Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
A half century after the vaccine against measles was introduced in 1963, the life-threatening disease has been eliminated in the U.S. but remains a global threat, claiming the lives of 430 children – 18 every hour – every day. The international presence of measles is of domestic concern as well, putting families who choose not to have their children vaccinated at risk of exposure if they encounter an infected person who brought the disease from another country. More from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
In an article published on December 5 by JAMA Pediatrics, CDC’s Mark J. Papania, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues report that United States measles elimination, announced in 2000, has been sustained through 2011. Elimination is defined as absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months. Dr. Papania and colleagues warn, however, that international importation continues, and that American doctors should suspect measles in children with high fever and rash, “especially when associated with international travel or international visitors,” and should report suspected cases to the local health department. Before the U.S. vaccination program started in 1963, measles was a year-round threat in this country. Nearly every child became infected; each year 450 to 500 people died each year, 48,000 were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness.
People infected abroad continue to spark outbreaks among pockets of unvaccinated people, including infants and young children. It is still a serious illness: 1 in 5 children with measles is hospitalized. Usually there are about 60 cases per year, but 2013 saw a spike in American communities – some 175 cases and counting – virtually all linked to people who brought the infection home after foreign travel.
“A measles outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “The steady arrival of measles in the United States is a constant reminder that deadly diseases are testing our health security every day. Someday, it won’t be only measles at the international arrival gate; so, detecting diseases before they arrive is a wise investment in U.S. health security.
Image: Child getting a vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
The vaccine against pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough, has been perplexing researchers who are observing that it’s less effective than anticipated at halting the spread of the disease. 2012 was the worst whooping cough outbreak in 50 years, and the continued presence of the disease is troubling, especially as many families choose not to have their children vaccinated–or to get Tdap booster shots themselves.
A new study by the Food and Drug Administration may be onto the reason why even in communities with high vaccination rates, whooping cough can appear and spread. More from NBC News:
The research suggests that while the vaccine may keep people from getting sick, it doesn’t prevent them from spreading whooping cough — also known as pertussis — to others.
“It could explain the increase in pertussis that we’re seeing in the U.S.,” said one of the researchers, Tod Merkel of the Food and Drug Administration.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that can strike people of any age but is most dangerous to children. It was once common, causing hundreds of thousands of illnesses annually and thousands of deaths. But after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, cases dropped to fewer than 5,000 a year.
The vaccine was replaced in the 1990s because of side effects that included pain and swelling from the shot and fever. The newer vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations as well as adult booster shots.
But cases have rebounded. Last year was the nation’s worst year for whooping cough in six decades — U.S. health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths.
This year hasn’t been half as bad — about 20,000 reported illnesses, including six deaths so far. Whooping cough ebbs and flows in cycles, so experts aren’t surprised to see cases recede. But 20,000 can still be seen as a lot when a widely used vaccine is supposed to protect the public.
Image: Child coughing, via Shutterstock
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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
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Thursday, October 31st, 2013
A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reports that children should receive flu shots because seasonal influenza can be life-threatening even in children without known risk factors. The study found that 830 children died between 2004 and 2012, and that 43 percent of those children had no risk factors or immune issues at the time of their death. More from The New York Times:
Recommendations for vaccination changed over the period, but since 2008, the C.D.C. has recommended a flu shot for everyone 6 months or older.
Of the 511 children whose vaccination status was known, 84 percent had not had a flu shot. In the 2009-10 flu season, when 66 children with a known vaccination status died, 64 of them were unvaccinated.
Death often came quickly: most of the children died within a week of the appearance of symptoms, and a third of them died outside the hospital or in an emergency room.
“A lot of parents don’t think of flu as being very serious, especially if their child is healthy” said the lead author, Dr. Karen K. Wong, a medical officer with the C.D.C. “But this study shows that even healthy children are at risk, and that’s why it’s important for every child to get vaccinated.”
Image: Baby receiving a flu shot, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
Efforts by public health officials to encourage families to have their children vaccinated against seasonal flu appear to be paying off, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that more children than ever received the vaccine in the 2012-2013 season. More from Time.com:
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The researchers say the increase is encouraging for this year’s numbers as well.
Last season, 56.6% of kids between the ages 6 months to 17-years-old were vaccinated, a 5.1% increase from the year prior. Smaller — but still notable — increases were seen among adult populations too, which were up 2.7%. Overall, 45% of the U.S. population got a flu shot last year.
Although rates are up across the board, there are some disparities among ethnic and racial groups. However, the traditional ethnic and racial disparities were not seen among U.S. children.
The numbers were announced during a press conference with Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Assistant Surgeon General.
The increases are remarkable because they indicate that public health messaging is getting through to the right groups. The U.S. made a universal recommendation in 2010 that everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccines. But that doesn’t mean the push for more vaccinating will relax. “Despite substantial progress, we can do even more to make our country healthier through prevention. Flu vaccination should represent a simple investment we make year in and year out to maximize the gift of health,” said Dr. Koh.