Archive for the ‘Children's Health’ Category

Dealing with Cerebral Palsy: A Resource for Parents and Family (Part III)

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

In Part I of this series I provided a basic introduction to dealing with cerebral palsy.  I also provided Maryland parents with a comprehensive list of places that are able to assist parents.  In Part II I discussed educating children with cerebral palsy and provided a list of places to turn if you need help.  Today we will take a look at some of the medical treatments available for cerebral palsy.

Medical Treatment

Cerebral Palsy cannot be cured, but treatment can often improve a child’s capabilities. Progress due to medical research means that many patients can enjoy near-normal lives if their neurological problems are properly managed. There is no standard therapy that works for all patients; the physician must work with a team of other health care professionals to identify a child’s unique needs and impairments.  Typically, an individual treatment plan is created to addresses them.  As a general rule, the earlier diagnosis and treatment begins, the better chance a child has of overcoming developmental disabilities or learning new ways to accomplish difficult tasks.  The goal of treatment is to help the person be as independent as possible.

Treatment requires a team approach, including:

  • Primary care doctor
  • Dentist (dental check-ups are recommended around every 6 months)
  • Social worker
  • Nurses
  • Occupational, physical, and speech therapists
  • Other specialists, including a neurologist, rehabilitation physician, pulmonologist, and gastroenterologist

Treatment is based on the person’s symptoms and the need to prevent complications.  Self and home care include:

  • Getting enough food and nutrition
  • Keeping the home safe
  • Performing exercises recommended by the health care providers
  • Practicing proper bowel care (stool softeners, fluids, fiber, laxatives, regular bowel habits)
  • Protecting the joints from injury

Putting the child in regular schools is recommended, unless physical disabilities or mental development makes this impossible. Special education or schooling may help.

The following may help with communication and learning:

  • Glasses
  • Hearing aids
  • Muscle and bone braces
  • Walking aids
  • Wheelchairs

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, orthopedic help, or other treatments may also be needed to help with daily activities and care.

Medications may include:

  • Anticonvulsants to prevent or reduce the frequency of seizures
  • Botulinum toxin to help with spasticity and drooling
  • Muscle relaxants (baclofen) to reduce tremors and spasticity

Surgery may be needed in some cases to:

  • Control gastroesophageal reflux
  • Cut certain nerves from the spinal cord to help with pain and spasticity
  • Place feeding tubes
  • Release joint contractures

What is important, however, is that an individualized approach be taken for your child.

Query:  Does your child have cerebral palsy?  What medical treatments are you providing for your child?

 

 

Credits to http://www.nlm.nih.gov; www.nsnn.com

Week in Review: (June 13 – June 17, 2001) Eye Opener Health, Law and Medicine Blog

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Eye  Opener’s Week in Review

 

Jason Penn

From the Editor:  Today marks the end of week two as “guest” editor for the Eye Opener. I can tell you that the title “editor” is a misnomer. When it comes to the Eye Opener and its panel of bloggers, very little (if any) editing takes place. Consistently, our blawgers provide you with timely and topical posts. This week was no different. Let’s take a retrospective look at what the “Eye Opener” offered this week (and, of course, a sneak peek at the week ahead.)

– Jason Penn, Guest Editor

 

(Many thanks to Jason and all those back at the firm, who helped get the word out on some great topics this past week while I’ve been wrapping-up week #2 of the trial from hell…….Brian Nash)

July 1 – New Residents, New Rules……Again!

By: Theresa Neumann

While the loss of sleep is rarely a topic on Gray’s Anatomy (or any made-for-television medical drama), it is a genuine quandary for non-actor, medical residents. This past Monday, Theresa Neumann explored the ACGME’s limitations on the hours worked by medical residents in the United States. As Theresa explained, the overall maximum hours per week will not change; it remains at 80 hours.  One big change is the limit on the maximum continuous duty period for first year residents; this will be decreased from 24 to 16 hours.  It will remain 24 hours for residents after their first year, but recommendations include “strategic napping.” Curious about the other changes?  Read more

Newest Word on Crib Safety: Ban the Bumpers?

