Tag: Outbreaks

How Do They Figure out Who Starts an Outbreak?

As we continue to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the post-vaccination era, it is important that these outbreaks be quickly contained.

But it is important to understand that these outbreaks don’t simply stop on there own. A lot of work goes into containing them.

Working to Contain an Outbreak

And that work containing outbreaks is expensive. Much more expensive than simply getting vaccinated.

For example, the total personnel time and total direct cost to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene responding to and controlling the 2013 outbreak in NYC were calculated to be at least $394,448 and 10,054 personnel hours.

Why it is so expensive is easy to see once you understand all of the work that goes into containing an outbreak. Work that is done by your local health department as soon as a case of measles, or other vaccine-preventable disease, is suspected.

Work that, for a measles outbreak for example, includes:

  • initiating a case and contact investigation
  • quickly confirming that the patient actually has measles, including testing
  • assessing the potential for further spread – identifying contacts who aren’t immune to measles and are at risk for getting measles
  • isolating people with measles and quarantining contacts who aren’t immune to measles for at least 21 days after the start of the measles rash in the last case of measles in the area, including everyone who is intentionally unvaccinated
  • offering postexposure vaccination, a dose of the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to contacts who are not fully immune so that they can get some protection maybe don’t have to be quarantined
  • having targeted immunization clinics in the affected population, such as a school or church, to get as many people vaccinated as possible, even after 72 hours, so they have can be protected in the future

That’s an awful lot of work.

Work that continues until the outbreak officially ends.

Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Another big part of the work that goes on to contain an outbreak is identifying the source of the outbreak.

Was it someone who had recently been traveling overseas, a visitor from out of the country, or someone that was already part of an another outbreak?

Why is that so important?

If you don’t find the source of the outbreak, then you can’t be sure that you have found all of the people that have been exposed, and the outbreak might go on for an extended period of time.

And no, it is never shedding, a vaccine strain, or a recently vaccinated child that causes these measles outbreaks.

Anatomy of a Measles Outbreak

A closer look at the measles outbreak in San Diego, California in 2008 can help folks understand even better what happens during one of these outbreaks.

A 7-year-old who is unvaccinated because his parents have a personal belief vaccine exemption travels to Switzerland with his family.

A week after returning home from the trip, he gets sick, but returns to school after a few days. He then develops a rash and sees his family physician, followed by his pediatrician, and then makes a trip to the emergency room because he continues to have a high fever and rash (classic measles symptoms).

He is eventually diagnosed with measles, but not before eleven other children are infected with measles. This includes two of his siblings, five children in his school, and four children who were exposed at his pediatrician’s office.

It is not as simple as that though.

During this measles outbreak:

  • Three of the children who became infected were younger than 12 months of age, and were therefore too young to have been vaccinated
  • Eight of the nine children who were at least 12 months old were intentionally unvaccinated because they also had personal belief vaccine exemptions
  • About 70 children were placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days after their last exposure because they were exposed to one of the measles cases and either didn’t want to be vaccinated or were too young
  • One of the infants with measles traveled to Hawaii, raising fears that the measles outbreak could spread there too

All together, 839 people were exposed to the measles virus.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.

At least one of them was a 10-month-old infant who got infected at his well child checkup, was too young to have gotten the MMR vaccine yet, and ended up spending three days in the hospital – time his parents spent “fearing we might lose our baby boy.”

The parents of this 10-month-old weren’t looking for a vaccine exemption and didn’t want their child to catch measles, a life-threatening, vaccine-preventable disease. Instead, they were counting on herd immunity to protect him until their child could be protected with an MMR vaccine. They were one of “those who come into contact with them” that got caught up in a decision of some other parents to not vaccinate their child.

The kids who are at risk and get a vaccine-preventable disease because they are too young to get vaccinated, have an immune system problem that prevents them from getting immunized or their vaccine from working, and the kids who simply didn’t get protected from a vaccine are the hidden costs of these measles outbreaks that we don’t hear about often enough.

What to Know About Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Without all of the hard work that goes into containing outbreaks, the outbreaks of measles, pertussis, mumps, hepatitis A, and other vaccine preventable diseases would be even bigger.

More on Finding the Source of an Outbreak

 

Did Sweden Ban Mandatory Vaccination?

Have you heard the “news” that Sweden banned mandatory vaccination in their country?

Is that true?

Did Sweden Ban Mandatory Vaccination?

Like most other anti-vaccine myths, this one isn’t true.

Sweden did not ban mandatory vaccination.

“…vaccination coverage is still high and stable, that the diseases covered by the programs are under control…”

Riksdag Social Committee report 2016/17: SoU7

In March 2017, the Riksdag, or Swedish parliament, did vote against a proposal that called for mandatory vaccination. This came as other countries in Europe are seeing lower rates of immunization, rising rates of vaccine-preventable disease, and calls for vaccine mandates. In fact, France and Italy recently implemented vaccine mandates.

