Thursday, March 6, 2014

Measles in California

California has had a lot of bad press in 2014 as vaccine-preventable diseases wreak havoc on citizens. As flu season is coming to a close, California has reported 278 deaths from the flu.

Now, measles, a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus, has arrived in the state. As of late February, fifteen Californians have been diagnosed with measles. Almost half of the cases did not receive a measles childhood vaccine. To date, six counties have reported cases of measles. Last year, there were only two reported measles cases in California.

Health officials are worried that many people could be exposed to the measles virus by one of the sick people. Measles had been eliminated in the United States in 2000, but people can still contract it by visiting a country where it hasn’t been eliminated. In the case of the recent outbreak, three of the measles patients had recently been in the Philippines, two had recently traveled to India, and two had contact with travelers.

“A myth persists among many parents that the measles vaccine is dangerous,” stated California state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez. “These illnesses continue to make a comeback because we have people who refuse to be vaccinated. There’s a tremendous burden to the counties and society.”

Thousands of people who ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit were warned they may have been exposed to measles after an unvaccinated UC Berkeley student contracted the disease on a trip to the Philippines and then rode public transportation.  Symptoms of measles include: rash, fever, runny nose and cough. If it isn’t treated, measles can cause: pneumonia, neurological damage, and birth defects in children if contracted by pregnant women.

It’s important to consult your physician when making vaccination choices. Measles and other diseases are serious threats to public health. When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, the choice can also have implications on the health of others.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Worrying Rise of the Anti-Vaccination Movement

One of the top stories on The Week today is about the worrying rise of the anti-vaccination movement. The sub-titlte reads: "With vaccination rates falling, diseases that once were nearly eradicated are making a comeback."

Here is the article:

Why are vaccination rates falling?
Since the late 1990s, a growing number of American parents have become convinced — against all scientific evidence — that the risks of immunization outweigh the benefits. Their fears are rooted in a now-discredited 1998 study by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that the onset of autism in 12 British children was linked to their being vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). But subsequent studies failed to replicate Wakefield's findings, and an investigation found that his study was "an elaborate fraud," with deliberately falsified data. Nonetheless, Wakefield's bogus study started a wave of apprehension and confusion that continues to spread. In some states, from 5 to 8 percent of parents got a "personal belief" exemption to prevent their children from being vaccinated in 2012. Overall, more than 10 percent of parents are either delaying when their children are vaccinated or not getting the shots at all. "Every year, the number of kids getting exempted [from vaccines] grows," said Dr. Lawrence Madoff, director of epidemiology and immunization for Massachusetts. "When immunization rates fall, it doesn't take long, even in a developed country, for diseases to resurge."