By: Sarah Keogh

Sleep isn’t only important for medical residents; it is also important for the smallest members of our families. As Sara Keogh explained on Tuesday, Maryland is considering regulations to ban the sale of crib bumpers. For many years, more and more emphasis has been placed on infants sleeping in safe cribs without any additional “stuff” in them. This has included the elimination of lots of former nursery staples. Baby blankets, stuffed animals, pillows and other loose items have been banned from the crib by safety experts for years. As requirements for cribs have required slats that are closer together, the utility of using a bumper to help a child from getting stuck between crib slats has been eliminated. More recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed even newer crib safety standards, including eliminating the use of drop-sides, and warned against the use of sleep positioners. Yet, despite the advice to put babies to sleep only on their backs in cribs empty of everything except a well fitting mattress and fitted sheet, many parents and caregivers persist in using other items in cribs. Now, with an increasing number of deaths associated with crib bumpers, Maryland is considering a stronger stance. Read more

Legal Boot Camp Class Four. Sean and Kristy’s Story: How a Jury Award is Conformed to the Cap

By: John Stefanuca

On Wednesday blogger Jon Stefanuca broke out his calculator:  bootcamp style.  In the state of Maryland, there is a cap on the damages that can be awarded.  But what happens when a jury returns a verdict in excess of the statutory amount?  Mathematics and law intersect.

To see the results, and a detailed explanation of how it all works, you can read more ….

 

Confusion with Advanced Directives: Palliative Care, End-of-Life and Hospice Care

By: Theresa Neumann

With the death of the always controversial Jack Kevorkian, we revisited a post by Theresa Neumann.  Breathing a little life into the post (pun intended), Theresa provides an excellent primer for readers that are facing end of life situations.  The differences are nuanced and can be difficult to understand at a most difficult time. Are you sure you know the difference between palliative, end-of-life and hospice care?  Read more

Acquired Brain Injuries: Subdural Hematomas

By: Theresa Neumann

When Humpty Dumpty fell, they were able to put him back together again.  Because our lives are nothing like a children’s nursery rhyme, when we fall, we get hurt.  A head injury is particularly serious. Have you ever bumped your head and developed a “goose-egg?” It’s truly amazing how fast that big bruise under the skin grows. That bruise, or hematoma, is from a broken blood vessel, usually a vein. The pressure from the swelling helps with clotting, along with the blood’s own clotting factors. This types of hematoma typically takes a week or more to go away. If it’s on the forehead, it’s often followed by one or two “black eyes.”  That’s because the blood tends to spread along  tissue planes, and gravity notoriously pulls everything downward causing it to pool in the eye sockets, where the blood cells degrade and their components are reabsorbed by the body. Unlike a fairy tale, however, this goose-egg can be serious.  Read more

Sneak Peak of the Week Ahead:

As I told you at the beginning, the Eye Opener’s writers continue in their efforts to provide you with timely and topical blogs for your reading pleasure. As evidenced by the above, this past week was no exception. The Eye Opener and its writers are excited about the week ahead too!  Here’s a sneak peak of what’s in store for you:

  • Service dogs for children:  more than just a pet
  • Changes in Sunscreen:  will regulation prevent cancer?
  • HIV Patients:  Increased risk for developing cancer
  • Legal Boot Camp is back in session and Part III of our Cerebral Palsy tutorial.

Wishing You and Yours a Great Week Ahead!

Images courtesy of:

www.theepochtiems.com

www.sleepzine.com

www.nailsmag.com

www.aginglongevity

 

 


Newest Word on Crib Safety: Ban the Bumpers?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Which crib bedding would you choose? Aesthetic or safe?

In the newest topic regarding crib safety, Maryland is considering regulations to ban the sale of crib bumpers. For many years, more and more emphasis has been placed on infants sleeping in safe cribs without any additional “stuff” in them. This has included the elimination of lots of former nursery staples. Baby blankets, stuffed animals, pillows and other loose items have been banned from the crib by safety experts for years. As requirements for cribs have required slats that are closer together, the utility of using a bumper to help a child from getting stuck between crib slats has been eliminated. More recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed even newer crib safety standards, including eliminating the use of drop-sides, and warned against the use of sleep positioners. Yet, despite the advice to put babies to sleep only on their backs in cribs empty of everything except a well fitting mattress and fitted sheet, many parents and caregivers persist in using other items in cribs. Now, with an increasing number of deaths associated with crib bumpers, Maryland is considering a stronger stance.

