New vaccine could end fight against polio

baby receiving polio vaccine

 

A new vaccine that is under development might just end the fight against polio and some other infectious diseases. In an effort funded by more than $600,000 in grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers hope to create a synthetic polio vaccine that minimizes the probability of side effects that the oral vaccine can sometimes have.

The team of England-based researchers hopes to create a vaccine that protects against polio but does not include the live virus that oral and dermal polio vaccines contain. This type of vaccine is safer for use in developing countries, faster acting and easier to produce, making it ideal for use in countries like Pakistan and Nigeria where the disease is still endemic.

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How Can I Protect Myself Against Rubella?

Boy with rubella

 

Measles and mumps have both been top news items lately with headlines talking about outbreaks across North America.  According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States and multiple other organizations, the best way of preventing these diseases is through vaccination, typically with an MMR shot.  This shot protects against measles, mumps and rubella.  Rubella is a similar disease that has gone generally unnoticed during the last few months of outbreak, so we aim to provide additional information about rubella here.

Rubella, sometimes called German measles, is a contagious disease that causes rash, fever, aching joints, and sometimes much more serious complications as well.  The disease is perhaps most perilous for pregnant mothers and their unborn children who can develop serious complications if they contract the disease.

The rubella vaccine is part of the CDC recommended MMR vaccination. This vaccine has been proven to be safe in multiple studies and is the best prevention against measles, mumps and rubella. For more information on the safety of the vaccine see the CDC MMR safety portal.

The CDC has stated that vaccinating pregnant mothers is, sadly, not an option when it comes to the MMR vaccine.  Therefore, it is best to receive the vaccination before pregnancy, preferably at a younger age, and the CDC suggests the MMR vaccine be first given to people aged four to six-years.

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What Do I Need to Know about Traveling while Pregnant?

pregnant traveler in airport

 

Everyone loves to travel, but sometimes life events can get in the way. Work, school, and social commitments can make taking a vacation challenging. Family can also make travel challenging, especially for people who are just starting one. Many people believe that traveling is impossible while pregnant, but, by following a few simple tips (and talking with a physician, of course!) it can be just as fun while pregnant as it would be at any other time.

Traveling while pregnant is generally safe unless otherwise indicated by a physician. Before planning a trip during pregnancy, however, talk with your primary care doctors about what you will be doing and whether it is advisable to do so. A doctor may recommend changing travel plans slightly depending on your specific situation.

The second trimester of pregnancy is considered the best time for travel as morning sickness has generally ended and other related early risk factors are reduced. Some airlines do have rules regarding pregnant travel, and these are typically related to having medical approval before traveling during the ninth month.

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Measles Is Affecting the US: See a Timeline of the Outbreak!

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland - Courtesy of Harshlight on Flickr
The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Courtesy of HarshLight on Flickr

 

The current measles outbreak has shed renewed light on the need for vaccination and the danger that diseases pose to the unvaccinated. To understand just how rapidly measles can impact the unvaccinated, here is a timeline of events of the current outbreak, from ‘patient zero’ visiting a California theme park to the most recent updates from the CDC.

Measles Outbreak Timeline Image

Click here to view the interactive version!

For more information about measles and the importance of the measles vaccination, see Passport Health’s newly updated web page on the disease.

Are there any other timelines you would like to see? Let us know in the comments below or on the Passport Health Facebook page!

The Flu Report: 2/25/15

Flu Near You Map - February 25th
Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map.

 

The number of influenza cases is falling across the nation once again this week. More states are reporting heavily reduced activity, and there is a slowing of influenza spread in Europe and throughout the rest of the world as well.

Overview:

Influenza rates fell again this week to just over 2,000 cases reported in the US, the lowest we have seen since mid-November of 2014. But, there have been two interesting developments that have come with this decline. First, influenza B cases are on the rise. Although there are just a few more cases than previous weeks, the overall percentage of influenza B cases has risen to over 20 percent of specimens tested. Vigilance remains important when it comes to this strain.

Secondly, pneumonia and influenza mortality is still above the epidemic threshold. This rate is lower than it was in 2014 at this same time of the year and is fairly similar to the mortality rate that we saw during the 2012-2013 season by mid-February.

Influenza spread seems to be more localized now, according to Centers for Disease Control data as well as that reported by FluNearYou.org. Nevada is the only state in the West with a high influenza activity rating; Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas are the worst in the Midwest; New York, Massachusetts and West Virginia are the only states with major flu spread still occurring. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are the only non-mainland regions that are experiencing high flu activity.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 2.381 (13.0% of specimens tested)
    • Influenza A – 1,833 (77.0%)
    • Influenza B – 540 (23.0%)
  • Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 8.4% (1.2% above epidemic threshold)

NOTE: Flu cases, as referenced above, are confirmed cases in people who have gone to see medical professionals. Percentage estimates, referenced in the “Overview” section, include these documented cases from medical professionals but also a variety of other self-reported metrics.

