Did the Flu Take Down the Packers & the Steelers in the NFL Playoffs?

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

In the final weeks of NFL play, as the Green Bay Packers competed against the Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the New England Patriots, rumors circulated that several NFL players may have had the flu.  

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-1-34-51-pmSome sources say the players had fallen ill with a flu-like bug, though it’s unclear what that’s supposed to mean.  It seems likely that a doctor’s exam, along with a flu test, could confirm, with relative certainty, whether these players were in fact suffering from influenza.

Some sources reported that the players have had the “stomach flu, which is confusing since there is really no such thing as a “stomach flu“. With flu, some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-1-41-49-pmis more common in children than adults.  It is much more likely that these symptoms alone suggest gastrointestinal issues that are often referred to as stomach bugs, which again, should not be confused with influenza.

Then there’s the reference to the “24-hour flu in a report from ESPN Staff Writer, Jeremy Fowler.  The article leads with a statement that up to 15 people in the Pittsburgh Steelers facility suffered a setback from a “24-hour flu bug”.  To clarify, the flu is never a 24 hour ordeal.  Rather, the flu can last as long as 5-10 days.

In an interview on NFL.com, we hear sportscaster Charley Casserly and former general manager of the NFL’s Washington Redskins saying,

“Some of the best games I had players play in was when they were ill.  They had the flu. Hey, I don’t know what it is, but the flu, the flu could be good.  It could be good for those players.  A lot of them play well.”

I’m guessing Casserly doesn’t know much about the flu.  He has probably never had it himself or he wouldn’t suggest that players could play well while suffering with it.

This varied media coverage of these high-profile athletes and their suspected illnesses is just another example of how the public continues to be misinformed about the flu.

The flu is a serious illness, that kills and hospitalizes thousands of people in the U.S. each year.  Yet the majority of people I talk to, day after day, are unfamiliar with flu symptoms and the dangers of flu.

Yesterday I had dinner with a good friend – a friend who was only in town because she had traveled four hours to bring her college-aged son back to campus after he had been home suffering with the flu for over a week. She explained that she had never had the flu, nor had either of her two college-aged children.  Therefore, she had never even considered the need for a flu vaccine.  She then went on to explain that she never knew how bad it could be, until she saw her son lying in bed for days. He was very ill and lost 10 pounds in one week.  As he describes it, “It was the most awful thing and I’ve never been that sick ever.Read more…

What is the Public Health Preparedness of our Nation?

January 18, 2017 1 comment
The Trust For America’s Health (TFAH) recently examined the nation’s ability to respond to public health emergencies.  They tracked progress and vulnerabilities, and included a review of state and federal public health preparedness policies. In their report titled Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism, they found that 26 states and Washington, D.C. scored a six or lower on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness.screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-12-17-13-pm
As Every Child By Two continues to report on the State of the ImmUnion, we’ve asked Trust for America’s Health to elaborate on the vaccine section of their report in the following guest post co-authored by Dara Alpert Lieberman, MPP, Senior Government Relations Manager and Albert Lang, Senior Communications Manager.

The Importance of Vaccines Can Never be Overstated

logo-1In the most recent report on public health preparedness from the Trust For America’s Health (TFAH), there is a line about vaccines that bears repeating:

“Some of the greatest public health successes of the past century — including the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the elimination of polio, measles and rubella in the United States — are the result of successful vaccination programs.”

Yet, somewhere along the way we lost our wonder in the awe-inspiring results vaccines produce.

A recent model estimated that, from 1994-2013, the Vaccines for Children program prevented as many as 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths at a net savings of $1.38 trillion in societal costs. And, each year, we know that three million lives are saved because vaccines exist and are administered. According to the CDC:

  • Nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles before there was a vaccine, and hundreds died from it each year. Today, most doctors have never seen a case of measles.
  • More than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, before there was a vaccine. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to CDC since 2004.
  • An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12.5 million Americans, killed 2,000 babies, and caused 11,000 miscarriages. In 2012, 9 cases of rubella were reported to CDC.

If you think this is hyperbole, remember that we effectively eliminated measles in the United States in 2000, yet, since 2014, we have experienced a resurgent number of measles cases, largely among people who were unvaccinated.

In our recent report, Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism, we found that just 10 states vaccinated at least half of their population against the seasonal flu.

We like to use this as a bit of a proxy indicator. Basically, if we can’t vaccine a large portion of the population for something that is more or less the norm, what are the odds we could quickly vaccinate a majority of the population during a pandemic. For example, if there was a vaccine for Zika, would the nation been able to dispense it?

