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Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro held a ceremonial groundbreaking event for its new house, to be built on the Stony Brook Medicine campus, to provide a safe, secure and comfortable environment for families of children who are receiving medical care at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Construction is set to begin later this year with completion scheduled for 2026. Of the $30 million needed to complete the project, $24 million has already been raised.

This will be the first Ronald McDonald House located in Suffolk County, and only the second on Long Island. The other Ronald McDonald House is in New Hyde Park in Nassau County, located adjacent to Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

The three-story, 60,000 square-foot building will include 30 private bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms for families, a media center, outdoor playground, interactive playrooms, a community kitchen providing free meals made by volunteers and fully stocked pantries, a fitness center, meditation room and laundry facilities.

“We’ve been planning this for 10 years and now we’re finally able to provide for families in Suffolk County the way they need,” said Matt Campo, CEO, Ronald McDonald House Charities NY Metro. “All of our programs provide a place for families to rest and recharge so they can focus on the health and well-being of their child.”

“This facility will stand as a beacon of hope, compassion and support for families facing their toughest challenges,” said Dr. William Wertheim, interim executive vice president for Stony Brook Medicine. “Our partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities highlights the strength of collaboration, and I am delighted to be joining our resources and expertise to meet the diverse needs of our community.”

During the ceremony, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis thanked Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright for his help in ensuring that a bill authorizing the State University of New York to enter into a lease with the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, Inc. was passed in the New York State
Assembly in 2018 during his tenure as a state Assemblyman.

“To know that parents will be near their children as they go through the toughest of times is
heartwarming,” Englebright said. “I applaud the Ronald McDonald House for all their
philanthropic work.”

“The soon-to-be-built Ronald McDonald House will be able to serve as a respite for patients and families whose infant or child is ill by offering a place to stay, food to eat and a place to rest and recharge that is in close proximity to the hospital,” said Carol Gomes, CEO, Stony Brook University Hospital. “There is nothing more cherished than the ability to be able to focus on the care of your child without having to worry about daily life logistics.”

“It’s been a labor of love recruiting the financial support to make this house a reality,” said Cynthia Lippe, chair, RMHC NYM Stony Brook House Fundraising Committee. “Our entire committee is proud of our work and know we have the momentum to raise the final funds to open the house to the public.”

Dr. Monika Woroniecka, a physician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy Stony Brook Medicine

By Daniel Dunaief

Dr. Monika Woroniecka, a physician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, died on Saturday during a trip with her family to see the eclipse near the Canadian border when she fell out of an Airstream trailer around 3 p.m. on State Route 12E in Watertown, New York.

Woroniecka, 58, was in the trailer with her family while her husband Robert, 59, pulled the trailer in a pick up truck.

Witnesses told police they saw the passenger door of the trailer swing open, helped by the wind, and watched as she hung onto the door before falling, according to a police statement. Woroniecka fell on the side of the road and was taken by Cape Vincent Ambulance to Samaritan Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

“Stony Brook Medicine is deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of one of our esteemed colleagues over the weekend, Dr. Monika Woroniecka, a physician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital,” Stony Brook Medicine officials said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues affected by this heartbreaking event.”

A police spokesman in Watertown, Sgt. Jack Keller, indicated an investigation into how the door came open during travel was continuing.

“In my over 25 years [with the police], I’ve never seen an incident like this,” Sgt. Keller said. “We’re investigating it as an accident.”

The police are still gathering details as they make sure they are “thorough in our investigation,” Sgt. Keller said.

According to New York State Vehicle and Traffic law, it is illegal to ride in a camper in New York unless it has a fifth wheel connection, which provides a rigid connection directly to the frame of the vehicle towing the camper. A camper attached to a vehicle using a ball hitch does not provide that rigid connection during towing.

The camper in the accident had been connected with a ball hitch.

Police sources added that campers towed behind vehicles do not have airbags or seat belts.

Airstream did not return an email for comment.

Dr. Woroniecka had been practicing medicine since the early 2000s and specialized in allergy-immunology. She treated children with food, environmental, medications and bee sting allergies. She also treated childhood asthma and skin conditions like eczema and hives.

