How One Washington State Senator Is Rationalizing The Measles Outbreak (HBO)

CLARK COUNTY, Washington — The United is currently home to six ongoing measles outbreaks. But with 70 confirmed cases, Clark County, Washington in particular, has gotten a lot of attention. It’s quickly become a classic example of what happens when parents hesitate to vaccinate their children. Still, the spread of a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease hasn’t been enough to change everyone’s minds about vaccines.

Washington State Senator Lynda Wilson told VICE News during a recent interview that she believes the measles vaccine has caused more harm than the disease itself — a statement that has been debunked by multiple peer-reviewed studies, including a massive study published this week. She also said she hasn’t actively reached out to any scientists or doctors to verify her opinion on the matter. “I’m kind of busy up here, and so I’m just dealing with what I’m getting from my constituents,” she said.

The measles is a nasty disease that can lead to serious complications, including swelling of the brain and pneumonia. It also kills around 1 or two children out of every 1000 who become infected. That’s why scientists recommend the vaccine, which is both safe and effective. But right now, Clark County has an unusually low vaccination rate.

So, Senator Wilson’s view of vaccines aren’t just emblematic of the crisis — they could also have an impact on upcoming legislation. A proposed bill would eliminate one of Washington’s non-medical vaccine exemptions, the philosophical exemption, and Senator Wilson has already said she plans to vote to keep the exemption. “I don’t believe that everyone should be having to do them,” she said, in reference to vaccines.

Despite having vaccinated her own children when they were younger, Wilson doesn’t think parents should be required to do so with their own kids — at least not American parents. “The cases are coming from out of the country,” she said. “So, you know, maybe what we should do is start thinking about requiring vaccinations if you’re coming into our country. Maybe they should be vaccinated instead of requiring all of our people to be vaccinated.”

The CDC says that the current measles outbreaks are linked to travelers. But there’s little evidence to suggest that vaccinating visitors to the United States would be at all effective. That’s because the measles vaccine, called MMR, is only 93 percent protective after a single dose, so people who aren’t vaccinated can still get sick. That’s why scientists say it’s important for communities to reach a certain vaccination rate — a concept called “herd immunity.” When a high number of individuals in a community are vaccinated, that limits the spread of disease and prevents those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated from becoming sick.

“Measles continues to exist in other countries and within the United States,” a spokesperson for Clark County Public Health told VICE News. “As long as measles is present elsewhere, it’s only a plane, car, train or boat ride away from our community and will continue to be a risk for our community or any community with large unvaccinated populations.”

Senator Wilson says the current outbreak is under control. Moreover, she says the people who were infected will benefit from the disease. “We didn’t have any deaths, and we didn’t have any hospital stays. So I don’t know that it’s unacceptable,” she said. “I mean, now these people have full immunity for the rest of their lives.”

VICE News went to Washington state to see how the measles outbreak is impacting a parent, a pediatrician, and a legislator.

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CDC says mystery illness cases higher this year

(10 Dec 2018) Health officials are reporting the most cases ever of a mysterious paralyzing illness in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reported 158 confirmed cases so far this year. That’s more than the 149 reported in a similar wave of illnesses in 2016. (Dec. 10)

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CDC warn consumers not to eat romaine lettuce

(21 Nov 2018) Health officials in the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday told people to avoid eating romaine lettuce because of a new E. coli outbreak. (Nov. 20)

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CDC: Cases of mysterious illness rising

(14 Nov 2018) The CDC advising the number of Acute Flaccid Myelitis cases has increased to 90 spread among at least 25 states. (Nov 14)

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Most Black Kids Can’t Swim. It’s Not Just A Stereotype, It’s History. (HBO)

In 2014, the CDC found that an 11-year-old black child is 10 times more likely to drown than a white child the same age. The idea that “Black people can’t swim” may sound like a stereotype, but this disparity is rooted in a history of discriminatory access to swimming pools.

This summer has produced three high-profile incidents of white Americans calling – or threatening to call – the police on Black pool goers.

A South Carolina woman was charged with multiple accounts of assault for accosting a 15-year-old boy and a police officer. A North Carolina man lost his job after a video of him calling the police on a woman who refused to show him her identification. A property manager at a Memphis apartment complex also lost her job for calling the police on a man for wearing socks in the pool.

These episodes are just the most recent in a long history of discriminatory access at American swimming pools, going back almost 100 years. VICE News spoke with Jeff Wiltse, a professor of History at the University of Montana, and the author of “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America.”

“It was socially normal for blacks and whites to swim together at these public pools during the late 19th and early 20th century but that all changed during the 1920s and 1930s when cities opened up large resort like pools,” says Wiltse. “That permitted males and females to use them together.”

Wiltse said that it was at that point that white swimmers and public officials imposed racial segregation because most whites did not want to allow black men to interact with white women at such intimate public spaces.

