Measles: Symptoms and Available Resources

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, measles can still infect people when brought in from foreign visitors or unvaccinated Americans while traveling abroad. The recent outbreak at a popular vacation spot in southern California can have far-reaching effects, though these effects are easily countered with the proper medical precautions.

 

Measles is a virus that presents with high fever, cough, runny nose, and red/watery eyes. Two to three days after initial symptoms, tiny white spots may appear inside the mouth followed by a rash covering the face, neck, body, arms, legs, and feet appearing one to three days later.  When the rash develops, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104°F. The fever and rash subside after a few days.

On top of the typical presentations, there are a number of complications that can arise. Ear infections can occur in children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss. Children are also susceptible to pneumonia and, in rare occasions, encephalitis—a swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions or leave a child deaf or mentally disabled. For every 1000 children who contract measles, on average one or two die from it. Pregnant women with measles can give birth prematurely or have a baby with low-birth-weight. Measles is also highly infectious, spreading to up to 90% of people who are not immune close to an infected person. These kinds of health risks can make it easy for seemingly drastic measures to be taken, such as barring unvaccinated students from attending classes in schools where children have been diagnosed.

 

Measles Vaccine

In a previous blog post, we detailed the importance of vaccinations. With no treatment, the vaccine for measles is the main line of defense against the virus. For those in need of assistance, our database of free, low-cost, and sliding-scale clinics has information on over 2000 clinics that offer immunization services.  If you are in an area affected by the recent measles outbreak or are worried about your contact to those who may have been exposed to the virus, search your zip code to find medical clinics near you that may offer free or low-cost immunizations to combat the risks of measles. Merck also offers a Vaccine Patient Assistance Program for uninsured adults.

National Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month. With all women being at risk for cervical cancer, it’s important to be mindful of the health risks, symptoms, and resources available to those in need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 4000 women die from it annually.

 

National Cervical Health Awareness Month

The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed between people during sex. HPV is so common that most people will have it at some point during their lives without ever developing symptoms. About 90% of cases are cleared naturally by the immune system within two years; however, there is no way of knowing which individuals will go on to develop health problems. Some strains of HPV can cause warts around genitals or in one’s throat, while others can cause normal cells in the body to turn abnormal—possibly leading to cancer over time. Other factors that can increase your risk for cervical cancer are smoking, having HIV, using birth control pills for an extended time (five or more years), or giving birth to three or more children.

 

The most important thing one can do to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. Regular Pap tests performed by a doctor are the main defense against cervical cancer. There are vaccines for HPV that can greatly decrease the chances of contracting the potentially malignant virus available to pre-teens and young adults.  Safe sex practices can also lower the risk of infection for both cervical cancer and HPV.

 

In a previous blog post, we featured the National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a national government initiative that provides free or low-cost screenings for those who qualify and gives access to treatment through Medicaid for women diagnosed with cancer through the program. We have information on more regional and local resources in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database. One such resource is the Color of Teal, a non-profit organization that offers a program providing financial assistance to women in need in the Northeast United States in order to help cover the costs of cancer screenings, gynecology follow-ups, radiology services, chemotherapy, medication, and transportation expenses.

 

Cervical Health Awareness is a nationally important matter. Women should be encouraged to get their well-woman visit with their doctor this year and be told of the resources available if they need help. Parents should know the HPV vaccine can also greatly decrease their children’s risk of contracting cervical cancer.

 

For more information and a live Q&A session on cervical cancer and HPV, NeedyMeds and Color of Teal presented a special webinar Thursday, January 22, 2015:  “HPV & Cervical Cancer: Where One Is More Than Enough.” Watch the webinar here.

Looking Forward to 2015

2014 was an exciting year for us. We grew in many ways: more staff, new programs, new information, and increasing savings with our drug discount card. We are looking forward to even more in 2015.

 

Here are just a few of the changes we expect to see:

  • $4 generic drug information — Very soon we will be adding information on all the “$4 generic” programs in the country. The name – “$4 generic” – is a little misleading. It will include all the pharmacy programs that offer very inexpensive or even free medicines.
  • Generic Assistance Program — We are looking to expand the program to cover more people. To do this we need your help. You can make a donation on our HEALfundr campaign or by signing the “Access Our Medicine” declaration. Each signer we get results in another 50¢ for GAP.
  • Access Our Medication — We are proud to be working with the Mindset Foundation to publicize the problem of medication affordability. They have many events planned for 2015 and NeedyMeds will be a part of them.
  • Imaging Studies Database — You will be hearing more and more about medical consumerism in 2015. NeedyMeds will be helping people make sound financial healthcare decisions. Our first step will be our Imaging Studies database. It will contain the cash prices for 20 common outpatient x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound procedures at centers across the country. This database will appear soon and we will be adding more centers every day.
  • Hepatitis C testing facilities — By partnering with the Hep C Alliance of Missouri, we will be listing low- or no cost sources of hepatitis C testing throughout the country.
  • HEALfundr — We expect to see more use of our medical crowdfunding website. We are working on a number of campaigns to add.
  • Volunteer Ambassador Program — We hope to expand our cadre of volunteers who help spread the word about NeedyMeds and all we offer.
  • Heightened visibility — Our goal is to double the number of daily visitors from 8,000-10,000 each workday.
  • A new office — We have outgrown our current office and plan on moving to an office three times the size by March.
  • Call center expansion — We will be adding more staff to our call center so we can better handle all the helpline calls we receive.
  • Drug Discount Card — The growth of our card and the savings it provides continues to grow. We expect this to continue in 2015.

