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Posts Tagged ‘epidemics’

As Flu Concerns Ebb, Reemerging Disease Alarms Health Officials

Friday, February 28th, 2014

On the heels of a record-setting flu season (278 deaths confirmed to date), health officials warn that another infectious virus has reemerged. Officials report that, already so far this year, 15 Californians have come down with a disease that was thought to have been eradicated by vaccine— Measles.

Measles, also known as Rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is a virus which causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, and runny nose. Though rare in the United States, 20 million cases occur worldwide every year.

Signs and Symptoms

While Measles is probably best known for the associated full-body rash, the first symptoms are typically a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever and red eyes. Characteristic markers of Measles are small red spots with bluish white centers that appear inside the mouth. The rash itself typically has a red or reddish brown blotchy appearance, and first usually shows up on the forehead, then spreads downward over the face, neck, and body, then down to the arms and feet.

  • Image courtesy of the CDC

    Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

  • In 2012, there were 122 000 measles deaths globally – about 330 deaths every day or 14 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.
  • In 2012, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
  • Since 2000, more than 1 billion children in high risk countries were vaccinated against the disease through mass vaccination campaigns ― about 145 million of them in 2012.

Unfortunately, Measles is highly contagious. In fact, 90% of people who have not been vaccinated will contract it if they live with an infected person. Measles is spread when someone comes in direct contact with infected droplets such as when someone sneezes or coughs. A person with Measles is contagious from 1 to 2 days before symptoms start until about 4 days after the rash appears.

The Los Angeles Times reports that epidemiologists say we’re off to “a bad year.” To wit, this same time last year, there had been only two Measles cases.

The California Department of Public Health reported illnesses in six counties:

  • Five in Los Angeles County
  • Three each in Orange and Riverside counties
  • Four combined in the Bay Area’s Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties.

Although none of the reported cases have been fatal, Measles can be deadly. Authorities remain concerned that more people than reported may have been exposed. In fact, fears have emerged that thousands of people might have been exposed when a Measles-infected UC Berkeley student traveled on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 — meaning that it no longer circulated. Nevertheless, people here can still contract the virus while traveling to locations where Measles is common, since it is airborne.

Photo courtesy of the Measles & Rubella Initiative

The two-part Measles immunization, which is given to kids at six months and four years old, is said to provide protection 99% of the time. According to Dr. Kathleen Harriman of the Public Health Department, said, “Fewer than 3% of California schoolchildren use the exemption.”

The reason some opt out of the vaccines, by citing exemption due to ‘personal beliefs,’ is largely due to a myth that the vaccine is dangerous. No one has died of Measles in California this year, but the illness can be deadly in cases with complications, officials said. The public health department urged people who have not had Measles or received two doses of the Measles vaccine to get immunized before traveling outside of the Americas, where the disease is under control.

Since Measles is easily eliminated with the vaccines, it only makes sense to agree to them. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

All About Vaccines

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

In light of recent anti-vaccine rhetoric, it’s important to review the very positive role vaccinations have played in maintaining public health throughout the years. The community is always better served by the prevention of diseases instead of treatment, which can overwhelm the healthcare industry—particularly in case of epidemics.

There is a very long list of vaccines for a variety of debilitating diseases such as: cervical cancer, diphtheria, influenza, Lyme disease, pertussis, rabies, tuberculosis, and yellow fever—just to name a few. Likely the biggest vaccine triumph is the eradication of smallpox, a disease which once killed one out of every seven children in Europe.

In addition to savings lives and improving well-being, vaccines also save society money, as the cost of a single dosage is many times less than the time and resources required for treatment of the associated disease.

How do vaccines work?

  • The human body is attacked by pathogens and produces antibodies every day.
  • Antibodies become a sort of “memory cell” in the body to help ward off future attacks.
  • Vaccines contain a weakened form of a disease that, when injected, does not produce the disease itself but encourages antibodies and subsequent memory cells.
  • These memory cells can remain in the system for decades.

There is a long history of distrust of vaccines in the United States. In 1879, a gentleman named William Tebb created the Anti-Vaccination Society of America. Skeptics still remain, refusing childhood vaccinations for their children due to concerns about the risk of autism, ADHD and hyperactivity.

  • Some individuals contend that vaccinations do not stop diseases at all, and that factors including better sanitation practices, reduced poverty, and better education work together to lower disease rates.
  • Any link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly discredited.

Let’s review two notable vaccines, one developed half a century ago, and another which is currently in the news:

The poliomyelitis viral disease, commonly known as polio, afflicted hundreds of thousands of people annually before the development of a vaccine:

  • Scientist Jonas Salk created the safest and most effective polio vaccine in the 1950s, which instantly saved thousands of lives. Salk was hailed as a hero, as the country came to a standstill to celebrate the news.
  • The polio vaccine is heralded as a major scientific achievement, an example of how hard work and diligence can conquer problems.

Gardasil is the brand name of a relatively new vaccine that prevents the human papillomavirus virus, (HPV), which can lead to cervical and other genital area cancers:

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly two thirds of cervical cancer deaths can be prevented through widespread adoption of the vaccine.
  • Controversy surrounds some states and school districts which call for mandatory HPV vaccinations.

Looking towards the future, advances in medicine will likely reverse the likelihood of many diseases. Research into HIV and advanced smallpox vaccines, as well as DNA-based solutions, are an example of this type of treatment, which has generated significant interest.

Despite unproven claims about vaccines, booster shots play a vital role in limiting the spread of some of the most crippling diseases in the world. For more information about preventable diseases, vaccine schedules and the importance of following all recommended guidelines, visit the CDC’s site at www.CDC.Gov.

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