Danger of Crib Bumpers

The concern about crib bumpers is that there have been infant deaths associated with suffocation or strangulation and the use of crib bumpers. Some of the deaths are directly attributable to the bumpers (for instance a child found with their head wrapped in the ties of the bumper or their face pressed into the side of the bumper), while others are only potentially related to the bumper use but not definitively so (for instance, children whose death are classified as SIDS, but where bumpers were in use in the crib at the time of death and may have been a contributing factor in the death). This makes the discussion of the dangers muddy – with manufacturers claiming that bumpers are safe and advocates warning against their use to protect against suffocation.

Potential Ban on Sale of Bumpers

When the Baltimore Sun reported on the potential regulations, they mentioned something that gave me pause. They explained that if Dr. Sharfstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, does decide to regulate this issue, the regulations will impact only the sale, not the use of the bumpers. While this makes sense from a policy perspective, the goal is not to punish parents who may not be aware of the safety risks, and from a enforceability perspective, the state cannot possibly enforce a regulation that requires knowledge of whether bumpers are being used in individual homes, the regulation of the sale of the item is going to have some drawbacks.

Will a State Ban Save Lives?

So here are my questions. Will regulations against the sale of these bumpers in Maryland make any difference in saving lives? In this day of internet shopping and wide availability of items through catalogues and easy interstate travel, are Maryland families going to forgo the crib bumper because they cannot be purchased in the local baby store, or are they still going to be buying the bumper with a set of nursery items on Amazon or through a national baby store? Will Internet or national companies without a store presence in Maryland be punished for selling a bumper to a person with a Maryland address? If so, then perhaps the word will get out that these items are dangerous and should not be used. If not, will parents even realize that the goal of the regulation is actually to curb the use of the bumpers. Either way, I guess that by decreasing the number of bumpers in Maryland homes, safety will be increased and perhaps over time, awareness will be increased and other states may follow suit.

Getting the Word Out

My other concern is that if there are parents who are still using bumpers, blankets or other items in their babies’ cribs, is the issue one of parent education? Perhaps the real emphasis needs to be on wider parental awareness of the safety issue. There are lots of great resources available to learn how to put infants to sleep safely:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNekf5P9_Yg&feature=youtu.be

Since the early 1990s, the emphasis has been on having infants sleep on their backs. This has lead to a dramatic decrease in SIDS deaths since that time. The “Back to Sleep” campaign began in 1994 and continues to this day.  However, when reading a 2005 paper from the AAP, I was surprised to read that SIDS deaths are more likely to occur when a baby who is used to sleeping on their back is placed to sleep on their stomach. This suggests that education needs to be of all potential caregivers since an occasional babysitter, grandparent or child care provider who is unfamiliar with the recommendations and the child’s normal sleep position may place the child to sleep on their stomach and cause real risk.

AAP has made many recommendations since 2005 including that children sleep in cribs with only a fitted sheet and without any additional soft bedding. These recommendations have varied somewhat over time on the use of bumpers and sleep positioners. However, the overall advice seems to remain the same – eliminate all soft bedding items. Despite these recommendations, there are still images in popular media of nurseries complete with cribs with soft bedding.

What changes are still needed?

What changes are needed to get the word out? Do you think that there needs to be a stronger effort to change the marketing images for infant products? Do you think that a ban on the sale of bumpers will have a significant impact on child safety? What about an education campaign focusing on caregivers, grandparents and day care providers?

Related Posts:

Over Two Million Cribs Recalled…What About Yours?

Infant Safety – drop-down crib hazard; CPSC issues recall

Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” Drop Side Crib Brands Recalled; Three Infant Deaths Reported

Consumer Product Safety Commission vows to crack down on defective cribs – washingtonpost.com

 

Images from: sidscenter.org, potterybarnkids.com

Dealing with Cerebral Palsy: A Resource for Parents and Family (Part II)

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

In Part I of this series I provided a basic introduction to dealing with cerebral palsy.  I also provided Maryland parents with a comprehensive list of places that are able to assist parents.  Today I will discuss educating children with cerebral palsy and, as always, I will provide you with a list of places to turn if you need help.

