Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CureSearch Walk 2014

     This marks the third year of me walking in the CureSearch walk to end childhood cancer.  It's also the second year of the Rhabdo Warriors team at the walk.  
     I'm super excited to be walking again, and I hope to make an even bigger impact by raising more money and creating a bigger team.  You can donate to me here, or to the entire team here. You can also visit my walk page:  

     So, if you're going to be in Salt Lake on September 27th, 2014, come join the rhabdo warriors as we walk to end childhood cancer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Recent Developments in Life

      School ended a couple of weeks ago and I finished the semester with strong grades. I'm back in Wisconsin for the summer, and will be returning to camp as Snickerdoodle.  
      I've been on a busy adventure on the East Coast this past weekend.  To the right you can see all the places I've been: Penn, Ben Franklin's Grave, Chemical Heritage museum, Mutter Museum, Washington monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, WWII memorial, the White House, the Liberty bell, Independence hall, Arlington National Cemetary, Philly Art Museum, Smithsonian - Natural History Museum, Capitol, and John's Hopkins Hospital.  It was a fun filled weekend.
      It's finally starting to green up here in Wisconsin (everything was still leafless and grey when I got here).  We have a robin's nest in our yard, with three baby robins in it.  They hatched last Saturday, so they are 10 days old.  They've gotten their feathers finally, and are starting to get super cute :).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reliable vaccination sources

     Here is a short list of some reliable sources for information on vaccines, many of which were used in my latest series of posts on vaccination (I, II, III, and IV). - a site by the College of Physicians and Surgeons on vaccinations, their history and how they work. - CDC's website on vaccinations, the related illnesses and immunization schedules. - The NIH website that allows access to research peer-reviewed articles on a variety of topics, including vaccination. - information on adult vaccinations - Vaccine information about vaccine science, vaccine preventable illnesses and travel vaccines.  


Monday, May 5, 2014

Truths about Vaccination, part IV

Myth: Children get too many vaccines – it’s dangerous to get so many.
Since vaccines work by stimulating the immune system, they aren’t the same as a by weight dosed medication, such as benydryl, which works by influencing biochemical pathways.  It takes the same amount of exposure for any individual to develop immunity, and more or less exposure doesn’t mean a different outcome.  For example, if I sneezed on a baby and a teenager each once, they both could get sick.  It doesn’t take one sneeze to make the baby sick and five sneezes to make the teen sick.  One sneeze does it for both.  Chemical additives, as previously discussed, are dose specific, and are added in much smaller quantities than is required for any kind of side effect. 
Myth: The diseases we vaccinate against aren’t a threat anymore
The only vaccine preventable disease that isn’t a threat is smallpox, which was eradicated in 1979.  As a result, we don’t vaccinate against it anymore.  However, the diseases we do vaccinate against are still a threat.  Mumps? 295 cases in Ohio in the past three months.  Measles? 1,219 cases in Swansea, Wales in 2013, with 80 hospitalizations.  Pertussis? 48,277 cases in 2012 (USA only), and 4,838 cases in 2014 (reported to CDC as of April 14), up 24% since last year in the same period.  These dieases aren’t gone, only held in check by vaccination, and most are only a plane ride away. In fact, many of these diseases are experiencing an increase in cases.  Why? Parents refusing to vaccinate their children.  Help us keep these diseases from reaching their previous death tolls by vaccinating your child.
Myth: Vaccines are a ploy to make doctors and pharmaceutical companies rich

Vaccines are a very low cost method of preventing disease.  DTaP costs about $20 for a 10 pack of immunizations, or $2/child.  By contrast, hospitalization, which is required in 50% of whopping cough cases (Pertussis, the P in DTaP), costs up to $8000 a day.  Hopsitalizations cost a lot more than vaccinations, therefore earning the doctors more of a profit.  Drug companies also make more from hospitalizations, as these stays often require complex interventions, including fluids, IV antibiotics and medical devices such as respirators.  It’s in their best profit interest to not vaccinate and get paid for hospitalizations.  Vaccines do not turn a large profit.  In fact, many areas require free vaccinations for children, so doctors don’t make any money giving them.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Truths of Vaccination, part III

Part III on vaccines

Myth: Vaccines cause Autism
This is just loads of wrong.  The study that considered this was rejected by peer-reviewed journals and the writer was stripped of his medical license.  The study itself used techniques that were quite harmful to the children involved (unnecessary enemas, colonoscopies and other painful tests were performed).  Additionally, recent studies (2014) have concluded that the changes in brain structure and function that result in autism begin in utero (long before childhood vaccinations).  Vaccines do NOT cause autism. 

