Parents as Protectors

February 29, 2008

America is obsessed with medical autonomy. Everyone feels entitled to make decisions about their own health. While I agree everyone should have control over their own bodies, there is a gray area. Children. The current standard gives parents great range in what they can have done or what they can decide to withhold in terms of health care. Vaccines always come up as a hot topic. While the majority of parents adhere to the accepted standards of immunization there is a small, but vocal minority who objects to vaccination.

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An advisory panel on Wednesday recommended all kids up to age 18 get the flu vaccine. Though the vaccine is already recommended for those 6 months to 5 years old, this new proposal is a huge expansion, affecting nearly 60 million kids. The expanded recommendation is an initiative by the CDC to protect the entire population. Children are one of the major sources of flu in the community. School aged children pick it up, pass it around, and then bring it home. Everyone has had the flu, and while it may have been terrible it was transient, so it is hard for people to take it seriously. But in reality, people die from the flu every year, children and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Vaccines, like all things, have risks. But they are very minimal and less severe than the flu. Obviously people with reactions to a previous flu vaccine, those with contraindicated disease state (GB syndrome), or certain allergies (for example eggs since the vaccine is grown in eggs) should not get the vaccine but in general it is a harmless vaccine.

With all the fear mongering of pseudo scientific studies (like the joke of a paper that tainted MMR by suggesting a correlation with autism), old world views of medicine, and popular misconceptions it can be tough for a parent to find the truth about a particular vaccine. So who really is better qualified to determine if your child needs a certain vaccine? The doctors that have years of training to understand the risks/benefits and wade through the abundance of misinformation or parents who may or may not be fully informed on the topic or who may be prejudiced by misinformation? To me the choice is obvious. I don’t want your 9 year old little Johnny vaccinated because I care if he gets sick, I want him vaccinated to protect the newborn he saw, the grandparent he hugged, the kid who’s toy he shared, and community he lives in.

When you decide to not vaccinate your child, you put everyone’s children at risk.

 


Veteran’s Day: Some Facts

November 11, 2007


  • At 11 minutes past the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the “War to End All Wars,” “The Great War,” World War I officially came to an end. A year later, President Woodrow Wilson called on the nation to observe Armistice Day and honor the soldiers who had served in World War I; in 1926, Congress declared it an official federal holiday.
  • The purpose of Veterans Day and Memorial Day are often confused. Memorial Day is for honoring military personnel who died in service to their country. Veterans Day is for thanking ALL men and women who have served honorably in the military during times of war and peace.
  • Over 48 million Americans have served in the military during war and peace since 1776.
  • There are currently about 25 million living veterans.
  • Of the 25 million living veterans, most (75 percent) served during a war or an official period of hostility.
  • About one in four homeless people are veterans.
  • 43% of homeless males over 25 are veterans.
  • In contrast to earlier American wars, where only men engaged in combat, many veterans returning from today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are women. The new study found that female veterans are more likely to be homeless than non-veteran females, and that overall, female veterans are more likely to be homeless than their male counterparts.

8 Limbed Girl Undergoes Massive Surgery

November 11, 2007

BANGALORE, India (AP) — A two-year-old Indian girl born with four arms and four legs regained consciousness Friday, wiggled her toes and smiled at her parents, 48 hours after massive surgery removed the extra limbs, doctors said.

Lakshmi, who has been revered by some in her village as a reincarnation of the four-armed Hindu goddess she was named for, was still in intensive care. Lakshmi was born joined at the pelvis to a “parasitic twin” that stopped developing in her mother’s womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.

On Wednesday, a team of more than 30 surgeons concluded the 24-hour operation, removing the extra limbs, transplanting a kidney from the twin and reconstructing Lakshmi’s pelvic area. Doctors said the complicated surgery was a great success, meaning she would not need further major reconstructive surgery. However, Lakshmi will need further treatments and possible surgery for clubbed feet before she will be able to walk.

Children born with deformities in deeply traditional rural parts of India such as the remote village in the northern state of Bihar that Lakshmi hails from are often viewed as reincarnated gods. But some had sought to make money from Lakshmi. Her parents kept her in hiding after a circus apparently tried to buy the girl, they said.

