First the baby gets sick, then her mother gets it, and then it’s grandma’s turn!

What did they have? Norovirus, which is highly contagious. Norovirus is spreading throughout our area, affecting many families and schools. Some people with norovirus are hospitalized and can even die.


Norovirus is sometimes called the stomach flu.  The most common symptoms of norovirus infection are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting many times a day
  • Stomach pain

Other symptoms may include fever, headache or body aches. Some people may also get severely dehydrated.

Who’s Most at Risk

  • Children in daycare or schools
  • Elderly people, particularly those in nursing homes
  • People with other illnesses

How You Can Get Norovirus

Norovirus spreads quickly, especially in enclosed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools. People with norovirus can not only spread it to other people while they’re sick, they can do so even in the first few days after symptoms go away.

Norovirus can be spread to others by:

  • Contacting an infected person. This can happen, for example, if you shake hands with a person with norovirus, take care of them when they’re sick, or handle their soiled laundry.
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
  • Touching objects that have norovirus on them and then putting your fingers in your mouth, for example, from touching a countertop, shared cup, or a shared toy at daycare. Norovirus can stay on surfaces and objects – even surviving some disinfectants – and still infect people for days or weeks.

What to do if you are Sick with Norovirus

  • Stay home – bedrest is good – and drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid taking care of others or preparing food for them until at least two days after you start feeling better.
  • If you or someone you are caring for becomes dehydrated, call your doctor.
  • Keep children at home at least 48 hours after symptoms disappear.

How to Avoid Getting Norovirus
You can help protect yourself from norovirus by following these precautions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds every time, and avoid touching your mouth. It is especially important to wash your hands before handling food, or after using the bathroom or changing a baby’s diaper.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects in your home. You can get rid of norovirus on surfaces by wiping them down with a bleach-based cleaner.
  • Wash clothes and linens that might have been soiled and then machine dry them.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables before you serve them, and cook shellfish, such as oysters, thoroughly.


For More Information
Visit cdc.gov  or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.



One in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis, yet many people are not taking steps to prevent this condition. To mark the start of National Osteoporosis Month this May, Western Health Advantage is raising awareness of this disease, which affects 54 million Americans.

“Osteoporosis is often called a ‘silent disease’ because you cannot feel your bones getting weaker. Men and women need to understand their risk factors and take steps to prevent and identify signs of the disease,” says Dr. Don Hufford, Chief Medical Officer at WHA.

What causes osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease which occurs when the body loses too much bone, doesn’t make enough bone or both. The bones then become weak because they become less dense and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. Women get osteoporosis more often than men, and the older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.

How can I prevent osteoporosis?

To help keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis, you should:

  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise – particularly weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises
  • Not drink in excess or smoke
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your chance of getting osteoporosis
  • Take an osteoporosis medication if and when it’s right for you

In some cases, people are asked by their doctor to take supplements to achieve the recommended daily allowance for calcium and vitamin D.  Visiting your primary care physician regularly is important. At your annual physical exam, potential health problems – including osteoporosis – can be identified and discussed, which allow steps to be taken to improve your health going forward.

For more info, visit National Osteoporosis Foundation

Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation

Mental Health Month was started 68 years ago as a national health observance by Mental Health America.  Their goal was to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone.

Doctors now look at the whole person and not just the physical health, known as 360 degree health, because they know that good mental health has a significant impact on a person’s overall health and well-being.

The Facts
Mental illnesses are quite common. In fact, one in five people are affected by a mental health condition in the United States – that’s about 60 million people. They are also treatable.

How do you know if you have a mental illness?
Symptoms are different for each condition and can be different for each person.  They can also vary in severity. That’s why seeking professional help sooner than later is important so treatment can be started early and you can start feeling better.  It can also help prevent the symptoms from becoming worse. Talking with your primary care doctor is always a good first step. You can also contact your behavioral health provider directly without a referral.

Help is Here
When you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health concern, sometimes it can be a lot to handle for everyone involved.  Often, many go untreated and for different reasons. Some are ashamed to seek care and feel they should be able to handle it themselves.  Others are concerned about being seen as weak or “crazy.”  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Asking for help takes courage.  It also takes accepting that we all need help at some time in our lives.

