Monday March 10, 2014
Yearly flu vaccines were once recommended only for high risk children. It wasn't until the 2002-03 flu season that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices begin encouraging vaccination of healthy children between the ages of 6 and 23 months when feasible.
They then made a formal recommendation for flu vaccines:
- for healthy children between 6 and 23 months for the 2004-05 flu season
- for healthy children between 24 and 59 months for the 2006-07 flu season
- for flu vaccines for healthy children between 5 and 18 years for the 2008-09 flu season
Still, even with these recommendations and with flu vaccines being a part of the childhood immunization, unlike most other vaccines, flu vaccines aren't usually required for kids who attend school or daycare.
That is unless you live in Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York City, all of which do require children between the ages of 6 and 59 months to receive at least one dose of a flu vaccine each year to attend a licensed day care.
Is the requirement effective?
We are getting our first evidence in a new report from the CDC, "Impact of Requiring Influenza Vaccination for Children in Licensed Child Care or Preschool Programs -- Connecticut, 2012-13 Influenza Season,"and it looks like good news.
After instituting the new rule in 2010, among young children, Connecticut has seen:
- a large increase in vaccination rates (from 67% to 84%)
- a decrease in hospitalization rates (12%)
And since most flu deaths in kids are typically in those who have not been vaccinated, anything to help boost vaccination rates seems like a good idea. Also, in addition to being at high risk for catching the flu, young children are often thought to be among the groups who are most likely to transmit the flu virus to others.
Less flu in young kids might also mean less flu for everyone. And that is what these laws are about. According to Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., a medical ethicist, these flu vaccine laws are about "trying to prevent infected kids from killing or making other kids sick, especially those with asthma or immune diseases. It is trying to prevent killing grandma by infecting her, killing pregnant women's fetuses or striking dead the neighbor who is getting chemotherapy or is post an organ-transplant who encounters an infected baby or child at the supermarket, train station or movie theater."
Is your state or city planning on making the flu vaccine a requirement for attending day care or preschool?
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Monday March 10, 2014
Parents often complain about their kids spending too much time playing games on their iPads and texting with their cell phones.
Are parents using them too much too?
A new study that will be published in the April issue of Pediatrics, "Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals in Fast Food Restaurants," observed caregivers eating with their children and found "a large proportion of caregivers who were highly absorbed with their hand-held devices."
This absorption with their mobile device seemed to lead the caregivers to:
- have decreased responsiveness to the child
- have decreased conversation with a passive child
- ignore their child's behaviors until it escalated and they eventually raised their voice
So while "some children accepted the lack of engagement and entertained themselves; others acted out in a bid for attention."
Have you ever seen these parents and kids in a restaurant? Has it ever been you?
The researchers do warn that "we should not draw conclusions about relationships between mobile device use and caregiver-child interaction from our results," but the study is a good reminder for all of us to take a good look at our own use (or overuse) of cell phones and other media (screen time), especially when we are with our kids.
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Friday March 7, 2014
Many people likely thought measles was getting into out of control territory when we continued to hit new records in the last few years, including:
- 220 measles cases in 2011 - a 15 year record and the highest number of cases since 1996
- 58 cases in the 2013 New York City measles outbreak - the largest outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States
- local and state public health departments spending from $2.7 million to $5.3 million US dollars to contain just half of the measles outbreaks in 2011
Unfortunately, this year is looking to be even worse considering we have already seen about 4x the number of measles cases we had seen at this point in 2011. Earlier in the week, the CDC reported 54 cases of measles in the United States - more than was reported in all of 2007 (just 43 cases all year).
The number of measles cases is likely to jump significantly though, as the latest CDC report likely doesn't include the latest measles outbreaks:
- a measles outbreak in New York City that is already affecting 7 adults and 9 children in northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
- two more cases of measles in San Diego, California which are linked to an outbreak in February, when a person exposed others at two different Naval medical facilities after contracting measles in the Philippines. The new cases likely exposed hundreds of other people at four different sites around San Diego, including an urgent-care center.
- a second case of measles in Macomb, Illinois.
- two more cases of measles in Massachusetts, this time in Middlesex County.
Why the jump in cases? The CDC puts some of the blame on unvaccinated children and adults traveling to the Philippines, where a large outbreak recently killed 23 children, but it is important to keep in mind that there are outbreaks in many other countries too.
In addition to the Philippines, there are outbreaks of measles in the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the UK, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan, too. Although Europe reported a milder measles season last year, they still had over 10,000 cases, which were complicated by 8 cases of acute measles encephalitis and 3 deaths.
Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease though. We don't have to let it get out of control. We can stop the outbreaks before we start to see even more cases and start to see more complications of measles.
Get Educated. Get Vaccinated. Stop the Outbreaks.
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Wednesday March 5, 2014
Most people welcomed the passage of the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012. Continued reports of deaths from child abuse and neglect led to many to realize that an "increased understanding of deaths from child abuse and neglect can lead to improvement in agency systems and practices to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect."
Introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, it had mostly bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama on January 14, 2013.
In establishing the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 will hopefully "develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect."
With recent developments, a national strategy is certainly needed.
- Governor Jan Brewer had to recently abolish the Child Protective Services agency in Arizona after reports that more than 6,500 child abuse and neglect reports were never investigated.
- Governor Rick Scott recently had to increase funding to the Department of Children & Families in Florida after a "surge" in child abuse deaths in the state, which many people blamed on previous budget cuts.
- there was a spike in deaths of children in foster care in Texas last year, with some placing the blame on budget cuts and increased reliance on private agencies.
So what's the update? After President Obama appointed the members of Commission in September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a strong supporter of the Protect Our Kids Act, the commission held its first meeting last week. During this meeting, "the commissioners brought in congressional staff who worked on the legislation to discuss the intent of the bill, reviewed previous federal efforts to improve federal policy responses to child maltreatment fatalities and outlined the scope of the commission's work. Over the next two years, the commission will continue holding meetings around the country as it moves forward in developing its proposals."
Among other things, child welfare experts are hoping these proposals include:
- the development of a national, multi-agency strategy for stopping maltreatment deaths.
- increasing current federal spending on child protection
- child welfare financing reform
- the development of a public education campaign to encourage public reporting of child abuse and neglect and to enlist communities in the protection of children
- the development of a model protocol to ensure civil and criminal legal proceedings related to child abuse and neglect are closely coordinated with relevant agencies
Join the AAP, the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, Prevent Child Abuse America, and other national, state, and local organizations in supporting the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 so that more is done "to address the deaths in America of innocent children--nearly five-- every day from abuse and neglect."
You can also urge the legislators in your state to make sure everything is being done to protect kids from abuse and neglect.
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