USDA finds “evidence of manipulation” in vaccine study

A journal is retracting a paper by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture about a vaccine to protect fish from a deadly bacterial infection, after an investigation found evidence of data manipulation.  The retraction notice — which appears in the journal Vaccine — cites an investigation by the USDA. It also notes that the […]

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Methodology of paper linking vaccine to behavioral issues “seriously flawed,” says retraction

After temporarily removing a paper that suggested a link between the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and behavioral issues, the journal has now retracted it. Vaccine says the reason is “serious concerns regarding the scientific soundness of the article,” including flawed methodology and unjustified claims. Christopher A. Shaw, a co-author on the paper and a researcher at the […]

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Journal temporarily removes paper linking HPV vaccine to behavioral issues

The editor in chief of Vaccine has removed a paper suggesting a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can trigger behavioral changes in mice. The note doesn’t provide any reason for the withdrawal, although authors were told the editor asked for further review. Two co-authors on the paper — about Gardasil, a vaccine against HPV — have previously suggested […]

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Research Reading Roundup: Research Parasites, CRISPR patent dispute and more

Here is your weekly roundup of research news: Have you seen the #ResearchParasites hashtag on Twitter? It’s in response to a New England Journal of Medicine editorial about data sharing. There are two rebuttal articles found

5 Things You Might Not Know About Human Papillomavirus

Portrait Of Grandmother With Daughter And Granddaughter

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that infects both women and men. Although most HPV infections go away on their own, infections that don’t go away (persist) can cause changes in the cells and lead to cancer. With HPV vaccine, we have a powerful tool to prevent most of these cancers from ever developing.

While cervical cancer is the most common and well-known HPV cancer, it’s not the only type of cancer HPV infections can cause. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of that, here are five things you might not know about HPV.

HPV infections cause cancers other than cervical cancer.HPV facts

HPV infections can cause

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancer of the penis in men;
  • and cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in men and women.

Every year in the United States, 27,000 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection—that’s a new case of cancer every 20 minutes.

HPV vaccination age is recommended at ages 11 or 12.

HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys (ages 11-12) to protect against cancer-causing HPV infections before they are exposed to the virus. HPV vaccination provides the best protection when given at the recommended ages of 11-12.

Mom and Kid and NurseScreening isn’t an alternative to HPV vaccination.

Every year, 4,000 women in the U.S. die from cervical cancer—even with routine screening and treatment. There is no routine screening test for the other cancers HPV causes. Many of those HPV cancers are not discovered until they are late stage or invasive and can be very painful, disfiguring, and even deadly.

That’s why it’s so important for girls and boys to get the full HPV vaccine series. HPV vaccines are given as a series of three shots over six months. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still start getting screened for cervical cancer when they reach age 21.

HPV vaccination also prevents invasive testing and treatment for “precancers.”

Every year in the U.S., more than 300,000 women endure invasive testing and treatment for changes in the cells (lesions) on the cervix that can develop into cancers. Testing and treatment for these “precancers” can cause lasting problems such as cervical instability which can lead to preterm labor and preterm birth. HPV vaccination protects against the types of HPV that cause the majority of the cervical cancers and precancers.

HPV vaccination is protecting children from HPV disease.

In the four years after the vaccine was recommended in 2006, the amount of HPV infections among teen girls in the U.S. dropped by more than half. Also, fewer young women are being diagnosed with cervical precancer caused by HPV infections. HPV vaccination is critical to protecting the next generation against cancers caused by HPV infections.

Fight the Flu: Get a Vax!

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As cold weather sets in, clothing layers increase, scarves are pulled tighter, and noses become redder. This time of year can also bring the dreaded running nose, scratchy throat, cough, body aches, and headache of the seasonal flu. As you fretfully try to protect yourself from the winter season with warmer clothes and hot drinks, are you also taking steps to protect yourself from the bigger threat of the flu?

Flu season is coming, are you ready to fight the flu?

An annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step to preventing the flu. Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes 2 weeks for protection from a flu vaccine to develop in the body, so you should get vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available.

While you may be stocking up on hand sanitizer, avoiding crowded events, and distancing yourself from friends or acquaintances who let out a sniffle or two, if you haven’t gotten your seasonal flu vaccine, you haven’t taken the most important step to protect yourself from the flu.

Getting your flu vaccine is easy, having the flu is not.mother taking her child's temperature

Everywhere from your doctor’s office to your local pharmacy, and even the news and social media networks, are sharing important reminders about getting the flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine can take just a few minutes of your day. Getting the flu, however, can put you out of work or school for days, sometimes weeks. Taking a little time for your health now could save you from missing important events, work deadlines, or opportunities in the future.

Do your part for those you love.

