s vaccine. In addition to getting the vaccine, we also recommend frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth prior to washing your hands to help prevent the spread of illness.

If the flu has already reached your house, here are few helpful tips for caring for your child while they’re ill.

What’s the difference between the cold and the flu and how can I tell?

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a child has a cold or the flu because she may cough, have a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue with both. However with the flu, a child tends to have a high fever which comes on more suddenly and may include severe fatigue and body aches. Colds tend to come on more gradually, and many kids may feel well enough to keep playing and going to school with a cold. Clinics may use a rapid nose swab test to determine if someone has influenza.

What should I do if I suspect influenza?

Most cases of influenza are mild and can be managed at home with rest, plenty of fluids, and fever-reducing medicines. Tender-loving care is good medicine, too. Most over-the-counter “cough and cold” medicines do not help a sick child get better faster and won’t have much effect on influenza. Sometimes, the flu can make a child very ill and a visit to the clinic or emergency room is necessary.

When should I take my child to the emergency department?

Take your child to be checked if they have difficulty breathing (fast, grunt-sounding, noisy breathing or small breaths), if their color looks bad (pale or bluish), if they aren’t drinking fluids often or urinating at least once every eight hours, or if they just aren’t themselves and you’re worried. Signs of dehydration are dry lips, sunken eyes, sleepiness or crankiness. Children who seem like they’re getting better and then suddenly get worse should be taken to the Emergency Department immediately. This could mean they have another infection such as pneumonia in addition to the flu.

What are the best ways to get my child’s fever down when she has the flu?

Fever is one of the tools our immune system uses to kill germs. However, children with high fever can feel quite miserable, get crabby, have trouble waking up and may drink less fluids causing dehydration. If you can’t keep the fever down with a fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, then the child should be taken to the clinic or emergency department.

Is there anything else I can do to help make my child more comfortable?

You can keep your child home from day care, school, sports or other activities and have them rest early in their illness until they show signs of getting back to “their normal.” If your child doesn’t want to eat regular meals, don’t insist, but do make sure they drink small amounts of fluids every hour to prevent dehydration.

Is there anything I can do to help my child recover more quickly?

There is an anti-viral medicine called Tamiflu that can be given to children as young as 2 weeks of age. This is used if the child is hospitalized with moderate or severe influenza or if the child is outpatient but at higher risk for complications from influenza. These would be children with immune system problems or neurological, pulmonary, or metabolic underlying conditions. Tamiflu works best if given in the first two days of illness which can cut the severity and number of days of illness in half.

How long will my child be contagious?

Influenza is most contagious the day before symptoms present through about day four of illness. Your child should stay home from school during this time. After viral illnesses, kids can have lingering muscle or body aches and really do need time to rest and recover before rushing back to school. They can often pick up other viruses easily and may have a lingering cough as their airway heals. Depending on the severity of the flu, this may be a few days to a few weeks. Most kids recover within a week. Remember that many schools require that your child be fever-free (without the help of medicines) for one to two days before returning to school or day care.

World AIDS Day: Getting to zero

Fatumata, whose name has been changed, is a 14-year-old girl who lived in Eastern Africa all of her life before coming to Minnesota in 2010. She grew up in a refugee camp with her younger brother and sister and her parents. She had to take medicine every day, and sometimes she was very sick. But mostly she liked to play with her friends and help her mother with the chores.  Fatumata noticed that some of the people in the camp avoided her and her family, and she was not allowed to go to school with the other children. She didn’t know why.

Then one day, Fatumata’s father became very ill and eventually passed away.  Soon after, her mother became too sick to care for her and her siblings, and her uncle came to tell her that she would be leaving the camp to go and live with his family in America. Fatumata cried because she did not want to leave her mother, but her mother told her that she would be able to grow and be healthy where she was going and that they would see each other again.

So Fatumata and her siblings came to Minnesota. It was very cold and, at first, she didn’t understand what anyone was saying.  Soon she was able to go to school for the first time, and she learned English, and she continued to take her medications and grow strong and healthy. Today, Fatumata knows why she takes medications. She knows the name of her disease and doesn’t fear her HIV. She has a dedicated medical team at Children’s who provide care and support to her and her family. Fatumata is looking forward to the day when she will be able to go to college and some day, have a healthy family of her own.

Dec. 1 marked the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day.  It is an opportunity for us to come together to show support for people living with HIV and AIDS around the world and at home, to remember those who have died from this disease, and to commit to “getting to zero” in the fight against HIV:  zero new infections and zero deaths from HIV and AIDS.

HIV today

Around the world, there are an estimated 34 million people living with HIV. About 3.3 million are children under 15.  In addition, around 17.3 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and millions more have been affected by the epidemic. Every day, almost 7,000 people become infected with HIV and nearly 5,000 people die from AIDS.  In 2011, 230,000 of those who lost their lives were children, according to UNICEF.

In the United States approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV, and in Minnesota, just over 7,500 of our neighbors, family members, and friends are living with HIV and AIDS, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

What is Children’s doing in the fight against HIV?

As the largest provider of care to HIV-infected children in Minnesota, we provide medical care to more than 100 children infected with HIV every year.  Children come to us from all over Minnesota and all over the world. Many of the children in our care have been adopted from countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.  Many more are refugees and immigrants, who may not be able to access treatment in their own countries. In addition to expert medical care, families can access specialized support services funded through the federal Ryan White CARE Act, including education, family case management and mental health services.

What can you do?

1. Get tested, know your status! HIV testing is recommended as a routine part of medical care.Talk to your provider about testing.

2. Get connected, get support! If you are living with HIV, find out about the programs and services offered in your area to help you stay healthy and support you and your family in living with your disease.

3. Educate yourself about HIV! Learn how to prevent HIV infection and how to keep yourself safe. Can you answer these questions about HIV?

True or false?

1. HIV is a virus and AIDS is a bacteria

2. HIV infection can be spread by hugging

3. Some people have HIV and do not know it

4. There is treatment for HIV

5. People who have HIV can give birth to healthy babies

Quiz answers

1.  HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the disease caused by the HIV virus. AIDS makes it hard for people to fight off other kinds of infections and illnesses and can make people sick.

2.  False! You cannot get HIV from hugging or playing with other people with HIV. HIV can only be spread by direct contact with blood and some other body fluids through sex, sharing needles, or breastfeeding.

3.  True. About 15 percent of people infected with HIV do not know they are infected with the virus. That’s why getting tested is so important!

4.  True! We have great treatments and medications for people living with HIV that enable them to stay healthy and live a very long time. We don’t have a cure yet, but scientists are hard at work on it.

5.  True! When people living with HIV take their medications and see their doctors regularly, they have over a 98 percent chance of having a baby born without HIV.