“The general vaccination program has a good coverage, and most children are protected against measles and polio, for example. There are, however, skepticism about vaccinations, both the vaccinations included in the basic program and others. In our view, however, it is of societal interest that the vaccination program is implemented in its entirety, and many of the myths and incorrect data circulating about the vaccination program need to be treated and pinned. We therefore consider that the government should provide the appropriate authority with the task of designing an information campaign on the benefits and necessity of the childhood vaccination program.”

Riksdag Social Committee report 2016/17: SoU7

Although the Swedish parliament voted against a motion that would have started a mandatory vaccination plan, there was nothing to ban. Sweden has never had a mandatory vaccination.

The Riksdag passed a motion to add the rotavirus vaccine to the immunization schedule in Sweden.
The Riksdag did pass a motion to add the rotavirus vaccine to the immunization schedule in Sweden.

It is also clear that they see the problem that anti-vax groups are causing in their country and are working to combat them.

That will hopefully keep them from needing a mandatory vaccination program.

What to Know About the Myth of Sweden Banning Mandatory Vaccination

Sweden, with good immunization levels and low rates of vaccine-preventable disease, did not ban mandatory vaccination.

More on the Myth of Sweden Banning Mandatory Vaccination

I Refuse to Listen to Bad Advice About Flu Shots, and I Won’t Apologize for It

The only thing that seems to be more rampant than the flu this season are the articles pushing people to skip a flu shot.

POPSUGAR moms will hopefully go somewhere else for advice about flu shots.
POPSUGAR moms will hopefully go somewhere else for advice about flu shots.

They. Are. Everywhere.

I Refuse to Listen to Bad Advice About Flu Shots

Why are we seeing so many folks attacking flu shots lately?

It’s simple. A bad flu season reminds people that they should get vaccinated and protected. We see the same thing when there are outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis, etc.

And then those folks who are truly anti-vaccine have to come out and justify why they still don’t believe in vaccines.

That leaves us with arguments like this:

“Whenever I start to get worried that I’ll end up with the flu if I don’t get the shot, I remember that it isn’t always effective.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

It is true that the flu shot is not always effective, but if you are only going to use things that are 100% effective, then why would you take “lots of vitamins and natural supplements” when you have the flu, things that have been shown to be ineffective?

“Side effects can include soreness around the injection side, a low-grade fever for a few days, and muscle aches. Now, I know that this may seem like a small price to pay to avoid getting the full-blown flu, but if I can avoid any sickness at all, why not try?”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

Uh, if you want to try and avoid any sickness, why not get a flu shot? Even when it isn’t as effective as we would like, a flu shot can help reduce your chance of hospitalization, serious flu complications, and of dying with the flu.

“Have you ever taken a step back and learned more about what the heck is actually inside the flu shot? ”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

I know exactly what’s in the flu shot.

Does anyone at POPSUGAR?

Got something you want published online? Head over to POPSUGAR...
Got something you want published online? Head over to POPSUGAR…

Even with a disclaimer from an Editor, POPSUGAR should be ashamed of themselves for publishing an article that says the flu shot is filled with toxins. In addition to an ingredients list, the CDC explains that “all ingredients either help make the vaccine, or ensure the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Flu shot ingredients are not toxins!

“Instead of injecting myself with toxins, I do things like practice good hygiene, take lots of vitamins and natural supplements, and rely on my body and it’s strength to fight off any unwanted bacteria. The human body is an incredible thing, and I trust it. I also like it to ride out things naturally.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

The flu is a virus, not a bacteria, but I get the point that the author is attempting to make. The thing is though, that while the human body is certainly incredible, relying on it to get you over the flu is not always an easy ride. We often have to pay a high price for natural immunity.

And the people who die with the flu don’t die because of poor hygiene or because they don’t take enough vitamins and supplements. They die because they have the flu. And more often than not, especially in the case of children, because they are unvaccinated.

“For some people, getting the flu shot is at the very top of their to-do list, but for me, it’s something I refuse to do. And that’s OK too.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

It is certainly OK that Jen Glantz doesn’t get a flu shot each year. At least it is OK as long as she doesn’t get the flu and give it to someone else.

It is not OK that POPSUGAR gives her a voice on such an important topic. Don’t listen to them.

It’s not as big a deal when she writes about the “importance” of drinking both hot and cold water each day, drinking apple cider vinegar for bloating, the best baby names of the year, or how to pee when wearing a wedding dress. That’s the kind of clickbait type content you expect from a POPSUGAR type site.