When you get a flu vaccine, you are not only protecting yourself from the flu, but you are also protecting the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. As the holiday season approaches, you may be around young children, older family members, or others who have a high risk of contracting the flu or developing complications from the flu.

The flu is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications for some people. The flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths each year. Some people, such as older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Get your flu shot to protect yourself and those around you. Do your part to protect the important people in your life.

Avoid germs during flu season.

While getting a yearly vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting against flu, there are additional steps you can take to avoid germs and the flu. Here are a few tips:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Keep your germs to yourself.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.doctor giving a man a flu shot
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.


Don’t know where to get your flu shot?

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college health centers, by many employers, and even some schools. You don’t have to see your doctor to get a flu shot! There are plenty of locations available that provide vaccinations.

This Vaccine Locator is a useful tool for finding vaccine in your area.

Don’t wait until you are lying sick in bed to wish you had gotten a flu shot. There are steps you can take to prevent the flu and protect those around you. Get your flu vaccine today, and remind someone you care about to do the same. As long as flu viruses are circulating, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine!

How many children are at risk of measles in the United States?

Despite the MMR vaccine controversy resulting from a series of now discredited studies linking the vaccine with autism, childhood vaccination rates remain high in the United States. In 2013, 92% of children aged 19 to

3 critical lessons learned from Louisiana’s flu data

By Melissa Warren, Senior Specialist, Influenza, APHL and Kelsey Vellente, Senior Technician, Food Safety & Infectious Disease, APHL

It’s flu season, the dreaded time of year when everyone hopes that they are not one of the thousands of Americans who falls ill. While the public gets their vaccines, loads up on hand sanitizer and researches magical tea recipes “guaranteed” to fight the flu, public health labs and epidemiologists prepare to test specimens and collect data that will provide a more detailed look at how this potentially serious virus is impacting the public’s health.

3 critical lessons learned from Louisiana’s flu data | www.APHLblog.orgSo what data is collected and what does it tell us? To get a better understanding, we spoke with Julie Hand, public health epidemiologist in the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Section of the Louisiana State Department of Health & Hospitals, who shared some of the most telling pieces of data they collected during the 2014-2015 flu season. (Louisiana has a centralized public health system which means there are no local or county departments of health. All flu surveillance work is performed at the state level.)

In Louisiana (and most other states), flu reporting is voluntary. There is no requirement for clinical staff to notify the state of flu cases. Louisiana has been working closely with hospitals and other clinical facilities to encourage flu reporting. In 2014-2015, approximately 45,000 rapid influenza diagnostic test results were reported (up approximately 25,000 from the previous season). More specimens and data provided by clinical facilities means the state can compile a more complete and meaningful picture of the flu season and its impact on the public.

While data was collected across various age ranges and geographic regions of the state, there were two different school outbreaks that were particularly interesting: one was influenza A (H3N2) and the other was influenza B. Both outbreaks peaked in November, only one month after the official start of flu season.

Here are the three critical lessons learned from Louisiana’s flu data:

1. Within those school outbreaks, the majority of people who were vaccinated at the time of infection had not received their vaccination early enough to have immunity.

  • Influenza A outbreak: 34% of those infected had been vaccinated but only 9% of those received their vaccination more than two weeks before the outbreak.
  • Influenza B outbreak: 16% of those infected had been vaccinated but only 1% received it more than two weeks before the outbreak.

Why does this matter? After receiving the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop immunity. So while people thought they were protected, their bodies were not yet immune to the circulating flu virus. Flu season is a time to be proactive not reactionary – don’t wait for an outbreak to get vaccinated.

2. Antibiotics were prescribed to a surprisingly high number patients in those outbreaks, however antibiotics do not work to fight viruses such as influenza.

  • Influenza A outbreak: 20% of patients received antibiotics
  • Influenza B outbreak: 29% of patients received antibiotics

As stated above, antibiotics don’t fight viruses like influenza – they fight bacterial infections. Overuse of antibiotics when they will not be effective – such as in cases like this – contributes to the growing public health threat of antibiotic resistance. Medical professionals should be aware that treating flu with antibiotics isn’t recommended and is contributing to a larger public health problem.

3. In Louisiana during the 2014-2015 flu season, only those who received the quadrivalent vaccine were protected against the most prevalent strain of influenza B.

There are two categories of flu vaccines – trivalent (three strains) and quadrivalent (four strains). They both include a combination of influenza A and B strains, but the genotypes of the strains included in each season’s vaccines vary depending on what is expected to be most prevalent. In 2014-2015, influenza B Yamagata and Victoria lineages were included in the quadrivalent vaccine, but only influenza B Yamagata was included in the trivalent vaccine.

