Measles outbreak in South Wales, UK

note-measlesPublic Health Wales has reported an outbreak of almost 190 reported cases of measles in South Wales since November 2012. They are focusing their investigation in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, where 189 cases have been confirmed. Cases have been notified in 32 secondary and primary schools and nurseries across the area, with 20 cases notified in the last week alone. 

According to Dr Marion Lyons, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, stated that “people most at risk of catching measles are children of school age who have not had two doses of MMR. We estimate that there are more than 8,500 school age children at risk of measles in the ABMU area at present due to their MMR status.  Children should have their immunisation record, including MMR status, checked at the beginning of primary and secondary school and on leaving secondary school. We cannot emphasise enough that measles is an illness that can kill, or leave patients with permanent complications including severe brain damage, and the only protection is two doses of the MMR vaccination.”

The only protection against measles is the MMR vaccination. There are no other methods to protect a child from measles, other than isolation in a bubble against an outbreak. And despite the fraudulent claims of Mr. Andrew Wakefield and  his acolytes, minions, and disciples, the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. And it does not cause autism.

Measles is just so contagious, that one unvaccinated child with the infection can pass it to nearly anyone that lacks immunity to the disease. An infected child can walk into a pediatrician’s office, where there may be infants who are too young for the vaccination, and pass it to them. Measles is not just a simple disease with a few red spots on your skin.  It can lead to more serious complications like encephalitis and corneal scarring.  In fact, complications are more frequent and severe in older teenagers and young adults (even if healthy), so the need for vaccination has significant benefits even if you’re an adult.

In general, about 30% of children who contract measles develop a more serious complication such as diarrhea, ear infections (leading to deafness) and pneumonia. About 5% of cases require hospitalization from pneumonia, about 1 in 1000 will contract encephalitis, and 1-2 out of a 1000 who get measles dies. Measles kills over 1 million children per year. And these risks are about the same for adults who contract the disease.

Many children are unvaccinated in South Wales. Maybe it’s because they believe the false information promoted by Wakefield and other vaccine deniers. Maybe they forgot to update or complete the vaccination series. Maybe they can’t afford the vaccine (though I don’t think that’s an issue in the UK’s public health system.) It’s the lack of immunized children that have caused this outbreak. Hopefully, parents will see the scientific truth and protect their children.

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Repeated contact with mumps may overwhelm immunization

A recent study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that after an intense face-to-face educational technique, used among Orthodox Jews, apparently led to an outbreak of mumps in 2009 and 2010, despite high vaccination rates in the group. In a one-year period, from June 28, 2009, through June 27, 2010, 3,502 cases of mumps were reported in New Jersey, New York City and New York’s Orange and Rockland counties. The study examined 1,648 of those cases, 97% were Orthodox Jews, and found 89% had received two doses of the vaccine and 8% received one dose, a relatively high rate of vaccination.

Many of the individuals attended a religious school where they practiced an intense training technique called chavruta, which involves close contact with a partner across a narrow table. Partners change frequently, and he discussion is often loud and may involve shouting since a larger group may be close to each other, all trying to make an argument or point. This prolonged contact overwhelmed the immunity, from the mumps vaccination (part of the MMR vaccine), for individuals. The study did find high rates of two-dose coverage reduced the severity of the disease and the transmission to people in settings of less exposure. Also, the study found that mumps did not spread outside of the Orthodox Jewish community in the area, further supporting the overall effectiveness of the mumps vaccine in the broader community. Continue reading “Repeated contact with mumps may overwhelm immunization”

Whooping cough–UK epidemic leads to 5 infant deaths

According to the Guardian, a total of 2,466 cases of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) have been confirmed in the United Kingdom between January and June of 2012, causing the deaths of 5 infants. The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) said that the number of cases is six times larger than the last comparable outbreak in 2008. The government’s vaccination committee is “now considering recommending booster vaccinations for teenagers and pregnant women and has already recommended immunising healthcare workers who treat young children because infants are most at risk.”

Also according to the article, Mary Ramsay, the HPA’s head of immunization, said: “We are working closely with the Department of Health’s Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunization to consider the most effective ways to tackle the ongoing outbreak. The committee is reviewing a number of options, including the introduction of a booster dose in teenagers and offering whooping cough vaccination to pregnant women. In the meantime we are actively reviewing our cases to see what interventions could have the quickest impact on the spread.” Continue reading “Whooping cough–UK epidemic leads to 5 infant deaths”

England wants children to study evolution

Charles Darwin, the original British teacher of evolution

The United States has been a battleground this year in several states as right wing fundamentalists try to push antievolution legislation that would force children to be taught that evolution is controversial, or that creationism is scientifically equivalent to evolution. In most cases (except for Tennessee) these laws were pushed back, even in some fairly conservative states. The problem with education in the USA is that there are 50 states (plus DC) and 16000 school districts, each with full control over the science curriculum. Thus, children in northeastern and Pacific coast states have strong science educations, while other states, especially in the south and midwest, have a nascent antievolution movement. There are some minimal standards across the US for science education, but when you find school boards that think that creationism is a science, or that evolution is a scientific controversy, it’s hard to make certain that children get an well-rounded education in the biological sciences. Continue reading “England wants children to study evolution”

Another measles outbreak in United Kingdom

This shouldn’t be happening.  There are over 200 cases of measles confirmed in an outbreak in Merseyside, UK, the largest such outbreak since 1988.  So far, there have been 210 confirmed cases of measles (and another 92 cases still under investigation).  Of these cases, 39 have required hospital treatment.

What’s sad is that 50% of the confirmed cases have occurred in children under five years old.  There is probably only one reason why these children are being infected by this disease–no vaccination.   Continue reading “Another measles outbreak in United Kingdom”