Pools were desegregated after World War II — frequently by court order — but like America’s public schools, integration in the water was more of a legal concept than a cultural one.

Racial desegregation of public pools rarely lead to meaningful sort of interracial use, said Wiltse. “In general, whites abandoned public pools that black swimmers started to use.”

“Swimming became broadly popular within white communities and was passed down from generation to generation. Because of African-Americans more restricted access, swimming did not become a broadly popular activity among Black families.”

In 2017, USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the US, has found that African-American children and their parents are three times more fearful of drowning than Caucasian children and parents. Additionally, 64% of African American children have low or no swimming ability.

Dezria Holmes knows how to swim, but wouldn’t call herself a strong swimmer. She’s trying to change that for her children, 12-year old Madison and 7-year old Mason. Both are enrolled in a Chicago swimming program launched by USA Swimming, Chicago Park District, and Illinois Swimming to get a more diverse group of young people in the water.

“My grandparents couldn’t swim because of segregation,” said Holmes. “So when I saw the opportunity for my daughter to swim, and then my parents were able to see their granddaughter swim. They were actually crying, because no one in our family swims like Madison. So to be afforded this opportunity has just been amazing.”

USA Swimming has found that Black children and their parents are three times more fearful of drowning than white children and their parents. Safety was the main reason Holmes wanted her kids to learn how to swim.

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Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Largest In A Decade

The CDC says a death in California has been linked to a national romaine lettuce food poisoning outbreak. So far, 121 people have gotten sick in 25 states. Fifty-two people have been hospitalized. (May 3)

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AP Top Stories April 5 P

Here are the top stories for Thursday, April 5th: Pres. Trump says he has faith in Pruitt; Missing CDC worker’s body found; Tour Bus Crashes on Way to Masters Tourney; and Parade for NCAA Champs Villanova.

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Iowans Are Trying To Legalize An Underground Needle Exchange (HBO)

In Iowa, a spike in opioid abuse among people under 30 is causing another public health crisis: cases of Hepatitis C — a virus that attacks the liver — are up 375 percent according to the CDC.

To combat the problem, a group of Iowans has been operating an underground needle exchange. And now, they’re lobbying for a bill to legalize that effort. Under state law, it’s illegal to possess or distribute clean syringes for an “unlawful” purpose.

The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, founded in 2016 by medical student Sarah Ziegenhorn, 29, provides weekly outreach services in cities across Iowa by distributing safer injection kits, condoms and test kits for HIV and hepatitis C. The clean syringes, provided by partnering non-profit Prairie Works, are handed out discreetly from the back of a car.

More than 30 states have legalized distribution of needles and Iowa could be next if the bill, slated for a vote in the Senate next week, continues its journey to the governor’s office. Ziegenhorn is a weekly fixture at state capitol, leading the charge and drawing numbers of constituents to bring the issue to the attention of legislatures.

This is the second attempt to legalize in a state where there are very few opioid related regulations or policies in place. Many legislators believe the presence of needle exchange programs would encourage drug use and prevent proper law enforcement.

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CDC Doctor Missing, Foul Play Not Ruled Out

Authorities said Tuesday that a 35-year-old doctor, who has been missing for two weeks, told co-workers he was expecting a promotion and was disappointed when he was passed over for it. Timothy Cunningham worked as an epidemiologist at the CDC. (Feb. 27)

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How To Build A Better Flu Vaccine (HBO)

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The U.S. is in the midst of a record breaking flu season this year that is reaching levels as high as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

On a call with reporters last week, the CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat painted a grim picture of what the rest of the flu season has in store— and there’s no sign this season is slowing down yet.

Predicting what flu strains will be circulating each year and what should be included in the annual vaccine is highly a choreographed decision that involves year round monitoring of influenza viruses across the globe.

Dr. Kathryn Edwards has spent over thirty years studying influenza and is the chair of the FDA committee that selects the strains. She says a particularly severe strain of influenza A called H3N2 may be why more people are getting so sick this year.

“We also know that the severity of an influenza season can depend not only on the virus but also on how well the vaccine that we are giving people matches the strain that’s circulating,” Edwards says.

There’s also evidence that the way the majority of vaccines are made, by growing the virus in chicken eggs, can cause changes in the H3N2 strain that ultimately weaken the vaccines effectiveness.

There are two types of non egg-based vaccines on the market and studies are underway to try and understand which work best. The jackpot though would be the development of a successful universal vaccine.

Calling it a universal vaccine is somewhat of a misnomer because researchers are skeptical that one shot will ever give lifelong protection against the flu but the idea is that a shot could be given at any time and offer years worth of protection against all flu strains including potential influenza pandemics. More than 30 candidates are in various stages of testing with a few already in the early stages of human trials.

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