Dr. Woroniecka had extensive experience evaluating children for immunity disorders and frequent infections, a Stony Brook Medicine page indicated.

Dr. Woroniecka’s native language was Polish. Some of her patients from Polish-speaking families traveled considerable distances to meet with her.

Her profile on Stony Brook Medicine indicated she “enjoys working with children and their families and developing a long-term relationship with families while guiding them through chronic allergy-related conditions,” She also indicated she liked to travel, hike, exercise and spend time with family and friends.

Ward Melville’s varsity football team, along with coaches Chris Boltreck and John Sorbera, deliver coloring books and crayons to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy Sharon Philbrick

By Mallie Jane Kim

Patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital this holiday season can enjoy a football-themed activity book, thanks to Ward Melville High School’s rising varsity football team, which is training in the offseason for 2024.

The team worked together to wrap crayon sets to go along with the activity books, entitled “Ward Melville Football Coloring Book,” before delivering them to the hospital together on Sunday, Dec. 10.

“It’s always nice to see our players give back to their community, but it’s especially great to see them work together for a cause,” said head coach Chris Boltrek.

Ward Melville’s varsity football team, along with coaches Chris Boltreck and John Sorbera, deliver coloring books and crayons to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy Sharon Philbrick

He noted that most team members participate in community service through various clubs, but quarterback Hudson Philbrick, currently a ninth grader at Gelinas Junior High School, had the idea to serve together as a varsity team. The head coach said he and assistant coach John Sorbera were happy to help facilitate after Philbrick approached them.

Philbrick said he wanted to help hospitalized children because he knows firsthand how hard it can be to stay in a hospital — he had to spend part of summer vacation that way when he was 6, due to an allergic reaction.

“It was horrible,” he said, adding, “It is not very fun to be in the hospital for the holidays.”

Philbrick said he initially wanted to arrange a visit to hospitalized children, but when that wasn’t possible, he said, he thought of the activity book and called Stony Brook to see if the hospital would accept the donation. He said he used design software Canva to create the book, which includes coloring pages, as well as activities like a football-themed word search, a design-a-helmet activity and a maze guiding a player to score a touchdown. He then had 100 copies printed through a self-publishing website.

Joan Alpers, director of child life services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said in an email that the coloring books will “help hospitalized kids remain calm and relaxed during their hospitalization. Having quiet activities to do fills wait times and provides enjoyment to kids of all ages.”

She added that hospital staff is especially grateful to see young people help other young people through hard times.

For his part, Philbrick initially wasn’t sure if his teammates would buy in. “When they all showed up, it was amazing,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and I’m pretty sure it makes everybody feel good about themselves knowing they get to help out some kids during the holidays.”

Philbrick said he added a section for children to write their goals at the back of the activity books. “Goals give you something to look forward to and work toward like, ‘Hey I’m going to do this someday.’ So it gives them hope.”

As for Philbrick, he said his personal goal is to grow his efforts to help children by making a bigger contribution to the community each year during the holiday season.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

News Flash: Generated by ChatGPT, edited by our staff

• FDA approves RSV vaccines for the first time. These vaccines target the respiratory syncytial virus, a seasonal lung-related illness, with recommendations for adults over 60 and pregnant women in specific gestational weeks.

• Infants under eight months born to mothers without the RSV vaccination can receive monoclonal antibody treatment, providing immunological protection against severe RSV symptoms.

• There are challenges in accessing RSV shots, including delayed processing by insurance companies and pharmacy shortages. Health officials urge residents to advocate for themselves, emphasizing the importance of timely vaccinations given the approaching RSV season.

For the first time, vaccines against the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — a lung-related illness that crops up during the fall and winter — have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA recommends that adults ages 60 and older receive a dose of the vaccine, either Pfizer’s Abrysvo or GSK’s Arexvy, within the next few weeks.

Women in their 32nd to 36th week of pregnancy at some point during September through January are also urged to receive Abrysvo.