But scaring people and making them think that there are toxins in flu shots?

Save it for GOOP.

What to Know About Bad Flu Shot Advice

This year’s bad flu season wasn’t limited to folks getting sick… There was also a lot of bad flu shot advice going around.

More on Bad Flu Shot Advice

Grave Reminders of Life Before Vaccines

Need a reminder of just how serious vaccine preventable diseases can be?

Don’t remember the pre-vaccine era?

That could be why some folks are so quick to think that skipping or delaying vaccines is a safe option for their kids.

Vaccines are necessary.

Without them, we will see even more outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis and kids will continue to die of rabies, tetanus, and other now vaccine-preventable diseases.

The South Park Cemetary was begun in 1891 during a diphtheria epidemic.
A diphtheria cemetery in Wyoming.

Isolation hospitals and pest houses were commonly used to quarantine folks with smallpox.
Isolation hospitals and pest houses were commonly used to quarantine folks with smallpox and other now vaccine-preventable diseases.

Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over...
Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over…

People continued to die of smallpox well into the 20th century, even though an effective vaccine was developed in 1796.
People continued to die of smallpox well into the 20th century, even though an effective vaccine was developed in 1796.

In the pre-vaccine era, we had outbreaks of polio, and other, now vaccine-preventable diseases.
Outbreaks of polio would once isolate entire towns, as parents feared their kids would get sick too.

Fight Polio Poster
When was the last time you saw a child with polio?

Before wide use of the Hib and Prevnar vaccines, infants with fever would routinely get spinal taps and you would hope for clear fluid (cloudy fluid could be a sign of a bacterial infection).
Before wide use of the Hib and Prevnar vaccines, younger infants with fever would routinely need spinal taps and you would hope for clear fluid (cloudy fluid could be a sign of a Hib or Strep pneumo infection).

In the pre-vaccine era, Hib caused epiglottitis, meningitis, and pneumonia - all life-threatening diseases that are now prevented by the Hib vaccine.
In the pre-vaccine era, Hib caused epiglottitis, meningitis, and pneumonia – all life-threatening diseases that are now prevented by the Hib vaccine.

Before the 1990s, when the Hib vaccine available, hospitals had an epiglottitis team on call and always available.
Before the 1990s, when the Hib vaccine available, hospitals had an epiglottitis team on call and always available.

News of the Newark kids going to Paris to get Pasteur's rabies vaccine made the front page of the New York Times.
In 1885, several boys from Newark went all of the way to Paris to get Pasteur’s new rabies vaccine, as the disease had always been fatal up until that time.

Even if they survive, kids can lose fingers, toes, or even arms and legs to meningococcemia.
Even if they survive, kids can lose fingers, toes, or even arms and legs to meningococcemia.

Roald Dahl's daughter died of measles in 1962, the year before the development of the first measles vaccine.
Roald Dahl’s daughter died of measles in 1962, the year before the development of the first measles vaccine.

Nationwide, at least 123 people died in the United States during a large measles epidemic from 1989 to 1991, during a time that we had good sanitation, nutrition, and medical care.
Nationwide, at least 123 people died in the United States during large measles epidemics from 1989 to 1991, a time when we had good sanitation, nutrition, and medical care, but some folks weren’t vaccinated and we weren’t yet giving a second dose of MMR.

A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
A papilloma caused by HPV on the vocal cords of a child with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. (CC BY 4.0)

You don't have to go back to the pre-vaccine era to know that pertussis kills.
You don’t have to go back to the pre-vaccine era to know that pertussis kills. Ten infants died in 2010 in California from pertussis infections.

We should never forget what life was like before vaccines.

We should know that vaccine-preventable diseases were rarely mild, natural immunity comes at a cost, and that those who died from smallpox, diphtheria, measles, and polio aren’t around to talk about their experiences on Facebook (survivorship bias).

We should never forget that vaccine-preventable diseases were once big killers, and the only reason some folks have grown to fear the side effects of vaccines more than the diseases they prevent, is because we don’t see those diseases very much any more. If more people skip or delay getting vaccinated, we will though.

immunization-program-stages
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

Vaccines are safe and vaccines work.

Get vaccinated and protected.

Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the past.

What to Know About Life Before Vaccines

Forgetting the pre-vaccine era and the benefits of vaccines makes folks susceptible to anti-vaccine talking points and scares them away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More on Remembering Life Before Vaccines

A History of Measles Outbreaks in United States

We have come a long way since the development of the first measles vaccines in the early 1960s…

Pre-Vaccine Era Measles Outbreaks

Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are quarantined for at least 21 days.
Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are quarantined for at least 21 days.

In the pre-vaccine era, measles was a very common childhood disease.

As it is now, it was also a deadly disease.