Western Health Advantage wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are treatable, that recovery is always the goal, and if you or someone you love is suffering, there is help.

“It is important to understand the early symptoms of mental illness and know when there’s a need for treatment,” said Dr. Don Hufford, Chief Medical Officer of WHA. “We need to speak up early and educate people about mental illness – and do so in a compassionate, judgement-free way. Prevention, early identification and intervention, and integrated services work.”

WHA’s Behavioral Health Services
WHA members can self-refer to see a behavioral health specialist by contacting the behavioral health provider for prior authorization. Visit mywha.org/bh for more info.

Here are some helpful resources:

You Don’t Need Super Powers to Be A Stroke Hero

Start By Controlling Your High Blood Pressure

Nearly 80 million Americans have high blood pressure, the leading-controllable risk factor for stroke, but you don’t have to!  During American Stroke Month teach and take the following steps to manage your blood pressure and protect your health:

  • Each year, May 17th is World Hypertension Day and we need you to be a key influencer. Be counted as someone who knows their numbers at heart.org. Knowing your numbers is an important step in protecting your brain.
  • Controlling blood pressure is just one of the ways to prevent a stroke. Discover other tips and share them with your loved ones at strokeassociation.org.

For more information on how to be a Stroke Hero, visit StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeHero.

Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) marks May as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. As it’s a peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, this is a perfect time to learn about these diseases.

Did you Know?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma affects 24 million Americans, and 6.3 million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma. More than 50 million Americans have all types of allergies – to various types of pollen, foods, latex and more.

Asthma Triggers
Asthma and allergies are triggered by exposure to certain harmless substances. The body’s immune system releases chemicals to attack the substance – such as pollen or a food – which is viewed as an invader.  This leads to allergy symptoms, such as:

  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • itchy eyes
  • skin reactions

Asthma’s Effect on Our Lungs
For some people, this same reaction also affects the lungs and airways, leading to asthma. Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra mucus, making it difficult to breathe.

Treatment for Asthma
Asthma and allergies can be chronic conditions, lasting many years or even a lifetime. A medical diagnosis is required, which may require a test to check your lung function, and a chest or sinus X-ray. Common treatments include antihistamines and steroids. Allergy sufferers should also try to stay away from triggers that can cause allergic reactions.

Asthma and allergies can’t be cured, but treatment can help, especially if and when symptoms become severe. See your doctor if you think you or someone you know may have an allergy or asthma.

For more information, go to aafa.org.

World Immunization Week is held each year at the end of April to promote the use of life-saving vaccines for all children – particularly those who are consistently excluded. This event is observed by UNICEF, immunization partners, governments and civil society organizations around the world. World Immunization Week runs from April 24-30, 2017.

Immunization prevents an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. However, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves.

“Vaccines offer safe and effective protection from infectious diseases. By staying up-to-date on the recommended vaccinations, people can protect themselves, their families, and their communities from serious, life-threatening illnesses,” said Donald B. Hufford, M.D., WHA’s Chief Medical Officer.

In California, preteens need vaccines against whooping cough (Tdap), meningitis (MenACWY), and HPV when they are 11-12 years old. Incoming 7th graders must also provide proof of having received the whooping cough shot before starting school. A booster dose of MenACWY is recommended when teens are 16 years old. In addition, flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older – not just preteens and teens.

Dr. Hufford reminds parents, “If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to ask your doctor about the three vaccines recommended for your child at their preteen visit, plus a flu shot every year.”

For more information about recommended schedules for immunizations, visit mywha.org/teenIZ.

Click here to view the fact sheet on immunization or to learn more, visit Unicef.org

Immunizations Improve the Health of Children
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities. NIIW 2017 is April 22-29, 2017.

Milestones Reached
Several important milestones have been reached in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases among infants worldwide. Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In addition:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.
  • In the 1950’s, nearly every child developed measles, and unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Today, many practicing physicians have never seen a case of measles.
  • Routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do—still get some of these diseases.

At WHA, keeping you and your family healthy is our top priority. Preventive care services such as well baby care and immunizations are part of your medical plan, at no additional cost to you! Visit our online infant wellness section for more information.  (Coverage for WHA services depends on eligibility at the time of the service.)

Click for 2016 Recommended Immunizations for Children from Birth through 6 Years Old.


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