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Remembering Nadja, another precious child lost to measles

July 11, 2018 4 comments

By Erica DeWald

Europe has been in the midst of a measles outbreak since 2016 which, so far, has resulted in 48 deaths.  Unfortunately, many people are at risk, including children who are not yet old enough to receive the vaccine and those with compromised immune systems.

One mother in Serbia has chosen to share the story of losing her young daughter, Nadja, in the hopes that it will encourage other parents to vaccinate their children against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

Nadja

 

Nadja was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition when she was a year old. Her hypoparathyroidism, due to hypoglycaemia and hypocalcaemia, meant she could not keep her calcium levels high enough through simple oral therapy. She needed regular IV injections at her local hospital. The condition also made it harder for Nadja to fight infections and placed her among the high-risk group of people who cannot be vaccinated. She instead relied on those around her to protect her from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In January of this year, Nadja was admitted to the hospital but there was no room in the isolation unit. She ended up sharing a room for three days with another liNadja while hospitalizedttle boy. Her mother, Dragana, later learned the boy had been diagnosed with measles. Dragana recounted,

“At the moment, my world collapsed, I knew that she would get it, but again in the depths of the soul I hoped she will not.”

Three days later, measles caused Nadja to develop a high fever and she fell into a coma from which she never awoke. Despite multiple attempts and two resuscitations over the course of three months to stabilize Nadja, she died on April 4 from heart failure.

Measles is not just a threat in Europe. Here in the United States we are seeing increasing outbreaks of the disease. In the past week health officials have reported confirmed or suspected cases in Oregon and Washington as well as New Jersey. Since 2014, over 1,000 cases of measles have occurred in the U.S. placing communities at serious risk. That’s because it’s one of the most easily spread viruses we know of, and as many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles will get pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. As a result, the disease still kills hundreds of thousands of children each year around the world.

Dragana has begun a Facebook page to remember her daughter and to warn others of the deadly consequences of measles. Please take a moment to follow her page and share it with your friends and families in remembrance of Nadja.

 

Have questions about the dangers of measles or what you can do to stop the spread of outbreaks?

 

Why Should Vaccinated Individuals Worry About Measles Outbreaks?

The United States is well on our way to a record year for measles cases.  So far in 2017, we’re on track to see more cases this year than last year.

In the state of Minnesota alone, where a Somali-American community was encouraged to refuse MMR vaccine during visits from Andrew Wakefield and other vaccine critics, a drop in vaccination rates has resulted in a dangerous measles outbreak.  So far, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified 66 total cases spread among four counties, with many cases involving the hospitalization of children.

SOTI-MeaslesCasesIG As the number of measles cases in MN is expected to climb, health departments across the U.S. are beginning to identify other measles cases as well.

For instance, the Maryland Department of Health is investigating a potential outbreak after a patients was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center in the District.  The patient had previously sought medical treatment at Prince George’s Hospital Center in MD, exposing countless people in that area as well.  Meanwhile, a teenaged tourist staying in a NJ hotel contracted measles, and now the New Jersey State Health Department fear other people may have been exposed before the patient was treated at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.

With measles cases emerging across the U.S., and large-scale outbreaks of measles being reported by the World Health Organization in places like Romania and Italy, it’s important to ask if measles outbreaks should be a concern to those who are vaccinated.  

Aren’t vaccinated individuals protected during outbreaks?  And if so, why should we care if others remain unvaccinated?

When it comes to infectious diseases like measles, one person’s decision not to vaccinate can negatively impact the health of others.  There are plenty of unvaccinated individuals who rely on protection from the vaccinated, to include children under one year of age who are too young to be vaccinated for measles, individuals who have medical reasons that restrict them from being vaccinated, or people with compromised immune systems.  These individuals are all at great risk of contracting measles and suffering serious complications and the only protection they have comes from those who are vaccinated.

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In fact, in order to keep measles from spreading, about 92-95% of the population needs to be immune to the disease.  Unfortunately, in the case of measles, even small pockets of un-immunized individuals can threaten the herd immunity threshold.  This is exactly why we are seeing an outbreak in Minnesota.

What’s the big deal?  Is measles even that dangerous? Read more…

Measles Anywhere is a Result of Measles Everywhere

April 3, 2017 35 comments

Will we ever stop seeing cases of measles?

Last week, officials confirmed the first case of measles in Michigan this year. That may not sound significant.  It’s only one case in one state, but it’s actually one of 21 cases of measles reported across 7 different states so far this year.

17757243_10210140079997364_6840572758006483074_n-1Last week we also heard the World Health Organization warn of measles outbreaks across Europe.  This image, published in an article from The Sun in the UK, illustrates how widespread the outbreaks have been.  There are currently 14 countries seeing endemic transmission of measles, to include such countries as France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and the Ukraine.  Maybe not the countries you were expecting.  And maybe some countries you plan to visit.

Although measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and even eliminated from all of the Americas in 2016, measles still kills an estimated 115,000 children per year all across the globe – that’s 314 measles related child deaths each day.  Clearly, measles remains a signifiant global health concern.

And it’s not just measles deaths we worry about.  Measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis – a swelling of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or intellectually disabled.  For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

When we consider the impact of measles worldwide, we begin to understand why every case is relevant and in someway related, and here’s why:Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 6.56.10 PM

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease.  

When one person has measles, 90 percent of the people they come into close contact with will become infected, if they are not already immune. The virus can linger in the air for up to two hours after an infected  person has coughed or sneezed.  If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.  This means you don’t even have to have contact with the contagious person to become infected. That is why one a case of measles can easily be spread to others.

Disease elimination is not the same as disease eradication. 

Measles elimination is defined as the absence of continuous disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.  Measles is no longer endemic in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still see measles cases.  The cases we see here begin with transmission elsewhere.  Sometimes cases originate with  U.S. citizens who unknowingly contract measles while traveling abroad and then became sick and spread the virus upon returning home.  Other times, travelers from other countries arrive in the U.S. while contagious.  In both instances, these individuals can spread measles to anyone they come in contact with who isn’t already immune.  In recent years, this has caused several widespread outbreaks of measles in the U.S.

There are still many people in this world who are not vaccinated against measles.

It’s estimated that in 2010 about 85% of the global population has received at least one dose of measles vaccine.  While that may sound good, it’s still not good enough to stop the spread of measles.  Because measles is extremely contagious, the immunity threshold – which is the percentage of individuals who need immunity in order to prevent a disease from spreading – is as high as 95%.  Sadly, as of 2014, only about 63% of countries have an immunization rate that is above 90% and even 90% isn’t good enough.   Read more…

History Is Destined To Repeat Itself With More Measles Outbreaks

March 31, 2016 2 comments

What Have We Learned From Last Year’s Measles Outbreak?

8QgmhZV.jpgLast year the United States experienced a large, multi-state measles outbreak that was largely responsible for 189 measles cases that spread across 24 states and the District of Columbia.  It’s believed that the outbreak started from a traveler who contracted measles overseas and then visited the Disneyland amusement park in California while infectious.  Widespread media coverage of the outbreak helped elevate public concerns related to the dangers of measles infection, the consequences of a growing number of school vaccine exemptions and the risks of disease among those who were too young or medically unable to be vaccinated.

At this time last year, it seemed as though we were experiencing a tipping point; a growing number of people were beginning to realize that vaccine refusal had consequences that could threaten our nation’s public health.  The fact that the personal decisions of a select few people was able to threaten herd immunity and the health of many unsuspecting families and communities was worrisome.

It was believed that more parents (including some who had previously refused vaccines) were seeking and accepting vaccination for their children as a direct result of the outbreak.  However, to determine whether clinicians were experiencing any real or lasting changes in vaccine acceptance, Medscape conducted a survey of vaccine providers to find out.

The survey, conducted in July of 2015, included 1577 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who worked in pediatrics, family medicine and public health.  Responses confirmed that the measles outbreaks induced more acceptance of the measles vaccine and vaccines in general.  The survey also indicated that, for some parents, a greater acceptance of vaccines was directly related to the fear of the disease, the consequence of being denied admission to schools, daycares or camps, and a greater knowledge about vaccines as a result of more reading on the subject.  However, in some cases there was no change.

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Results of Medscape Survey Conducted in July, 2015

 

Every Child By Two also experienced a heightened amount of interest in the months during and immediately following the outbreak with a record number of inquiries from parents.  Most were asking for information about the dangers of measles infection and for clarification of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine schedule.  There were many parents who were specifically inquiring as to the possiblity of vaccinating their children before the recommended age in order to protect them during the outbreak.  Shot of Prevention blog posts that included content specific to measles infection and MMR vaccination had record numbers of views in the early months of 2015, and personal stories relating to the outbreak, were widely shared on social media.

One story that drew a lot of attention was an open letter by Dr. Tim Jacks, whose two children had to be quarantined after they were both exposed to measles at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital clinic.  His 3-year-old daughter Maggie had a compromised immune system as a result of fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer), while his 10 month old son Eli had received all his recommended vaccines, but was still too young for his first dose of MMR vaccine.  While neither of his children ended up contracting measles, the frustration he expressed in his letter entitled “To the parent of the unvaccinated child who exposed my family to measles” hit a nerve with a lot of people.

The Focus of Immunization Rates Fades as Cases Dwindle

In reaching out to Dr. Jacks this week, it appears that the attention on vaccinations that was raised during last year’s outbreak appears to have been rather short-lived.  He explained,

“As a pediatrician, I regularly discuss vaccines, exemptions, and last year’s outbreak.  The cold facts and data only reach so many, so my family’s story adds a personal angle to the issue that questioning parents rarely consider.  After the media exposure, many families were aware of our situation.  However today, the measles issue is not on as many people’s minds.  Vaccine exemption is however a hot issue in Arizona.  The Arizona political arena is considering avenues to encourage vaccination and I am hopeful that the coming year will produce progress in that regard.”

Today, a little over a year since the outbreaks began, the good news is that there have only been two reported measles cases so far in 2016.  However, it also appears that history may be destined to repeat itself.

Consider, for example, the reports out just this week about a California charter school student who tested positive for measles after returning home from traveling overseas.  With just 43% of kindergarteners at the Yuba River Charter School being up-to-date on their MMR vaccine, the California Department of Public Health has attempted to prevent a measles outbreak by first closing the school to all students, and then remaining closed to those without a measles vaccine until April 8 as long as no new cases are documented.

Despite overwhelmingly high vaccination rates across the country, with a mere 1.7% national vaccine exemption rate among kindergartener’s for the 2014-2015 school year, and a 90%+ coverage of MMR vaccine among 19-35 month old children, these small pockets of unvaccinated children continue to present a risk of future measles outbreaks. Read more…

Had Olmsted Been Right About Measles Vaccine, He’d Still be Wrong

May 28, 2015 1 comment

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Like many other scientists and vaccine advocates, Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH strongly believes that if parents are to decide whether or not they should vaccinate their children, than they should base their decisions on scholarly articles that represent well-grounded, solid science.  However, as a retired epidemiologist, Dr. Harrison is committed to helping people make these important decisions by providing in-depth and expert analysis of articles which make false claims about the safety of vaccines.

In his fourth article in the Every Child By Two Expert Commentary series, Dr. Harrison exposes Age of Autism founder, owner and chief editor, Dan Olmsted, for dangerously misinforming people.  Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, Wrong About Measles, Cancer & Autism: A Review of Dan Olmsted’s Article “Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Autism”, critiques an article by Olmsted that claims measles vaccination is tied to a higher incidence of cancer.

Olmsted wrote an article called “Weekly Wrap: Measles, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Autism” which claimed that a recent study used a measles vaccine to treat multiple myeloma. He went on to speculate that measles may have had a preventative effect on cancer and that vaccinations led to increasing rates of cancer.  He even goes as far as to claim “wild-type measles . . . performs some unsuspected function in preventing the occurrence of cancer.”

In this fourth submission to the Every Child By Two Expert Commentary series, Dr. Harrison exposes the many deficiencies in Olmsted’s article, which appears to have based on two newspaper accounts of the research.  Dr. Harrison is quick to clarify that a measles vaccine was not used in the stated study.  Instead, a genetically engineered measles virus strain was designed to specifically target cancer cells.  Olmsted thereby fails to recognize that the measles virus had been modified and not the measles vaccine, which raises question as to whether he read and/or understood the study in the first place.  What’s unsettling is that both the newspaper articles that Olmsted references in his article are clear on that detail.

It is therefore not difficult for Dr. Harrison to conclude that Olmsted starts off with an inaccurate premise about the use of a measles vaccine in treating multiple myeloma.  However, even if he had been right about the use of a vaccine, he would have still been wrong about the implications he drew from it.  Read more…

Expert Commentary – Don’t Sacrifice The Good (measles vaccine) For The Perfect

February 16, 2015 17 comments

journalsEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch the next article in their Expert Commentary series that will be permanently housed on the Every Child By Two website and referenced here on Shot of Prevention. This series features guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who volunteers his time to provide in-depth and expert analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines.

Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper Don’t Sacrifice The Good For The Perfect: A Review of Cathy Jameson’s “A Strong Message About Vaccines.” which critiques a recent article by a vaccine skeptic that downplays the seriousness of measles disease and the public’s concern over the outbreak that continues to spread throughout the nation.  Cathy Jameson complains that the measles vaccine is not 100% effective and implies that the vaccine industry cannot be trusted because they benefit from profits on their products.  However, as Dr. Harrison states, “then one should not trust any product since everything sold is done so to make a profit.”

Dr. Harrison states in his introduction

“Though it’s unfortunate that the measles vaccine doesn’t perfectly protect everyone, it does protect most, preventing unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations, disabilities, and even deaths. And, if everyone were vaccinated, then the risks to those with weaker immune systems would also be significantly reduced. In other words, Don’t Sacrifice the Good for the Perfect

Click here to begin reading Dr. Harrison’s latest expert commentary.