Another lesson we can draw from vaccination rates: when we become complacent, our preparedness suffers. We can’t let vaccine complacency continue. To improve vaccination rates, TFAH’s report included policy recommendations such as: Read more…

Multiple Vaccine Oversight Committees Ensure Our Public Safety

January 11, 2017 103 comments
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This guest post has been written by Dr. Dorit Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law.  Dr. Reiss is a regular contributor to various blogs and law journals, where she utilizing her legal expertise to examine the social policies of immunization.

 

Regulating Vaccine Safety, by Dr. Dorit Reiss

According to yesterday’s news reports, long-time vaccine critic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. met with President-elect Donald Trump. 

Following their meeting Kennedy reported that an offer was made to lead a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. As one would imagine, this has caused concern for immunization advocates and elation among anti-vaccine activists. It is, at this point, unclear whether Kennedy’s statements are true, as a Trump spokesperson issued an email statement that Forbes reported as follows:

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals.”

While Trump’s intentions in meeting with Kennedy may still be unclear, this is a good opportunity for us to review the specific ways in which vaccine safety is regulated here in the U.S., and the oversight committees that monitor vaccines pre and post licensure.

To begin, it is safe to say that vaccine safety is heavily regulated in the United States, with multiple systems overseeing the vaccine enterprise.

It would be hard to hide a problem if one existed. Further scrutiny reveals that vaccines are very safe and that when problems occur, they are quickly discovered and addressed.  It is important to also note that many of the same vaccines used in the U.S. are also studied and used in other countries. Even if the U.S. apparatus was completely flawed, it would be hard to hide any dangers in this age of global communications, intra-government collaboration and oversight.

Vaccine Regulation in the United States

The U.S. is a regulatory state and vaccines are no exception. The vaccine licensing process goes through multiple stages of vaccine testing and approval, as depicted in the CDC infographic pictured at right.journey-of-child-vaccine_sm.png

However, before a vaccine can even begin the clinical trial phase in humans, a request must be submitted to the FDA in the form of an Investigational New Drug application, which requires toxicology and animal data. (For more details on this regulation, you can refer to the resource here.)

This is followed by clinical testing, which is also heavily regulated as can be seen in a review of these references here and here.

While the FDA is underfunded and understaffed, and may not have the ability to constantly monitor all trials, companies know that FDA monitoring is to be expected and they must assume their trials will be reviewed.

Furthermore, once the clinical trials are complete, there is an additional layer of review. The sponsor and FDA present the results of the clinical trials to the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). Most members of this committee are not part of the FDA; instead the committee is comprised of consumer representatives, as well as experts in relevant fields, many of whom work in universities or hospitals.  The current roster for the Committee can be found here.  The committee is further governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires pre-announced public meetings.

After the licensing process is complete, there are several monitoring systems in place.  Read more…

Make Sure Your College Student Has These Shots Before Returning To Campus

iStock_000078067721_Double.jpgTeens and young adults have a tendency to believe they’re completely invincible.  But their lifestyle – which often involves high levels of stress, inadequate amounts of sleep and close living quarters – can put them at an increased risk of certain infections such as flu, mumps, meningitis and HPV.  As students return to class after winter break, they’re  reunited with classmates, roommates, and professors who may have been exposed to infectious diseases during their travels to other states or other countries.

While it’s impossible to prevent every cough and sniffle, parents can help protect their kids by ensuring they’re up-to-date on all their recommended vaccines.

So what are all the vaccines that are recommended for teens and young adults?  

And wouldn’t they be required for school anyway?

Vaccine requirements vary by state and don’t necessarily include all the vaccines that the CDC recommends. Therefore, as winter break come to an end, parents should review their students’ immunization records and arrange for them to get any missing shots before they return to class.

Here are a few of the diseases that students should be protected against.

Influenza

Influenza is a dangerous viral infection that causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year in the U.S., even among health people of all ages.  For the best protection, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an annual influenza vaccine.

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Unfortunately, while flu vaccination rates are typically the highest among children, rates tend to drop among teens and young adults. If your college student hasn’t already received their annual flu vaccine it’s not too late.  Bring them to their healthcare provider or local pharmacy to get them protected before they return to campus. Although it can take up to two weeks to develop antibodies post-vaccination, flu season often extends well into Spring, so students will benefit from protection for many months to come.

