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The New Measles

leadApropos of class discussion about vaccine compliance and public policy, check out Adrienne LaFrance’s article from The Atlantic on how Measles is re-emerging in many countries – including the United States –  that have considered it eradicated for decades.

Click here to visit the article

The numbers in recent years are nothing like the devastation that Measles used to visit in the US, however, it is the trend that is disturbing. Prior to the introduction of the vaccine, cases numbered in the hundreds of thousands per year in the US. Globally, in 2013, there were 145 700 measles deaths compared to an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year prior to widespread immunization. (data from the WHO)

Measles cases in the US prior to and after the introduction of vaccine

Measles cases in the US prior to and after the introduction of vaccine Langmuir AD. Medical importance of measles. Am J Dis Child 1962;103:54-56

Some Data

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Measles Cases in the US 2001 – 2014

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Paul Offit’s Vaccine class

ImageIn my microbiology class, students read Paul Offit’s ‘Vaccinated’, an excellent account of the life and work of Maurice Hilleman, creator of many vaccines in common use today. I don’t know how many of my students are aware of it, but Coursera.org is a free online university offering courses in a number of subjects taught by senior faculty from many distinguished universities. Today marked the first day of Paul Offit’s Vaccine course, which covers topics related to the history, development, use and misinformation surrounding vaccines. From the course website:

1) History of Vaccines – Viruses

2) History of Vaccines – Bacteria

3) Current and ‘Alternate’ Schedule

4) Common Questions About Vaccines

5) Vaccines in the media

6) Creation of a Vaccine – Case Study: The Rotavirus Vaccine

7) Vaccine Exemptions

I can’t promise that this course is still open, but I expect it is – and best of all it’s FREE.

Furthermore, if you sign up and only decide to watch one or two class lectures, there’s no risk: just drop out or simply stop signing in. So, if you have any interest in the subject, or would simply like to see what it’s like, go onto Coursera.org and type ‘vaccines’ in the search bar.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Measles data from Wales – a closer look

Yesterday I wrote a quick post about a report of spiking measles cases in Wales as reported by Wales Online. What troubled me was the manner that the data was being presented. In the graph presented in the article, the y-axis is labeled ‘cumulative number of cases’. What bothered me is that this is not ‘new cases’ and I had to go searching through a lot of reporting and data to clarify what the numbers really were.

– Regardless of what I found, it is true that there is a very worrisome spike in Measles cases, but I do not think it serves people well to misrepresent data. Or, perhaps I could state it more clearly as “I still think the data is being presented in a way that does lead to misinterpretation, but not as bad as I thought.”

The BBC shows the epidemic this way:

Since the outbreak began in November, 77 people have needed hospital treatment for the illness.[I’m not sure if this means hospital admission or not.]

Health officials said 1,825 had been seen at four hospitals in Bridgend, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot on Saturday.

The breakdown of people vaccinated were:

  • Morriston Hospital, Swansea 341

  • Singleton Hospital, Swansea 302

  • Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend 727

  • Neath Port Talbot Hospital 455

  •                                         -From BBC News

The news has increased in urgency with these high numbers of potential cases, and also became more grave as”Gareth Williams, 25, died at his home in Swansea on Thursday.”

In the years prior to the current epidemic, which began in November of 2012, there was a distinct trend of increasing cases, but this has been increased by an order of magnitude over even the worst years. Data from the Public Health Wales Health Protection Division (analogous to the CDC here in the States) show the trend starting, but these data do not include many of the current cases as it cuts off just as the epidemic struck:

Image

note: this only contains data for the first two months leading into the currernt epidemic

So… my original fear was that data was being unjustly ‘massaged’ in order to present the problem as possibly more serious than it is. After looking at the data, I still think it may not be the best way to present the data, but it does communicate the right message. One thing that I must admit is the difficulty in finding good, raw data that is up to date.

Questions I would like to see answered from this outbreak are:

How are immunized vs partially immunized vs unimmunized people faring? i.e. how protective is the vaccine?

Has herd immunity been doing much of the ‘protection’ up to this point – also, do/would booster shots  really provide any protection for previously immunized people? (somehow these two go together in my mind)

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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