Myth: The decline of vaccine prevented illnesses wasn't due to vaccines
While some graphs seem to show that diseases were in decline, and therefore the decline wasn’t due to vaccines but other measures (from nutrition to sanitation and quarantine).  While these public health measures may have had some effect on the decline of these diseases, they weren’t enough to wipe out or even slow down these diseases.  Additionally, many of these public health measures had been used for decades previous to the decline of these diseases.  Vaccines were truly the cause of these diseases declining. 

Myth: Vaccines contain dangerous chemicals and toxins
Vaccines, like thousands of other products, have certain chemicals in them to keep them functional and safe for long periods of time.  These are called adjuvants.  There are a variety of adjuvants used in vaccinations, but all are safe and have undergone rigorous testing to prove so.  The scary names you hear are really not that scary, and are often found in other, everyday foods.  A pear contains many times more formaldehyde than a vaccine, which is still less than the amount found naturally in the body.  MSG is found in thousands of foods, and is responsible for that tasty, meaty flavor (umami) in broths, meats and salty products, as well as vegetables, sauces and other dishes.

Myth: Vaccines haven’t been tested by double-blind studies so they aren’t effective
Firstly, a double blind study of vaccines would require deliberately exposing unprotected children to deadly diseases and infections.  There are some obvious ethical problems with that.  As a result, many vaccines are studied using titer testing, which tests immunity based on blood chemistry and anti-bodies in the blood stream.  These trials are undertaken by willing volunteers.  Comparison trials are also done in pre-cursor animals studies, under rigorous conditions.  Many such animal studies (in multiple animals, over short and long time periods) must be conducted before a possible vaccine can even be suggested for study in humans.    

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Truths of Vaccinations, part II

Part two in my series on vaccinations

Myth: I’m not a danger to people if I don’t vaccinate myself
You are a danger to others if you chose not to vaccinate yourself (or your children).  See that infant? She’s too young to receive the whooping cough vaccine, but she has a 1 in 200 chance of dying from it, as well as a 50/50 chance of needing hospitalization.  Infection could last up to 100 days, and will require supportive treatment, such as oxygen, IV nutrition and fluids, and possibly mechanical ventilation.  See that bald man?  He has cancer, and his body can’t fight infections due to the chemotherapy.  The flu could easily kill him.  See that little boy wearing a mask? He is immune-compromised from a genetic condition.  He can’t be vaccinated because his body doesn’t form antibodies in response to vaccines, so they are not effective for him.  See that girl over there?  She’s allergic to the eggs in which vaccines are grown and can’t receive them. 
All of these people are susceptible to the illnesses usually prevented by vaccines.  Additionally, vaccines are not 100% effective, meaning even a healthy person who has received a vaccine can get them.

Myth: If vaccines aren't 100% effective, why should I get them?
Vaccination campaigns are hugely successful due to herd immunity, as well as the immunity provided by the vaccine.  When you receive a vaccination and it simulates an immune response your body remembers it.  Just like with a natural infection, sometimes the body doesn’t remember that infections and therefore isn't immune.  This is why someone who has been vaccinated still has a chance of getting sick.  They do however have a much better chance of not getting sick (90-99% depending on the vaccine), and a better chance the infection will be milder.  Saying that vaccinating is a bad idea because it’s not 100% effective is like saying one shouldn't take birth control because you might still get pregnant or not use an umbrella because you can still get wet. 
Herd immunity is when an entire population is immune due to a lack of susceptible individuals.  People can either be non-susceptible (immune) due to previous infection or to vaccination.  The percentage of individuals who must be immune to cause the entire community to be safe through herd immunity depends on the disease in question, due to variance in virulence, infectious period and transmission rate.  Once this level of community immunity has been reached, herd immunity has been reached.  This means there aren’t enough individuals left in the population, and they are separated by social connections, that the disease can’t take hold in the population because it lacks a reservoir (somewhere to stay active).  Many diseases were kept in check for decades with herd immunity.  New disease pockets are immerging because herd immunity in population groups is gone.  Examples include the recent outbreak of measles in New York.  These cases are connected by social groups.  Similar outbreaks can occur in any pocket of non-vaccinated people.   

