Archive for April, 2012

Immunization saves lives (World Immunization Week 2012)

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 (last updated)

Immunization saves between 2 and 3 million lives each year. Vaccines are relatively inexpensive and extremely powerful weapons against disease, disability and death. They protect people of all ages, from babies to senior citizens, against life-threatening diseases. For the first time ever, from 21-28 April, countries across the world are participating in a World Immunization Week sponsored by the World Health Organization, to raise awareness on how immunization saves lives and to make sure that the poorest and hardest to reach communities get the vaccinations they need to protect their health.


Herd Thinking

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 (last updated)

Herd Thinking

Scientific American

CDC: 2011 was worst measles year in US in 15 years

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 (last updated)

Last year was the worst year for measles in the U.S. in 15 years, health officials said Thursday.
There were 222 cases of measles, a large jump from the 60 or so seen in a typical year. Most of the cases last year were imported — either by foreign visitors or by U.S. residents who picked up the virus overseas.
U.S. children have been getting vaccinated against the measles for about 50 years. But low vaccination rates in Europe and other places resulted in large outbreaks overseas last year.
So far this year, 27 U.S. cases have been reported and it’s too early to gauge whether 2012 will be as bad as last year. But with large international events like the London Olympics coming up, health officials are urging everyone — particularly international travelers — to make sure they’re fully vaccinated.
“For those of you traveling abroad, bring back memories and not measles,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Generally, the Americans who got measles last year were not vaccinated. At least two-thirds of the U.S. cases fell into that category, including 50 children whose parents got philosophical, religious or medical exemptions to skip the school vaccinations required by most states, CDC officials said.
The vaccine is considered very effective but a few vaccinated people still get infected.
Measles is highly contagious. The virus spreads easily through the air, and in closed rooms, infected droplets can linger for up to two hours after the sick person leaves.
It causes a fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. In rare cases, measles can be deadly, and is particularly dangerous for children. Infection can also cause pregnant women to have a miscarriage or premature birth.
No measles deaths were reported in the U.S. last year; the last one occurred in 2003. But about a third of the 2011 cases were hospitalized, and one child was touch-and-go for about a week before finally recovering, one CDC official said.
Officials traced 200 of last year’s 222 cases to measles in another country, said Schuchat, director of the CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases. The largest outbreak was in the Minneapolis area where 21 cases were traced to a child who got sick after a trip to Kenya.
The last time the United States had more measles was in 1996, when 508 cases were reported.
Before the vaccine was available, nearly all children got measles by their 15th birthday and epidemics cycled through the nation every two to three years — generally peaking in the late winter or spring. In those days, about 450 to 500 Americans died from measles each year.
Two doses of a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine are recommended for all children, including a first dose given around a child’s first birthday and a second dose around the time of preschool. These vaccinations are believed to last for a lifetime. Children as young as 6 months can get a first dose if they’re going to a country with measles outbreaks, health officials say.

Measles cases in the US hit a 15-year high in 2011


Vaccinations have no link to autism

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 (last updated)

The idea got a foothold in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield had an article published in a British medical journal called The Lancet that suggested a link between vaccinations with the ingredient thimerosal and autism. The article and the author have since been discredited.

Wakefield manipulated the data and misreported the results. It turns out Wakefield was working for a law firm looking to sue the manufacturer of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and so had a financial interest in creating false information on the MMR vaccines that existed in Britain at the time. The law firm in question was, in turn, working for a company that had developed their own MMR vaccine.

In May 2010 the General Medical Council (the group that regulates and licenses doctors in the United Kingdom) found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct over unethical research and was banned from practicing medicine in England after investigating the research into the article. The Lancet retracted the article saying the statements of the article were “utterly false.”