In the 1950s, there were 5,487,332 cases (just under 550,000 a year) and 4,950 deaths (about 500 each year).

In 1962, there were 469,924 cases of measles in the United States and 432 deaths.

Post-Vaccine Era Measles Outbreaks

The first measles vaccines were licensed between 1963 and 1965, but it was the first national measles eradication campaign in 1966 that got people vaccinated and measles rates down.

In 1970, there were only 47,351 cases and 89 deaths.

Rates continued to drop until the large outbreaks between 1989 to 1991, when there were 55,622 cases and 123 deaths. The addition of a measles booster shot got measles outbreaks under control again. By 2000, when measles was declared eliminated in the United States, there were just 86 cases and one death.

Post-Elimination Era Measles Outbreaks

Measles cases usually begin increasing in April and May. How many cases will we see this year?
Measles cases usually begin increasing in April and May. How many cases will we see this year?

Declaring measles eliminated in the United States didn’t mean that we didn’t have any more measles, after all, it hasn’t been eradicated yet. It just that we are no longer seeing the endemic spread of measles. Since 2000, all of the latest measles outbreaks have been imported from outside the country, or at least they are started by cases that are imported.

We have seen more than a few records in the post-elimination era, including:

  • the year with the historic low number of measles cases – 37 cases in 2004
  • the year with the largest number of cases since 1994 – 667 cases in 2014
  • the largest single outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated – 377 cases in Ohio in 2014

In 2015, we got a reminder of how deadly measles can be. Although there have been other measles deaths and SSPE deaths in the past ten years, unlike the 2015 death, they are usually buried in CDC reports and aren’t published in the newspaper.

2017 Measles Outbreaks

An infant hospitalized during a measles outbreak in the Philippines in which 110 people died.
An infant hospitalized during a measles outbreak in the Philippines in which 110 people died. Photo by Jim Goodson, M.P.H.

The first new case of 2017 was an unvaccinated adult in San Luis Obispo County, California who was exposed to international travelers over the holidays. The person exposed others to measles at the Twin Cities Community Hospital emergency department in Templeton while contagious in early January.

The second case of 2017 was related to an LA county outbreak that started at the end of 2016 – a resident of Ventura County.

And it went on, with other measles cases in 2017 including:

  • at least 122 cases
  • cases in 16 states, including California, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington
  • an infant in San Luis Obispo County that was too young to be vaccinated and who had contact with an unvaccinated adult with measles
  • one new case in the Los Angeles County outbreak, which is now up to 20 confirmed measles cases (including 18 in LA County), all unvaccinated
  • four new cases in Ventura County, California that are linked to another Ventura County measles case and the LA County outbreak, which is now up to 24 cases
  • a case in Jersey City, New Jersey following international travel who exposed people at multiple places, including a hospital, pharmacy, mall, and on a commuter train
  • an infant in Suffolk County, New York who had been overseas
  • an unvaccinated 7-month-old baby from Passaic County, New Jersey who had been traveling out of the country and may have exposed others at area hospitals (a good reminder that infants who are at least 6 months old should get an MMR vaccine before leaving the country)
  • two cases in Salt Lake County, Utah – which began in a resident who had “received all appropriate vaccinations” and developed measles after traveling outside the US and then spread to another person “who had contact with the first case.” According to the SLCoHD, “One of the two individuals with measles had received one MMR vaccine.”
  • two cases in King County, Washington – a man and his 6-month-old infant, both unvaccinated, developed measles after traveling to Asia, and exposed many others around Seattle, including at a Whole Foods, a sandwich shop, their apartment building, and two Amazon buildings.
  • a confirmed case in Omaha, Nebraska, who exposed people on a Delta flight and multiple places in Douglas and Sarpy counties, including the Bergan Mercy Hospital Emergency Room.
  • a young child in Macomb Count, Michigan who required hospitalized and has been linked to international travel
  • a suspected case at William Allen White Elementary School in Lyon County, Kansas which has led to the quarantine of unvaccinated students for 3 weeks
  • an unvaccinated student at Laguna Beach High in Orange County, California, which led to the quarantine of at least 6 unvaccinated students
  • a staff member at Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred in Florida
  • an unconfirmed case in an infant who attended the College of Staten Island Children’s Center in New York
  • two children in Minnesota without a known source of infection
  • another child in Minnesota – among the three Somali Minnesotans in this outbreak are two children who are just two years old – all of the cases were unvaccinated and two required hospitalization, although the common source is still not known. Vaccine hesitancy has been a problem among the Somali Minnesotans because of Wakefield‘s MMR study.
  • five more unvaccinated children in Minnesota, as the outbreak grows to 8.
  • a confirmed case in North Platte, Nebraska who may have exposed others at a middle school, church youth group, the Great Plains Health Emergency Room, a medical office, and a lab.
  • a resident of Livingston County, Michigan who exposed others at area restaurants and St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Hospital after getting measles on a plane ride with an unvaccinated child
  • another case in Minnesota, bringing the outbreak count to 9 unvaccinated children.
  • three more cases in Minnesota, bringing this outbreak case count to 12, with at least 200 people in quarantine.
  • four possible cases in Nebraska
  • eight more cases in Minnesota, bringing this outbreak case count to 20 young children under age 5 years, and now including an infant under age 12 months.
  • four more cases in Minnesota, bringing this outbreak case count to 24 young children under age 5 years and surpassing the size of the 2011 measles outbreak in the Somali community in the same area, which was also mostly among intentionally unvaccinated children.
  • five more cases in Minnesota, including the first outside of Hennepin County – spreading to nearby Stearns County, bringing this outbreak case count to 29 young children under age 5 years, with only one that was vaccinated.
  • three more cases in Minnesota, as the outbreak spreads to the third county – Ramsey County.
  • more measles (2 new cases) in Minnesota (Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Crow Wing County, and now Le Sueur County), where the ongoing outbreak is up to 66 cases, almost all unvaccinated children and where there has been a call to accelerate the two dose MMR schedule for kids over age 12 months.
  • a teen visiting the United States from India who developed measles and exposed others at a hotel and a hospital in Bergen County, New Jersey and in upstate New York.
  • a child in Maryland who was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
  • more measles (3 new cases) in Minnesota (Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Crow Wing County, and Le Sueur County), where the ongoing outbreak that has been confirmed to be from the wild type B3 strain is up to 68 cases, almost all unvaccinated children.
  • a case in Pennsylvania who exposed others at a visitor center
  • someone who visited the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • two new cases in Minnesota, ending speculation that the outbreak, now up to 70 cases, was over…
  • one new case in Minnesota, raising the number of cases in this ongoing outbreak to 78 cases.
  • a healthcare worker in New York who is employed by Hudson Headwaters Health Network and also works at a Warren County medical practice.
  • someone in Franklin County, Maine (their first case in Maine in 20 years!) who traveled out of the country and caught measles, returning home and possibly exposing others at a movie theater, restaurant, farmers market, and hospital.
  • A case in Butler County, Kansas. Many remember that one of the largest outbreaks of 2014 was in Kansas.
  • an unvaccinated man who lives in Hennepin County, raising the number of cases in this ongoing outbreak (an outbreak that has already cost over $500,000 to contain and which many hoped would soon be over) that started in March to at least 79 cases. With the new case, the clock starts ticking again and Minnesota will have to wait to see if new cases appear over the next 3 weeks.
  • passengers from 13 states on an American Airlines flight from New York to Chicago were exposed to a person with measles in early July, including a 12-week-old infant who required preventative treatment with immune globulin (IG), as she was too young to be vaccinated.
  • a fully vaccinated resident of Onondaga County, New York who was exposed on a domestic flight, only developed mild symptoms, but did expose others.
  • someone who exposed others at the Penn State University Hetzel Union Building Bookstore and other places in State College, Pennsylvania.
  • a second case in the Wichita, Kansas area, this time in Sedgwick County, with exposures at a church, dental office, elementary school, and multiple stores over at least 3 days.
  • a possible case in Sedgwick County, Kansas, a child too young to be vaccinated who may have been exposed at a church. Three other exposed infants who were too young to be vaccinated and who were considered at risk to get measles in this outbreak received immunoglobulin treatment.
  • a traveler who spent time in Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, exposing others.
  • a 46-year-old male in Ohio that got the disease while traveling internationally.

2017 would have been a mild year for measles, except for the really big outbreak in Minnesota… 79 people got measles, 71 were unvaccinated, more than 500 people were quarantines, and the outbreak cost over $1.3 million to contain.

2016 Measles Outbreaks

Starting slow, 2016 ended as a fairly average year for measles:

  • 83 cases
  • cases in 17 states, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah
  • a large outbreak in Arizona, 23 cases, linked to a private detention center
  • a large outbreak in Shelby County, Tennessee, at least seven cases, including six unvaccinated and one partially vaccinated child
  • an ongoing measles outbreak in Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County that has been linked to the Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community
  • a case in Colorado in which an unvaccinated adult traveled internationally and ended up exposing many people “from Dec. 21 to 29, 2016, who was at a wide variety of locations in the Denver-Boulder area,” including an Urgent Care center and the Parker Adventist Hospital Emergency Department

As in other years, many of these outbreaks involved unvaccinated children and adults. One case involved a child at the Yuba River Charter School in California, a Waldorf School with very high rates of unvaccinated children.