Friday, May 2, 2014

Truths of Vaccination

   Today I'm going to start a series on vaccinations and immunizations.  I'm appalled by the amount of misinformation out there, and I want to address some of the common myths from a science/bio-engineering side.  If you have any additional myths you would like addressed, please comment on this post and I will address them. I will also provide reliable sources for the facts I discuss.
I feel the need to write a post about vaccination, due to the insane amount of misinformation out there on the internet.  Vaccination/immunization shouldn’t even be a debate, in my opinion.  It’s a no-duh kind of situation, yet an inordinate amount of people, nearly all unqualified to do so, feel the need to vehemently disagree with vaccination.  I shall now offer an argument of my own, as well as some refutations of commonly cited issues.
I did go through a questioning phase, where I wondered about the science behind vaccines, which prompted me to do my own research.  As a high schooler, I was able to see the logical fallacies and problems presented in the anti-vax literature, as well as understand the science and medicine behind immunizations to come to the conclusion that vaccine are good
Vaccines work by stimulating an immune response, using either attenuated or killed germs, or even pieces of germs.  The body’s immune system sees the invaders and attacks them, producing antibodies.  The body now knows this germ, and the next time it encounters said germ, it knows how to produce the correct antibodies, thereby mitigating or eliminating the infection. 

Myth: Vaccines cause the disease they are supposed to prevent.
The most common time I hear this is about the flu vaccine.  The flu vaccine doesn’t give you the flu.  In fact, the flu vaccine is made of part of a dead virus, so it is impossible to get the flu from it.  (Note: some nasal spray flu vaccines contain attenuated virus). However, since people often get the flu vaccine in late fall, they often have sniffles, runny noses and mild coughs, maybe even a mild fever, that appears shortly after they get the flu vaccine. This is not influenza! It’s a cold.  Influenza causes a high fever, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue, along with the aforementioned cough and sniffles.
Most other vaccines are also killed viruses or virus particles (a piece of a virus).  This means they have absolutely no ability to cause the viral infection.  There are a few vaccines that are live virus.  These viruses are attenuated, meaning they have been weakened.  MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine) is an attenuated vaccine, as are the vaccines for chicken pox/shingles, rotovirus and yellow fever.  The viruses in these vaccines have lost their ability to replicate in humans.  Again, they cannot cause infection. 

Myth: Risk of vaccine side effects are much greater than risks from the actual disease.
The diseases against which we are vaccinated are severe, and often cause lasting side effects.  For example, measles, once a common childhood disease was down to around 50 annual cases (2002 – 2007), with the majority being due to travelers exposed outside of the country, jumped to nearly 200 in 2008, with the majority being home-grown cases.  1 in 10 measles patients require hospitalization, and up to 30% of those who contract measles will have complications, including pneumonia in 1 in 20 children, and encephalitis in 1 in 1000 children.  By contrast, the MMR vaccine causes a fever in about 1 in 3000 children and a severe allergic reaction in 1 in over 1 million.  All of the diseases that we vaccinate against have greater risks from the illness than from the vaccine.  

Modern Genocide

     Ask the majority of people about genocide, and they will tell you about the holocaust.  You might ask them if they know of any other genocides, and a few might tell you about the movie Hotel Rwanda.
     What the majority of Americans don't know is that there have been many more genocides.  There have been hundreds of crimes against humanity, some of which are still going on now.  243 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from school two weeks ago, yet I see very little on the news.  Today, 30+ people were killed in a Syrian marketplace, and on Tuesday 14 children were killed and 80 injured when a school was bombed.  These things should be making the news, but instead I see profiles on sports stars and celebrity gossip.
     Crimes against humanity still happen.  They didn't stop with the Holocaust.  Be aware that not everything is as America-centric as we may think.