“They say she is going to be back to normal, I believe them,” said her father Shambhu, who goes by one name. “I have just these doctors to thank for this miracle. It is a debt I could never repay.”

Full Story


Faces of Autism and the Need for Screening

October 30, 2007

The Andrew Child Photography Project has an exhibit “Faces and Voices of Autism Photo Exhibition”

Presented by May Institute and the National Autism Center. The website has some of the sample photos. Here is one boy’s photo that caught my eye. It is just an intense look that translated well into the photo. It looks like he can just see right through the computer screen.

This is Austin.


“When Austin and I are together, we float away in our bubble. A giant bubble filled with appreciation, love, hope, and laughter. He has this effortless way of making me feel like a child all over again. When I am with him, it’s an escape from a chaotic world filled with noise and ignorance.” — Jessica, Austin’s cousin

 

Most popular news outlets are reporting what I have always supported and many medical practitioners have privately been saying for years, every child should be tested for autism. A condition as common as autism should be considered a priority in early childhood detection. Particularly because autism treated early has much higher rates of success. Additionally it helps parents cope with the process of raising an autistic child if they know that is what is wrong and what resources are out there.

A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests screening every child for autism twice by age 2. The report gives explicit instructions for the warning signs of autism at various ages. Current estimates by the CDC say as many as 1 in 150 children have a form of autism. Read More.

Maybe with some autism education out there, people will stop blaming the MMR vaccine, and more research into a science based cause could be discovered (cough=pollution).


Menacing Monkeys

October 22, 2007

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You are probably not going to believe this story, so here is the link.  A senior government official in India was attacked by a gang of monkeys and died yesterday.  The story goes, New Delhi Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was attacked by a group of wild monkeys and as a result fell from a balcony at his home.  He died of his head injuries.  Apparently the monkeys hang out at all of the big homes, temples, and official buildings and are a major problem.

“New Delhi Deputy Mayor S.S. Bajwa was rushed to a hospital after the attack by a gang of Rhesus macaques, but succumbed to head injuries sustained in his fall, the Press Trust of India news agency and The Times of India reported.”


Burma, in pictures.

October 15, 2007

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Burma: Aftermath  <–LINK

TIME has a new photo essay, the topic is Burma. As usual the photographs are stunning and the topic is timely. To give you the speed version of the events, here is what Wiki had to say:

Mass public demonstrations reappeared on August 18, 2007, when the government raised the price of gas and diesel oil by 500% in order to cover a budget deficit that resulted from a salary hike for civil servants.

The August 2007 demonstrations were led by well-known dissidents, such as Min Ko Naing and others. The military quickly cracked down and still has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit Min Ko Naing and others who are reportedly in Insein Prison after being severely tortured.

Following the August protests, the monks of Burma, coordinated by an underground organization, stepped into the foreground and added new life to the movement.

On 19 September 2007, several hundred (possibly 2000 or more) monks staged a protest march in the city of Sittwe.[33] Larger protests in Rangoon and elsewhere ensued over the following days. Security became increasingly heavy handed, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.[34] By 28 September, internet access had been cut[35] and journalists reputedly warned not to report on protests.[36] Internet access was restored by at least midnight of 5 October, Burmese time.[citation needed] Sources in Burma[attribution needed] said on 6 October that the internet seems to be working from 22:00 to 05:00 local time.

Various global corporations have been criticized for profiting from the dictatorship by financing Burma’s military junta.[37]

World governments remain divided on how to deal with the military junta, countries calling for further sanctions include United Kingdom, USA and France, but neighbouring countries including China claim that sanctions will not help solve the issue.[38]

On October 13 2007, the military junta of Myanmar made its people march in a government rally. Junta officials also approached local factories and demanded they provide 50 workers, and if they didn’t they would be fined.[39]


New HIV Drug

October 13, 2007


(CNN) — The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first of a new class of HIV drugs that attacks the virus in a different way. Isentress, developed by Merck & Co., is designed for patients who have shown resistance to current treatments.

