Friday, June 27th, 2014
Believe it or not, flu season isn’t as far away as it seems, and now there’s good news for kids who hate getting an annual flu shot (and that would be all of them, right?): According to experts from the Centers for Disease Control, the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is better at preventing the illness in kids ages 2 to 8. More from Time:
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of experts that makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control for which vaccines children and adults should get, voted to recommend the spray over the shot late Wednesday. The panel said studies show children who had the spray are half as likely to get the flu as those who had the shot.
So far, there is only one nasal spray flu vaccine available — AstraZeneca’s FluMist, which was approved in 2003 for people ages 2 to 49.
The spray differs from the needle-based vaccine in another important way — it’s made from a live, weakened influenza virus, while the shot drums up an immune response using killed virus. Studies have shown the spray can lead to a stronger immune response in children who have not had the flu before, but the same may not hold true for adults.
Of course, it’s important to note that the nasal spray version of the vaccine isn’t recommended for all kids (or adults, for that matter), so ask your pediatrician which version of the vaccine is best for your child.
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Thursday, June 26th, 2014
The obesity rate among American kids may actually be higher than the 18 percent of children the Centers for Disease Control currently classifies as obese, according to an analysis published in the journal Pediatric Obesity. As many as 25 percent of obese or overweight kids may not be counted because the tally is based on the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that researchers say is flawed because children’s height and weight change rapidly as they grow–and not always in proportion with each other.
More from The Wall Street Journal:
“BMI is not capturing everybody who needs to be labeled as obese,” said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, director of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who headed the study with Asma Javed, a pediatric endocrinology fellow.
Measuring body-mass index is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to screen for obesity among large groups of people, such as children in a school setting. A problem is that BMI, a calculation based on a person’s height and weight, isn’t well suited to children because their height and weight don’t proportionally increase as they grow, said Ruth Loos, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who wasn’t involved with the Mayo study.
“It doesn’t mean that we cannot use BMI in childhood but it requires extra caution,” she said.
Other recent research has linked everything from sleep deprivation to weight-based name calling with an elevated risk of childhood obesity. Research released earlier this year had claimed a significant drop in the childhood obesity rate in the U.S., but subsequent research actually showed a sharp increase in the number of severely obese kids.
Image: Scale, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
The number of women who are having labor medically induced before their due dates is on the decline, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–good news for the health of babies who may face risks if born prematurely. The rate of premature Cesarean sections is also falling, the CDC found. More from US News:
Rates of induced labor declined across the board since 2006 for expectant mothers at 35 to 38 weeks of gestation, with the greatest decline at 38 weeks, researchers with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found.
This is good news for the health of these babies, who can face serious health problems when delivered preterm, said Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes.
Babies born early are 1.5 to two times more likely to die during their first year of life, compared to babies delivered following a full term of 39 weeks or more, he said.
“There’s this feeling that we’ve done so well with our premature babies, we’ve been seduced by the advances and think it’s safe to induce delivery early,” McCabe said. “We’ve ignored the fact that there are significant risks of illness and death in late preterm and early term babies.”
The largest decline in induced labor occurred for early term births at 37 to 38 weeks, which fell 12 percent between 2006 and 2012, the CDC reports. Late preterm births at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation declined by 4 percent.
This decrease comes at a time when medical societies are raising concerns about unnecessary early deliveries.
The rate of induced labor more than doubled between 1990 and 2010, from nearly 10 percent of births to just under 24 percent. While some of these induced births were needed to preserve the life of mother and child, many also occurred to better fit the birth into the busy schedules of the parents or the doctor, McCabe said.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend induced deliveries prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy without a clear medical reason.
Image: Woman in delivery room, via Shutterstock
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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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