Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared polio to be an international health emergency, with ten countries affected by documented outbreak and spreading of the disease. More from Time.com:
Especially concerning was the fact that three countries—Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon—showed higher rates of transmission of wild polio virus to other nations even during the disease’s more dormant period. That raises the possibility that when the virus becomes more active, from April into the summer, transmission rates will peak even more. “If the situation as of today and April 2014 is unchecked, it could result in the failure to eradicate globally one of the world’s most serious vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr. Bruce Ayleward, WHO’s assistant director general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration said during a conference call.
The emergency measures require that residents in the three countries actively exporting polio virus receive a dose of either of the two polio vaccines four weeks-to-12 months before traveling, and that they be provided with proof of their immunization. The remaining seven affected countries are encouraged, but not required, to do the same. The WHO recommended these measures remain in place until countries show no new transmission of polio for six months and evidence of eradication efforts, including immunization programs. While not legally binding, the cooperation of affected countries is expected, Ayleward said. The WHO’s action may also help governments to make polio immunization a priority; in 2009, a similar declaration during the H1N1 pandemic allowed nations to prioritize health care services to protect and treat patients affected by the flu.
Health officials have been getting closer to making polio the second disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated by vaccinating children in countries where the wild virus continues to circulate. But social unrest and political conflict have interrupted immunization programs—some health workers have become targets of violence in Pakistan, for example, while growing populations of displaced residents such as refugees who are without access to health care services also provide fertile conditions for the virus to spread. Seven of the 10 countries now reporting wild polio virus have been successful at eliminating the disease in the past, but have been reinfected in recent years.
Download our free pocket guide to keep track of your little one’s vaccination schedule.
Add a Comment
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children–or who have decided against vaccination–are not likely to be swayed by awareness programs meant to educate parents about the importance of giving kids vaccines against preventible diseases like measles and mumps. The programs, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics, can actually make parents express more reservations about vaccines. More from Reuters:
The study’s lead author told Reuters Health that the research is an extension of his work in political science that found it is difficult to correct people’s misinformation.
“We found political misinformation is often very difficult to correct and giving people the correct information can backfire,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“We were interested in seeing if the messages public health agencies were putting out were effective,” he said.
Specifically, Nyhan and his colleagues examined public health campaigns about the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Although national U.S. MMR vaccination rates are high, the researchers write in Pediatrics that there are states where the rate dips below 90 percent, which is a commonly used threshold for so-call herd immunity. Herd immunity is the point where high vaccination rates within a population may also offer protection to the unvaccinated.
They also write that maintaining high levels of MMR vaccination is important because of the increasing number of measles cases reported in the U.S. and recent outbreaks in the UK. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to death.
Another study published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers in the same journal found that vaccinating U.S. kids born in 2009 according to the routine immunization schedule will save about $70 billion and prevent over 40,000 early deaths and over 20 million cases of disease.
Image: Vaccine, via Shutterstock
Is your child too sick for school? Bookmark this super-fast quiz for the next time you’re unsure.
Add a Comment
Monday, February 24th, 2014
At least 15 cases of measles have been reported in California since January 1 of this year, a marked increase from the same time last year, by which time only two cases had been documented. More from UPI:
Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of California Department of Public Health in Sacramento said the cases occurred throughout California.
“Immunization is the best defense against measles, with 99 percent of persons developing immunity after two doses,” Chapman said in a statement. “With an outbreak in the Philippines and measles transmission ongoing in many parts of the world outside of North and South America, we can expect to see more imported cases of this vaccine-preventable disease.”
Imported cases can spread to the community, especially among unvaccinated persons, including infants too young to be vaccinated, Chapman said.
High immunization rates in California have kept preventable childhood diseases, such as measles, at record lows during the past 20 years.
In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, but the number of cases per year in California ranged from four to 40 cases due to infected visitors or unvaccinated Americans visiting countries where measles still occurs.
Among the California cases with measles onset in 2014, three traveled to the Philippines, where a large outbreak is occurring, and two traveled to India, where measles is endemic, Chapman said.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread through the air when someone who is ill with the disease coughs or sneezes.
It is recommended children get their first dose of MMR — measles, mumps, rubella — vaccine at 12 to 15 months. The second dose of MMR is usually administered before children start kindergarten at ages 4 to 6. Immunized adults do not need boosters.
Image: Baby being vaccinated, via Shuterstock
Keep track of Baby’s vaccinations with our helpful schedule.
Add a Comment
Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
A single dose of the vaccine against human papillomavirus, a leading cause of cervical cancer, may be enough to immunize a woman against the disease, a new study has found. Three doses are the current guideline, though research shows that fewer than half of American girls receive the recommended number of doses. More from CNN.com:
“Cervical cancer is a major cause of public health concern, especially in less developed countries where about 85% of cervical cancer occurs,” says study author Mahboobeh Safaeian. “The reason for that is mainly because of lack of screening infrastructure offered.”
Safaeian and her team followed a group of women in Costa Rica who were participating in the National Cancer Institute-funded phase III clinical trial testing the efficacy of Cervarix. About 20% of these women did not complete the three-dose vaccine regimen. Safaeian compared the groups of women who had received one, two and three doses of the vaccine, as well as women who had antibodies from having been naturally infected.
The researchers found that women vaccinated with a single dose of Cervarix, as opposed to the current CDC recommendation of three, had antibodies against HPV that remained stable in their blood after four years. The findings suggest that the common recommendation for three doses may not be necessary to ensure long-lasting antibodies that prevent HPV. Safaeian, a researcher for the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Infections and Immunoepidemiology, says this could have significant implications for women across the world by simplifying the logistics and costs of vaccinations.
“This vaccine is about $130 a dose … It’s just not feasible in a lot of undeveloped countries,” Safaeian explains.
Image: Girl getting a vaccine, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Friday, September 6th, 2013
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is on track to sicken more people in Texas than have been affected in the past 50 years, prompting health officials in the state to urge that parents vaccinate their children–and make sure their own vaccines are up to date. More from CNN:
The threat grows when one considers that scientists estimate 10 cases of pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, occur for every one that is reported, she said in a telephone interview, adding, “We’re clearly having an epidemic.”
So far this year, Texas has tallied nearly 2,000 cases, two of them fatal, and the total is expected to exceed the 3,358 recorded in 2009, when the last such outbreak occurred, the Department of State Health Services said.
There does not appear to be any single explanation for the spike, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the department. “It really looks like several things working together,” he said in a telephone interview, noting that outbreaks tend to occur in cycles. “We see a peak and a lot of people will be exposed and develop natural immunity,” leading to fewer cases, he said. “Then it wears off and it (the number of cases) will go up again.”
The numbers are a little squishy in the outbreak, in which cases have not been focused on any one area, he said. Awareness has increased and diagnostic tests have improved in recent years, meaning doctors may be identifying more cases than they used to, he said.
But there is no debate about the seriousness of the disease. As many as two in 100 adolescents and five in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, including pneumonia and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal health agency recommends that women get the vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between the 27th and 36th week — since an estimated 30% to 40% of babies who contract whooping cough get it from their mothers — and that their children undergo a series of five pertussis vaccinations beginning at 2 months of age.
That first shot is to be followed by injections at 4 months and 6 months, and boosters at 15 to 18 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age so that children’s immunity will be robust during the first months of life, when they are most vulnerable. Both of the Texas fatalities were younger than 2 months.
“We want to make sure that they are getting the immunizations on that schedule so that the waning immunity won’t be as much of an issue,” Van Deusen said.
Image: Child receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment