Each green circle depicts a whooping cough outbreak this year. (Map: Council on Foreign Relations)
As the map illustrates, many areas in the country are in the grip of whooping cough outbreaks, everywhere but California. More on California in a minute. Let’s first take a look at a new(ish) vaccine and see how its limitations might be contributing to the outbreaks.
In the 1990s, the U.S. and other developed countries switched from one kind of vaccine against whooping cough (also called pertussis) to another. The older vaccine was very effective but there were concerns about a rare side effect, a neurological disorder, which may (or may not) have been connected to the vaccine. More commonly, the vaccine caused the same minor side effects that we traditionally associate with shots: redness, soreness at the injection site, etc. Except that with the old pertussis vaccine, the side effects occurred more frequently.
In her wired.com blog noted science reporter Maryn McKenna recaps the research and wonders if there could have been an unexpected trade-off with this new vaccine — that it is less effective and therefore contributing to the outbreaks we’re seeing now. From McKenna’s blog Superbug: Continue reading
Pharmacist administers whooping cough vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
You know public health is working when nothing bad happens. Last year, for the first time in 20 years, California had no deaths from whooping cough, a highly contagious illness also called pertussis.
The California Department of Public Health credits a statewide vaccination effort which followed a 2010 outbreak when 9,000 Californians were diagnosed and nine infants died. In 2011, in addition to no deaths, the number of cases of the illness dropped to 3,000.
As the Los Angeles Times reports: Continue reading
There’s news today about three different vaccines–HPV for boys, varicella vaccine (against chickenpox) and flu vaccines.
The common thread? Public health officials repeat the recommendations to get them.
First, a study in today’s Pediatrics shows why the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was so lethal in previously healthy children. If those children were simultaneously carrying MRSA, a common staph infection, they were eight times more likely to die. The New York Times summarizes the story.
The authors conclude the study with this plea, ”New therapies for treating severe influenza and new treatment strategies for MRSA pneumonia complicating influenza are urgently needed for children.”