I could go on as we have a lot more planned—but I won’t. To accomplish our goals we need your help and support.  The most important thing you can do is tell your friends, family, colleagues, doctors; share NeedyMeds with just about anyone.

 

But we need more than that—we need your financial support. Sign the “Access Our Medicine” declaration. Each signature gets us a small donation. If you can afford it, make a donation to NeedyMeds or a HEALfundr campaign. Use our drug discount card to save on your prescriptions and help support us.

 

2014 was a good year for us, but 2015 will be even better.

Rich Sagall MD

 

 

Rich Sagall, MD, a retired family physician, is the president and founder of NeedyMeds, a national non-profit that has information on programs that help people in medical need. He is also the editor and publisher of Pediatrics for Parents, a children’s health newsletter.

 

NeedyMeds in 2014

We’re wrapping up 2014 here at NeedyMeds, and it’s been a big year for us. We have kept true to our original mission to provide information on programs that help people who can’t afford medications and healthcare costs, and have expanded in the interest of offering more direct assistance to those in need.

 

The year started with a redesign of our website. Later that January, we launched a unique crowdfunding platform called HEALfundr. Using HEALfundr, people can raise funds for verified medical expenses that will be paid directly with the crowd-raised funds. HEALfundr is the only crowdfunding platform to verify campaigns and pay bills directly, giving confidence to donors that they will not be victimized by fraud and relieving the stress of handling incoming and outgoing funds for those in need.

 

This past May we released a new web-based tutorial for those looking to learn how to find help for patients facing problems affording their medicine or other healthcare costs called Patient Assistance Resource Education (PARE). PARE is ideal for patient advocates and healthcare workers looking to utilize resources like NeedyMeds to the benefit of their patients.

 

In August, NeedyMeds launched the first-of-its-kind Generic Assistance Program (GAP) in collaboration with Rx Outreach, the largest non-profit pharmacy in the country. GAP is designed to help those unable to afford certain expensive generic medications by providing them at no cost for one year to those who qualify. With initial funding coming from NeedyMeds and Rx Outreach, GAP is also open to funding through its own special HEALfundr campaign and through signatures to the Access Our Medicine Declaration—an initiative aimed to raise public awareness and engagement in the problem to access affordable medicine.

 

2014 marked the expansion of some of our existing programs. Our PAPTracker software has been available to organizations offering application assistance for years; this year we started a grant program to cover the cost of the software for eligible non-profits. We continue to grow our databases of Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), Free/Low Cost Clinics, and Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) through dedicated research, and offer up-to-date information on assistance online and our toll-free helpline (800-503-6897). The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card has saved people almost $40,000,000 on their prescribed medication in 2014 alone.

 

For the second year in a row, NeedyMeds was selected by The NonProfit Times as one of the top 50 best non-profits to work for in 2014 in the country. We have also received the new honor of being named a Top-Rated Nonprofit for 2014 by GreatNonProfits.org.

 

Finally, in keeping with our various expansions, this December is our last full month in the current NeedyMeds office. By the end of January, we will have relocated to a new building with more space and functionality for our call center and research team. Keep an eye out for new NeedyMeds databases and projects coming in 2015. We have information on affordable MRI/imaging centers as well as resources for $4 generic medications coming soon.

 

We wish you all a happy 2015 from everyone at NeedyMeds.

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A Declaration for Affordable Medicine

Medicines can only work in patients who can take them. If we have medicines today to treat people and they can’t access them, then we have to make changes. That’s why we launched the Access Our Medicine Initiative.

The Access Our Medicine Initiative launched in April 2014 inviting people to sign an online declaration with a simple statement – that everyone should have access to affordable medicine. Since then, over 75,000 people from 160 countries and a diverse range of organizations representing more than 400 million people have signed the Declaration at www.accessourmedicine.com.

Why are so many people interested?

Screen Shot Dec 11 75K+Signatures

Even with the Affordable Care Act, over 30 million Americans will not be able to afford their medicine. People are making sacrifices for their medicine, or are risking their health by sacrificing their medicine. Nobody should have to choose between filling prescriptions and buying groceries.

As part of the Access Our Medicine Initiative, we want to support critical organizations such as NeedyMeds offering immediate support to those patients and families needing access to medicine. I’m grateful to have NeedyMeds’ support on the Access Our Medicine Declaration and I find it particularly important to support their Generic Assistance Program.

The Generic Assistance Program is more critical than ever with the shocking rise in generic drug prices. A few weeks ago CBS News covered the story of patient Barbara Heller whose cost for one 3-month refill for a generic medicine went from $94 to $1,212 this year. The rise in prices is such a concern that the U.S. Senate held a hearing last month, featuring testimony from Representative Elijah Cummings, to investigate the rising costs. Senator Bernie Sanders cited examples from the 1,600 patient stories submitted on his website and patient Carol Ann Riha asked legislators about putting her increased medication costs on her credit card, Do I pay for food? Do I pay for gasoline?”

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The time is now. We must address rising prices and encourage solutions to make medicine affordable for all. It is important to our goals, and to those change-makers we are working with to find solutions, to demonstrate the voices of this issue and collect 100,000 signatures on the online declaration at www.accessourmedicine.com. To get this issue on the national agenda, we need everybody to join the conversation including YOU. Please add your voice today.

 

- Alison Lawton, founder of the Access Our Medicine Initiative

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