Is less effective pertussis vaccine the “new normal”?

The numbers for 2014 are still coming in, but it’s already clear that California had more confirmed cases of pertussis (“whooping cough”) in 2014 than in any year since 1945. These numbers are not just about low vaccination rates; these numbers  also tell the story of vaccine failure, what California public health officials warn may be the “new normal.”  What is Pertussis? Pertussis (aka. “whooping cough”) is caused by a bacteria named Bordetella pertussis, but similar cough illnesses can be caused by other Bordetella species. The disease has 3 stages — a catarrhal stage, a paroxysmal stage, and a convalescent stage. If caught early, the symptoms and communicability can be lessened with a course of antibiotics. If not caught early, the germ makes a toxin (pertussis toxin, and some researchers also suspect a second “cough toxin”) that can lead to a person coughing, often violently, for weeks or months.  After 3 […]

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More Bad News About Shigella

What is Shigella (and Why Should You Care)? Shigella infections (aka. shigellosis) kill approximately 700,000 people a year, mostly in developing countries. An important cause of what was traditionally called “bacterial dysentery,” the World Health Organization (WHO) calls shigellosis “the most important cause of bloody diarrhea worldwide,” with at least 80 million illnesses every year. Shigellosis is highly contagious (Ingesting as few as 10 bacteria can transmit infection.) and also highly prone to drug resistance, making the more severe infections that require antibiotics increasingly difficult to treat.  As with all drug resistance, overuse of antibiotics is making the problem worse. Shigellosis spreads quickly in group settings like childcare facilities, military units, and homeless shelters. In an attempt to limit the spread of disease, local health departments are often guided by state laws to ban infected people from working as food handlers, healthcare workers, or childcare providers until the infected person […]

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