Around the World:

While much of Europe is still listed as having severe flu activity according to Google Flu Trends, some countries, like Spain and the Netherlands, are seeing a relative decline in flu activity. Japan is also on the mend as it is now listed as having only moderate activity. That being said, if you plan on traveling to Mexico or eastern Europe over spring break, be sure that you have gotten your flu shot as the regions have retained their high states of flu activity.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: wash you hands! Just because influenza is on the decline in the U.S. and throughout the world doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant. Wash your hands before eating or after coming in contact with anything that might be a contaminated surface. Hand sanitizers are a good alternative as well, especially if you are on the go.

For additional information on influenza and what can be done to prevent it, visit FluFree.com which contains a variety of flu related resources. In order to schedule your flu shot, even for the upcoming 2015-2016 flu season, please contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277) and we’ll help you get everything arranged.

The Flu Report is a weekly blog post designed to give updates on the spread of influenza throughout the year. It is posted every Wednesday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.

Which Vaccines Do You Need for a Safari in Namibia?

Zebras at Etosha National Park in Namibia
Etosha National Park, Namibia

 

Namibia is a beautiful country on the southwest coast of Africa, and it is a popular safari travel destination. Not only is Namibia a great place for viewing African wildlife up close and personal, but the country also offers countless other outdoor adventure options. If you are planning an outdoor adventure in Namibia, make sure you follow our safari roadmap and health tips for travel to Namibia to get the most out of your time overseas!

The Fish River Canyon, located in Namibia, is the second largest canyon in the world, and this is a very popular tourist destination. The 85 kilometer trail through the canyon is perfect for those up for a challenging, multi-day hike, but the trail is only open from May to about the middle of September due to the extreme temperatures during the rest of the year. Travel plans requiring this level of exertion bring with them additional medical considerations that should be evaluated before departure. Be sure to schedule a travel health consultation with a Passport Health Travel Specialist at least four to six weeks before your departure date to go over your unique travel health strategy.

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Am I Sick with Influenza or Measles?

Measles is a potentially deadly disease that spreads rapidly in an unvaccinated population. Especially due to the media attention the disease has garnered recently and the fact that we are still in flu season, you may be wondering whether an illness is influenza, measles, or maybe something else. Although you should always receive a diagnosis from a healthcare professional, the infographic posted below is a quick guide to some of the key differences between measles and influenza.

Is it Measles or Influenza?

Remember that both influenza and measles are preventable through vaccination. Both vaccines have been deemed safe by the Centers for Disease Control and are very effective at stopping the spread of the viruses and lessening their effects should you still get infected.

For more information about influenza, see the Passport Health influenza portal, and, for information on measles, see our measles page.

Any further questions? Comment below, look us up on Facebook, tweet us, or email us, and we’ll see what we can do to help or even help you arrange an appointment with a Passport Health specialist!

New Requirements for Travel to South Africa: Does This Mean Easier Trips?

Cape Town South Africa Panorama
Panoramic View of Cape Town, South Africa

 

Touring Africa may have just become a little easier thanks to a regulation change in South Africa. As of January 31, 2015, people traveling to South Africa from a ‘low-risk yellow fever country’ will no longer require proof of having received a vaccination for the mosquito-borne disease to enter the country.

The decision, based on World Health Organization recommendations, went into effect as soon as it was announced and will affect thousands of travelers every year.

Previous to this decision, if you were traveling to South Africa and had been within a country that has endemic yellow fever for as few as 12 hours, you would have been required to provide a valid yellow fever certificate upon arrival, and this certificate is only obtainable after receiving the yellow fever vaccine.

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Three Stories about the Need to Vaccinate

several vaccine vials

 

Measles is, without a doubt, a fairly scary virus. In 2014, there were just under 200,000 measles cases confirmed by the World Health Organization across the world. That number is about 92 percent less than where it was in 1980, when 2.6 million cases were reported. This decline is attributed to one thing: measles vaccination.

The WHO, Centers for Disease Control, and medical organizations all around the world plead with parents asking them to get their children vaccinated to avoid measles and other deadly diseases. However, despite numerous studies showing that vaccines are safe, some individuals claim that vaccination is unsafe and can cause serious side effects. These voices are generally loud, and involve many Hollywood stars who receive significant international attention despite espousing often ill-informed beliefs.

But, there are some famous and well known individuals who have touching and important stories about the safety and importance of vaccines, beliefs backed by literally hundreds of studies proving that vaccines not only work, but have few to no harmful side effects and will save lives.

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What Is the Measles Vaccination Rate in My State?

Measles is a potentially deadly disease that is slowly moving across the United States. Over the last month and a half, nearly 150 people have been infected in 17 states. The Centers for Disease Control and other organizations have stated that the best way to avoid the disease is through vaccination with the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine. Below, courtesy of CDC data, is an infographic containing the vaccination rates for all 50 states. See where your state stands in comparison to the CDC goal of 90 percent of the total population being vaccinated!


Click here to access the interactive version!

For more information on measles and how to prevent it, please see the Passport Health MMR web pages.

Were you surprised by your state’s vaccination rate? Why? Tell us below or on the Passport Health Facebook page.