Every few years, stories appear about Vashon Island and its high percentage of unvaccinated kids. It happened again a few weeks ago in the wake of reports of measles outbreaks nationwide. Then the temporary publicity fades and this island of 11,000 goes back to the same old, same old. Which is: a deep divide between the pro and con camps that in most other ways are so much alike. Except that this time it got pretty vitriolic.
Scientists in China have identified an influenza virus that they say has the potential to spread around the world, sickening and killing people whose immune systems have never faced a threat like it.
Adults only get flu twice a decade on average, scientists have found, suggesting that most of the coughs and colds that keep millions of people off work every year are down to other bugs.
By Christine Vestal
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory this month about an ongoing measles outbreak, with more than 102 cases in 14 states so far. The highly contagious disease can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.
By 2000, measles had been nearly wiped out in the U.S., with fewer than 60 cases per year – most connected with foreign travel. Public health officials declared victory, the result of effective state-based immunization campaigns requiring kids to be vaccinated before they enter public schools.
Since then, however, the number of cases has risen along with the number of parents who have received religious or philosophical exceptions to state rules. In 2014, there were at least 23 outbreaks and more than 600 cases.
The federal government’s goal is to immunize at least 90 percent of all children before they enter school to keep measles and other childhood diseases at bay. Although the national average immunization rate (91.1 percent) exceeds that number, several states fall below it.
“To have pockets where community immunity is below 90 percent is worrisome as they will be the ones most vulnerable to a case of measles exploding into an outbreak,” said Litjen (L.J) Tan, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, which advocates for higher levels of immunization.
State immunization rates vary widely, with generally lower rates of inoculation occurring in states that make it relatively easy to get an exception. Lawmakers in California, Oregon, and Washington state are trying to tighten their laws to allow fewer nonmedical exemptions.
Laws allowing religious exemptions have been around longer than those allowing philosophical or “personal belief” exemptions, said Joy Wilson, of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In many but not all states, philosophical exemptions are easier to get than religious exemptions, which typically require parents to cite and explain the religious doctrine in question. Overall, states with philosophical exemptions have 2.5 times the rate of opt-outs than states with only religious exemptions.
By Jenny Gold
State lawmakers in California introduced legislation Wednesday that would require children to be fully vaccinated before going to school, a response to a measles outbreak that started in Southern California and has reached 107 cases in 14 states.
California is one of 19 states that allows parents to enroll their children in school unvaccinated through a “personal belief exemption” to public health laws. The outbreak of measles that began in December in Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park has spread more quickly in communities where many parents claim the exemption.
State Sens. Dr. Richard Pan and Ben Allen have proposed eliminating the personal belief exemption altogether in California.
“Every year that goes by we are adding to the number of unvaccinated people and so that’s putting everyone at greater risk,” said Pan, who is also a pediatrician. “We shouldn’t have to wait until someone sickens and dies to act.”
The exemption isn’t new — it’s been around since the 1960s. But the number of parents taking the exemption went way up in the past decade. In some schools in California, more than half of children have an exemption.
If their law passes, all of those children would be required to get fully vaccinated in order to go to school. Pan says the most parents in the state would support that. Continue reading
The flu season is upon us, and the Centers for Disease Control has announced that influenza has officially reached epidemic proportions across the U.S.
Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Boston Health Commission’s infectious disease bureau, joined WBUR’s Morning Edition to discuss the flu strain and how the Boston is coping.
Listen below to Barry’s full conversation with WBUR’s Bob Oakes.
Snohomish County will be offering a free flu vaccination clinics, Jan. 10 & 14
Vaccinations will be first come, first served and offered only to low-income and uninsured adults.
Uninsured and low-income adults can take advantage of two upcoming vaccination clinics for flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia in Everett, Wash.
From Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Washington scored only four out of 10 on key indicators related to preventing, detecting, diagnosing and responding to outbreaks, like Ebola, Enterovirus and antibiotic-resistant Superbugs.