2015 Measles Outbreaks

With a large outbreak in California, 2015 got off to a very strong start.

Most concerning, more and more, cases don’t seem to have an source that is easy to find, which could mean that the endemic spread of measles has returned in the United States. So instead of having to travel out of the country or be exposed to someone who got measles with a link to international travel, you could get measles just by going to a ball game, a movie theater, or to Disneyland. That makes it more important than ever to learn how to avoid measles.

Among the 189 measles cases and outbreaks in 2015 were:

  • 113 cases that were associated with a multi-state outbreak that was linked to Disneyland in California. Before it was declared over on April 17, a few unvaccinated travelers also help spread measles from this outbreak to large outbreak in Quebec, Canada. All in all, the outbreak was linked to at least 113 cases in California and an additional 169 cases in Arizona (5), Nebraska (1), Utah (3), Colorado (1), Washington (2), Oregon (1), Mexico (1), and Canada (155).
  • 13 cases, including an adult worker and 12 infants too young to be vaccinated at the KinderCare Learning Center in Illinois.
  • At least 13 cases, all intentionally unvaccinated, in a South Dakota outbreak that started with an unvaccinated adult traveling to India.
  • Five cases in Clallam County, Washington, including four who were not vaccinated, which cost at least $36,000 to contain and led to the death of an immunosuppressed woman.

In addition to these large outbreaks, 2015 also saw a number of quarantines for unvaccinated students, closing of daycare centers, and a recommendation from a California Department of Health state epidemiologist that people who are not vaccinated against measles “avoid visiting Disney” and “crowded places with a high concentration of international travelers, such as airports.”

Other measles cases in 2015 include:

  • A student at UC Berkeley who may have exposed others to measles on a public bus.
  • A confirmed case in Fairbanks, Alaska – their first case in 15 years, who flew in from Seattle (and is probably the King County case discussed below) and may have exposed others at an area Walmart, Home Depot, Walgreens, several supermarkets, the airport, and hospital, etc.
  • A confirmed case in King County, Washington, who may have exposed others in Seattle, including at an area McDonalds, the Baroness Hotel, a drug store, and the Sea-Tac Airport.
  • A confirmed case in Branson, Missouri, a traveler from Asia, who was contagious when visiting the ER, three local businesses, and perhaps his flight to town.
  • A confirmed case in the Washington D.C. area.
  • Another case of measles in Spokane County, Washington – an unvaccinated person that was exposed to the other case in the area.
  • An unvaccinated student from Europe in Boston, Massachusetts who also traveled to Maine and New Hampshire.
  • Another unvaccinated child in St. Lucie County, Florida – bringing the total to five cases in central Florida in what so far looks like two separate outbreaks.
  • Another case in Indian River County, Florida – an unvaccinated child.
  • An unvaccinated adult in Spokane, Washington – the first case in the area since 1994.
  • Two unvaccinated adults in Indian River County, Florida, one of whom contracted measles while traveling out of the country.
  • An unvaccinated 6-year-old in St. Lucie County, Florida who attended Fairlawn Elementary School in Fort Pierce – leading to five unvaccinated students being kept out of school until early May.
  • The first case in Oklahoma since 1997, a case in Stillwater.
  • A case in Florida, a traveler who was contagious while attending a conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center and also in Maimi-Dade, Orange, and Sarasota counties.
  • A new case in Illinois, the 15th – and so far not linked to the other two outbreaks in the state.
  • A student at Princeton University in New Jersey.
  • Another case of measles in the Washington D.C. area, a case without a known source.
  • A case in a student at Elgin Community College in Kane County, Illinois.
  • A hospitalized infant in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • An unvaccinated 1 year old in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • A traveler in King County, Washington that may have exposed others in Seattle. The unvaccinated visitor is from Brazil, where there was a large outbreak of measles last year (almost 400 cases).
  • At least one more case in Clark County, Nevada and four more possible cases in Southern and Northern Nevada, which led to the quarantine of at least 11 students at the Spanish Springs Elementary School.
  • A case in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
  • Four cases of measles in travelers, including two international travelers, who visited Florida.
  • A case in Washington D.C.
  • A student at Bard College in Dutchess County, New York, who exposed many people while traveling on an Amtrak train to Penn Station in New York City.
  • An unvaccinated woman in New Castle County, Delaware who had recently traveled out of the country.
  • A case on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus in a student that had recently returned from out of the country. Although others were exposed, it is considered to be a “highly immunized” population, so hopefully the outbreak won’t spread.
  • Two more cases in Arizona that are tied to the Disneyland outbreak, including a woman in Phoenix who may have exposed others up to 195 children at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center, including a 3-year-old getting chemotherapy for leukemia.
  • An adult in Cook County, Illinois which in not linked to Disneyland.
  • A student at Valley High School in Las Vegas which led to the quarantine of 36 unvaccinated students until early February.
  • Four cases among an unvaccinated family in Kearny, Arizona that is directly linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
  • A child in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that is unrelated to 13 recent cases in the area and which has no link to travel out of the area.
  • A new case in Oakland County, Michigan that is likely linked to the Disneyland measles outbreak, meaning that the outbreak has now spread to include 7 states and 2 countries.
  • A case in Maricopa County, Arizona has been linked to the Disneyland outbreak.
  • A person in Nebraska who could have exposed others in Omaha and Blair, including at the Omaha Children’s Museum.
  • A case in Lane County, Oregon that has been linked to the Disneyland measles outbreak.
  • A resident of Tarrant County in North Texas who developed measles after a trip to India.
  • Another unvaccinated person in Utah with links to the Disneyland outbreak has tested positive for measles, bringing the total in that state to 3 cases.