Influenza B accounted for 20% of all reported flu cases in Louisiana (state lab PCR results). Louisiana’s genotyping data showed that of those…

  • 74% were influenza B Victoria – the strain not included in the trivalent vaccine
  • 26% were influenza B Yamagata – the strain included in the trivalent vaccine

As each flu season comes and goes, data is critical to helping departments of public health understand which aspects of flu surveillance can be eliminated, continued and/or adjusted. And with every improvement and every new bit of previously unknown information, officials like Julie and her colleagues can help shape programs that protect the public from this hated virus.

Trump and GOP candidate docs debate science! Should vaccine schedule be slowed?

GOP CANDIDATES DEBATE EARLY VACCINATION Oh, goody. Donald Trump again, this time at Wednesday night’s debate among the legions of Republican Presidential candidates, repeating his long-standing declaration that childhood vaccination causes autism. A claim that–need I even say it?– has … Continue reading »

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University of Oregon outbreak highlights collaboration between public health and clinical care

By Michelle Forman, senior specialist, media, APHL

University of Oregon outbreak highlights collaboration between public health and clinical care | www.APHLblog.org

In mid-January, a University of Oregon student was diagnosed with Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B, a rare but serious disease. Within one month, three additional students were diagnosed with the same disease, one of whom died. “I was the first assistant on that autopsy,” said Patrick F. Luedtke MD, MPH, senior public health officer and medical director of the Lane County Department of Health & Human Services Community & Behavioral Health clinics. (He’s also a past APHL president.) “The bacteria were everywhere. Neisseria meningitidis takes over the body and wins every battle.”

College campuses like the University of Oregon are perfect breeding grounds for meningococcal disease. Young adults ages 16-21 have higher rates than others, and it is transmitted through close or lengthy contact such as living in close quarters or kissing. So, yeah… meningococcal disease can make its way across a college campus if it isn’t stopped quickly. In fact, there were similar outbreaks at Princeton University and at University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013.

Meningococcal disease is rare, but if a person gets it they are likely to become very sick. Once it is suspected, clinical laboratories can do a test to confirm meningococcal disease and doctors can quickly begin antibiotic treatment. (Oftentimes prophylactic antibiotic treatment is given anyone who had close contact with the sick individual.) But even with quick and proper treatment, approximately 20% of people will have long-term disabilities and 10-15% of people die. The best way to prevent severe illness is to prevent illness all together – decrease the number of people who can get meningococcal disease in the first place – with vaccines. Here’s the kicker, though… Kids in the US receive a quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine at age 11. However, that vaccine only protects kids from serogroup A, C, Y or W-135. What about B, the serogroup found at the University of Oregon?

In October 2014, the FDA approved the first ever N. meningitidis serogroup B vaccine for use in people 10-25 years of age as a three-dose series. In January 2015, the FDA approved another N. meningitidis serogroup B vaccine for use in the same age group as a two-dose series. Neither vaccine has been recommended for routine use yet, but it has been recommended for controlling outbreaks like the one at the University of Oregon. In order to implement a massive campaign to vaccinate all 22,000 students, CDC needed to know that there had been at least three confirmed serogroup B cases within a three month period. The clinical test that confirmed meningococcal disease in each of the four patients wasn’t enough, though. Not only are clinical laboratories often without the capabilities to serotype meningococcal disease, the serogroup doesn’t affect clinical care. Whether the meningococcal disease was serogroup A, B, C, Y or W-135 didn’t change how they cared for the sick individuals. Further testing was needed to show that all four cases had the exact same strain of serogroup B meningococcal disease.

That was a task for the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory; in an outbreak, it is the public health laboratory’s role to show cases are truly linked. As each case was determined to be meningococcal disease, the public health laboratory was contacted and serotyping began. While the public health lab’s confirmation that the patients were sick with group B meningococcal disease was enough information for CDC to green-light the vaccination effort, the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory dug even deeper. With Neisseria meningitidis cases such as the ones at the university, the Oregon state lab routinely uses pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to isolate the DNA fingerprint of each strain to show that everyone got the disease from the same source. That information could help epidemiologists identify the index case. “Using PFGE to fingerprint meningococcus is considered very risky, and it is very expensive, so many laboratories don’t do it,” explained Robert Vega, general microbiology manager at the Oregon state lab. “The risk associated with this is very real to us. Our staff is vaccinated against groups A, B, C, Y and W-135; we are well equipped and I have highly proficient staff.”

Once it was confirmed that the cases were group B meningococcal disease, CDC approved the Lane County Health Department and the University of Oregon to implement a massive effort to quickly vaccinate 22,000 students. The vaccination effort began on March 2 and within one week over 10,000 students had received the first dose of the vaccination. “We still have more students to reach, but we are working hard to make sure everyone is vaccinated,” said Dr. Luedtke. Quick treatment from clinical care providers and fast, accurate testing by the public health lab will hopefully mean that this is the beginning of the end of this outbreak.