Monday, October 3, 2011

1 in 10 US Parents Don't Follow Vaccination Schedule

About 13% of parents are skipping or delaying their children's immunizations and following an "alternative" vaccination schedule that puts kids at serious risk.

A recent internet survey which included 748 parents of kids between six months and six years old. Of those, 13 percent said they used some type of vaccination schedule that differed from the CDC recommendations. That included refusing some vaccines or delaying vaccines until kids were older -- mostly because parents thought that "seemed safer." In addition, two percent of parents refused any vaccination altogether, according to findings published in Pediatrics.

The survey,  conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, evaluated 748 responses. The parents ranged from 18 to 59 years old, but most were ages 30 to 44. The results were comparable to an earlier, larger study by the CDC.

Parents were most likely to skip vaccination against H1N1 (swine flu) and seasonal flu, the study says. Parents were least likely to skip the polio vaccine. Researchers also noted that white parents were more likely to follow an alternate vaccine schedule, as were families who didn't have a regular doctor.

Skipping or spacing out vaccines dramatically increases the risk of illness, the study says. Children whose parents opt out of one or more vaccines are 22 times more likely to contract measles and nearly six times more likely to contract whooping cough, according to background research cited in the study. Unvaccinated babies are particulary vulnerable, because newborns are at greater risk of complications from many infections. Health officials are concerned about the trend: unvaccinated people have fueled an outbreak of measles, which sickened nearly 200 people in the first eight months of this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The USA also has battled outbreaks of whooping cough and mumps in the past two years.

The patterns among those not following the recommended schedule varied. Among them:
  • 17% said their child did not get any vaccines.
  • 53% said they didn't get some vaccines.
  • 55% said they delay some vaccines until older than the recommended age.
  • 36% said they wait longer between multiple-dose vaccines than is recommended.
  • 22% said they got each part of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine separately.
The vaccines most likely to be refused:
  • H1N1 influenza, refused by 86% of those on the alternative schedule
  • Seasonal influenza, 76%
  • Chickenpox (varicella), 46%
Another expert sees reason for concern about the 13%. "People who refuse vaccines tend to be clustered geographically," says Saad Omer, PhD, MPH, MBBS, assistant professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at the Emory University Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center.
That, in turn, can create what he calls a ''critical mass" of people to trigger a disease outbreak.
"There is a reason why there is a schedule," says Omer. "The risk of preventable disease is not constant. One of the reasons we give vaccines at a certain age is the children are vulnerable at a certain age."
Another problem, he says, is that as parents spread out the vaccinations, the risk of not completing the recommended ones increases.

The CDC maintains a schedule of recommended vaccines on its web site,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Electronic tattoo 'could revolutionise patient monitoring'

esearchers have developed ultrathin electronics that can be placed on the skin as easily as a temporary tattoo, and hope the new devices will pave the way for sensors that monitor heart and brain activity without bulky equipment, or perhaps computers that operate via the subtlest voice commands or body movement.
Flexible electronics have been around for a few years; one approach is to write circuits onto materials that are already flexible, another is to make the circuits themselves flexible. In 2008, for example, engineers at the University of Tokyo created a conductive material that looked a bit like a fishnet stocking. Made of carbon nanotubes and rubber, it could stretch by more than a third of its natural length, possibly enough to make robots become more agile.
The problem with these past attempts, says materials scientist John Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is that none of them has been as stretchy and as bendy as human skin.
Now, Rogers and his colleagues at Urbana-Champaign and other institutions in the United States, Singapore, and China have come up with a form of electronics that almost precisely matches skin's mechanical properties. Known as epidermal electronics, they can be applied in a similar way to a temporary tattoo: you simply place it on your skin and rub it on with water (see video). The devices can even be hidden under actual temporary tattoos to keep the electronics concealed.

Researchers hope it could replace bulky equipment currently used in hospitals:
A mass of cables, wires, gel-coated sticky pads and monitors are currently needed to keep track of a patient's vital signs. Scientists say this can be "distressing", such as when a patient with heart problems has to wear a bulky monitor for a month "in order to capture abnormal but rare cardiac events".
In one study the tattoo was used to measure electrical activity in the leg, heart and brain. It found that the "measurements agree remarkably well" with those taken by traditional methods.
Smaller, less invasive, sensors could be especially useful for monitoring premature babies or for studying patients with sleep apnoea without them wearing wires through the night, researchers say.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Afraid of Flying? WHO says Hospitals are More Dangerous.

Your chances of dying in a hospital because of a medical mistake are much higher than going down in an airplane, according to the World Health Organization.
In a July 21, 2011 news briefing , WHO’s newly appointed envoy for patient safety Liam Donaldson pointed out that the chance of dying in a plane crash is about 1 in 10 million, but 1 in 10 patients encounter medical errors at the hospital. The chances of dying from an error are about 1 in 300, Reuters reports.

Donaldson cited a common comparison of the aviation and health-care industries in an effort to promote the WHO's surgical safety checklist for hospitals, but there are also several ways patients can protect themselves from errors, and in particular, from infection.

Here are a few tips from the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths:

- Ask hospital workers if they’ve washed their hands, or used an alcohol-based cleaner, before they touch you.

- If the doctor uses a stethoscope, ask him or her to wipe it with alcohol.

- Avoid putting your hands near your mouth.

- If you’re going for surgery, stop smoking in advance — smokers are more likely to get infections and take longer to recover.

-Don’t shave the area where you’ll be having the surgery (bacteria could enter through nicks). And remind the surgeon that you may need an antibiotic before surgery.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a list of 20 tips for avoiding errors.
And of course, avoiding hospitals cuts down the risk of contracting a hospital infection. Eating healthily and exercising regularly helps to avoid chronic illnesses that might bring you to the hospital in the first place.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Copper surfaces reduce risk of hospital infections

A new study presented at the 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva suggests that almost all of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections in ICUs can be killed by utilizing antimicrobial copper surfaces.
Copper, like silver, kills bacteria mechanically. Because of this the microbes cannot develop a resistance to it. The exact mechanism by which copper kills bacteria is still being researched, however, several theories exist and are being studied. They include:
  • a leakage of potassium or glutamate through the outer membrane of bacteria
  • a disturbance in osmotic balance
  • the ability of copper to bind to proteins that do not require copper
  • the oxidative stress caused by generating hydrogen peroxide
The most recent trial, conducted at three US facilities - has shown that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units cuts down risks of hospital infection by 40.4 per cent.

non-disposable metal or plastic surfaces on door knobs, railings and tray tables are often touched by people in hospitals and clinics, becoming sources of infection.

Researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, New York, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Centre, replaced bed rails, overbed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with antimicrobial copper versions according to a Sloan Kettering statement. Data presented by trial leader Michael Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology at Sloan Kettering, demonstrated a 97 per cent reduction in surface pathogens in rooms with copper surfaces.

Schmidt said: " Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for 35-80 per cent of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean."

"The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms," he said. 

Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, Antimicrobial Copper kills greater than 99.9% of the VRE, MRSA, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial Copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.

Michels et al, Lett Appl Microbiol, 49 (2009) 191-195 demonstrated that Antimicrobial CopperTM outperforms two commercially available silver-containing coatings under typical indoor conditions.