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The Fantastic Laboratory: Arthur Allen Talk March 12

Arthur Allen's book Please join us the evening of March 12, 2015, when writer Arthur Allen discusses the lives and work of Rudolf Weigl and Ludwik Fleck, two forgotten scientific heroes. Weigl and Fleck used their knowledge of typhus and vaccines in World War II Poland to save thousands of people and sabotage the Nazis. Allen will also discuss the philosophy of science that Fleck, a Jewish scholar and diagnostician, developed under almost impossibly difficult circumstances in the ghetto and concentration camps. Paul Offit, MD, vaccine developer and author of many books about vaccines, medicine, and social issues, will facilitate a discussion. More

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Mumps Roughs Up Hockey Players

We've all been following the National Hockey League mumps outbreak in the past few weeks. And by now, those of us who are known for opining on  infectious diseases have been asked by our friends why even people who are fully and recently vaccinated are coming down with the disease. (Here's the short version: Two doses of mumps vaccine are 88% (range: 66-95%) effective at preventing disease, so in an outbreak, a certain percentage of fully (2 doses) and partially (1 dose) immunized individuals are vulnerable to becoming ill, as are all the unvaccinated people exposed. For more information see Mumps Vaccine Effectiveness in Highly Immunized Populations and Mumps Outbreaks in Vaccinated Populations: Are Available Mumps Vaccines Effective Enough to Prevent Outbreaks?) More

Ebola Event December 8

CDC/NIAID You’ve read the headlines, now you can learn the facts. Ebola: Let's Talk About This Virus is an opportunity for medical and non-medical audiences to learn more about Ebola virus and Ebola virus disease from specialists. Speakers will address questions such as, What are viral hemorrhagic fevers and why are they unique? How can Ebola virus disease be prevented, controlled, and treated? What is the impact of geographic location on disease transmission? What does the future hold in terms of treatment options? More

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From ID Week: Adult Immunization Barriers and Promoters

How is the immune system similar to your marathon time? As we age, our immune response decreases at the same slope that our marathon race times increase. Presenters laid out this and some of the other problems of immunizing adults in the Symposium on Adult Immunizations, an early session at the Infectious Diseases Society 2014 conference at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Kenneth Schmader, MD, noted that though adults age differently – some adults at age 75 may be running marathons while others may be frail – all are subject to immune system senescence, and all are vulnerable to rapid functional declines that may result from an acute stressor, whether it’s a fall or a debilitating case pneumococcal pneumonia. More

Vaccine Disaster in Syria: Historical Precedents

Diphtheria AT, 1920s, Lederle The news of infant deaths on September 16 in northern Syria from measles vaccination is heartbreaking. Shortly after vaccination, the children became limp and unresponsive: those most severely affected died before reaching hospital. Seventy-five children were affected, and fifteen died. The World Health Organization is investigating the incident. The first reports couldn't identify the problem and speculated that the vaccine had spoiled or that it had been tampered with. The latest reports state that atracurium, a neuromuscular blocking agent used in procedures like intubation, was used as a diluent for measles vaccine, rather than the standard water-based diluent. More

Brad Pitt Takes on the Zombie Virus

Drexel zombies from blogs.CDC.gov Many thanks to my great high school interns Arkiea and Mercedes for writing this review and summary of World War Z. When I first heard about World War Z I thought “ugh, another zombie movie.” It was a movie that I did not want to see because honestly I hate zombie movies. Almost all zombie movies have the same plot where it's people awakening from their grave to become a brain-eating zombie. Not that I’m against that, it’s just I did not want to sit through another movie that’s two hours long for eleven dollars just so I can predict the outcome. So, I decided to avoid World War Z at all costs, meaning that I stayed home on a Saturday night while my dad and sister went to the movies. Three hours later my sister returns home and she tries to persuade me to see the movie but because of my stubbornness and utter dislike for zombies, I tell her no. After months of listening to my sister rant about the movie, I finally decide it would be in our best interests if I saw the movie. More

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When Bad News Is Good News

Haemophilus influenzae, (c) Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. Our advisor, Thomas Fekete, MD, FCPP, wrote today’s post. Dr. Fekete, a frequent contributor to this site and an active Fellow here at the College, has many responsibilities at Temple University Hospital and School of Medicine: Section Chief, Infectious Diseases; Professor, Medicine; Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology; and Executive Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, Department of Medicine. Twenty-plus years ago, an improved (protein-conjugated) vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) was approved and deployed extensively in young children in most developed countries. There was a rapid and sustained drop in serious infections caused by Hib. This reduction of meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections, and so on was dramatic and was accompanied by a major reduction in the formerly common and seemingly innocent carriage of Hib in the throats of children. As a result, even unvaccinated children had protection from Hib via herd immunity. More

Vaccine Skepticism as a Feminist Stance?

The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Elena Conis published a recent essay in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, entitled “A Mother’s Responsibility: Women, Medicine, and the Rise of Contemporary Vaccine Skepticism in the United States.” I had heard Conis give a talk on this same topic at a conference a few years earlier, and some her claims didn’t sit well with me. In the BHM piece, she looks at vaccine resistance beginning in the 1970s and 1980s and traces its origins to second-wave feminism and its critical view of the medical establishment. Her argument is that at a time when women were still being asked to be guardians of their children’s health – uniquely in a position to protect and care for their children in what was still an almost Victorian model of motherhood – feminist notions of self-care and self-empowerment conflicted with medical practice around vaccination. Parents, particularly mothers, began to question received medical notions about vaccination – that benefits of disease prevention almost always outweighed the risks of vaccination. In publications as extremely back-to-nature as Mothering and as conventional as Dear Abby columns, women discussed the need for vaccination and worried about medical side effects More

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American Presidents and Infectious Diseases

We've expanded and updated a popular post from 2012 by History of Vaccines former intern Alexandra Linn. Happy Fourth of July! In honor of this historic U.S. holiday, we’ve compiled a list showing how infectious diseases have affected the lives of our most heralded leaders – the American presidents. These concise accounts are evidence that diseases can strike anyone, anywhere at any time, and even in the White House. More

Video: Do Vaccines Overwhelm the Infant Immune System?

Courtesy Academic Earth AcademicEarth, an educational video and online course provider, has just produced a video for its collection of video electives-–standalone videos that illustrate interesting concepts across a variety of disciplines.In this video, they take on the “too many, too soon” argument often made by vaccine objectors: that receiving multiple vaccines at one time is harmful to a baby or child. The narrator tries to estimate total antigen exposure to age 18 and then compares that figure with antigen exposure via vaccination to age 6. More

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