Stories about: Vaccines

Measles numbers multiply, myths linger

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.

The U.S. declared measles eliminated with no cases of continuous transmission for 12 months or longer in 2000. Since then, the number of annual cases has ranged from 37 to 220 in 2011. The current numbers suggest a potential problem.

The uptick isn’t huge, but could signal that the U.S. is on track to follow the path of England, which saw measles cases swell from 188 in 2004 to 2,030 in 2012. England has since launched an MMR immunization catch-up program to target previously unvaccinated children in an attempt to contain the spread of measles.

Read Full Story

Where do you get your information about vaccine safety?

Parents’ worries about the safety of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine are on the rise.  And yet, doctors and scientists aren’t more worried. What’s going on?

In a study just published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers asked parents who didn’t want to give their children the HPV vaccine why they were making that decision. In 2010, the biggest reason (17.4 percent) was that they didn’t think it was necessary—but coming in at a close second (16.4 percent) was concerns about its safety.

Read Full Story

HPV vaccination recommended for boys

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved recommendations for routine vaccination of males ages 11 and 12 against the Human papillomavirus (HPV.)

The HPV vaccine provide males with protection against certain HPV-related conditions and may also provide indirect protection of women by reducing transmission of HPV. Our own Dr. Claire was recently interviewed by New England Cable News to discuss the CDC’s new recommendation.

For more information on HPV and its vaccination, here’s a Q and A with Lydia Shrier, MD, MPH, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Adolescent Medicine.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which more than 30 are transmitted sexually—those are the ones most people are referencing when talking about HPV—and they can be separated into two types: low risk and high risk. Both can result in some form of genital disease, with the low risk-types typically leading to genital warts and minor abnormalities in the cells of the cervix. The high-risk types can lead to several forms of genital cancer, including cervical cancer.

Read Full Story

Measles: What Parents Need to Know

The MMR vaccine is the most efficient protection against measles

For years, measles has been rare in the United States, thanks to immunization.  But recently, that has changed.  This year we’ve seen lots of outbreaks, mostly started by unimmunized people going to or coming from countries that have lots of measles—and then giving the infection to unimmunized people here.  In Massachusetts we have had 24 cases of measles this year—19 since May!

What is measles?

Measles, also called rubeola, is a very contagious respiratory illness.

What causes it?

Measles is caused by a virus.  It is spread through the air when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or simply breathe near someone else.  It lives in the mucus of infected people, so if an infected person has mucus on their hands (from touching their mouth or nose) and touches something (like a doorknob), they can leave the virus behind for others to catch.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, rash, red eyes, cough, and body aches.  Sometimes people with measles get white spots in their mouth called Koplik spots.  The spots in the mouth and rash usually start a few days after the illness has begun, so at the beginning it can be hard to tell measles from the common cold or flu.

Read Full Story