Educating your child

The thought of educating any child is a daunting topic.  Educating your special needs child can present a variety of challenges and pitfalls.  It is unlikely that any singular blog post could ever cover every facet of educating your special needs child.  What I can do, however, is provide you with an introduction to the topic, its terminology, and finally give you a list of resources that you can turn to for additional help.

As we introduced last week, children that have special needs that impact his/her ability to learn at school often qualify for an Individual Education Plan.  An IEP is a legal document created to ensure your child’s teacher, staff and administration understands his learning and other limitations and utilizes the best practices to ensure that he gets the education that he/she deserves.  An IEP is federally funded and falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or “IDEA.” IDEA entitles your child to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) designed “to meet unique needs and prepare for employment and independent living” (20 U.S.C.A. 1400(d)(1)(A)).  Just as every child is different, every child’s IEP should be different.  Here are some of the accommodations that can be included in your child’s IEP:

-classroom accommodations, e.g. special table

-curriculum modification

-speech and/or occupational therapy

Be forewarned, anecdotally, many parents have reported that obtaining an IEP for their child has been difficult.  Be not dismayed, a document binding the school to provide your child with the specialized attention that he/she needs is invaluable.  Please utilize the resources listed below to assist you in getting all necessary help for your child.

When it has been determined that your child has a mental or physical disability that impairs his learning, the school will set up an IEP meeting. An IEP team is formed and includes:

-Your child

-Parent or guardian

-A district representative

-A special educator

-Other teachers who will be involved in your child’s education

You and the IEP team will meet to discuss your child’s specific needs and goals for the school year. Steps will be outlined as to how your child will be accommodated each day in the classroom. A progress report should then be sent to you periodically to demonstrate that your child is indeed meeting her IEP learning goals.

Lastly, keep in mind that if your child does not qualify for an IEP, he/she may qualify for a 504 Plan, a document legislated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 504 Plans are less specific than an IEP and, unfortunately, do not have the legal teeth that an IEP has. Another alternative is to try to qualify your child for an Other Health Impaired (OHI) plan. An OHI is like a “last resort” document for kids who are denied a 504 Plan or an IEP. Essentially, OHI status was created to satisfy parents who insist that their child needs documented assistance in school.

Not sure where to turn?  Below is the up-to-date contact information for agencies in the District of Columbia and Maryland that can assist you.

Parental Support:

UCP of Washington DC & Northern Virginia
1818 New York Avenue, NE, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 526-0146
Fax: (202) 526-0519
3135 8th Street NE
Washington DC 20017
Phone: (202) 269-1500
Fax: (202) 526-0159
E-mail: webmaster@ucpdc.org
Web: http://www.ucpdc.org

Office on Aging
441 4th Street, NW, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 676-3900

Regional ADA Technical Assistance Agency
ADA and IT Information Center for the Mid Atlantic Region
451 Hungerford Drive, Suite 607
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 217-0124 (V/TTY); (800) 949-4232 (V/TTY/Toll Free)
E-mail: adainfo@transcen.org
Web: http://www.adainfo.org

Capitol Area ADAPT
Marcie Roth
Phone: (410) 828-8274; (410) 821-1157
Fax: (410) 828-6706
E-mail: marcie@erols.com

The Cerebral Palsy Ability Center (CPAC)
2445 Army-Navy Drive, 3rd Floor
Arlington, VA 22206
Phone: (703) 920-0600
Fax: (703) 685-2819
E-mail: cpac@cpabilitycenter.org
Web: http://www.cpabilitycenter.org

State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council
DC Developmental Disabilities Council
Department of Human Services/801 East Building
2700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20032
Phone: (202) 279-6085
Web: http://www.dc.gov/agencies

Easter Seal Society for Disabled Children & Adults, Inc.
Metro. DC, Northern VA, & MD
4041 Powder Mill Road
Calverton, MD 20705
Phone: (301) 931-8700; (800) 886-3771 (Toll Free)
Fax: (301) 931-8690
Web: http://www.nca-md.easter-seals.org

