Each year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) makes recommendations about who should get the influenza vaccine. The focus of the flu shot campaign among healthy people has been on people aged 65 and older, because they have been considered to be at the highest risk for flu-related complications and hospitalization. However, it turns out that children under age 2 (and possibly age 4) are at equally high risk! For the first time, on April…

Dr. Greene’s Answer: The measles vaccine is an effective vaccine in preventing measles. After 2 doses of the measles vaccine, over 99% of recipients will be immune to measles. The initial dose of the measles vaccine is usually administered after a child is 12 months of age. The second dose is recommended at the age of kindergarten entry (i.e. age 4-6 years), but may be given any time 1 month after the first dose. In areas where measles is…

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids could get vaccines that were safe and effective without having to have a needle poke? The March 4th, 2000 issue of The Lancet featured an article about an aerosol form of measles vaccine that was almost twice as effective as the injection, while maintaining a similar safety profile. Large scale testing will be needed before routine vaccines like this are widely available, but the future looks bright for…

If you think you may get pregnant in the next year, this may be the most important year to get a flu shot – and an H1N1 flu shot, when it becomes available. When pregnant, it’s generally best to avoid all medications unless the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. With this year’s flu season, this appears to be the case. Swine flu hits pregnant women extra hard, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to the g…

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is the most important respiratory organism of early childhood. RSV occurs throughout the world, and in each location it tends to occur in yearly winter outbreaks. In the northern hemisphere the peak of the epidemic is usually in January, February, or March, although in some years it may begin earlier and/or end later. Each year, around 100,000 infants are hospitalized with RSV in the United States alone. Th…

The World Health Organization estimates that about 100,000 children each year are born with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), a major cause of severe birth defects such as blindness, deafness, heart disease, and mental retardation. When pregnant mothers get rubella, a highly contagious otherwise-minor illness, the results for their babies can be devastating. Most of the 100,000 victims each year are in developing nations . although the first n…

The Centers for Disease Control say all people from 6 months through 24 years are in a high priority group for getting the flu shot this year. But I can understand the fear some parents have about the vaccine for the swine flu (H1N1). It has just now become available, and it’s natural for parents to question whether it’s safe to give their little ones. The bottom line is I’m getting it happily because I work in a hospital and…

Airborn transmission of measles can occur just by being in the same room as someone with the disease — up to 3 hours after the infected person has left! Over 90% of people who are not immune to measles will catch it if they are in the same room as the disease. At greatest risk are unimmunized children and adults born between 1957 and 1968 who have not had a recent booster. I’m glad my children are protected….

Mothers give their babies so much – including antibodies that help protect them from infections. If a woman were immunized against an infection before becoming pregnant, might she pass this along to her baby? A study published in the Oct. 2001 issue of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal found that babies whose mothers received the Hib vaccine before pregnancy had antibodies that protected them from HIB meningitis during the vulnera…

Some people have speculated that the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine (MMR), which is routinely given to millions of children each year, had caused a huge surge in autism over the last 30 years. The vaccine rate has plummeted since the study, while autism continues to rise. A study in the February 19th, 2001 British Medical Journal provides an interesting perspective. In the United Kingdom, the surge in autism continues, with a sevenfold increase…

Chicken pox is caused by the Varicella-zoster virus. It is usually a mild infection, and not life-threatening. Although children with this virus may be miserable for several days, and miss a week of school or day-care (stranding parents at home), they will likely recover from the 250-500 itchy blisters with nothing more to show for it than a few small scars. Each year about 200,000 of the millions of people around the world who contract chicken…

In 1999, I attended the national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Washington, D.C. At the opening of the conference, Sarah Long, M.D. announced that the new pneumococcal vaccine would be available in early 2000. I was thrilled! The pneumococcus bacteria kills about the same number of people each year in the United States as HIV. It is the major cause of bacterial pneumonia and sepsis. It causes about half the cases of bacterial…

In September 1999, the FDA announced that 99 cases of intussusception (including two deaths) had been reported in possible association with RotaShield. This is a sharp increase from the 15 that had been reported when the vaccine was halted in July. About 1.5 million doses of RotaShield have been given to children. The CDC is carefully studying whether these complications were actually caused by the vaccine. A safe, effective rotavirus vaccine…

A worsening polio outbreak in West Africa has already spread to nations where polio had been eradicated and has prompted hundreds of thousands of volunteers and health workers to race to immunize 15 million children at immediate risk. But in Nigeria, which has the world’s highest number of polio cases, three northern states have blocked the campaign at the urging of Muslim clerics. One of those states, Kano, contains about a sixth of the world…

Bacterial meningitis can occur at any age, but 95 percent of cases are in children under 5 years old. Boys are more likely to get it than girls. Together, three types of bacteria account for over 90 percent of bacterial meningitis: H. influenza type b, meningococcus, and pneumococcus. These bacteria are transmitted by person-to-person contact through respiratory secretions. Many people carry these bacteria with no serious consequence. (Pneumoco…

I often hear from parents who like to modify their children’s immunization schedules for one reason or another. According to a warning issued in the November 30, 2001, issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, when the MMR vaccine and the chicken pox vaccine are given on 2 separate days less than 30 days apart, kids are 2.5 times more likely to develop a breakthrough case of chicken pox. This data is based on the experience o…

Dr. Greene’s Answer: The word croup comes from an old Germanic word for the voice box. Today, croup, or laryngotracheobronchitis, refers to swelling centered at the larynx or vocal cords. It is caused by an infection, an allergy, or a foreign body. Croup tends to appear in children between 3 months and five years old. It is characterized by a brassy cough that sounds rather like a seal barking. It is usually (75% of the time) caused by par…

Related concepts: Lockjaw Introduction to tetanus: Even though the bacteria that cause tetanus are common in the United States, the tetanus vaccine has made tetanus infections rare. Nevertheless, tetanus remains a major worldwide cause of illness and death. What is tetanus? Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is caused by a toxin created by a bacterium found in the soil. When this germ gets into an open cut or wound, an unprotected person can contrac…

Dr. Greene’s Answer: For most individuals, the benefits of the DPT (a.k.a. DTaP) vaccine far outweigh the risks. The following events or conditions may have an impact on the risk of a reaction with the DPT vaccine: Serious reaction to a previous injection of DPT (or any of the components of the vaccine) Moderate or severe illness History of seizure(s) Parent or sibling with seizures Brain problem that is getting worse Alterations of consc…

Dr. Greene’s Answer: The CDC recommends annual flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. When flu vaccine supplies are limited, the CDC recommends priority vaccination for the  following groups: Family members and other close contacts of infants less than 6 months of age. Children less than 6 months are too young to receive the vaccine, but are at higher risk for complications if they get the flu. Children 6 months to 5 years of age a…