TIME Infectious Disease

The Vast Majority of U.S. Kids Are Vaccinated

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Less than 1% of children received no vaccinations in 2014, but pockets of low vaccination rates put kids at risk

Vaccines are one of the most effective tools for preventing serious diseases in childhood and later in life, and new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows most children in the U.S. are vaccinated.

CDC researchers looked at national, regional, state and local vaccine coverage rates and found that overall coverage remains high, and hasn’t changed much between 2013 and 2014. The data shows that the national target of 90% coverage was reached for poliovirus (three or more doses of the vaccine), measles, mumps and rubella (one or more doses of the vaccine), hepatitis B (three or more doses of the vaccine) and varicella (one or more dose of the vaccine).

Overall, children below the federal poverty level had the lowest coverage for nearly all types of vaccinations.

A second report published Thursday from CDC researchers found that most kindergarteners entering the 2014-15 school year were vaccinated, and the exemption rate for vaccines nationwide was about 1.7%.

That’s the national picture at least. The data also shows that state-exemption rates range pretty significantly, with Mississippi at less than 0.1% and Idaho at a high of 6.5%. There were five states that did not meet the CDC’s reporting standards for providing vaccine exemption data. Pockets of children who miss vaccinations exist in our communities and they leave these communities vulnerable to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in a press conference.

Pockets of low vaccination rates have proven problematic this year. In the new report, the researchers write that in 2015, measles outbreak cases included 68 unvaccinated Americans, and among those people, 29 cited philosophic or religious objections to vaccines. The CDC says the U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases in 2014 at 668 cases. That’s the highest number of measles cases since the disease was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Between January to August 21, 2015, there have been 188 cases of measles so far.

“We always worry about children and others with leukemia and other similar medical problems who can’t actually receive the [measles, mumps, and rubella] vaccine themselves,” said Schuchat.

The CDC reports in its latest study, that among the 49 reporting states and the District of Columbia (DC), the median vaccination coverage rate was 94% for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and approximately 94% for local requirements for the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine. Varicella coverage was 93.6% among the 39 states and DC that have a 2-dose varicella vaccine requirement.

Some states are strengthening their requirements for exemptions. In 2015, California removed religious and philosophic exemptions for kids in public and private schools and Vermont removed philosophic exemptions. Schuchat recommended parents find out what their states’ vaccination exemption rates are.

Getting routine vaccines in childhood is estimated to prevent 322 million cases of disease and 732,000 early deaths among kids, the CDC points out in its report. The benefits of vaccination are not just for health. Routine vaccination could save $1.38 trillion.

TIME Research

Marijuana Does Not Affect Brain Volume, Study Finds

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Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

The latest research adds to the debate over marijuana's effects on the brain

Using marijuana does not cause changes in brain volume, a new study suggests.

Public health experts have cited concerns that using marijuana could be associated with structural changes in the brain. However, a new trial comparing the brains of marijuana users and non-users to their siblings reveals that marijuana use likely does not cause changes in brain volume.

In the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers looked at a large group of siblings ages 22 to 35. Of the 483 people, 262 reported ever using marijuana, even just once. The researchers then split the men and women into groups: sibling pairs who had never used marijuana, sibling pairs where both had reported using marijuana, and sibling pairs where one had used marijuana and one had not. Overall, they noticed that people who reported using marijuana had smaller volumes in certain parts of the brain—like the left amygdala, which is involved in emotional processing. However, these differences still fell within a range of volume that is considered normal.

The researchers hypothesized that in the sibling pairs where one had used marijuana and one had not, they would see differences in brain volume. But instead, they found that the exposed and unexposed siblings had the same amygdala volume. “We found no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure on amygdala volume,” the authors concluded.

The researchers suggest that differences in volume could be due to other factors, like genetics or living environment. “Our study suggests that cannabis use, or at least the simple index of it that we used, does not directly impact changes in brain volumes,” says study author Arpana Agrawal, an associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine. “Instead, any relationship that we did see between cannabis use and brain volumes was due to predisposing factors that influence both cannabis use and brain volumes.”

The study did not find that brain volume has any effect on whether or not a person uses marijuana.

Another study, also published by different authors in the same journal, found that using marijuana could alter the brains of males at high risk for schizophrenia in potentially meaningful ways.