The scientific community has since investigated the matter since and in October 2010 the medical journal Pediatrics published a study showing no connection between vaccinations and autism. In it they concluded “Prenatal and early-life exposure to ethylmercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immunoglobulin preparations was not related to increased risk of autism spectrum disorder. (Price, Thompson 4)

You can’t find a credible public health export that doesn’t support vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control’s immunization safety director Frank Stefano told WebMD: “I don’t think there is much worthwhile to study anymore with regard to thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.”

Vaccinations are not linked to autism and as such misinformation about any such link is irresponsible and dangerous. It leads to lower rates of immunization and as Bill Gates recently told CNN the anti-vaccination campaign “kills children.” For example, in the Soviet Union diphtheria was virtually eliminated but anti-vaccination myths caused the immunization to be suspended and from 1993-1997 resulting in more than 5,000 deaths from the disease. The death rates dropped again after immunization was reestablished.

As a parent of a child with autism I certainly understand the challenges other parents of children with autism face. I also understand the frustration and the need for an explanation for my child’s disability but vaccinations work and they do not cause children to have autism.

Bryan Johnson – Albert Lea Tribune

Investing in Immunisation – A Parliament Magazine

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 (last updated)

Investing in Immunisation – A Parliament Magazine Click here


Brain tumor vaccine shows promise in early clinical trial

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 (last updated)

A vaccine made from brain cancer patients’ own tumor cells led to a nearly 50 percent improvement in survival times for those stricken with glioblastoma multiforme, the same malignancy that claimed the life of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a new study suggests.
A phase 2 multicenter trial of about 40 patients with recurrent glioblastoma — an aggressive brain cancer that typically kills patients within 15 months of diagnosis — showed that the vaccine safely increased average survival to nearly 48 weeks, compared with about 33 weeks among patients who didn’t receive the treatment. The six-month survival rate was 93 percent for the vaccinated group, compared with 68 percent for 86 other glioblastoma patients, who were treated with other therapies.
“We’ve done a lot of things for this kind of tumor in the last 40 or 50 years, all variations on different chemotherapies that haven’t really panned out,” said Dr. Jonas Sheehan, director of neuro-oncology at the Penn State Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study. “What we’ve known needed to happen for a while now is a revolution — a totally new way of approaching these tumors. This is an example of a totally new paradigm.”
The study is scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), in Miami.
About a quarter of the 18,500 brain tumors diagnosed each year are glioblastomas, which are more common in men and typically occur between the ages of 50 and 70, according to the AANS. Kennedy died of the malignancy in 2009, 15 months after his diagnosis. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among the standard treatment options.
The vaccine used in the trial, known as HSPPC-96, was created with tumor cells from patients who had undergone surgery to remove as much tumor as possible. The vaccine was then injected into their bodies to induce an immune response against the tumor, said lead investigator Dr. Andrew Parsa, vice chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco. Side effects among participants were minimal.
“It’s the concept of chronic therapy, to turn this into a chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes,” said Parsa, who noted that no drug companies funded the study. “It’s the only therapy in the clinical realm that has a reasonable chance of doing this, because we can’t give patients chemotherapy [because of toxicity] for unlimited amounts of time.”
Parsa said the vaccine’s impact, if validated with a randomized study in the near future, could be a “total game-changer.”
Added Sheehan: “The hope is that we’ll go from a survival of 15 months to a meaningful difference. We’re looking to go from 15 months to five years, a quantum leap forward.”
Because this study was to be presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

US News & 7 News

European Immunization Week: 21 to 27 April 2012

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 (last updated)

The seventh European Immunization Week (EIW) will be held 21-27 April 2012.
European Immunization Week promotes the core message that immunization of every child is vital to prevent diseases and protect life. The slogan – Prevent. Protect. Immunize – carries this message across the Region. The goal of European Immunization Week is to increase vaccination coverage by raising awareness of the importance of immunization.