Mumps

Mumps may not be considered “common” in the U.S. thanks to a 99% decrease in mumps cases once mumps vaccination began in 1967, but there have been several mumps outbreaks on college campuses in the past year, and approximately 4,258 cases across 46 states and DC in 2016.

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This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that crowded environments, such a large classes and dormitory living can all contribute to the likelihood of outbreaks.  Also, since mumps is spread primarily through saliva, coughing and sneezing, teen behaviors such as kissing or sharing plates, utensils, cups, lipstick or cigarettes, are all factors that can increase the likelihood of transmission. Read more…

Stories of Polio, Meningitis, HPV, Hepatitis and Pertussis Top 2016 List

December 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Every Child By Two’s online platforms have reached over 11 million people with evidence based vaccine messaging in 2016.  As we look back at the record number of views and shares there have been on Shot of Prevention blog posts this past year, we’re especially grateful to our blog readers, contributors and subscribers.  

Whether you have shared a post, shared your story, or shared your expertise, know that our growth and success would not have been possible without your support.  Thanks to you, people are referencing our content before making important immunization decisions for themselves and their families.  In these final days of 2016, we hope that you will revisit these top five posts from the past year and share them with others in your social networks.  Together, we can continue to engage more people in these important immunization discussions.

 

1. My Polio Story is an Inconvenient Truth to Those Who Refuse Vaccines


Judy Post Polio with SisterIn 1949, Judith contracted polio along with 42,000 other people in the U.S. Judith survived five months in the hospital and multiple surgeries, but sadly 2,720 people died from polio that year.  As Judith bravely shares her story, she explains that it represents an inconvenient truth to people who are in denial about the risks of polio. She is continually shocked by people who refuse vaccines, who refuse to believe she ever suffered with polio, or who actually believe the polio vaccine is part of a government or “big pharma” conspiracy.  By sharing Judith’s story we hope to encourage continued polio vaccination and support of polio eradication worldwide and applaud people like Judith who are courageous enough to speak out in support of vaccines.  To read Judith’s story, click here.

 

2. How My Vaccinated Daughter Died From Meningitis and What I’m Doing About It  


EmilyStillmanEmily Stillman was pronounced brain-dead just 30 hours from the onset of a severe headache.  What they though was a migraine turned out to be meningococcal disease. In this post Emily’s mother Alicia explains that although Emily received a meningococcal vaccine, the MCV4 vaccine she received only protected her against meningococcal serogroups A, C, W and Y.  It did not protect her against serogroup B, which is what caused Emily’s death.  Since Emily’s death, a MenB vaccine has been approved for use.  However, most parents still don’t know it exists and therefore, most students are still not protected.

As the Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation, Alicia Stillman helps educate people about the importance of “complete and total” protection against all serogroups of meningococcal disease.  This means ensuring that teens and young adults receive both meningococcal vaccines; the MCV4 vaccine that protects against serogroups A,C, W and Y, as well as a MenB vaccine series.  To learn more about fully protecting our youth against meningococcal disease, read Alicia’s guest blog here.

 

3. Questioning Whether to Get Your Child the HPV Vaccine? Read This


hpv-fact-vs-fiction-series-1Although the HPV vaccine is one of the most effective ways we have to prevent numerous types of cancer, it is still being grossly underutilized.  As a result of persistent but inaccurate myths circulating on the internet, some parents are more fearful of the HPV vaccine than the human papillomavirus itself.  This is causing them to refuse or delay HPV vaccination for their children.

In this popular blog post, we highlight ten critical facts that address the most common misconceptions about HPV infection and the vaccine that can help prevent this very common infection. To learn more, be sure to read the post here.

 

4. Understanding Why Your Baby Needs a Hepatitis B Vaccine at Birth  


 

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There are many misconceptions about hepatitis B and how the infection is transmitted.  Because of this, many parents don’t consider their children to be at risk of infection and so they question the need for a hepatitis B vaccine at birth.  In this post, the Prevent Cancer Foundation explains the connection between hepatitis B and liver cancer and discusses ways in which infants and children can unknowingly contract hepatitis B.  Their Think About the Linkeducation campaign suggests that vaccinating infants before they leave the hospital is a critical first step in protecting your newborn from a virus that can lead to cancer later in life.  To learn more about Hepatitis B and the vaccine to prevent it, click here.

 

5. Barbara Loe Fisher is Right.  She’s Also to Blame. 


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Back in the 1980’s, Barbara Loe Fisher claimed that the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP)  was dangerous and causing too many adverse events.  Her complaints prompted the development of the more purified (acellular) pertussis vaccines that we use today; DTaP for infants, and Tdap for adolescents and adults. While studies have shown that these newer vaccines are not as effective as the old whole cell pertussis vaccine, they are the best protections we have against the dangers of pertussis.

Unfortunately, those who need protection the most are those who are too young to be vaccinated.  Infants are at high risk of severe complications from pertussis, to include hospitalization and death, but babies don’t begin receiving pertussis vaccine until two months of age.  After newborn Calle Van Tornhout contracted pertussis from a hospital nurse at birth, she died at just 37 days of age.  Callie’s death has had her home state of Indiana considering a bill that would mandate pertussis vaccination among health care workers.  But Barbara Loe Fisher is opposed to that as well.  To read more about the history of pertussis vaccines, click here.

 

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2016, or you would like to contribute a guest post for publication, please email shotofprevention@gmail.com.  

Don’t miss any of our new posts.   Subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link at the top right of this page.  You can also “Like” our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page to receive updates on important immunization news and join in our online discussions.   

Thanks again for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

Is Your College Student Protected from This Deadly but Preventable Disease?

December 21, 2016 1 comment

Parents often go to great lengths to help their children succeed in college.  What they may not realize is that their children often arrive on campus unprotected from a life threatening, yet preventable disease known as meningococcal serogroup B.  

Four women, known as the ‘MenB Strong Moms’,  became united on a mission to save others after their teen children died from meningococcal serogroup B before a vaccine was available to prevent the disease.  Through a special partnership between The Kimberly Coffey Foundation and The Emily Stillman Foundation, they produced the following Meningitis B Shatters Dreams PSA to educate young adults and their parents about the availability of the MenB vaccine and to encourage college kids to get vaccinated while home for winter break.

“Our kids have brought us together and their message is loud and clear in this PSA.” says Alicia Stillman, Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation.  “We don’t want parents to have to bury their children like we have, and we want kids to take it upon themselves to get protected and ask for the MenB vaccine.”

In the past few years, there have been outbreaks of meningococcal serogroup B on several U.S. college campuses.  This isn’t surprising considering that one out of ten people have the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of disease.  Additionally, typical teen behaviors, such as living in close quarters, hanging out in large groups, sharing drinks or utensils, and kissing, all increase the risk of meningococcal disease.

And when meningococcal disease strikes, it strikes quickly.  In fact, one in ten teens and young adults who develop meningococcal disease will die from it, sometimes within 24 hours.  Those lucky enough to survive will often suffer significant physical and mental disabilities, ranging from deafness, nervous system problems, brain damage, or loss of limbs.

While most teens receive the recommended meningococcal vaccine known as MenACWY at age 16, or prior to attending college, the MenACWY vaccine does not prevent the serogroup B strain.  Since this B strain accounts for approximately half of all meningococcal cases in the U.S. among those age 17-22, the MenB Strong Moms believe it is imperative that young adults and their parents understand the options for prevention.  Unfortunately, although the MenB vaccine has been licensed for over a year, many doctors are still not mentioning it to their patients and therefore, most parents and young adults don’t realize the vaccine exists. Read more…

Experts Answer Questions About Flu

December 16, 2016 Leave a comment

Last week, in honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), Every Child By Two’s Vaccinate Your Family Facebook Page teamed up with experts from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) to answer questions about flu and flu vaccines. Today’s NFID post includes some of the many questions that were addressed during the ‘Ask the Experts’ Facebook Forum. We are very appreciative of all those who participated in this special forum, and we encourage our readers to continue to seek information about flu and flu vaccines from reputable sources so that they can make educated immunization decisions for themselves and their families.

NFID News

Special thanks to Vaccinate Your Family for co-sponsoring the Flu Facebook Forum during National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), as well as those who took time to ask flu-related questions, and the NFID experts (William Schaffner, MD; Walter A. Orenstein, MD; Patricia A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, CIC; Lisa S. Ipp, MD; and Kathleen M. Neuzil, MD, MPH) who provided detailed responses.nivw-facebook-post-for-boost

To read all of the questions, comments, and responses, view the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook post.

Can you explain how the flu vaccine works in the body to protect you from flu but it cannot actually give you flu?
The influenza antigen stimulates a specific antibody to influenza and files it away in your immune system in the event you are exposed to the same virus(es). The vaccine is a killed virus so it is enough protein to stimulate an immune response for protection but not enough to…

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