Goodwill Industries Greater Washington
2200 South Dakota Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20018
Phone: (202) 636-4225
Fax: (202) 526-3994
E-mail: dmgi@dcgoodwill.org
Web: http://www.dcgoodwill.org

Family Voices Washington DC
Gail Johnson
Phone: (301) 470-0256

Programs for Children with Special Health Care Needs
Health Services for Children with Special Needs Clinic
D.C. General Hospital, Building 10
19th & Massachusetts Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 675-5214

CHIP Program (health care for low-income uninsured children)
DC Healthy Families Insurance Program
4601 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: (888) 557-1116 (Toll Free)
Web: http://www.dchealth.dc.gov

Learning Disabilities Association of Washington, DC
1848 Columbia Road, NW, #45
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 265-8869; (410) 396-0518

The Arc of the District of Columbia, Inc.
900 Varnum Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017
Phone: (202) 636-2950
Web: www.arcdc.net

Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute
801 Buchanan Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017
Phone: (202) 281-2774
E-mail: mward@kennedyinstitute.org

State Mental Retardation Program
Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Administration
Commission on Social Services
Department of Human Services
429 O Street, N.W., #202
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 673-7678
TTY: (202) 673-3580

American Association on Mental Retardation
444 North Capitol Street NW, #846
Washington DC 20001
Phone: (202) 387-1968; (800) 424-3688 (Toll Free)
Fax: (202) 387-2193
Web: http://www.AAMR.org

Programs for Children and Youth who are Blind or Visually Impaired
Visual Impairment Unit
DC Rehabilitation Services Administration
810 1st Street, N.E., 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-8628

Special Format Library
District of Columbia Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
901 G Street, N.W., Room 215
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 727-2142
TTY: (202) 727-2145
E-mail: dc1alyons@hotmail.com
Web: http://dclibrary.org/lbph

American Foundation for the Blind
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 502-7600
TTY: (212) 502-7662
E-mail: afbinfo@afb.org
Web: http://www.afb.org

DC Early Intervention Program
717 14th Street, N.W., Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 727-5371

Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities
810 First Street, NE
Room 10015
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-8673
Fax: (202) 442-8742

D.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Rehabilitation Services Administration
Department of Human Services
810 First Street, NE, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-8663

State Job Training Partnership Act
Department of Employment Services
500 C Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 724-7100

Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
D.C. Congress of Parents and Teachers
Hamilton School
6th Street & Brentwood Parkway, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 543-0333
Fax: (202) 543-4306
E-mail: dc_pres@pta.org

The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE)
P.O. Box 39
1201 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 822-8405
Fax: (202) 822-4050
E-mail: ferguson@ncea.com
Web: http://www.NCPIE.org

Parents’ Special Education Service Center
Phone: (202) 471-4272
E-mail: parenttips@shs.net

Special Olympics District of Columbia
900 2nd Street, N.E., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 408-2640
Fax: (202) 408-2646
Web: http://www.specialolympicsdc.org

Nation’s Capital Handicapped Sports
P.O. Box 1546
Olney, MD 20830-1546
Phone/Fax: (301) 208-8949

Washington D.C. Education Resources:

Chief State School Officer
District of Columbia Public Schools
The Presidential Building
415 12th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 724-4222
Fax: (202) 724-8855
Web: http://www.k12.dc.us

Office of State Coordinator of Vocational Education for Students with Disabilities
Vocational Transition Services Unit
Walker Jones Elementary School
1st and K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 724-3878

State Department of Adult Education
Public Schools Vocational and Adult Education
1709 3rd Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 576-6308
Fax: (202) 576-7899
E-mail: NRC%bell@mercury.k12.dc.us

Department of Education: Special Education
Division of Special Education
DC Public Schools
825 North Capitol Street, N.E., Suite 6100
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-4800
Web: http://www.k12.dc.us

State Coordinator for NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
Division of Special Education
DC Public Schools
825 North Capitol Street, N.E., 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-4800
Web: http://www.k12.dc.us

Branch of Exceptional Education/BIA
Mail Stop 3512, MIB Code 523
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 202040-4000
Phone: (202) 208-4975
Fax: (202) 273-0030

Maryland Education Resources:

STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: SPECIAL EDUCATION
Carol Ann Baglin, Assistant State Superintendent
Department of Education, Division of Special Education
Early Intervention Services
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-2595
(410) 767-0238
E-mail: cbaglin@msde.state.md.us
Web: www.msde.state.md.us

Query:  Have you obtained an IEP for your child?  Did you have any opposition from your child’s teachers or school administrators?