For babies born to mothers who didn’t receive a dose of the RSV vaccine, the FDA has approved a monoclonal antibody treatment for infants eight months old and younger that will offer immunological protection against a common and prevalent respiratory condition that can lead to severe symptoms and hospitalizations.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a dose of RSV antibody for children between eight and 19 months entering their second RSV season if they have chronic lung disease, are severely immunocompromised, have a severe form of cystic fibrosis or are American Indian or Alaska Natives.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. File photo from Stony Brook Medicine

While local doctors welcomed the opportunity to inoculate residents, they said finding these treatments has been difficult.

“People are having a hard time getting” the vaccine, said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Some pharmacies have told patients to come back, which decreases the likelihood that they will return for vaccinations in time, Nachman said.

Additionally, insurance companies have not immediately processed requests for vaccinations, which also slows the process, she said.

Nachman recommended that residents “continue to go back and advocate for yourself” because that is “the only way you’ll get what you need.”

RSV season starts around November, which means residents qualified to receive the vaccine or parents with infants need to reach out to their health care providers now to receive some protection against the virus.

Childhood illness

According to recent data, RSV caused 2,800 hospitalizations per 100,000 children in the first year of life, Nachman said. The range can go as low as 1,500 per 100,000.

However, that only captures the number of hospitalized people and doesn’t include all the times anxious parents bring their sick children to doctor’s offices or walk-in clinics.

“Hospitalizations are the worst of the group, [but] it’s a much bigger pyramid” of people who develop RSV illnesses, Nachman said.

In addition to recommending monoclonal treatment for children under eight months old, the CDC urges parents to get this treatment for vulnerable children who are under two years old.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. File photo

Like other vaccinations, the RSV vaccine won’t prevent people from getting sick. It will, however, likely reduce the symptoms and duration of the illness.

“In trials, RSV vaccines significantly reduced lower respiratory tract lung infections serious enough to require medical care,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County Health Commissioner, explained in an email.

At its worst, the symptoms of RSV — such as fever, cough and serious respiratory illness — are problematic enough that it’s worth putting out extra effort to receive some immune protection.

“If you’re a little kid or an elderly patient, this is a disease you don’t want to get,” Nachman said.

Pigott said that data analysis shows that RSV vaccines are 85% effective against severe symptoms of the virus.

While people can receive the COVID-19 and flu vaccines simultaneously, doctors recommend getting the RSV vaccine two weeks later.

According to preliminary data, eligible residents may benefit from the RSV vaccine for two seasons, which means they would likely need to receive the shot every other year, according to Pigott.

With two vaccines approved for adults, Pigott recommended that people receive whichever shot is available.

“Both reduce a person’s chances of getting very serious lung infections,” Pigott explained, adding that several measures can help people protect themselves from the flu, RSV and COVID.

Getting a vaccine, washing hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, avoiding close contact with people who are sick with respiratory symptoms and wearing a mask in places where respiratory viruses are circulating can all help.

Those who are symptomatic should stay home when they are sick and wear masks when they are around other people.

Suffolk County Department of Health Services officials indicated they are aware of the challenges of getting shots and monoclonal antibodies and “ask people to be patient.”

Starting soon, all newborns in New York state will receive testing for congenital cytomegalovirus. Photo by Farajiibrahim from Wikimedia Commons

Starting later this month or early next month, all children born in New York state will receive testing for congenital cytomegalovirus, an infection that can cause hearing loss and learning deficits.

The state will track children who test positive for this virus, which is related to the virus for chickenpox, herpes and mononucleosis, over the years after their birth to provide early intervention amid the development of any symptoms and to provide a baseline for understanding how the virus may affect the growth and development of other children born with the virus.

Mothers who contract CMV, which is the most common congenital virus and the leading nongenetic cause of deafness in children, for the first time while they are pregnant can transmit the virus to their developing child.

Local doctors suggested that this testing, which other states would likely examine closely, provided a welcome opportunity to gather information about their children, even if the test raised questions or concerns about what the diagnosis means.

“Knowledge is power,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “The more you can tell a parent about what’s going on, the more they can make informed decisions.”

