Stories about: infectious disease

Chikungunya reported in the Boston area

tiger mosquitoFour people in the Boston area have been diagnosed with chikungunya, a viral disease spread to people by way of mosquitoes.

Typically, outbreaks of the disease are restricted to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But as of late, there has been an increase in reported cases in the Caribbean islands, which some believe may eventually lead to more cases in the U.S.

“With the disease now appearing more frequently in islands neighboring the U.S., it’s quite possible we’ll begin seeing more cases of infected travelers bringing chikungunya home with them,” says Jeffrey Dvorin, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “And because the types of mosquitoes that can carry and transfer the disease are present in Massachusetts, there’s an increased risk that it could spread more easily once here, like has happened recently with the West Nile virus. There’s a good chance we’ll be hearing much more about it in the coming years.”

People with chikungunya often develop a fever, rash and joint pain a few days after being infected. It rarely results in death—usually only among the very young, old or sick—but the symptoms can be severe in children.

And because chikungunya is transmitted via the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos—which are aggressive biters that feed throughout the day instead of just at dawn or dusk—protecting against their bite requires a bit more effort.

To keep your family free of mosquito bites this summer, Dvorin recommends:

Using insect repellents

  • Bug sprays with DEET or picaridin provide the longest lasting protection.
  • If you use sunscreen and insect repellent, put sunscreen on first and the repellent last.
  • Spray repellent on your clothing, not just exposed skin.
  • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent or sunscreen.

Knowing your environment

  • Don’t let children play around water that has been standing for a few days, like puddles or small pockets of rainwater as they may be a mosquito breeding ground. If you have a kiddie pool in your yard, drain it daily to keep the water from getting stagnant.
  • Leave doors shut and make sure all your windows have screens without holes. Replace or repair screens if necessary.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when weather allows, especially when in areas with large mosquito populations like swamps or woods.

“Though a few cases of chikungunya have been discovered in the area, it’s not yet considered a public threat, so parents shouldn’t be afraid to send their children outside,” Dvorin says. “But before you do, make sure they’re protected with the right repellents and clothing. And if a child does come down with an illness with a fever accompanied by a rash and joint pains, you should contact your doctor.”

 

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Measles reported near Boston

Measles under a microscope

Two cases of measles, the highly contagious virus, have been confirmed just outside of Boston, according Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Later reports traced the disease to a Framingham Trader Joe’s shopping market.

And while most people in the United States have received vaccines against the disease, or got it and recovered as children making them immune, health officials are advising anyone displaying any symptoms to call a doctor. (It’s not recommended you go to a health care facility, out of fear you may infect others who have not been vaccinated.)

Many adults associate measles with mild illness and relatively harmless red spots. Not quite, says Ronald Samuels, MD, MPH, associate medical director of Boston Children’s Primary Care Center. “Measles is different from chicken pox. A mild case of measles doesn’t exist.” That message takes on a new urgency in light of data released by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), which tallied 159 reported cases of measles from January 1-August 24 of this year.

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MRSA, microbes and medicines: what parents need to know on World MRSA Day

MRSA
methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 marked the beginning of the antibiotic era and dramatic improvements in health and medicine. With mass production of the new “wonder drug” in the 1940’s, threats from killer diseases, such as bacterial infections and pneumonia, waned. However, less than 100 years later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sounded the alarm about the possibility of a post-antibiotic era.

That’s due to the growing menace of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or bacteria that have developed resistance to the drugs that once killed them.

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Insect spread illnesses on the rise: how to protect your family

By  Carolyn Moriarty

If you’ve been watching the news recently, you’re probably aware that mosquitos carrying eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) have been found in various areas across the country, including Massachusetts. EEE—and its less-dangerous counterpart, West Nile Virus—are two diseases that are spread to people by the bites of infected mosquitos. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Asim Ahmed, MD, from the Division of Infectious Diseases, recently spoke to NECN about the current West Nile outbreak, which Federal health officials are calling one of the largest in the U.S., with four times the usual number of cases for this time of year.

EEE is considered to be one of the most serious mosquito-borne illnesses in the United States. Inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis, is a frequent and life-threatening complication of EEE that may also lead to permanent neurological damage or coma. West Nile Virus is a much milder infection characterized by flu-like symptoms that generally go away on their own.

There are things that area and state governments are doing to reduce and eliminate mosquito-borne illnesses. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is constantly monitoring mosquito populations and deciding if and when aerial spraying is necessary.

Here are a few quick and easy things you can do to lessen your child’s (and your) risk of being bitten by a mosquito:

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