Sneak Peek:  Next week (Part III of this series) we will provide Educational Resources for Parents in Maryland and present critical medical information that parents of CP children need to be aware of.

Can a Simple Image Guide Good Nutrition?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Image from www.choosemyplate.gov

Last week, the USDA unveiled the new MyPlate image to replace the outdated food pyramid. When I first saw the new image, I felt a welcome relief at the simplicity of this concept. The plate seemed like the iPhone of the nutrition world. Simply and intuitively designed – replacing a complex chart of recommendations with something that even a busy person could use in their every day lives.

As an individual and as a parent, I have worked hard for the last 5 or more years to dramatically change the buying and eating habits in our household. We buy most of our food, at least during the months from May until November, at the farmer’s markets around town. We try to buy most of our meat, eggs and dairy products from local farms. For the food that we purchase from the supermarket or from restaurants, I make a conscious effort to buy mostly real foods that are not full of preservatives, additives or other unidentifiable ingredients. Despite these efforts, it can still be a challenge to make sure that my meals are nutritionally well rounded.

My favorite feature of the new design MyPlate is that it is accessible even to the youngest children. Most people in this country eat their meals off plates, or at least are familiar with them. The idea of how much food to put on the plate and in what proportions resonates with me. Perhaps this image will also have the secondary effect of acting as a wake-up call to any Americans who are currently eating their meals primarily on the go, in their cars, or as undefined snacks constantly throughout the day (“grazing” as my father used to call it in our house).

Secondary Benefit of the Plate Image? Perhaps People will Focus on Sitting Down to Meals

To me, the take home message in the new image is that the healthiest option is to eat real meals, sitting down, preferably with others. These meals should be loaded with vegetables and fruits, with the addition of grains and protein. I suspect that the new USDA plate does not look like the plates of most Americans today at the average meal. Many, myself included most of the time, eat meals with more grains or proteins covering the plate than vegetables or fruits most of the time. However, this seems like a very achievable change to make. As long as we can help people get access to vegetables and fruits (outside the scope of this post – but there have been plenty of things written about how much easier it is in this country to get cheap meats and carbs than fresh fruits and veggies), then it seems simple with this guide to adjust your plate to be half covered in vegetables and fruits each meal.

Easy Enough for Kids and Busy Parents

Image from Zazzle.com

The other reason I like this image, besides its simplicity, is that it is easy. A child could easily use this as a template to fill their plate. Moreover, there are already a ton of children’s plates on the market that are easily divided…perhaps there should be similar plates for adults – I suspect someone is marketing this as I type. In case you were worried, someone has already developed the “Bacon My Plate” items. But, the point is that if you are a harried parent in today’s busy world, you may be searching for easy healthy foods for your kids. Well, perhaps the answer is here, just make sure that you fill the plate according to the guidelines and voila – dinner is ready.

Entire USDA MyPlate Website Devoted to Tips and Tools

What is less obvious from the media coverage in the last few days about the USDA MyPlate announcement is that the recommendations are not just in the image. The USDA has created a complete website and brochure that detail the recommendations much more thoroughly.  It also includes a number of interactive tools that help you evaluate the food group, calories and other details about particular foods. There are tools to help you plan meals, specific recommendations for toddlers and pregnant/nursing moms, advice for weight loss and other tips. A few of the other tips from the USDA brochure that I found especially important:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Eat red, orange, and dark-green vegetables
  • Eat fruit, vegetables or unsalted nuts as snacks – they are nature’s original fast foods.
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole.
  • Vary your protein food choices.
  • Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.
  • Use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass.
  • Stop eating when you are satisfied, not full.
  • Keep physically active.

