TIME Infectious Disease

The Disneyland Measles Outbreak Likely Came From Overseas

Mickey Mouse
This Jan. 22, 2015, file photo shows Mickey Mouse performing during a parade at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Jae C. Hong—AP

Health professionals say the outbreak highlights the need for childhood vaccinations

An outbreak of measles that began in California’s Disneyland is likely to have come from overseas, health officials said Thursday.

The highly infectious disease was probably carried into the U.S. by a foreign tourist or an American returning home, NBC News reports.

Ninety-four people have now been infected with measles across eight states; 67 of those cases are linked to the Disneyland park.

“We don’t know exactly how this outbreak started but we do think it was likely a person infected with measles overseas,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schuchat says the reason for the outbreak is because people are failing to get vaccinated.

[NBC]

TIME Infectious Disease

The City of Phoenix Is Monitoring a Thousand People for Measles

The unvaccinated among them are being asked to stay home for 21 days

Health staff in Arizona are monitoring 1,000 people, including around 200 children, who could have been exposed to measles at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center after a woman who visited the medical facility came down with the disease.

The woman is thought to have contracted the illness from members of a family from Pinal County who had visited the Disneyland theme park in California, the Associated Press reports. After California, Arizona has the highest measles incidence related to the recent outbreak at Disney parks, and the fear is that the outbreak could now increase dramatically.

As a public-health precaution, officials are asking all unvaccinated individuals in the group being monitored to remain homebound for a 21-day observation period, or at the very least don face masks if they venture outside.

“To stay in your house for 21 days is hard,” said State Health Services director Will Humble. “But we need people to follow those recommendations, because all it takes is a quick trip to the Costco before you’re ill and, bam, you’ve just exposed a few hundred people. We’re at a real critical juncture with the outbreak.”

Authorities are currently trying to track everyone who visited the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center from Jan. 20 to 21. The number of unvaccinated people who may have entered the center during that time remains unknown.

[AP]

 

TIME Infectious Disease

A California High School Suspended 66 Kids Over Measles Fears

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Getty Images

School districts are grappling over whether to make vaccination a condition of enrollment

A two-week suspension for 66 high school students who have not been fully immunized for measles has been handed down by a California high school.

The move comes after one student was believed to have exposed 20 others to the highly contagious disease during a school field trip.

That student is being allowed to return to the Palm Desert High School according to the Los Angeles Times, and the suspended students can return to school earlier if they provide proof of immunization or are medically cleared by the Riverside County Public Health Department.

“We are simply responding, being very careful and making sure we’re taking the best care of students and staff,” Desert Sands Unified School District spokeswoman Mary Perry told Reuters.

School districts are grappling with the decision of whether or not to require students to prove they have been vaccinated before enrollment.

The homegrown measles virus, which causes rash and fever, was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. Its reappearance and subsequent surge has created concerns over parents who do not have their children vaccinated because of fears of negative side effects.

California and the surrounding states, plus Mexico, have reported over 90 cases of measles from an outbreak that is believed to have originated in Disneyland in mid-December.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME ebola

Two Ebola Vaccines Are Heading to Trials in Liberia

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2014.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Two vaccines will start trials in February

The long-awaited vaccine for Ebola is heading to clinical trials in Liberia.

Two vaccines, with the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) support, will start efficacy testing in Liberia in the beginning of February.

The NIH is launching the trial in collaboration with the Liberian Ministry of Health. The trial will test two vaccines against a placebo. People in Liberia who agree to participate in the trial will be split evenly into three groups. Two groups will test separate vaccines and the third group will be given a placebo. The trial will take place in Montserrado County, which includes the capital Monrovia, one of the country’s hardest-hit regions.

MORE: TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

The vaccines have already undergone early safety trials at various sites in the U.S., Europe, and in parts of Africa. “There were no significant safety concerns and [the vaccine] induced the type of response that was quite comparable to the animal response of the monkeys,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Prior trials in monkeys had shown the vaccine made the animals immune to the virus.

Initially the target date for the vaccine trial in West Africa had been end of January, but some logistics still need to be worked out. Fauci told TIME that he can say with almost certainty that the trials will indeed launch in early February. “There are a couple of minor issues that we are just ironing out with regard to the protocol with the FDA,” says Fauci. “Nothing that’s a show stopper.”

One of the two vaccines being tested is a vaccine developed and tested by the NIH and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and the other vaccine is coming from biotech company NewLink Genetics and the pharmaceutical company Merck.

When the trial starts, the vaccines will initially be given to 600 people to collect additional data on the vaccine’s safety. If all goes well, the second part of the trial will launch with 27,000 people.

TIME Infectious Disease

Don’t Go to Disneyland’s California Parks If You Haven’t Been Vaccinated for Measles

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More than 1,000 fans gather for a photo at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Newsire — AP

State health officials say 42 of California's 59 cases are linked to exposure at Disneyland

California state epidemiologist Gil Chavez is calling on anyone who hasn’t had the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to avoid visiting Disneyland’s two California theme parks “for the time being.”

State authorities say at least 59 people across California have been diagnosed with the highly infectious, airborne disease since December.

“Of the confirmed cases, 42 have been linked to an initial exposure in December at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California,” read a statement released by the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday.

Health officials have also called on any California resident who has not been vaccinated for the disease to consider getting inoculated immediately.

Read next: Disneyland: The Latest Victim of the Anti-Vaxxers

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TIME Infectious Disease

Five Workers at Disneyland Have Been Diagnosed With Measles

Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. H. Lorren Au Jr.—AP

Unvaccinated workers who came into contact with them have been asked to take paid leave

Five employees at Disneyland, California have been diagnosed with measles, bringing the total number of cases in the outbreak up to 53.

