Monday, June 16th, 2014
California’s public health officials have declared an epidemic of whooping cough, the bacterial respiratory infection also called pertussis, in light of a staggering 800 cases of the disease reported in the state over the past two weeks alone. More from CNN:
The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.
This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.
Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis.
The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.
The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.
Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.
That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
All adults should get a Tdap booster, unless you had one as a teenager (after age 11).
The CDC declared 2012 to be the worst year for whooping cough in a half century, blaming inconsistent vaccinations and boosters for at least part of the outbreak.
Find out if your child is too sick for school and shop thermometers.
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Thursday, May 15th, 2014
An outbreak of measles in an Amish community in Ohio has put the national tally of cases at an 18-year-high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease had been considered eradicated, because of effective and widely-used vaccines, in 2000. CNN has more:
The outbreak in Ohio began with a group from Christian Aid Ministries, who went on a mission trip to the Philippines earlier this year, health officials say. Philippines is experiencing a very large measles outbreak; at least 20,000 confirmed and suspected cases have been reported in the Asian nation.
Four people who were on the mission trip became infected, according to Pam Palm, the public information officer for Knox County Health Department, and the disease has since spread to 62 others in the Amish community. Knox County has 40 cases.
Palm said the first few cases were initially misdiagnosed as dengue fever, a testament to how few cases of measles doctors usually see.
“Because of the success of the measles vaccine, many clinicians have never seen measles and may not be able to recognize its features,” Dr. Julia Sammons wrote in a commentary published in April in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Ohio health officials have immunized nearly 800 people with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine since the outbreak began.
“The Amish who are family members and acquaintances of those who now have measles have been extremely cooperative in a willingness to get vaccinated,” Jackie Fletcher, director of nursing for the Knox County Health Department, said in a statement. “And those who currently have measles have been staying home.”
California, another state reporting a high number of measles cases this year, said its outbreak also resulted from people visiting the Philippines.
Visitors may pick up the disease and bring it back to the United States, potentially infecting those who cannot be vaccinated against the measles because they are too young, for example, or who have intentionally remained unvaccinated.
Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 24 found 129 cases of measles in the United States between January 1 to April 18. That’s the highest number of cases recorded for the period since 1996. Some of the Ohio cases were recorded after that reporting period — meaning the total now is undoubtedly higher.
Fletcher said many of the measles patients her staff are seeing are “really sick.” Symptoms usually include fever, cough and conjunctivitis, along with a rash. In rare cases, measles can lead to pneumonia and brain infections, which can be fatal.
Image: Measles warning sign, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 27th, 2014
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:
Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”
The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.
The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.
More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.
“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.
The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.
Help your child track his progress in school.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, March 6th, 2014
The number of babies being born outside of hospitals–either at birthing centers or at home–is on the rise, according to new numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More from Yahoo News:
In 2012, 1.36 percent of all U.S. births occurred outside of hospitals — either at home, or at a birthing center — up from 1.26 percent in 2011, according to the report.
Home and birthing center births have been on the rise since 2004, and the 2012 level is the highest since 1975, the report said.
Out-of-hospital births were more common among white women compared with other races: About 1 in 50 births to white women, or 2 percent, were outside of a hospital, compared to 0.54 percent of births to Asian or Pacific Islander women, 0.49 percent of births to black women and 0.46 percent of births to Hispanic women.
Northwestern states tended to have the highest percentage of home and birthing center births. More than 3 percent of births took place outside of a hospital in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and also in Pennsylvania.
Out-of-hospital births had lower rates of some complications, compared with births that took place in hospitals: The percentage of babies born preterm or at a low birth weight was lower among out-of-hospital births compared to hospital births, according to the report, from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
This finding suggests that women who have a low risk of pregnancy complications (such as preterm birth) are making up a relatively larger proportion of out-of-hospital births than hospital births, the researchers said. In other words, women at higher risk for these complications are appropriately giving birth in hospitals instead of in other settings.
The report comes at a time when home vs. hospital birthing is a highly controversial topic. Recent data, also released by the CDC, found a growing number of infant deaths among babies who are birthed at home.
Need help creating your own birth plan? Download our free planning guide to get started!
Image: Pregnant woman being examined, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Babies who receive a vaccine against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea, may face a small risk of a dangerous intestinal blockage, a new study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. More from NBC News:
But researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the risk is very small and vaccination is still worthwhile. Vaccination “is still very beneficial,” said Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office, who worked on one of the two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Before vaccination was introduced in the U.S. in 2006, rotavirus sent about 200,000 children to the emergency room, put 55,000 to 70,000 in the hospital, and killed 20 to 60 children under 5 years old each year. Vaccination has made a dramatic difference, averting 65,000 hospitalizations from 2007 to 2009, according to CDC estimates.
Two rotavirus vaccines are licensed in the U.S., RotaTeq since 2006 and Rotarix since 2008. In 1999, another vaccine, RotaShield, was voluntarily withdrawn a year after it hit the market because of an association with intussusception, the “telescoping” of one segment of intestine inside another. The blockage that results can tear the intestines.
In a five-year study of Rotarix, DeStefano’s team found 5.3 extra cases of intussusception per 100,000 vaccinated infants. Less than one case would be expected per 100,000 unvaccinated infants.
In a seven-year study of RotaTeq, another group of researchers found 1.5 extra cases of intussusception per 100,000 vaccinated infants. Again, less than one case would be expected per 100,000 unvaccinated infants.
“I would call this a relatively small risk,” said Dr. Katherine Yih, a researcher at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, who led the RotaTeq research. “It’s about one-tenth the additional risk of the original vaccine that was recalled in 1999.”
Image: Baby receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
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