In addition to the 36 measles cases that have been associated with the Disneyland outbreak, California already has 5 additional measles cases this year with no link to Disney, including cases in Alameda, Orange, and Ventura Counties.

 

For More Information On Measles Outbreaks:

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What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a vaccine preventable disease.

The hepatitis A vaccine was first added to the immunization schedule in 1996, but wasn’t made a universal recommendation for all children until 2006. At first, it was just given to high risk kids.

Now all toddlers begin to get a two dose hepatitis A vaccine series beginning when they are 1 to 2 years old, with 6 to 18 months between the doses.

Unfortunately, unlike many other vaccines, there was never a catch-up plan for those who were unvaccinated, so some teens and many adults are still not vaccinated and still not protected against hepatitis A infections.

Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

How do you get hepatitis A?

“The hepatitis A virus is able to survive outside the body for months. High temperatures, such as boiling or cooking food or liquids for at least 1 minute at 185°F (85°C), kill the virus, although freezing temperatures do not.”

CDC on Hepatitis A Questions and Answers

Unlike hepatitis B, which is spread through blood and body fluids, people who are infected with hepatitis A shed the virus in their stool.

So you can get infected by having close contact with someone who has hepatitis A or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

How do you know if you have been exposed?

While an employee in the produce department at a Kroger in Kentucky recently exposed folks to hepatitis A, back in 2016 it was a Whole Foods in Michigan that was linked to an outbreak.
While an employee in the produce department at a Kroger in Kentucky recently exposed folks to hepatitis A, back in 2016 it was a Whole Foods in Michigan that was linked to an outbreak.

Exposures are most common in local common-source outbreaks caused by sick food handlers at restaurants and grocery stores and multi-state hepatitis A outbreaks caused by contaminated foods. These types of exposures are usually announced by your local or state health department.

Other exposures occur if you are living with someone who develops hepatitis A or travel to a country where hepatitis A is still common.

What to Do If Your Unvaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

If your unvaccinated child is exposed to hepatitis A, you should talk to your pediatrician or local health department about starting post-exposure prophylaxis as soon as possible and not longer than 14 days, including either:

  • the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine, with plans to get the second dose of vaccine in 6 months, or
  • a dose of immune globulin (provides a passive transfer of antibodies)

In general, getting the hepatitis A vaccine is preferred over getting immune globulin for most healthy people between 12 months and 40 years of age. For infants less than 12 months (too young to be vaccinated) and unvaccinated adults over age 40 years, immune globulin is preferred after an exposure to hepatitis A.

Immune globulin is also preferred for anyone who is immunocompromised or chronic liver disease.

What if it has been more than 14 days since the exposure?

While it is likely too late for immune globulin, your unvaccinated child should still likely get a dose of hepatitis A vaccine to protect against future exposures. And watch carefully over the next 15 to 50 days (the incubation period) for symptoms of hepatitis A, which can include jaundice, fever, and vomiting, etc. Many children don’t have symptoms though, so your child could develop hepatitis A, and be contagious and expose others without your even knowing it.

If post-exposure vaccination works, can’t you just wait until your child is exposed to get vaccinated? That might work – if you could be sure about each and every exposure that your child will ever have. Since that’s not possible, don’t delay getting vaccinated and put your child at risk of getting hepatitis A.

What to Do If Your Vaccinated Child Is Exposed to Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A vaccine is very effective.

One dose provide 95% protection against hepatitis A infections and the second dose boosts the efficacy rate up to 99%.

If your child is partially vaccinated, with just one dose and has been exposed to hepatitis A, get the second dose if it has been at least six months since he was vaccinated. Otherwise, talk to your pediatrician or local health department, but your child is likely considered protected.

