Stories tagged measles

Jan
14
2009

A new law in New Jersey and a new book brings vaccines into the news again. A New Jersey law now requires parents to get influenza vaccine for their preschool age children as well as other vaccines for their older school age children. For more detailed information read this article in the New York Times or review the requirements on the New Jersey Department of Health website.

I have to say that as a parent of small children, I want to know that the children they hang-out with all day have been vaccinated. Vaccines don't always produce the intended immunity and I don't want them getting sick with anything more serious than the usual infections. Actually I don't want them to get sick at all - but I can't control everything.

A new book written by Paul Offit, a pediatrician, called Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure defends vaccines. The book traces the history of autism theories and is widely supported by by pediatricians, autism researchers, vaccine companies and medical journalists. See this article for more information about the book. It sounds like it could be a great resource. We need to remember how bad some of these diseases are that we are trying to prevent. Many children have died from infectious diseases - I'm happy we can prevent many of them.

Apr
07
2008

Measles rash: This young boy has a 3 day old rash caused by the measles virus.
Measles rash: This young boy has a 3 day old rash caused by the measles virus.Courtesy CDC PHIL #1152

Recently, twelve people were diagnosed with measles in San Diego, another nine in Pima County Arizona. In Salzburg, Austria 180 people have been infected during a recent outbreak. Thankfully there haven’t been any deaths from these latest outbreaks.

People in Nigeria’s northern Katsina state have not been as lucky. At the moment they are facing a measles epidemic which has killed nearly two hundred children in the past three months, and infected thousands.

What’s going on?
It seams that parents, for a variety of reasons, are fearful of giving their children vaccinations. For nearly everyone, the measles vaccination is safe and effective and if you want more information about the vaccine click here. Measles outbreaks aren’t very common in the U.S., fewer than 100 per year. But in the pre-vaccine era, 3-4 million measles cases occurred every year in the US. This resulted in approximately 450 deaths, 28,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 children with chronic disabilities from measles encephalitis each year. These two outbreaks in the US serve as a reminder that unvaccinated people remain at risk for measles and that measles spreads rapidly without proper controls.

According to the WHO, around the world measles still kills 250,000 people each year. Most of these deaths occur in undeveloped nations where people don’t have access to vaccinations and healthcare. But it appears the problem in both Austria and Nigeria are unvaccinated children. In Nigeria many parents are afraid to vaccinate as reported in the VOA:

Katsina state's director of disease control, Halliru Idris, tells VOA that the outbreak is mostly affecting young people who have not been immunized. "I can tell you that over 95 percent of all the children that have measles are those whose parents have not allowed them to receive immunization," he said.
A handful of radical Islamic clerics instigated a boycott of infant vaccinations in northern Nigeria in 2003 and 2004, alleging that immunization was a western ploy to render Muslim girls infertile. Though the dispute has been resolved, parents still tend to avoid immunization.

In Austria officials fear that school administrators at the private school where the outbreak began advised parents against vaccinating their students. An investigation is ongoing.

So what should we do?
In Iowa the public health response to one imported measles case cost approximately $150,000. Should parents who choose not to vaccinate their children be responsible for these expenses? How do we balance personal choice and the good of the community?

The Pan American Health Organization is so alarmed that it has warned fans from the Americas to get immunised before leaving for Germany. New Scientist magazine

Feb
04
2005

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found a way to use measles to fight cancer.

Viruses are parasites. To reproduce, they seek out sites on a healthy cell, get inside, and then take over the host's cellular machinery. For years, researchers dreamed of using viruses to hijack cancer cells.

The Mayo team knew that measles kills most cancer cells, too. But to use the virus as an anti-cancer treatment, they had to change the virus so it wouldn't attack healthy cells. They eliminated the virus's ability to bind to its natural receptors, and retargeted it to zero in on ovarian cancer cells.

In lab animals implanted with human cancer cells, the virus hunted down and destroyed only infected cells. Clinical trials on patients with ovarian cancer began last summer, but it will be at least three years before the treatment is approved for use in hospitals.