More research needs to be done to understand whether marijuana does or does not have potentially harmful effects on the brain, or whether the risks are different from one person to the next.

TIME movies

‘Star Wars’ Will Take Over IMAX Screens for a Month

Fans can see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the biggest screen everywhere

Star Wars fans have another big reason to get excited for the latest installment.

The upcoming sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will be in every IMAX screen in North America and in most other countries for the first month of its release. The film is set to come out on Dec. 18.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the latest Star Wars film is expected to open on around 375 to 400 Imax screens domestically and on over 400 screens in foreign countries.

This is not the first time all IMAX screens have been reserved for a single film. THR reports that a similar scenario occurred for the Hobbit movies.

[THR]

TIME animals

One of the Newborn Baby Pandas at the National Zoo Has Died

One cub is still alive

The smaller panda of the twins born to giant panda Mei Xiang at Washington DC’s National Zoo has died, the zoo said on Wednesday.

Mei Xiang was paying more attention to the larger of the panda cubs, and ignoring the smaller one, the zoo said on Tuesday. Zookeepers were struggling to get her to nurse the smaller cub.

The twins were born on Aug 22. On the day of the birth, zoo spokesperson Pamela Baker-Masson said keepers were “thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”

According to the zoo, giant pandas have twins 50% of the time, and this is only the third time a giant panda is given birth to twins in the U.S. Only two giant pandas have successfully raised twins in the past, and it required a lot of human help, the zoo said.

TIME Boxing

Ronda Rousey Says She Makes More Than Floyd Mayweather Per Second

Ronda Rousey
Jae C. Hong—AP Mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey smiles during her workout at Glendale Fighting Club, in Glendale, Calif. on July 15, 2015.

The UFC fighter delivers a verbal armbar

UFC champion Ronda Rousey is sending another jab Floyd Mayweather’s way.

The two fighters have gone back and forth with insults. After winning Best Fighter at the ESPY awards, Rousey said, “I wonder how Floyd feels being beat by a woman for once. I’d like to see him pretend to not know who I am now.” (Mayweather has a documented history of domestic violence.) Later on, Mayweather responded: “I’ve yet to see any MMA fighter, or other boxer, make over $300 million in 36 minutes. When she can do that, then call me.”

In a TMZ video, Rousey responds to the criticism saying: “I actually did the math and given the numbers of my last fight, I’m actually the highest paid UFC fighter and I’m a woman.” She adds, “I actually make 2-3 times more than he does per second. when he learns to read and write, he can text me.”

It’s unlikely this is the last we hear of this spat.

[TMZ]

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Women in Male-Dominated Jobs Have More Stress

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Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

"Token" women at work have less healthy cortisol patterns

Women working in jobs dominated by men have high levels of interpersonal stress that could harm their health, shows a new study presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting.

Indiana University Bloomington researchers looked at daily stress hormone patterns from more than 440 women in a large U.S. survey who worked in jobs where at least 85% of the workforce were men. In academic terms, a woman is considered an “occupational token” when 15% of colleagues in her occupation are women. That definition included jobs like construction supervisors, engineers, painters and groundskeepers.

MORE: Here’s Why Work Email Puts You In A Nasty Mood

Prior evidence shows that women in male-dominated jobs often experience stressors like social isolation, sexual harassment and low levels of support in the workplace. The researchers thought that stressors like these could impact patterns of the stress hormone cortisol, which fluctuate throughout the day but take an irregular pattern in people exposed to high consistent levels of stress, the authors say. In the study, they found that the “token” women had less healthy cortisol profiles compared to women who worked in jobs with a more even gender split.

MORE: Why Failure Hits Girls So Hard

“Men in occupations with 85% or more men do not evidence the same dysregulated cortisol profiles that we see in women in the same occupations,” says study author Cate Taylor, an assistant professor of sociology and gender studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Cortisol is also particularly sensitive to social stressors and not as much to physical stressors, the authors say, which adds to the evidence that at least some of the irregularity in cortisol profiles is linked to negative workplace social climates that women face.

TIME Infectious Disease

Scientists Unveil ‘Promising First Step’ to Universal Flu Vaccine

It's a small but important step

Scientists are one step closer to developing a universal flu vaccine to protect against all strains of the virus.