European Immunization WeekClick here

Health Protection Agency reports continued increase in whooping cough cases

Monday, April 16th, 2012 (last updated)

665 laboratory confirmed cases of whooping cough have been reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in England and Wales between January and March 2012, compared to total of 1,040 cases across the whole of 2011.
The increase – continuing from the second half of 2011 – has been reported across all regions in England with some areas reporting clusters in schools, universities and healthcare settings.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. However over the last few months the increase has extended to very young children who have the highest risk of severe complications and death.
Whooping cough in older people can be an unpleasant illness but does not usually lead to serious complications. The main symptoms of whooping cough are severe coughing fits which, in babies and children, are accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound as the child gasps for breath after coughing.
The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading further but young infants may need hospital care due to the risk of severe complications.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA said: “Whooping cough can be a very unpleasant infection. Anyone showing signs and symptoms – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children and adults – should visit their GP.
“Whooping cough can spread easily to close contacts such as household members. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect people from this infection and uptake of the vaccine is very good..Parents should ensure their children are up to date with their vaccinations so that they are protected at the earliest opportunity. The pre-school booster is also important, not only to boost protection in that child but also to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on to vulnerable babies, as those under four months cannot be fully protected by the vaccine.

“The HPA has written to GPs to remind them of the signs and symptoms of this infection and stress the importance of vaccination. The agency is also encouraging GPs to report cases quickly and to make them aware of the HPA’s guidance to help reduce the spread of the infection.” The HPA is also reminding parents to ensure their children are protected against measles due to a slight increase in cases since the beginning of the year. So far, 253 laboratory confirmed measles cases have been reported to the agency in 2012 compared to 200 cases reported for the same period last year. The majority of cases have been in unvaccinated individuals.Dr Ramsay continued: “As we approach the time of year when many children are travelling on school trips and family holidays, we are again urging parents to protect their children against measles by ensuring they have been immunised with two doses of MMR. This is particularly important given the increase in cases in children and young adults over the last few months. The continued outbreak in the Merseyside area is a clear demonstration that measles can be a very serious illness. “Measles is a highly infectious which spreads very easily particularly in schools and universities. It’s never too late to get your child immunised with two doses of the MMR vaccine. We cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk.”

Health Protection Agency

Easing baby pain after vaccine shots

Sunday, April 15th, 2012 (last updated)

