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Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

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Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left). (Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

By Jon Hamilton, NPR

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”

That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading

Got P.E.? Settlement Says Schools Must Prove They Provide It

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

As schools tout the importance of exercise in an era of childhood obesity, a California parent and his lawyer have agreed to a settlement with dozens of districts across California that will force elementary schools to prove they are providing at least the minimum amount of physical education required by state law.

Now there’s another lawsuit against Oakland Unified and other districts.

“We think it’s a huge accomplishment and it’s going to benefit public health in California,” said attorney Donald Driscoll, who represents Alameda parent Marc Babin and the advocacy group Cal200 in a 2013 lawsuit that alleges 37 school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, the largest district in the state, are out of compliance with state physical education law.

The districts, which educate more than 20 percent of elementary students grades 1 through 6 statewide, have agreed to a settlement that requires elementary school teachers to publicly document how many minutes of physical education students receive, according to lawyers involved in the case. Continue reading

Vaccine Opt-Out Rate Drops — First Time Since 1998; Look Up Your Calif. School

By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis

Under California law, all kindergarteners must be vaccinated against a range of communicable diseases before they can start school. But California also permits parents to opt-out of vaccines on behalf of their children. The opt-out rate doubled over a seven year period ending last school year. But now, for the first time since 1998, the opt-out rate has declined, from 3.15 percent statewide to 2.5 percent.

A new state law appears to be the driver. Under AB 2109, parents who wish to opt out of vaccines must file a personal belief exemption or PBE, a signed statement that vaccines are against their personal belief.

lookupThis school year, for the first time, parents must first meet with a health provider who explains the risks and benefits of both vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Until the current school year, parents simply had to sign the statement without any consultation.

State senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) sponsored the bill and is pretty happy about the decline. He believes that requiring the meeting with a health care provider clears up confusion some parents have about vaccines. Continue reading

Look Up the Vaccine Opt-Out Rate at Your Child’s School

By Olivia Allen-Price and Lisa Aliferis

When parents sign a personal belief exemption (PBE) in California, it allows them to legally send their child to school without being vaccinated.

Find the percentage of kindergarteners who are unvaccinated at your child’s school below. We’ve included data from the last eight school years. This tool includes reports from every kindergarten in the state, public or private, with 10 or more students.

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Call the Midwife: A Home Birth Story

The author's wife, Pippa, and their daughter, Caitlin, who was born at home, in 1982. (Courtesy: Nick Allen)

The author’s wife, Pippa, and their daughter, Caitlin, who was born at home, in 1982. (Courtesy: Nick Allen)

By Stephen Talbot

My wife, Pippa, gave birth like a giraffe, standing up.

I was astonished. This wasn’t quite the nativity scene I’d imagined. Then again, I should not have been too shocked. Pippa grew up in South Africa, she’s very keen on giraffes, and she likes doing things unconventionally.

I should also mention that this was happening at home, in our bedroom, in the middle of the night, and that no one else was around. Except for our two-year-old son asleep in another room.

Not to worry. Women have been giving birth in their homes, in their own fashion, for centuries, right? Well, actually, not so much these days, at least not in this country. A mere 1.36 percent of births in the United States in 2012 took place outside a hospital. Continue reading

State Measles Cases Now at 73; Expect More

Five Disney staff members are among California's cases. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Five Disneyland staff members are among California’s cases. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Update, Monday, 1/26: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said Monday that California now has 73 confirmed cases of measles.

Update, Friday, 1/23: The CDPH said Friday that 68 Californians have confirmed cases of measles.

Original post, Wed. 1/21:

State health officials report 59 confirmed cases of measles in nine counties. The patients range in age from 7 months to 70 years. The California Department of Public Health has linked 42 of these cases to people who visited Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Park. Initially, cases were linked to people who visited the parks in mid-December, but there are more confirmed cases who visited the parks in January while infectious.

The outbreak has spread beyond California with seven cases in Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Mexico has also confirmed a case.

Vaccination status is known for 34 of the California patients. State officials say that 28 were not vaccinated at all, one was partially vaccinated and five were fully vaccinated. (Six of the unvaccinated were babies, too young to be vaccinated.)

“Devastating Consequences”

“Measles is not a trivial illness,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez. “It can be very serious with devastating consequences.”  Those consequences include pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. Before the measles vaccine was introduced in 1963, 500 people a year died of the disease nationwide. In the current outbreak, 25 percent of people with measles have been hospitalized. Continue reading

For Greater Happiness, Avoid the ‘Busy-Ness’ Trap

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Jill Suttie, Berkeleyside

In 2009, Christine Carter felt like she had it all. Working her dream job at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, she was helping further the study and dissemination of the science of happiness. She had two wonderful kids, a best-selling book called Raising Happiness, a popular blog, and frequent requests for speaking engagements.

“Researchers call busyness ‘cognitive overload’ — which makes us worse at everything.”

Then she got sick. At first, it seemed like no big deal—just a little strep throat. But she took a round of antibiotics and didn’t recover; then she took more. Nine courses of antibiotics later, she still hadn’t healed. Instead, she ended up in a hospital with a severe kidney infection. The diagnosis?

“Exhaustion,” says Carter. “My body had basically lost the ability to heal itself.“

That’s when she realized something was really wrong. Her life had become completely out of whack, and it was taking its toll. Continue reading

This Year’s Flu Shot Less-Than-Perfect, But Get It Anyway

This Oakland child received a nasal spray flu vaccine at a clinic in Oakland. (James Tensuan/KQED)

This Oakland child received a nasal spray flu vaccine at a clinic in Oakland. (James Tensuan/KQED)

By Rob Stein, NPR

As expected, this year’s flu vaccine looks like it’s pretty much of a dud.

The vaccine only appears to cut the chances that someone will end up sick with the flu by 23 percent, according to the first estimate of the vaccine’s effectiveness by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC had predicted this year’s vaccine wouldn’t work very well because the main strain of the flu virus that’s circulating this year, known as an H3N2 virus, mutated slightly after the vaccine was created. That enables the virus to evade the immune system response created by getting vaccinated. Continue reading

Children Need Rest After A Concussion, But How Much?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Liza Gross

Every parent must balance the thrill of watching a child excel at a favorite sport with the fear that competition brings the risk of serious injury. That fear gripped my sister last year, when my nephew, then 10-years-old, played back-to-back soccer games against two rough teams.

Strict rest seemed to provide no additional benefit and even had some unintended consequences.

After a solid blow sent him tumbling to the ground in the first game, he took several hard hits in the second, including a nasty elbow to the back of the head as he tried to get up. Feeling dizzy, he raised his hand to leave the game, a first for him. He sat out the remainder of the game and felt lousy the rest the day.

Thankfully, my nephew quickly recovered without more serious symptoms. But each year over 173,000 children 19 and under suffer sports-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions.

Treating a concussion calls for resting body and mind until acute symptoms such as headache, dizziness and concentration troubles fade, and then allowing a gradual return to normal activities. Some children must avoid all activity — including computer time and even reading. Continue reading