To be sure, Nachman anticipated that more parents initially might opt out of having their child’s screen result reported in their newborn record, until pediatricians and obstetricians have had a chance to talk with them.

There will be a “lot more opting out in the beginning” until parents understand what the test means and how it might help in understanding a virus that could affect their children’s health and development, Nachman said.

One in 200 babies

New York State recently received a contract from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to add screening for this virus for a period of a year.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Parents of babies who test positive will receive referrals to infectious disease specialists across the state for follow-up and evaluation.

The state predicts about one out of every 200 newborns may test positive for the virus, according to the New York State Department of Health website.

Over half of the adults in the U.S. have had CMV, while most people don’t know they’ve had it because they show no symptoms.

Those who develop symptoms have sore throats, fever, fatigue and swollen glands, which are the kind of nonspecific conditions that characterize the body’s response to infections from other viruses.

Opt-out options

While all babies will receive a congenital CMV test, parents can choose to opt out of having their children’s screen result reported in their newborn screen record.

The state urges parents who would like to opt out to do so quickly, as newborn screen reports are complete five to seven days after birth.

Parents have several ways to opt out. They can scan the QR code found on their brochure, which will bring them to the Newborn Screening Program website and opt out portal. They can also remove and fill out the opt-out form in the parent brochure and give it to the hospital to submit with the newborn screen specimen.

Alternatively, parents can email a picture of the completed opt-out form to [email protected] or they can call the program at 518-473-7552 and press option five. Finally, parents can mail the opt-out form to the NYS Newborn Screening Program in Albany.

First steps

Nachman is co-leading one of the 11 units across the state in pediatric infectious disease with Dr. Andrew Handel.

The teams will meet once a month to discuss issues around CMV.

“One of the goals of the project, which is why it’s funded by NICHD is can we identify who is at risk” to develop problems such as hearing loss.

Among the numerous unanswered questions the group hopes to address is whether early treatment would be a way to prevent problems from developing, even among children who test positive but are asymptomatic. Giving medication to all children who test positive comes with its own problems, as the medication for CMV has side effects, said Nachman.

It’s not like “taking a dose of Tylenol, given several times a day for weeks at a time,” said Nachman. 

While women who have had CMV prior to pregnancy are unlikely to transmit the virus, Nachman discourages people from intentionally contracting the virus before becoming pregnant.

“We don’t encourage people to go out and get CMV so they’ll be cleared by the time they’re pregnant,” in part because people can develop symptoms, conditions and secondary infections after having the virus.

By monitoring the health of children after their diagnosis, the state hopes to understand more about the virus and its effects.

“We need to follow enough children long enough” to be able to address those medical questions and concerns, Nachman said.

The study might be able to find markers that could predict who might be at risk for hearing loss in the early years of a child’s life, she said.

During hearing screens that could occur every six months, children born with CMV can receive early intervention.

“The sooner we see something, the sooner we can act on it,” Nachman said.

As for developmental issues, children who show even a glimmer of a developmental delay can also receive early intervention.

At this point, Stony Brook has been participating in clinical trials for a vaccine, which, if approved, could be administered to adolescents.

The trials for the vaccine, which could last for 10 years, are still in the early stages of development.

These images reveal the striking similarities between real candy and edible products containing THC. Photos from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services

Children are getting into their parents’ supplies of edible marijuana, leading to an increase in illnesses and emergency room visits.

Stony Brook Pediatric Hospital treated 14 children in 2022 and 13 in 2021 — up from about one or two a year before 2020.

Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatric hospitalist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine/Jeanne Neville

“In the last two years, we’ve seen very high numbers,” said Dr. Candice Foy, a pediatric hospitalist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The accidental consumption of marijuana among children has increased throughout the country. A study published in the journal “Pediatrics” indicates that calls to poison control centers for children five and under for the consumption of edibles containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the main ingredient in the cannabis plant — rose to 3,054 in 2021 from 207 in 2017, with over 95 percent of the children finding gummies in their homes.