The drug has been approved for adults who already have been receiving treatment, but more testing is necessary before it is approved for new HIV patients or children, the company said in a statement. Isentress belongs to a class of drugs called integrase inhibitors. These drugs work by blocking the integrase enzyme, which helps HIV replicate by inserting its DNA into new cells. Isentress is the first drug in the class to win FDA approval.

“Its mechanism of action is particularly important in that it blocks the ability of the virus to integrate itself into the genes of cells,” Fauci said. “This property of the virus to integrate is important in establishing the reservoir of virus in the body that has made it extremely difficult to eradicate HIV, even with prolonged treatment.”

Two earlier classes of anti-HIV drugs — protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors — also work by blocking different enzymes involved in HIV replication. Friday’s decision by the FDA will give doctors a new tool to help patients who have developed resistance to existing drugs or who are infected with drug-resistant strains of HIV. Like protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors, Isentress will also be prescribed for patients in combination with other drugs to maximize the number of ways the virus is being attacked. The cost of the recommended daily regimen of Isentress — a 400 mg tablet taken twice a day — will be comparable to protease inhibitors, with a wholesale price of $27, Merck said.


How Nobel of You, Mr. Gore

October 12, 2007

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Al Gore, the former Vice President, and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement, Gore said he was “deeply honored,” adding that “the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

The former vice president said he would donate his half of the $1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a U.S. organization he founded that aims to persuade people to cut emissions and reduce global warming.

Most of us remember Gore as the stiff counter part to the charming Bill Clinton.  He ran against George Bush and won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college.  Many people think the election was stolen from him (because of some voter issues in Florida).  I think many of the votes he got were people voting for him just to vote along their party lines and/or because he was associated with Bill Clinton.  He didn’t really stand out for anything himself.  He had  a note worthy lack of passion about anything. 

After the election he decided to dedicate himself to a cause he championed his whole career, global warming.  All of a sudden he appeared alive, passionate, and like a true leader.  It begs the question where was this Al Gore during the 2000 election?  Maybe there would be no war, no dead soliders, no giant deficit, and no debate over whether innocent children deserve health care.  Maybe scientiests could do live saving research and unlock the potential of stem cells.  Maybe the world would be a better place.  The one thing we know would be different, our president would actually care about global warming.

As to him running for president.  I don’t think he will or that he should.  At this point that would make him a liar.  I also think running against Hillary Clinton would create a chasm in the party.  Can you say Vice President??? (Just an idea)


HIV in the Media

October 10, 2007

This video is generating a good deal of controversy in the gay community, this is what queerty.com reported on the ad.

Some gay bloggers have told filmmaker Eric Leven his AIDS PSA’s “fear-based”. And, you know what, he’s okay with that. HIV commercials should be fucking scary – or, at least, jarring. This one’s both. In an interview with Michael Crawford from Bloggernista, Leven explains his – er – position:

“I’ve been through the ranks of gay life. I’ve seen it in its most beautiful and darkest arenas. I want to take these experiences and shine light on them. Expose them for what they are and nothing less. I want gay men to start realizing the realities of their own community. I want them to step up to the plate and be a man (whether you’re wearing leather or a dress!) I want them to start taking their lives seriously and thinking before they act.”

Because HIV is something that affects the whole world, it is important that HIV/AIDS education be effective. I think by now, much of the world understands how it happens and many have an idea of what they can do to prevent it. But that doesn’t guarantee people will actually take those precautions even if they know it is a good idea. I absolutely agree with the writers over at queerty.com, I think ads related to HIV/AIDS should be incredibly scary, so people get it. HIV is scary. And since the main path of transmission is sex, which is incredibly temping and glamorized, campaigns need to be particularly jarring. So I figured I would share some of my favorite HIV/AIDS awareness print campaigns.

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I also think the approach of showing real people dealing with it is incredibly effective. There are campaigns taht show people with AIDS who are wasting away and there are also campaigns with people who look completely normal, both can be powerful.

