Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
Though many parents choose to delay vaccines, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics is linking waiting until after 15 months of age to give kids the measles vaccine might put them at higher risk of developing seizures. More from CNN:
There are many myths about vaccinations floating around the Internet, says Dr. Simon Hambidge. One – that giving vaccinations too close together is unhealthy – has prompted some parents to request that their children receive vaccines on an alternate schedule, Hambidge told CNN in an e-mail.
Hambidge, an expert in pediatric vaccination with Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Health Research Colorado, is lead author of a new study that examines the association between vaccine timing and seizures.
His team found that in the first year of life, there is no relationship between the recommended vaccine schedule and seizures. But delaying the measles vaccine until after a child is 15 months old may raise his or her seizure risk. The study results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“A number of people have claimed that a young child’s immune system is not robust enough to be given multiple vaccines, and that it is safer to ‘spread out’ vaccination,” Hambidge said. “There is no scientific evidence for this, and there is evidence that it is safe and effective to follow the current recommended schedule.”
This year has seen an increase in measles cases, with recent figures putting the number of cases at an 18-year-high.
Image: Baby getting vaccine, via Shutterstock
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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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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.
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Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Kristin Cavallari, a former reality TV star who is expecting her second son, has gone public with her decision to refrain from vaccinating her children, saying she’s “read too many books” about autism and citing “some scary statistics.” Time.com reports:
Former reality star Kristin Cavallari admitted to not vaccinating her son, and not planning to do so, in a Fox Business interview on Thursday. On Friday, she defended her position on “Fox & Friends,” adding that it was not something she planned to come out publicly on, but it just came up in the interview.
“Listen, to each their own,” Cavallari, pregnant with her second son, said. “I understand both sides of it. I’ve ready too many books about autism and there’s some scary statistics out there. It’s our personal choice, and, you know, if you’re really concerned about your kid get them vaccinated.”
The idea that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has long been debunked by science, though it persists in part because of celebrities like Cavallari and, more famously, Jenny McCarthy, who perpetuate the link in interviews and public appearances. Meanwhile, diseases that are preventable through vaccination, like measles and whooping cough, are cropping up again in communities across the country.
A recent study found that efforts to educate the public about the benefits of vaccines are not very effective, especially when parents have already formed negative opinions about the safety of vaccination.
Image: Kristin Cavallari, via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
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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
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