Each year, we see unnecessary outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases here in Maine. This year, we’ve seen everything from pertussis to chickenpox outbreaks appearing in Washington County to Aroostook, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot and Waldo counties. As we look back on 2014, and think about how we can improve the health of Maine residents in 2015, we ask that Mainers commit themselves to giving the gift of health to themselves and each other throughout the New Year.
Just last week, the Franklin Sun Journal reported that a student from Livermore Elementary School was diagnosed with chickenpox. However, what begins as one case typically causes a ripple effect, impacting others students and sometimes entire communities.
As the Bangor Daily News reported,
“Under state law, in the absence of disease history or an exemption, Maine students must be vaccinated against chickenpox, as well as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella. Students who cannot show a disease history or vaccination must be barred from school for 16 days. Exemptions include a physician’s written statement that immunization against the diseases may be medically inadvisable or a parent’s written statement opposing immunization because of religious beliefs or philosophical concerns.”
Maine parents might have read about Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a severe respiratory illness that has sent hundreds of children to the hospital since it was first reported in the Midwest this August. Cases of EV-D68 have now been reported in Maine, as well as in Connecticut and New York. With schools back in session, officials expect this fast-moving virus to keep spreading. Maine parents—especially parents of children with asthma—should know what EV-D68 is, what symptoms to look for and what precautions to take to keep Maine children healthy.
What is enterovirus D68?
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a non-polio enterovirus. This name might sound scary, but this type of virus is very common. In fact, enteroviruses infect 10 to 15 million people every year without serious consequences. Officials believe the current outbreak of EV-D68 is a strain that hasn’t been around since the 1960s and it appears to be most dangerous for babies, children and teens, especially if they have asthma.
FACT: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Autism is a very hard diagnosis for doctors to make and an even harder diagnosis for parents to hear. Autism can devastate families, and let feelings overwhelm facts. Parents with autistic children have so many questions, and there is still so much about autism we don’t know.
We do know this: vaccines protect children from dangerous diseases without increasing their risk for autism.
Children do not begin to show signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) until they are six to eighteen months old. This is about the same age that children receive many of their recommended vaccines. Some Maine parents may have seen a medical study claiming this timing isn’t a coincidence. They might not know this study has been completely discredited, and many other scientific studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.
- THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM
In 1998, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a study of 12 children in the medical journal Lancet. Wakefield claimed these children experienced developmental regression after they received their MMR vaccine. Wakefield did not find a scientific connection between MMR and autism, but he said the vaccine should stop being used anyway.
Andrew Wakefield’s study got a lot of press and it frightened a lot of parents. This study also had a lot of problems. The research did not stand up to scrutiny, and by 2004 it was clear that the study was a fraud. By 2009, London’s Sunday Times found evidence Wakefield had falsified his data and in 2010 the Lancet agreed, declaring the study false. In 2010 the British Medical Council revoked his medical license and found him guilty of 30 counts of professional misconduct. The British Medical Journal published a three-part investigative series reporting that Wakefield lied in his study as part of a scam to make a million dollars.
No other medical study anywhere in the world has ever found a link between vaccines and autism. Not one.
- THERE IS OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM
This fraudulent study did a tremendous amount of damage in a short period of time, but it did have one silver lining. It prompted many other scientists to study the connection between vaccines and autism. This avalanche of careful, thorough and ongoing scientific research all came to the same conclusion: there is no link between vaccines and autism.
When we say “no link”, we mean:
- There is no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism.
- There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
- There is no link between too many vaccines too soon and autism.
(To see just how much recent research has been done proving that there is no connection between vaccines and autism, take a look at the Autism Science Foundation’s Read the Science page. Get ready to scroll – it’s a lot!)
Maine parents don’t need to worry that vaccinating their children on the recommended schedule will increase their risk of autism. We can stop wasting valuable research dollars and focus on finding the real causes of autism.
The truth is, we still don’t know what causes autism. We do know that it isn’t vaccines.
Vax Maine Kids and Kohl’s Vax Kids want Maine parents to keep their kids on the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule. Is your family up-to-date? Visit our Vaccine Schedules page to find out.
Photo Credit: by Beverly & Pack
The flu (also called influenza) vaccine or flu shot is a safe, simple, and smart way for Maine parents to protect themselves and their children from the flu. Start the New Year off right – keep yourself and your family healthy by getting flu shots as soon as possible! Learn more about the flu vaccine and places where your family members can easily get it in this week’s blog post.
Did you know that the flu is most active in the winter months? The flu is in full swing now, so getting your flu shot as soon as possible (if you haven’t already) is very important to keep you and your family healthy. The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over six months old get a flu shot every year. There was a big increase in the flu bug during last year’s flu season, and this year’s flu season is looking to be just as active.
You have probably had the flu before and may think getting it is no big deal, but complications from the flu can be very harmful and even life-threatening.
Flu virus symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- A sore throat
- Breathing problems
Who’s most at risk?
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- Older people
- People with health conditions (heart & lung disease, diabetes and others)
- People with disabilities
- People who travel and those living outside the U.S.
Anyone can get sick from the flu. The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu shot every year. Parents all over Maine were reminded just how important flu shots are when a six-year-old girl in Benton, a small town in Kennebec County, died from the flu in 2012.
Did you know?
- Getting your annual flu shot not only helps keep your family safe and healthy, but also cuts down on school absences and lost work time and vacation days.
- Flu shots are covered by insurance and may be offered free or at reduced cost.
- Even after receiving the vaccine, it can take about two weeks to fully protect you from the virus.
- There is a special version of the vaccine for people who are allergic to eggs.
So, make getting your flu shot one of your New Year’s resolutions–it’s such an easy one to keep!
Ready to get your yearly flu shot?
Here are three convenient places you and your family can visit:
1. Get your annual flu shot at your healthcare provider’s office.
Ask your healthcare provider about getting the flu shot at your next check-up or your children’s wellness check. You can usually get the shot during your appointment, or you can make an appointment to come back at a later time. Some offices even have specific flu clinics, days of the week when the practice gives flu shots all day!
2. Get your flu shot at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Many local Maine pharmacies and national drugstore chains offer walk-in flu shots for adults and older children. The next time you are filling a prescription or doing a little shopping, walk over to the pharmacy counter and ask! In Maine, children 9 and over can get a flu shot at a pharmacy, but younger children must go to their doctor’s office.
FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Protecting your family from influenza, a common and potentially life-threatening virus that is easily spread between people.
TALK ABOUT … Whether or not your friends, family and your children’s caregivers have had their annual flu shot. Explain why this is important to you, and ask anyone helping you care for your children to join your efforts in keeping them safe.
Photo Credit: KJ Online