All workers who have come into contact with the five have been asked to show vaccination records or do a blood test, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Those who have not been vaccinated have been asked to go on paid leave until their health status can be confirmed.

Earlier this month, nine cases of measles were confirmed in two California-based theme parks, and in Utah from people who had visited the resorts between Dec. 17 and 20.

Since then, the disease has spread across three other states and to Mexico.

[LAT]

TIME Infectious Disease

The Flu Shot Isn’t Working Well This Winter

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

People who got the vaccine aren't as shielded as they sometimes are

People who got a flu shot this winter are only 23% less likely to get the flu than someone who didn’t get the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report Thursday.

This flu season, H3N2 flu viruses have been the most predominant, but the CDC reports that about 70% of them have genetically changed so that they are not as responsive to the flu vaccine as they were in the past. This is likely why the vaccine appears to be less effective, a measure the CDC calculates by looking at the number of medical visits related to the flu.

Since the flu vaccine is developed based on early predictions of what flu viruses will be most common during a certain season, it’s always possible that the estimates will be off and the vaccine won’t protect against the most common flu viruses circulating. Since the CDC started tracking flu vaccine effectiveness in 2004, the rates have ranged from 10% to 60%.

When the flu vaccine is less effective, people need to be more cautious and stringent about other ways to prevent contagion, like washing hands and treating the flu with medication if it is contracted. “Physicians should be aware that all hospitalized patients and all outpatients at high risk for serious complications should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available influenza antiviral medications if influenza is suspected,” Joe Bresee, an official in the CDC’s Influenza Division, in a statement.

The report shows that the vaccine is the effective among kids ages 6 to 17. The CDC said it’s classifying this flu season as moderately severe, and that it is similar to the 2012-2013 season.

TIME Infectious Disease

U.S. Hospitals Get Better at Preventing Infections

Empty hospital bed on hospital ward
Phil Fisk—Getty Images

Progress in combatting a worldwide problem

Hospitals in the United States have made progress in lowering the rates of infections patients get while they are there, according to a new report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Wednesday showed that hospitals have cut down on infections caused by medical mistakes and bacteria. Between 2008 and 2013, there’s been a 46% decrease in bloodstream infections caused by germs getting into the blood when tubes are inserted into veins incorrectly. During the same period, hospitals cut surgical site infections by 19%, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections by 6%.

“Hospitals have made real progress to reduce some types of healthcare-associated infections—it can be done,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. “The key is for every hospital to have rigorous infection control programs to protect patients and healthcare workers, and for health care facilities and others to work together to reduce the many types of infections that haven’t decreased enough.”

The data come from the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), which tracks infections nationwide from over 14,500 health care facilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

TIME ebola

Ebola Epidemic May End by June 2015 In Liberia

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At one time in 2014, Liberia experienced the fastest growing number of Ebola cases SCOTT CAMAZINE—Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

That’s only if current hospitalization rates continue, say researchers

Understanding the ebb and flow of the Ebola outbreak that erupted in West Africa last year—and continues to percolate in the three hardest hit countries—is critical to stopping it. That means knowing who’s getting infected, where the highest rates of transmission are occurring and which strategies work best to control its spread.

Scientists initially thought that even if almost every infected person could be hospitalized, it wouldn’t stop the rapid spread of the Ebola virus for months to come. But researchers in the U.S. are now predicting in the journal PLOS Biology that the epidemic in Liberia, which at one point had the biggest explosion in Ebola cases, could peter out by June 2015.

MORE: TIME Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

In coming up with their predictive models, the researchers, led by John Drake University of Georgia, took into account data from previous outbreaks of Ebola, as well as probabilities about infection rates among healthcare workers, family members of the infected and those who are exposed to the virus during burials.

In order for Liberia’s Ebola outbreak to end, new hospital beds would have to be added at the same current rate (300 were provided between July and September 2014), the study authors concluded. That would allow 85% of infected patients to be treated with the nutritional and hydration therapy that is critical to overcome the infection. If new beds aren’t continually added, then hospitalization rates could drop back down to 70%, and cases may start to outpace public health workers’ ability to contain the disease.

MORE: U.N. Official Says Ebola Can Be Beat in 2015

Burial practices need to change as well. Cultural norms include touching the bodies of the deceased, which spreads the Ebola virus in a community. Safer burial practices, in which infected patients are isolated from healthy people, are keeping transmission levels under control, the authors say.

MORE: Ebola Vaccine Is Safe and Effective, According to First Study

The key to reducing the number of Liberia’s Ebola cases by summer is ensuring that anyone who is sick is hospitalized. “These modeling exercises suggested that in the absence of rapid hospitalization of most cases, none of the proposed scenarios for increasing hospital capacity would have been likely to achieve containment,” the authors write. “Continuing on the path to elimination will require sustained watchfulness and individual willingness to be treated.”

TIME Insects

‘Super Mosquito’ Resistant to Malaria Insecticide Found in Mali

Bed nets can't hold back new breed of mosquito

Interbreeding between two mosquito species has created a new “super” species that is resistant to bed nets treated with malaria insecticide, a new study has found.

The species has been found in the West African country of Mali and, according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a result of an evolutionary change caused by the introduction of the treated nets to the environment.

The treated nets have been credited with helping reduce the number of malaria deaths over the past decade. The World Health Organization reports deaths have decreased by 47 percent since 2000. According to a press release from the University of California at Davis, specialists were not surprised by the emergence of an insecticide resistant species.

“Growing resistance has been observed for some time,” said lead researcher and medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro in the release. “Recently it has reached a level at some localities in Africa where it is resulting in the failure of the nets to provide meaningful control, and it is my opinion that this will increase.”

The scientists are urging the development of “new and effective malaria vector control strategies.”

Read next: How To Stop Chikungunya

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