Amid an increase in adult use of edible gummies containing marijuana, children of a wide range of ages have mistaken them for candy, leading to symptoms that trigger medical concerns from their parents.

Children with THC in their system can have low blood pressure, high heart rates, lethargy and sleep for prolonged periods, Foy said.

One child required a machine to help breathe.

Dr. Jennifer Goebel, emergency room doctor at Huntington Hospital, said the hospital recently saw children who were dizzy and not acting appropriately.

When pediatric patients accidentally consume pot edibles, doctors also need to consider what else they might have in their system, Goebel added.

Dr. Jennifer Goebel, emergency room doctor at Huntington Hospital. File photo from Northwell Health

Significant exposure can “lead to severe hyperactive behaviors, slowed breathing and even coma,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, Suffolk County Health Commissioner, explained in an email.

The health effects of marijuana can last 24 to 36 hours in children. The response may vary based on the amount ingested, the size of the child and metabolic factors, Pigott added.

Unlike naloxone, which health care providers can administer to counteract the effect of narcotics, doctors don’t have the same resources available with accidental marijuana ingestion.

Doctors opt for supportive care. A nauseous child could receive anti-nausea medication, while a child sleeping and not eating or drinking can receive intravenous fluids.

Typically, doctors observe children who consume marijuana for several hours, often releasing them to return home once the symptoms subside.

Hospitals are required to call child protective services during such an incident. Investigators usually find that such consumption is incidental, as parents sometimes leave their edibles in the wrong location.

“A lot of times, CPS will go in there” and, after checking the home, “will close the investigation,” Foy said.

Doctors and local officials urged people who consume such edibles themselves either not to keep them in the house or to put them in places far from other candy or food, such as in an inaccessible spot in the back of a closet.

Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. File photo

“The Department’s Office of Public Information has issued warnings about keeping edible gummies out of the reach of children through its social media channels,” Pigott explained in an email. “In addition, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports and our partners in prevention promote safe keeping of all THC products, including edibles, out of reach and in secure child safe storage,” such as a lock box.

Goebel cautioned that children are adept at getting to products that appeal to them, mainly if the packaging makes them look like candy.

Many of the pot-related medical issues are “accidental,” Goebel said.

Hospitals have seen a range of children with marijuana symptoms, from as young as one year old to 11, with the vast majority falling between two and four years old, Foy said.

“I don’t think it’s something that a lot of people think about the same way they think about protecting their children from bleach and other chemicals commonly found” in the home, she said. It’s important to “get the message out” and ensure “people are talking about this.”

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services Office of Health Education offers curriculum and teacher training to public and private schools at no cost. The lessons address behaviors that lead to morbidity and mortality in the young, including intentional and unintentional injuries, such as injury caused by children ingesting edible gummies or other edible-infused products, Pigott wrote.

“During parent workshops, we show the similarity between real food items and the THC-containing items that look like the food item to highlight how deceptive and easy it is to mistakenly ingest cannabis-laden products,” he added.

Photo by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new COVID-19 booster, which will protect against the virus’s circulating strain.

With hospitalizations and cases rising in Suffolk County and nationwide, single booster shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be available soon.

Local doctors recommended that people at the highest risk consider getting the shot.

That includes those with other medical issues, such as a 45-year-old smoker or a 65-year-old with diabetes.

Health care providers generally believe people who recently had COVID have at least three months of protection, although no definitive rule exists.

“If you had it in August, you probably don’t need to get a booster now,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “If you had it in January and you’re high risk, you should get it now.”

Nachman added that no study has indicated the age at which patients should get a booster shot.

People should consult their physicians to determine how their underlying health can affect the decision to get an updated vaccine.

“That gets back to the doctor-patient relationship,” Nachman said.

People who are 70 years old and planning a cruise that stops in several ports might want to get a shot at least two weeks before they travel because “the last thing you want happening is to be hospitalized in a foreign country,” Nachman said.

Nachman suggested that this vaccine, like the others that people have taken, won’t prevent illnesses but will keep people from shedding the virus and can reduce the symptoms and duration of an infection.