What to Know About Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

Learn what to do if your child is exposed to hepatitis A, especially if they aren’t already vaccinated and protected.

More on Getting Exposed to Hepatitis A

Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

Every state has laws mandating vaccines to attend school and daycare.

Every state also allows exemptions to those mandates, including:

The way that  these laws and exemptions are set up leaves a lot of room for abuse though.

Abuse of Religious Exemptions

How many religions are actually against kids getting vaccinated?

That’s right, almost none.

So why are there so many religious vaccine exemptions in most states, especially in states that don’t have a personal belief exemption?

Right again.

Folks who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, and can’t use a personal belief exemption, just say that vaccinating them would be against their religion.

Abuse of Medical Exemptions

There are some children who shouldn’t be vaccinated.

These children can get a true medical exemption to one or more vaccines because they have a real contraindication or precaution to getting vaccinated.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

Fortunately, these medical reasons to skip or delay vaccines are not very common and are often temporary. They can include the contraindications and precautions listed in the package insert for each vaccine and by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, with the most common medical exemptions being:

  • a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose
  • a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component
  • a known severe immunodeficiency and live vaccines
  • a moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever (precaution)
  • a progressive neurologic disorder (precaution)
A family history of these conditions would not be a reason to skip or delay any vaccines.
Although it will get you a medical exemption for just $120 in California, a family history of these conditions would not be a reason to skip or delay any vaccines.

Most other things are “incorrectly perceived as contraindications to vaccination” and should not be a medical exemptions, including having :

  • a mild acute illness with or without fever
  • a mild to moderate local reaction
  • relatives with allergies
  • a family history of seizures
  • a stable neurologic condition
  • an autoimmune disease
  • a family history of an adverse event after DTP or DTaP administration

A medical exemption can also exist if your child already had the disease and so has natural immunity. In most cases, except for chicken pox disease, titers will likely need to be done to prove that your child already has immunity.

Stopping the Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

We know that vaccine exemptions are being abused.

How do you stop it?

“Permitting personal belief exemptions and easily granting exemptions are associated with higher and increasing nonmedical US exemption rates. State policies granting personal belief exemptions and states that easily grant exemptions are associated with increased pertussis incidence.”

Omer et al on Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence.

You likely have to make it harder to get a vaccine exemption.

Strong exemption laws, which are needed in many states, make it clear that:

  • many exemptions are temporary
  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence based medicine – not anecdotes
  • religious exemptions specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • a separate exemption application will be needed for each vaccine

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated! And it should include some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids.

“Because rare medically recognized contraindications for specific individuals to receive specific vaccines exist, legitimate medical exemptions to immunization requirements are important to observe. However, nonmedical exemptions to immunization requirements are problematic because of medical, public health, and ethical reasons and create unnecessary risk to both individual people and communities.”

AAP on Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance

You could also get rid of nonmedical vaccine exemptions.

Of course, for that to work, you can’t allow just anything to count as a medical exemption.

“Review of all medical exemption requests will be conducted at the Mississippi State Department of Health by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist.”

Mississippi Medical Exemption Policy

In Mississippi, for example, where medical exemptions are reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist or Deputy State Epidemiologist, there were just 208 medical exemptions in the whole state during the 2016-17 school year.

In some states, rates of medical exemptions might be six or seven times higher. This is mostly seen in states that don’t allow personal belief exemptions and make it difficult to get a religious exemption.

That seems to be the case in Nebraska, where there are no personal belief exemptions and you have to submit a notarized statement to get a religious exemptions. Their high rates of medical exemptions likely reflect some abuse and the fact that medical exemptions aren’t reviewed or approved by anyone, they just reflect “that, in the health care provider’s opinion, the specified immunization(s) required would be injurious to the health and well – being of the student or any member of the student’s family or household.”

As we are seeing, that simply invites vaccine exemption abuse.

Very few states currently require that exemption applications go to the health department for review. Those that do include Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

California is notably absent. I guess they didn’t see the potential for abuse when they passed their latest vaccine law. I mean, who could have guessed that doctors would actually be selling medical exemptions to parents based on unrelated conditions, like a family history of diabetes, celiac disease, or autism?

The non-medical vaccine exemption form in Colorado includes information on the risks of each vaccine-preventable disease.
The non-medical vaccine exemption form in Colorado includes information on the risks of each vaccine-preventable disease.

At the very least, until we have stronger exemption laws, parents who want to get a nonmedical exemption should acknowledge that they understand the risks they are taking when they skip or delay their child’s vaccines.

What to Know About Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions

While medical exemptions are necessary for kids who have true contraindications to getting vaccinated, stronger laws can help decrease the abuse we see in medical, religious, and personal belief vaccine exemptions.

More Information on Abuse of Vaccine Exemptions