October 2010

Advisory Committee Votes for Expanded Pertussis Vaccine Recommendations

Bordatella pertussis. Copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. Meeting in Atlanta, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on October 27 for new recommendations regarding Tdap vaccination.

Tdap, the booster vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) has been a source of confusion in recent months. In light of the pertussis outbreak that began in California, health authorities had issued reminders about the adult Tdap recommendation: adults aged 19-64 should substitute one Td booster (recommended every ten years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria) with a single Tdap booster, which also offers protection against pertussis. This is recommended to limit the disease's ability to spread; while adult pertussis cases are generally milder than those in children, adult patients can still spread the disease to young children, including those too young to be vaccinated. The adult vaccination schedule did not include a recommendation about Tdap for adults aged 65 and older, however, which includes many grandparents concerned about passing pertussis on to their grandchildren. More

Cholera Outbreak in Haiti Continues

This cholera patient is drinking oral rehydration solution in order to counteract his cholera-induced dehydration. Photo: CDC/19 Cholera affects 3-5 million people each year, killing more than 100,000. The diarrheal disease, spread by contaminated food and water, is often a major problem in disaster areas where a clean water supply and sanitation facilities are limited or unavailable.

Haiti, still recovering from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, is experiencing a growing cholera outbreak that has so far killed 259 people. Haiti’s Le Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (Ministry for Public Health and the Population, or MSPP) reported 3,342 confirmed cases as of October 26, but Dr. Jon Andrus, Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated in a press briefing on October 25 that the true number of cases is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed number. Dr. Andrus noted that about 75% of people infected with cholera do not experience symptoms (called “asymptomatic infection”). These individuals can still spread the bacteria, however. Dr. Andrus also stated that while the increase in new cases has recently slowed, there is still a concern that the Haitian outbreak could spread to the Dominican Republic. More

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Rarely Seen: Dr. Austrian's Bacterial Incubator

Austian's Bacterial Incubator, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Anna Dhody, Mütter Museum Curator, today describes another item in the museum's recently unveiled Rarely Seen exhibit. A vital tool in biomedical research, this bacterial incubator was used to grow and sustain cell and microbiological cultures. The incubator mimicked the optimal environmental conditions for a particular organism when the researcher adjusts the humidity, temperature, and atmospheric conditions. Manufactured by the ELCONAP, Electric Heat Control Apparatus Co. of Newark, New Jersey, this incubator was used by Robert Austrian, MD (1916-2007), a pioneering physician, epidemiologist, and microbiologist in researching infectious diseases. Dr. Austrian was also a Fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia from 1963 to 2007 and served as its President from 1988 to 1990. More

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Rarely Seen: Our Curator Discusses the Iron Lung

The iron lung became one of the most iconic objects of the polio scourge. Mütter Museum Curator Anna Dhody describes the iron lung featured in the museum's new exhibit, Rarely Seen. This exhibit offers visitors a glimpse of objects that have  not been displayed for decades or are recent acquisitions that have never been exhibited. Some of the instruments represent the pinnacle of medical knowledge for their time, while others had mixed and sometimes detrimental medical results.

Many people remember when the threat of polio was omnipresent. Public pools and movie theaters were closed and parents lived in fear that their children could be struck down at any moment, unable to move or breathe. No one was safe: while the poliomyelitis virus affected mainly children, adults were also susceptible. The iron lung became one of the most iconic objects of the polio scourge, a symbol of the epidemics of the 1940s and 50s. More

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Which vaccine has had the greatest impact?

Lantern Slide, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia We hosted a contest for fans of the Mütter Museum/The College of Physicians of Philadelphia on Facebook.They had a chance to win prizes (a stuffed pathogen, a cool keychain, and a calendar) from the Mütter Museum store. The contest is now over!

The rules: Submit a comment to this blog post that describes which vaccine you think has had the greatest impact on human health and explains. The comment must comply with our blog comment/moderation policy.

We chose THREE winners from those of you who posted a comment. More

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Measles Vaccine, 1960

Measles Pamplets The New York Times on October 5 ran a short piece on first mentions of measles and measles preventives on its pages. The item focuses on John Enders’s early measles vaccine, tested in 1960 at the Willowbrook State School in New York and in Nigeria.

Read on for History of Vaccines videos on early measles vaccines. More

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Polio: Past, Present and Future

Member of an Emergency Citizens Group in Oklahoma City during a 1963 Polio Eradication Campaign, CDC A global effort to eradicate polio began in 1988. At the time, the disease was endemic in more than 125 countries; by 2006, only Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan still saw endemic polio transmission. Still, despite this progress, the disease has stubbornly refused to disappear completely.

The Center for Vaccine Ethics and Policy blog took note this week of a Lancet Infectious Diseases article titled "Reflection and Reaction: Reconstructing the past of poliovirus eradication efforts". The blog post suggested that a review of the eradication initiative’s historical record, and a more cautious outlook toward its potential outcomes, might be wise.

This post was unfortunately coincidental with news of expanding polio outbreaks in Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday, October 1 that a continuing outbreak of polio in Angola must be stopped to prevent “international consequences.” The disease is spreading not only within Angola but also into the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the only expanding African outbreak of the disease, and puts the continued progress of the eradication program at risk. More

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