Every year, scientists take an educated guess on which strains of flu will be circulating in a given season so that the annual flu vaccine can protect against those strains. Sometimes though, the vaccine does not protect against a particular strain and people can still get sick. But on Monday, two teams of researchers revealed that they’re getting closer to figuring out a way to create a vaccine that can protect against multiple strains for a long period of time.

The purpose of a vaccine is to create antibodies that protect the body against invading viruses. In the new studies published in the journals Science and Nature, the researchers formulated a vaccine that used the part of a virus that doesn’t mutate as much. Researchers have known that the head of a viral protein called hemagglutinin changes easily, whereas its stem remains relatively unchanged. However, until now scientists have struggled to achieve an immune response with the stem rather than the ever-changing head.

The researchers in the new study were able to formulate a vaccine that created antibodies from the stem. The vaccines showed success among a variety of lab animals including mice, ferrets and monkeys and protected against flu strains like H5N1 avian flu and H1N1 (swine flu).

“The [experimental] designs were different, but the end results were very similar and highly complementary,” Ian Wilson, co-author on Science, said. “It’s a promising first step, and it’s very exciting to see this research come to fruition.”

The vaccines are not yet “universal” vaccines, but they may lay the groundwork for building better vaccines down the line.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Regular Mealtimes Make You Eat More Healthily, Study Finds

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Danny Kim for TIME

And packing your own lunch can help too

People who eat at regular times and pack lunches instead of eating out have healthier diets overall, new research suggests.

In a new study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition researchers found that college students who made their meals at home and regularly consumed breakfast and an evening meal, had overall better diets. They avoided fast food and sugary drinks and ate more vegetables and fruit compared to people who did not keep an eating routine. People who ate on the run, or used media while they ate or purchased food often ate less healthily.

A little planning ahead, and turning off the TV while we eat could ultimately be good for our eating habits, the data suggests. “In addition to considering specific food choices, it also may be important to consider the context of mealtimes in developing dietary messaging and guidelines,” the authors write.

The researchers suggested the U.S. develop dietary guidelines for healthy eating that take inspiration from other countries that make eating context a priority. For instance, the researchers write that in Japan it’s recommended to “enjoy communication at the table with your family” and “establish a healthy rhythm by keeping regular hours for meals.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Ground Beef Contains Dangerous Bacteria, Study Finds

Ground Beef
Getty Images

You may want to pay attention to the type of beef you buy

Store-bought ground beef often contains a variety of bacteria that can make humans sick and is resistant to the drugs used to treat it, according to new data from Consumer Reports.

While most bacteria in meat can be killed when cooked correctly, many Americans prefer to eat their meat rare, putting them at a greater risk for illness—especially when the meat comes from conventionally raised cows, which are treated with antibiotics and hormones, according to a new Consumer Reports study. The study found that nearly 20% of ground beef in the U.S. tested from conventionally raised cows had bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. Only 9% of ground beef that was sustainably made had antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

For the report, Consumer Reports purchased and tested 300 packages of conventionally and sustainably produced ground beef sold in stores around the U.S. The meat was tested for five common types of bacteria that can be found in beef: Clostridium perfringens, E. coli, Enterococcus, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria of some kind was found in all of the beef samples, though sustainably produced beef was less likely to have harmful strains.

More than 80% of conventional ground beef had two types of bacteria and nearly 20% of the samples contained C. perfringens, which causes close to a million cases of food poisoning every year. “There’s no way to tell by looking at a package of meat or smelling it whether it has harmful bacteria or not,” Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, said.“You have to be on guard every time.”

The research also found that 10% of the samples had a strain of S. aureus that produces a toxin that can make people ill and is not killed even when the meat is cooked properly. Still, cooking meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit should kill most bacteria.

The findings suggest that consumers may want to look for ground beef that’s sustainably produced, with labels reading “no antibiotics,” “grass-fed,” and “organic,” according to Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports says “grass-fed organic” may be one of the best labels to go by since it means the cattle eat organic grass and forage and do not receive antibiotics or hormones.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement that the agency has put tight food safety standards in place over the last six years to avoid public health problems. “Measures taken to improve ground beef safety include a zero-tolerance policy for six dangerous strains of E. coli, better procedures for detecting the source of outbreaks, improved laboratory testing, and more. USDA’s food safety inspectors work in every meat facility, every day, to reduce illnesses across all products we regulate, and we’re proud to report that illnesses attributed to those items dropped by 10% from 2013 to 2014,” he said.

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