The FDA approval of the current vaccine is welcome news because it is a “good match” for the current strain, Nachman indicated.

It’s difficult to predict how much protection the current vaccine will provide for whatever strain might be circulating in February.

When a higher percentage of the population receives the vaccine, the likelihood of new variants declines, she added.

The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Group at Stony Brook Medicine’s new regional tick-borne disease center, located in the Hampton Bays Atrium. From left, Dr. Andrew Handel, Dr. Dalia Eid, Dr. Christy Beneri and Dr. Sharon Nachman. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stony Brook University is planning to open the first and only dedicated tick clinic in the northeast on Monday.

Supported by doctors from Stony Brook Medicine’s Meeting House Lane Medical Practice and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, the new regional tick-borne disease center, which is located in the Hampton Bays Atrium, will provide by-appointment treatment for children and adults for tick bites and diagnose tick-borne illnesses.

The timing could be especially important for people with tick bites, as the previous warm winter allowed more ticks and their eggs to survive.

“They are out there, happily laying eggs and the eggs will hatch,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Brian Kelly of East End Tick and Mosquito Control donated the center’s suite which includes a reception area, two exam rooms, two private offices for consults and a nurse’s station, for 10 years.

“Between the beautiful weather in the winter and the nice weather in the summer, ticks are outside,” Nachman said. “I’m thrilled we’re doing it now. There’s no time like the present to move forward and work with the community to get this done.”

Tick checks

Health care providers urged parents, caregivers and anyone who spends quality time in nature to do regular tick checks.

Ticks can be so small that they look like a little freckle. These ticks can harbor diseases beyond the dreaded and oft-discussed Lyme Disease. Other diseases include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis.

In general, Nachman urged patients not to send ticks they pulled off themselves into the center.

“It’s the tick that they didn’t see that’s also putting them at risk,” she said. The clinic will determine the type of tests to run based on the symptoms.

For tick bites, as with many other health challenges, time is of the essence.

A tick that’s attached itself to a human for fewer than 48 hours likely won’t lead to an infection. Someone with a tick bite for about 48 hours might get a single dose of an antibiotic. People who had a tick bite for over that period might develop a rash or even facial palsy, in which one side of the face droops for an extended period of time.

Doctors work with patients to try to hone in on the date of a possible tick bite.

“We do pretty good guessing,” said Nachman. “We don’t need to be perfect: we need to be pretty close.”

Ticks are present throughout Suffolk County.

Health care workers urge people to spray their clothing with DEET. While ticks aren’t always easy to see, people can find them by feeling a new lump or bump on their skin.

Removing ticks

Nachman advised people to wipe an area with a tick down with alcohol before trying to remove an embedded insect.

Using a flat edged tweezer, the tick removers should grasp the insect and slowly back it out.

“Don’t grab the tick and yank,” Nachman cautioned. The mouth parts of the tick have an adhesive, which can leave some of the parts inside the infected person.

Nachman, who will be at the center on Mondays, also urged people not to use petroleum jelly or match sticks.

The hours at the center will adjust to the demand. In the winter, when ticks are less prevalent, the center may have more limited appointment times.

One of the advantages of the center is that the health care providers can track patients over time who have been infected.

Doctors can also sign patients up to become a part of a registry. By tracking people who have tick-borne infections, doctors might also address questions that are part of the science of diseases like Lyme.

“There may be better treatments or better tests” down the road, Nachman added.

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital. File photo from Stony Brook Medicine

With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in the rearview mirror, residents have been returning to the open road and the open skies, visiting places and people.

In addition to packing sunscreen, bathing suits and cameras, local doctors urge people to check the vaccination status for themselves and their children, which may have lapsed.

“During COVID, many people did not keep up with their vaccines,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. “That has led to a decrease in the amount of children who are vaccinated.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory to remind doctors and public health officials for international travelers to be on the lookout for cases of measles, with cases rising in the country and world.

As of June 8, the CDC has learned of 16 confirmed cases of measles across 11 jurisdictions, with 14 cases arising from international travel.