For most parents – even the strongest believers in the benefits of vaccines – anticipating how their newborns’ facial expressions will turn from curious to shock before they burst into tears from the needle stick, can make the next well-baby check-up something they would love to skip.
But doctors at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia, have found an easy way – actually five easy ways – to help calm a baby’s pain (and anxiety), without any medication.
It’s called the “5 S’s”:  swaddling (tightly wrapping a baby in a blanket almost like a burrito), side/stomach position, shushing sounds, swinging and sucking.
If babies were doing four out of five of these “S’s,” they would usually stop crying within 45 seconds after the shot, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Parents aren’t the only ones who are concerned about the pain babies feel when they get vaccine shots. Doctors and nurses – the ones sticking the needles into the little babies – are too.
In the past, doctors would recommend giving an infant some baby Tylenol or Advil, to prevent any possible fever from developing and also to provide pain relief.  But that changed a few years ago when a study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that giving acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol) before or after vaccination actually made the vaccine less effective because fewer antibodies were produced.
Breastfeeding can help reduce pain and calm a child because it gives the infant comforting skin-to-skin contact and distracts the child. Also, mother’s milk contains sugar which is known to have pain-relieving effects.  However, if a mother is no longer breastfeeding or uncomfortable doing so in a pediatrician’s exam room, that’s not really an option.
So the standard of care for helping reduce pain stemming from vaccinations or circumcision or drawing blood has been sugar.
“A lot of neonatologists use sugar for a painful procedure,” says lead study author Dr. John Harrington. “It’s poor medicine not to give sugar before medical procedures because it does work.”
On the other hand Harrington, who is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, says if children keep getting sugar to help relieve pain, that doesn’t help alleviate the obesity problem we have today.
So Harrington was searching for something that would provide a pain-relief alternative.  A guest lecture given by Dr. Harvey Karp, creator of the DVD and book “The Happiest Baby on the Block” gave him the idea for his study.
Karp had found that when parents use the “5 S’s” it triggers a calming reflex in the baby.  Harrington knew many parents found this method to be helpful with colicky babies, so he decided to see how it would work when giving vaccinations in his clinic.
He devised a trial with 230 healthy infants who came to his clinic for regular check-ups at 2- and 4-months of age.  They were divided into four groups:  One group was given 2 millilitres of water 2 minutes before getting the vaccine.
The second group was given 2 millilitres of sugar-water.
The third group was only given the “5 S’s” after the shot.
And the last group was given 2 millilitres of sugar-water before the shot and the “5 S’s” after the vaccination.
At least four of the “5 S’s” had to be completed (babies were not always able to suck on a pacifier because they were either crying too hard, already calming down or unfamiliar with a pacifier.
Harrington and his team thought the sugar solution plus the physical intervention using the “5 S’s” would be most effective.  The study authors reported that “the pain scores and crying time in the group of physical intervention alone were essentially identical and sometimes even lower than the physical intervention with sucrose group.”
Harrington says the babies who only received the sugar solution were still crying 2 minutes after getting the shot.  But most of the babies who got the physical intervention stopped crying by 45 seconds.
“By a minute [following the shot], nobody was crying or making any sort of fuss at all,” he says.
Dr. Karp wasn’t involved in the study but he says this research shows the that the “5 S’s” are twice as effective as sugar, which has been the gold standard up until now.  But he believes Harrington’s study actually underestimates the effectiveness of the “5 S’s” because the sugar-water is given 2 minutes before the shot and the swaddling and swinging etc. didn’t begin until 15 to 30 seconds after the shot.
Karp recommends doctors swaddle the baby before the procedure and just leave the legs exposed (that’s where the injections in young babies are made), thus triggering the calming reflex before the procedure.  He also recommends doctors have a white-noise CD on before the shot is given.  “That will give a much faster [calming] response,” says Karp.  He says white noise is as important as swaddling when it comes to triggering an infants calming reflex and should be used until the baby’s first birthday.
This is the second study that shows how the “5 S’s” help babies, says Karp. “A 2011 Penn State report found the ‘5 S’s’ helped increase infant sleep and reduce infant obesity.”
The study authors acknowledge they tested their hypothesis on more 2-month olds than 4-month olds.  They attribute that to parents being so amazed by the calming effects of swaddling etc. when they came in for the 2-month check-up, they then asked to learn how to do it themselves.  Therefore the number of parents in the test group who didn’t use the “5 S’s” to calm their babies at the next (4-month) visit was very small.  Harrington acknowledges that more research needs to be done to validate his study, but the results show you don’t need a spoon full of sugar to get a vaccination because using the “5 S’s” is more effective.
The real benefit, he says, is that “the parents had learned that they could soothe their child without giving their child sugar or giving medicine.”
If this leads to less stress and anxiety at doctors visits, that doesn’t hurt either.

CNN Health

New Vaccine to Prevent Age-Related Blindness

Thursday, April 12th, 2012 (last updated)

Researchers from Trinity College London have developed a new vaccine that promises to prevent age-related blindness among the elderly, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the major causes of blindness among the elderly and affects more than a quarter of the population over 60 years of age.

The number is expected to treble in the next 25 years but researchers from Trinity College London could have a potential cure on hand after developing a chemical, known as IL-18 that prevents the worsening of AMD also known as “wet” form of the disease.

Dr Sarah Doyle, who worked on the study, said that injecting IL-18 into the retina could prevent the worsening of the disease. Our results directly suggest that controlling or indeed augmenting the levels of IL-18 in the retinas of patients with dry AMD could prevent the wet form of the disease”, she said.

NLRP3 has a protective role in age-related macular degeneration through the induction of IL-18 by drusen componentsClick here

MDIndia & General Health News