Science

RECENT POSTS

Answers to Five Common Measles Questions

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Amanda Stupi

An outbreak of measles and a new report that identified clusters of vaccine refusals in Northern California have become this week’s hot topics. As such, KQED’s daily talk show Forum devoted an hour to the outbreak, and opened up the phones to listeners’ questions. The result: the sharing of some very good information. Here are answers to five common questions:

1. Can people who have been vaccinated against the measles still get it? 

Of the confirmed measles cases in California, at least five are people who were fully vaccinated. Experts aren’t exactly sure why this is the case.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. The measles vaccine comes close — it protects 99 out of 100 people, but that’s “one percent of a lot of people,” she said. 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

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

Disneyland Measles Cases Now at 26

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

The number of measles cases linked to having visited Disneyland parks in mid-December has climbed to 22 in California, according to state data. There are four more cases in other states — two in Utah and one each in Colorado and Washington.

While the incubation period for people who visited the parks between Dec. 17-20 ended on Jan. 10 — meaning that anyone who was at Disneyland in that time frame would have gotten sick by now — the Los Angeles Times is reporting that an unvaccinated, infected woman took two flights after she became ill.

The woman was in her 20s, the TImes reported, had visited Disneyland in December and became ill on Dec. 28.  Continue reading

Nine Measles Cases Tied to Disneyland Parks

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

(Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)

Nine people who visited Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventure Park during December have confirmed measles cases, state health officials said Wednesday. Seven of the patients live in California and two live in Utah.

State and county health officers are investigating an additional four suspected cases, two in Utah and two in California. All the patients visited the parks in Orange County between Dec.15-20, California Department of Public Health officials said.

“If you have symptoms, and believe you may have been exposed, please contact your health care provider,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer, said in a statement. “The best way to prevent measles and its spread is to get vaccinated.” Continue reading

How Much Drinking Causes A Hangover?

(ckelly/Flickr)

(ckelly/Flickr)

Editor’s Note: this story originally ran Dec. 30, 2013.

Medically, the condition is called “veisalgia” — from the Norwegian kveis or “uneasiness following debauchery,” and the Greek algia, otherwise known as “pain.”

But you probably just call it a hangover.

The helpful PR coordinators at the American College of Physicians resent information about a review, published back in 2000, titled simply The Alcohol Hangover. “More than 4700 articles have been written about alcohol intoxication (from 1965 to 1999), but only 108 have addressed alcohol hangover,” the researchers, all at UC San Francisco at the time, wrote.

But you probably don’t care about how much research has been done, you just want to know how many drinks cause a hangover. Continue reading

UCSF Initiative Links ‘Sugar Science’ to Your Health

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

These days, sugar is pretty close to everywhere in the American diet. You probably know that too much sugar is probably not great for your health.

Now, a new initiative from UC San Francisco is spelling out the health dangers in clear terms. The  project is called “sugar science,” and science there is.

A team of researchers distilled 8,000 studies and research papers, and found strong evidence showing overconsumption of added sugar overloads vital organs and contributes to three major chronic illnesses: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Continue reading

State Issues ‘Tailored’ Quarantine Guidelines for Travelers from Ebola-Affected Countries

Gov. Jerry Brown meets with state officials, including Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer, on

Gov. Jerry Brown met last week with state officials, including state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman, center left. (Brad Alexander/Office of the Governor)

Joining other states across the country, California’s health officer has now added guidelines for a “risk-based quarantine order” for people traveling to California from one of the three Ebola-affected West African countries, Guinea, LIberia and Sierra Leone.

California’s guidelines consistent with those from the Centers for Disease Control

At present there are no known or suspected cases of Ebola in California.

The state’s order is directed at anyone traveling to California from one of the affected countries who has also had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Ebola.

Dr. Ron Chapman, California’s health officer, said the state is establishing a “standard protocol requiring some level of quarantine for those at highest risk of contracting and spreading Ebola.” Continue reading

Genetic Variant Linked to Lower Breast Cancer Rates in Latinas

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Researchers have long known that Latina women have lower rates of breast cancer compared to African-American and white women. They have mainly pointed to lifestyle and environmental factors to explain why –- Latinas tend to have more children, breast feed longer, and drink less alcohol, all factors that are associated with lower disease rates.

Now, an international study led by scientists at UC San Francisco shows that a genetic variant unique to Latina women with indigenous ancestry plays a significant role, too.

“When we were accounting for all the non-genetic risk factors in our analysis, it was not enough to explain that women with more indigenous American ancestry tended to have less breast cancer,” says lead author Prof. Laura Fejerman, a member of UCSF’s Institute of Human Genetics. Continue reading

Ebola Is Not That Contagious, and 10 Other Quick Facts

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee,  have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted Ebola from a patient they were treating, but 44 of 48 others who came in contact with the patient, including his fiancee, have completed their quarantine period and are cleared of the disease. The remaining four should complete their quarantine soon. (Mike Stone/Getty Images)

By Alison Bruzek, NPR

Basic information about Ebola isn’t as clear as it probably could be.

A recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, for instance, found that 38 percent of Americans are worried that Ebola will infect them or a family member in the next year, despite assurances that the U.S. will stop Ebola in its tracks.

We’ve put together a primer on what you need to know. We’ll update it as new information develops.

1. It’s Not That Contagious. Really.

Each person who contracts the virus spreads it, on average, to one or two other people. It’s not as contagious as HIV, SARS or measles.

2. Ebola Is Not Airborne…

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, saliva, breast milk, feces, urine and semen. However, infectious disease specialists say Ebola is not an airborne disease, like the flu. Continue reading