News

31/Mar/2015

Keep you and your family safe from the measles and other infectious diseases by taking precautions before traveling. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends you visit a doctor or nurse 4-6 weeks prior to travel. With an increase in measles outbreaks the CDC strongly recommends making sure everyone has a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot at least 4 weeks prior to traveling.

In the US alone from January 1 to March 29, 2015- 178 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles. This past January, national news outlets spread word of a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California. This breaking story was shocking to many, as measles had previously been declared eliminated in the U.S. in the year 2000. Each year, unvaccinated people get infected while in other countries and bring the disease into the US and spread it to others. Measles cases and outbreaks still occur in countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Worldwide, about 20 million people get measles each year; about 146,000 die.

“The measles outbreak raises concerns about vaccination rates across the country and how both children and adults should best protect themselves from getting measles,” said Vail Valley Medical Center’s President and CEO Doris Kirchner. “Our experts agree vaccinations are critical to community health.”

A quick Internet search will reveal that one of the reasons parents choose not to vaccinate their children is due to fears of immunizations causing autism. This stems from a 1998 British study by Andrew Wakefield that concluded there might be a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This study was later widely discredited and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license.

Wakefield’s refuted study “really hurt society” in that it allowed for misinformation to influence the general public’s perception of immunizations, downplaying the serious risks associated with not getting vaccinated.

The FACTS about Measles provided by the CDC

How is measles spread?

Measles spread easily through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing. It is so contagious that anyone who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease.

What are the symptoms of measles?

  • High fever (may spike to more than 104°F)
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Rash breaks out 3-5 days after symptoms begin

How to protect yourself from the measles

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from measles is by getting vaccinated. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against all 3 diseases. Two doses of MMR vaccine provide 97% protection against measles. People who cannot show that they were vaccinated as children and who have never had measles should be vaccinated. If you are unsure you were vaccinated as a child another dose of the MMR vaccine will not harm you.

What to keep an eye out for upon your return home

Watch your health for 3 weeks after you return from traveling, especially internationally. If you or your child gets sick with a rash and/ or fever, call your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor that you traveled and where, and if you have received the MMR vaccine.

For more information on the measles and other infectious diseases, along with diseases that are prevenant in locations you are traveling to visit the CDCs Traveler’s Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel .

 

23/Mar/2015

Climate Change

Could a changing climate and changing environments have an impact on the spread of infectious diseases?  Several zoologists are saying yes!

Zoologist Daniel Brooks of the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln states the spread of infectious diseases like the West Nile Virus and Ebola could be linked to climate change.

Changes to an environment many times causes animals to migrate to places they otherwise wouldn’t have gone before.  If those animals carry diseases, they could introduce them to a new population.

“It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet,” Daniel Brooks stated in a recent news release. “There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

“Over the last 30 years, the places we’ve been working have been heavily impacted by climate change,” Brooks stated.  “Even though I was in the tropics, I was also working with several zoologists in the Arctic, we could see something was happening. Changes in habitat mean animals are exposed to new parasites and pathogens.”

West Nile Virus is a prime example of this phenomenon, going from an acute problem in North America and escalating into a recurring problem in multiple locations around the world.

Scholars are now urged to consider that pathogens retain genetic aspects which enable them to adopt new hosts;  a claim that goes against more than 100 years of evidence suggesting that parasites don’t quickly change hosts.  Brooks said this factor allows many infectious diseases to spread to new locations despite lacking a common host .

While some diseases can’t be transmitted from animals to humans immediately, that can change over time. “Given enough exposure and time, any disease can eventually mutate into a human to human transmittable disease. History is full of such occurrences,” Dan Hahn, emergency manager of Santa Rosa County, Fla., said.  “The Black Death of 13th century Europe was caused by rats transmitting bubonic plague, but historical data suggests deaths occurred too rapidly for this to have been a bubonic epidemic, so recent archaeological evidence through DNA sampling of corpses buried around London has confirmed that it was pneumonic plague, a much faster acting killer, that wiped out large parts of the London population.  Ebola, likewise, has had its origins traced to animals in Africa.”

Climate change also promotes the spread of other insect-borne infectious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, according to recent studies.  In addition to animal migration and disease advancements, climate changes also cause destruction of housing and public health infrastructure through storms and floods that result in injuries and unsanitary conditions. From a global perspective, complete preparation requires strengthening the weakest links in the world where diseases can run rampant.

How to prepare

Protecting yourself from infectious diseases can sometimes be difficult, but there are precautions that can be taken to better prepare yourself.

Proper hygiene and up-to-date immunizations protect individuals from a lot of diseases. Always be aware of infectious diseases that are prevalent where you live. When traveling, always look up health threats at your destination and how to protect yourself against them. For a current list of any prevalent health concerns in any location of the world visit the Center for Disease Control and Protection website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/ .


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