Some key Washington findings include:
|No.||Indicator||Washington||Number of States Receiving Points|
|A “Y” means the state received a point for that indicator|
|1||Public Health Funding: Increased or maintained level of funding for public health services from FY 2012-13 to FY 2013-14.||N||28|
|2||Preparing for Emerging Threats: State scored equal to or higher than the national average on the Incident & Information Management domain of the National Health Security Preparedness Index.||Y||27 + D.C.|
|3||Vaccinations: Met the Healthy People 2020 target of 90 percent of children ages 19-35 months receiving recommended ≥3 doses of HBV vaccine.||N||35 + D.C.|
|4||Vaccinations: Vaccinated at least half of their population (ages 6 months and older) for the seasonal flu for fall 2013 to spring 2014.||N||14|
|5||Climate Change: State currently has completed climate change adaption plans – including the impact on human health.||Y||15|
|6||Healthcare-acquired Infections: State performed better than the national standardized infection ratio (SIR) for central line-associated bloodstream infections.||N||16|
|7||Healthcare-acquired Infections: Between 2011 and 2012, state reduced the number of central line-associated blood stream infections.||N||10|
|8||Preparing for Emerging Threats: From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, public health lab reports conducting an exercise or utilizing a real event to evaluate the time for sentinel clinical laboratories to acknowledge receipt of an urgent message from laboratory.||N||47 + D.C.|
|9||HIV/AIDS: State requires reporting of all CD4 and HIV viral load data to their state HIV surveillance program.||Y||37 + D.C.|
|10||Food Safety: State met the national performance target of testing 90 percent of reported Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157 cases within four days.||Y||38 + D.C.|
Read the full report here.
Flu is here—and it’s a nasty one!
By Meredith Li-Vollmer
Public Health – Seattle & King County
Influenza is noticeably on the rise in King County, according the Public Health – Seattle & King County” sCommunicable Disease and Epidemiology unit.
Last week, the number of laboratory tests for flu rose sharply and a handful of schools, daycare programs, and long-term care facilities reported flu outbreaks.
A severe flu forecast
The flu season has only just begun, but the CDC is finding that so far, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have been the most common flu viruses circulating. What’s the significance? In flu seasons in which H3N2 viruses predominate, there often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.
On top of that, roughly half of the H3N2 viruses that the CDC analyzed to date are drift variants: viruses with genetic changes that make them different from this season’s vaccine virus. This means the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced.
So should you still get this year’s flu vaccine? Continue reading
A community conversation sponsored by the Northwest Biomedical Research Association
Are Vaccinations ‘Everybody’s Business?’
Discussion of the locally-made documentary, “Everybody’s Business,” by Laura Green, which examines the small, tight-knit community of Vashon Island that has become a reluctant poster child for the growing debate around childhood vaccinations. This portrait of an island community digs beneath the surface to investigate the tensions between individual choices and collective responsibilities.
Tuesday night’s conversation will be facilitated by Dr. Doug Opel, Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
December 9, 2014
From 5:45pm to 7:45pm
415 Westlake Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98109
From the US Centers for Disease Control
After November when you see signs that advertise: “Get Your Flu Vaccine Here,” you might think, “Isn’t it too late for that?”
As long as flu viruses are spreading, it’s not too late to get a vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones.
“Flu season typically peaks between December and February but significant activity can occur as late as May,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated this season to get vaccinated now.”
For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, you may not realize that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States from flu complications each year.
The flu also can be deadly. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people during the most severe season.
Early data suggests that the current 2014-2015 flu season could be severe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said Thursday, and they urged anyone who is still unvaccinated this season get vaccinated immediately.
People at high risk of complications who develop flu should receive prompt treatment with antiviral drugs, the agency said.
Here’s more from the CDC’s announcement:
By Dr. Kory B. Fowler
Medical Director, Intermountain Region
The influenza virus– commonly known as the flu – affects up to 20 percent of Americans annually, leaving more than 200,000 people hospitalized from complications each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The flu is particularly dangerous for Washington seniors, who often have pre-existing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
Last year the flu vaccine prevented 6.6 million illnesses, 3.2 million doctor visits and at least 79,000 hospitalizations.