Articles Posted in Vaccinations

samoa1-300x300The distant nation of Samoa may have more to offer the United States than prominent athletes and warm Pacific Islander culture. Its deadly experiences with a raging outbreak of an infectious disease underscore a timely and important message: Vaccinations matter and we should all get them.

A confluence of unfortunate events has led to a measles epidemic in Samoa, news organizations reported, with more than 40 deaths and 3,000 illnesses among the nation’s 200,000 people. Schools and colleges have been shut due to the illness.

International health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are flying in medical experts to assist with the dangerous and growing epidemic, which has hit children on the island hard.

clostridioides_difficile_369x285-300x232Federal officials have put out some scary new findings about the state of patients’ health in the 21st century: Superbugs may be more common and potent than previously believed. And we may now have plummeted into what experts are calling the perilous “post-antibiotic age.”

This all amounts to far more than a hypothetical menace. It could affect you if you get, for instance, a urinary tract infection. Or if you undergo a surgery, say, for a joint replacement or a C-section. Depending where and how you live, you may see the significance of this health problem if you contract tuberculosis or some sexually transmitted diseases.

As the news website Vox reported of the startling new information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Every 15 minutes, one person in the U.S. dies because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer treat effectively.”

azarshot-300x169It’s an imperfect predictor, health officials concede. Still, a nasty season of infections Down Under has increased the urgency of their recommendations to the U.S. public to get the annual flu shot before Halloween and certainly before everyone sits down for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although concern already had been growing about bad months ahead in the United States for flu, an early and “fairly severe” season in Australia has increased officials’ worries, the New York Times reported.

That’s because the Aussies, while not a 100% reliable bellwether, showed the more populous States about flu severity as recently as last season, according to Donald G. McNeil Jr., who has reported on disease outbreaks in more than 60 countries for the New York Times. He wrote this:

totshot-300x200The weather may be sunny and temperate, the seasonal foliage a slowly changing delight to behold. But the savvy are prepping for sterner days ahead. It’s that time of year when doctors and public health officials urge us all to get that annual flu shot.

It’s never easy to forecast the severity with which influenza will sweep the country. But early indications — including a child’s death already attributed to the illness — suggest this may be a bad year for the bug.

Don’t downplay the harms of this all-too-common sickness: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were as many as 43 million flu illnesses in this nation in the 2018-19 season, with more than 20 million cases serious enough to cause patients to seek medical care. The CDC says there were as many as 647,000 hospitalizations and up to 61,200 flu-related deaths. That toll included more than 100 children killed by flu.

A key feature of great civilizations is that they strive to prevent outbreaks of deadly contagious diseases. So it’s more than worrisome that measles is making what the World Health Organization calls a “dramatic resurgence” in Europe.

Measles, an entirely preventable disease, has in a single year doubled the number of its cases in four European nations, including Great Britain, in the first half of 2019: 90,000 cases versus 44,000 in 2018. Measles has come back with such force that the countries no longer may be considered as having eliminated the infection.

This is a continental meance, too, as the New York Times reported:

beaumonthospital-300x115When doctors become medical outliers, shouldn’t hospitals, colleagues, insurers, and the rest of us ask how and why an individual practitioner diverges so much from the way others provide care?

Olga Khazan details for the Atlantic magazine the disturbing charges involving Yasser Awaad, a pediatric neurologist at a hospital in Dearborn, Mich. As she describes him, for a decade he racked up hundreds of cases in which he is accused by patients of “intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay.” Khazan says his case “shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain.”

In the malpractice cases that are unfolding against him, Awaad’s pay has become a central issue, with evidence showing his hospital contract rewarded him for boosting the number of screenings he ordered and diagnoses he made. Jurors have been told that Awaad, whose salary increased from 1997 to 2007 from $185,000 annually to $300,000, “turned that EEG machine into an ATM.” He earned bonuses exceeding $200,000, if he hit billing targets.

pretomanid-300x122Rare good news on destructive infections is emerging from Africa: Medical scientists, Good Samaritans, and public health officials are hailing the successes of powerful new therapies in treating a deadly and extremely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis and Ebola, a killer viral hemorrhagic fever that spreads like wildfire.

Americans may skip over dispatches about these “foreign” news developments. They would be wise not to do so, because they have heightened importance these days, domestically, including in providing key lessons to be learned about how to safeguard the public health.

The TB care that is winning great attention overseas requires patients to take three drugs in a regimen in which they take five pills a day for six months. That already is a boon compared with other, now common therapies in which they might need 40 pills a day for as long as two years, or daily antibiotics shots with bad side effects like deafness, kidney failure, and psychosis.

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With children  in tow and emotions cranked to the max, parents from coast to coast have protested officials’ efforts to protect the public’s health by requiring children to be immunized against contagious and infectious diseases that can cause great harm. A cornerstone of the vaccination resistance has been its proponents push to portray themselves as a grass-roots movement of independent individuals fighting medical overreach by the state.

But the Washington Post, as part of its coverage of the nation’s most severe outbreak of measles in three decades (more than 1,000 cases with just half the year over), reported that Bernard Selz, a philanthropic Manhattan hedge fund manager, and his wife, Lisa, have given more than $3 million to groups that oppose vaccination. This has allowed individuals associated with the groups to organize vaccination opponents, giving them leaders to coalesce around and an out-sized voice in public controversies over kids and shots.

Selz money has gone to Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who brought professional disgrace on himself and who had his medical license in his home country stripped over falsehoods he spread through a since-retracted article in a medical journal purporting to link vaccine shots to autism — a claim not only unsupported but debunked repeatedly by rigorous, published, follow-on research.

um-seal-300x300Just as the nation grapples with the worst measles outbreak in a quarter century, the University of Maryland and public health officials are drawing fire for the way they handled the strange confluence of mold infections in dorms and the spread of an contagious virus among students on the College Park campus.

The university and its advisers tried to keep a lid on public information about the dual problems, leading students and parents to assail the school and to blame its sluggish response and silence for the death of an immune-compromised coed.

Her death late last year — following the fall heat-stroke fatality involving Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old football player — has renewed concerns that the university and its staff may lack the expertise, training, and sensitivity to protect vulnerable young people, the Washington Post reported as part of its investigation of the confused health scenario involving Olivia Shea Paregol.

lameasles-300x225Almost two decades after public health officials declared them eradicated from this nation’s children, measles infections have returned with a vengeance to the United States, rising to the highest level in almost two decades, with hundreds of cases in almost two dozen states, and the incidences climbing still.

The outbreaks have been concentrated in New York, in Brooklyn in a religious community, and in Washington state. But authorities have taken aggressive steps, including quarantine orders for hundreds of students and staff on two big college campuses across town from each other (UCLA and Cal State, LA), to ensure that the disease is contained and does not spread in Los Angeles.

Alex Azar, who heads the federal Health and Human Services Department, said in a statement about the familiar infection: “Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease. We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

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