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There is also a site I like, Positive Lives, that has pictures with the associated stories on it. It is organized by region of the world.

http://www.positivelives.org/index_en.html

“Positive Lives is a unique international project that photographs and documents the social and emotional impact of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, illuminating positive human responses to this world crisis. By sharing these stories, we can all face the challenges, myths, and prejudices surrounding HIV/AIDS.

No matter what are an individual’s prejudice, the virus does not discriminate. HIV affects us all”


MMR Vaccine and Autism Questions

October 7, 2007

Many parents are asking if there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The questions are out there so I am going to try to help people find the answers.

Does or can the MMR vaccine cause autism?

The Answer: NO

Then why are we hearing about them together so much recently?

The Answer: The short answer is irresponsible journalism. The long answer includes multiple factors, the news loves to pick up stories that will draw big reactions, more people are speaking publically about their children’s autism, many parents of autistic children have a hard time comprehending how this happened to their child and try to think back to what happened near the onset of the disease, MMR vaccines are given at the same age that many children begin expressing symptoms, and the most recent thing to draw attention to this theory is a couple celebrity moms of autistic children have come forward in support. While I cannot understand the plight of a child with autism’s mother, I can understand their desire to blame something. The problem is this theory holds no scientific weight and gives mothers a scapegoat. The theory of a link between autism and MMR vaccination is widely held, the problem is it is held mainly by parents not doctors, and parents make better news stories.

Do some researchers believe there is a link?

A researcher Dr. Wakfield is the only person to suggest a link. So all this hoopla is over a paper he published in 1998. He believes that the vaccine leads to gut inflammation which leads to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies that might cause developmental disorders including autism. It was only based on 25 kids and large based on what their parents not doctors thought. Of the 12 researchers on his team, 10 have come forward to denounce the research.

Is there any proof of a link between autism and MMR vaccines?

Here is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s official explanation:

Autism is a developmental disorder. Children with autism usually have trouble communicating verbally and non-verbally and experience difficulty interacting socially. The media reported that there was a link between MMR and autism following the publication of a paper by Dr Wakefield, in The Lancet (a medical journal) in 1998.

Dr Wakefield’s theory was that the MMR vaccine might lead to gut inflammation, which decreases the amount of vitamins and nutrients that children can absorb. As a result, he suggested, this might cause developmental disorders such as autism. This theory was based on two studies involving 25 children. Dr Wakefield’s study was of poor quality because it included only vaccinated children and was based primarily on what parents could remember. Parents understandably are more likely to link changes in behaviour with memorable events like vaccination.

A number of much better designed studies, involving large numbers of both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, have tested this theory. These studies have concluded that there is no link between MMR vaccine and autism. The best study looked at autism and MMR vaccination in all children born in Denmark over a number of years. No link was found.

In March 2004, 10 of the 12 researchers who worked with Dr Wakefield published a retraction in the Lancet stating that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”.12

Here are some links that I think will clarify even more for you the importance of MMR vaccination in children and the infeasibility of a link between the vaccine and autism.

            Quack Watch: A site the debunks medical myths in lay terms

Statistical Research in Japan: The rate of autism continues to rise after Japan stops giving the MMR vaccine and switches to administering each of the single dose vaccines separately (due to a problem with one of the components that they were fixing).

Global Research: This is a more technical explanation, it links out to papers from all around the world showing there is no link.

National Institute of Health: A counter point to the feeling “aren’t the diseases protected by MMR mild compared to the lifelong problem of autism”

Take Home Message?

There is no reason to believe there is any link between autism and the MMR vaccine. In countries where the rate of people getting the MMR vaccine has declined, autism rates have either stayed the same or increase, and the incident of mumps, measles and rubella have increased, particularly measles which can be fatal. The diseases have the potential to be eradicated worldwide if there is concerted effort and global immunization. But like all vaccines, allergies and immune problems can alter the effects (not to cause autism or any other developmental disorder). So you should always talk to your doctor for his or her opinion specifically related to your child’s medical health. Just remember no matter how emotionally convincing, you should be taking doctor’s not upset mother’s advice when it comes to your child’s health.