Some Gen Xers Might Need Measles Booster Shots

iStock.com/Pornpak Khunatorn
iStock.com/Pornpak Khunatorn

Measles, a disease declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, is making a comeback. As of Wednesday, April 24, there were 695 measles cases in 22 states, according to the CDC. As public health officials implore parents to get their kids vaccinated, some adults are wondering if the shots they received years ago are enough to keep them safe.

As WECT reports, adults born between 1957 and 1989 may benefit from getting a measles vaccine booster, even if they received the vaccine when they were kids. Many Baby Boomers and people from older generations were likely exposed to measles as children, and are therefore immune to the virus. But measles rates have dropped since 1963 when the measles vaccine was first introduced. In 1989, the CDC began recommending two doses of the vaccine for kids, spaced out over a few years, for maximum effectiveness.

CDC guidelines for measles vaccines haven't changed since the current outbreak began. The department says that anyone born after 1957 should have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is 93 percent effective against the disease. But if Gen Xers want to be extra cautious, they can ask their doctor to test their antibody levels to see if they're immune. If they're still vulnerable to measles, they can get a second booster shot, which together with the initial vaccination is about 97 percent effective.

But the CDC's current priority is children who haven't been vaccinated at all. Thanks to the misinformation around vaccines, a growing number of parents have opted not to get their kids vaccinated, which has fueled the current health crisis in the U.S. According to a 2016 review of measles studies, out of 970 measles cases, almost 42 percent of patients had skipped the vaccine for non-medical reasons.

The symptoms of measles range in severity from a rash around the hairline to coma and brain swelling. The CDC warns that the longer this current outbreak continues, the greater the chance is that measles will stay in the U.S. for good.

[h/t WECT]

Pandemic vs. Epidemic: What’s the Difference?

If scientists can't develop a vaccine for a new virus quickly enough, an epidemic can turn into a pandemic.
If scientists can't develop a vaccine for a new virus quickly enough, an epidemic can turn into a pandemic.
doble-d/iStock via Getty Images

As the new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the words epidemic and pandemic are showing up in news reports more often than they usually do. While the terms are closely related, they don’t refer to the same thing.

As the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) explains on its website, “an epidemic occurs when an infectious disease spreads rapidly to many people.” Usually, what precedes an epidemic is an outbreak, or “a sudden rise in the number of cases of a disease.” An outbreak can affect a single community or several countries, but it’s on a much smaller scale than an epidemic.

If an epidemic can’t be contained and keeps expanding its reach, public health officials might start calling it a pandemic, which means it’s affected enough people in different areas of the world to be considered a global outbreak. In short, a pandemic is a worldwide epidemic. It infects more people, causes more deaths, and can also have widespread social and economic repercussions. The spread of the Spanish influenza from 1918 to 1919, which killed between 20 and 40 million people around the world, was a pandemic; more recently, the H1N1 influenza created a pandemic in 2009.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: There’s no cut-and-dried classification system for outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics. Based on the definitions above, it might seem like the current coronavirus disease, now called COVID-19, falls into the pandemic category already—according to a map from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 80,000 confirmed cases in 34 countries, and nearly 2700 people have died from the disease. It’s also beginning to impact travel, stock markets, and the global economy as a whole. But WHO maintains that although the situation has the potential to become a pandemic, it’s still an epidemic for now.

“It really is borderline semantics, to be honest with you,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN earlier this month. “I think you could have people arguing each end of it. Pandemics mean different things to different people.”

[h/t APIC.org]

Scotland Could Become the First Country to Provide Universal Period Products to Citizens

emapoket, iStock via Getty Images
emapoket, iStock via Getty Images

Fears over where to find—and how to afford—sanitary products before their next menstrual cycle may no longer be an issue for people in Scotland. Earlier today, as the BBC reports, Members of Scottish Parliament passed the first part of a bill that would make items like pads and tampons free to the public.

The Period Products Bill was first put forth in 2017 to address period poverty, which affects people who are unable to afford essential menstrual hygiene products. Pads, tampons, and some reusable menstrual items are currently available to students in primary schools and universities in the country. The Scottish government has also expanded the program to include additional public places and sports clubs, but this new bill goes even further. If passed, Scotland would become the first country to provide free period products to citizens on a universal scale.

Ministers in the Scottish Parliament were initially concerned about the bill's £24 million ($31 million) annual price tag, but earlier this month, members of all parties in the government came out in support of the legislation. Though the bill passed through the first stage of parliament today, February 25, the BBC wrote that "The government is expected to put forward a raft of amendments to address their 'significant' concerns about the legislation," including the aforementioned cost.

Period poverty is an issue that's felt around the world. In America, many lawmakers are fighting to end the "tampon tax": a sales tax that's added to sanitary products and waived from other hygiene products deemed essential in many states, like dandruff shampoo.

[h/t BBC]

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