Measles, which is highly contagious and can range from relatively mild symptoms to deadly infections, can arise in developed and developing nations.

Measles can be aerosolized about 60 feet away, which means that “you could be at a train station and someone two tracks over who is coughing and sneezing” can infect people if they are not protected.

The combination of increasing travel, decreasing vaccinations and climbing levels of measles in the background creates the “perfect mixture” for a potential spread of the disease, Nachman said.

Typical first symptoms include cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis, which includes red, watery eyes, can be a symptom of numerous other infections.

“Many other illnesses give you red eyes,” Nachman said, adding, “Only when you start seeing a rash” do doctors typically confirm that it’s measles.

People are contagious for measles when they start to show these symptoms. Doctors, meanwhile, typically treat measles with Vitamin A, which can help ease the symptoms but is not an effective antiviral treatment.

As with illnesses like COVID, people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms. Those with diabetes, hypertension, have organ transplants or have received anticancer drugs or therapies can have more problematic symptoms from measles.

In about one in 1,000 cases, measles can cause subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE. About six to 10 years after contracting the virus, people can develop SSPE, which can lead to coma and death. 

In addition to children who need two doses of the measles vaccine, which typically is part of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR, doctors urge people born between 1957 and 1985 to check on their vaccination status. People born during those years typically received one dose of the vaccine. Two doses provide greater protection.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide 97% protection from measles. One dose offers 93% immunity, explained Dr. David Galinkin, infectious disease specialist at Port Jefferson-based St. Charles Hospital.

People born before 1957 likely had some exposure to measles, which can provide lifelong immunological protection.

Nachman also urged people to speak with their doctor about their vaccination status for measles and other potential illnesses before traveling. People are protected against measles about two weeks after they receive their vaccine.

Doctors suggested that the MMR vaccine typically causes only mild reactions, if any.

Tetanus, Lyme

In addition to MMR vaccines, doctors urged residents to check on their tetanus vaccination, which protects for 10 years.

“The last thing you want to do is look for a tetanus vaccination in an international emergency room,” Nachman added.

During the summer months, doctors also urged people to check themselves and their children, especially if they are playing outside in the grass or near bushes, for ticks.

Intermediate hosts for Lyme disease, a tick typically takes between 36 to 48 hours from the time it attaches to a human host to transmit Lyme disease.

Nachman suggested parents use a phone flashlight to search for these unwelcome parasites.

The outside of Stony Brook University Children's Hospital. Photo from SBUH

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is now a Certified Duchenne Care Center (CDCC). The accreditation comes from Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), a nonprofit organization leading the fight to end Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This accreditation makes Stony Brook the only certified center on Long Island and in the NYC metropolitan area, and one of only two centers in New York State.

According to PPMD, Duchenne is the most common muscular dystrophy in children, affecting around one in every 5,000 boys. It is a progressive disorder affecting both skeletal and heart muscles, causing decreasing mobility, and often cardiac and respiratory issues. Duchenne affects mainly boys, and its impact affects all races and cultures. The opening of the Duchenne Care Center at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital marks a new era in the level of care available to patients in the tri-state area.

“We have an extraordinary number of families affected by Duchenne living on Long Island or in the New York City area, and until now, they’ve had to travel quite a distance, even out of state, to access optimal Duchenne care,” said Rachel Schrader, Vice President of Clinical Care and Education at Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. “We are thrilled to add Stony Brook Children’s Hospital to our growing CDCC network not only because of the amazing work they are doing, but because of the access to care it creates for so many families.”

The Duchenne program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital is led by program director Dr. Peter Morelli, neuromuscular specialist Dr. Simona Treidler and PNP coordinator Dawn Dawson.

“Treatment to improve mobility and to delay the onset of symptoms, requires a wide variety of treatments and specialist care,” says Dr. Morelli. “At Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, we provide individualized coordinated care for each family across all medical disciplines, to minimize the stress associated with complex disease management, and to enable a faster and more efficient dissemination of information among all involved clinicians and our families.”

For more information, visit stonybrookchildrens.org/specialties-services/clinical-programs/duchenneMD.