Derby week: Your best bets for staying healthy and ER-free

People from all over the world will visit Louisville this week for events surrounding the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

From measles to E. coli, the news is full of threats to health these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them spoil your Derby and springtime fun. Here are some tips:

Update your vaccinations: Measles smeasles? Think again. With measles making a strong comeback in the United States and other parts of the globe, it’s a good time to check with your health care provider to see if you’re protected. There will be many people in Louisville for Derby festivities and conceivably some of them could be from places like Washington State and New York that have had large outbreaks.

Getting vaccinated now might seem too late. But “the vaccine would begin immunity development quickly and be in effect within a week,” said University of Louisville Associate Professor Ruth Carrico. “That could beat the virus incubation period.”

Dr. Lori Caloia, medical director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness

It’s also a good idea to get vaccinated if you plan to travel, said Dr. Lori Caloia, medical director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. Since January, there have been more than 700 cases of measles in 22 states, with many outbreaks stemming from travelers coming back from places, such as Israel, Ukraine and the Philippines, that have been dealing with outbreaks.

Kids typically get two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine by the time they’re age 6, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some adults who may need to be immunized include people who were vaccinated between 1963 and 1967 when the vaccine might not have been effective and people born between 1963 and 1991 who may have received only one dose of vaccine, according to local health officials.

One dose of MMR is about 93 percent effective and two doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the CDC.

Don’t forget about hepatitis A. The liver infection associated with unsanitary conditions and illicit drug use is no longer as big of a problem as it once was in Louisville. However, “even though it’s way down, there’s still a risk in the community,” Caloia said.

Hepatitis A is spread when people accidentally ingest feces from an infected person when, for example, they share a joint or consume contaminated foods or beverages.

Think twice about buying food from places that might not have been inspected by the health department, Caloia said. That includes people selling barbecue out of their backyards.

“That’s probably not the best place to be getting your food,” she said.

Courtesy of Pixabay and Thorsten Frenzel

Avoid E. coli and salmonella, too. Kentucky is part of a multistate outbreak of E. coli O103 from ground beef. There’s also a multistate outbreak of salmonella from certain precut melon from Caito Foods in Indianapolis.

Thousands of pounds of beef suspected of being tainted with E. coli O103 have been recalled from Grant Park Packing in Illinois and K2D Foods, which also is known as Colorado Premium Foods. But “no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified that could account for the whole outbreak,” according to federal authorities.

With that in mind, make sure you’re not eating any raw or undercooked beef, and use safe food handling practices.

Also, keep your hands clean, whether you’re cooking a meal at home, grabbing a bite at the Chow Wagon or hanging out at the track.

“Hand sanitizer, even if it doesn’t kill everything, is still better than nothing,” Caloia said.

A mint julep | Courtesy of Louisville Tourism

Drink wisely. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to try out some of Louisville’s signature beverages, from bourbon to mint juleps, this week, but don’t overindulge. Nothing spoils Derby fun like winding up in the emergency room.

Baby your skin. Protect yourself at the track and during other outdoor activities by wearing sunscreen. “Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.