These are just a few of the recommendations that accompany the new MyPlate image. There are lots more details available online. One of the recommendations that I was given when my son was a baby, just learning to eat finger foods, was to provide him with a rainbow of foods. Again, I think that the image works! If you feed your children (and yourself) a variety of different colored foods (and I am talking natural colors – think cherries, oranges, yellow peppers, spinach, blueberries, eggplant – not artificial colors…not fruit loops) throughout the day and week, you will provide a natural array of different vitamins and minerals without having to worry about reading labels.

Thoughts?

What are your tips for healthy eating? Do you like this new image? Do you think that it will make any impact on the obesity crisis?

Related Posts:

Does Nutrition Info on Fast-Food Menus Really Make a “Choice” Difference?

Decreasing Obesity Risks in Children: Another Benefit of Breastfeeding

Can Religion Make You Fat?

The death of a baby – the economic realities

Monday, June 6th, 2011

I recently wrote a blog about the grief that parents suffer when they lose an unborn child. At the risk of sounding crass, I want to now discuss the economics of lawsuits involving the death of an unborn child. For those contemplating taking legal action for the loss of their child, I hope this provides some useful information for you to consider.

Maryland courts have carved out specific rules for when an unborn child is considered a person capable of recovering damages in the event of death. The primary rule is that if a baby is actually born alive, no matter at what gestational age, that baby is considered a person with legal rights. So, if a 20-week baby is born alive and then dies one minute later, that baby is considered a “person,” and a lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the estate for that baby’s pain and suffering, otherwise known as a Survival Action.

(This leads to an interesting question – does a fetus feel pain? See Related Links below). The parents of the unborn child can also file what is known as a Wrongful Death action for their own economic and non-economic damages resulting from the death of their baby, primarily their grief and emotional loss over the death of their child. Survival actions and Wrongful Death actions are two separate claims, although they are usually pursued in the same lawsuit.

When a baby dies before birth, however, another question has to be asked: was the baby viable or not? Viability means that a baby is able to live outside the womb, even though he or she may require serious medical intervention. The current thinking is that babies are viable at around 22 weeks. The courts have made the rule that if an unborn child dies before the age of viability, that baby is not yet a “person” and has no legal rights. There can be no Survival Action and there can be no Wrongful Death action. If, however, the baby has reached the age of viability, then the baby is considered “a person” with legal rights, even if the baby was never born alive. Confusing? Yes it is.

The Maryland Courts were following the ruling in Roe v. Wade that a mother had a constitutional right to abort a non-viable baby. Therefore, a non-viable baby was not legally considered a person. If the baby was not a person, then no lawsuit could be filed on behalf of the estate of that baby, nor could the parents file a wrongful death action. So in order for a Survival Action or a Wrongful Death action to lie for an unborn baby, that baby has to have reached at least 22 weeks of gestation.

To make things even more confusing, the Maryland courts have carved out an exception to the above rules. Let’s consider the example of a non-viable baby (i.e., less than 22 weeks gestation) who dies before birth as a result of someone else’s negligence that injures the mother.

A common situation occurs when the mother (let’s say she’s 8 weeks pregnant) is injured in a car accident and suffers a miscarriage as a result. Looking at the above rules, one would think that no claim is allowed. However, the courts have said not so fast. In this circumstance, while the mother cannot recover for the grief of losing her child (because the child is non-viable and, therefore, not legally a person), she can recover for similar damages, including:

  • The depression, anguish, and grief caused by the termination of the pregnancy;
  • The manner in which the pregnancy was terminated;
  • Having to carry a baby which was killed by someone else’s tortious conduct; and
  • Having to witness the stillborn child or the fetal tissue that was to be her child.

I realize this itemization of damages sounds awfully close to the damages permitted in a Wrongful Death action – the very damages that are not allowed in the case of a non-viable baby. It is confusing, to say the least. The courts are trying to find a way to compensate a woman who is injured and loses her non-viable baby as a result of someone else’s negligence, while remaining true to prior precedent in this state that there is no Wrongful Death action allowed in the case of a non-viable baby.

Lastly, keep in mind that Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages applies to cases involving the death of an unborn baby. Economic damages (medical bills, lost wages) are usually very small in such cases. There are no lost wages because we’re talking about a baby, and the medical bills are usually small.

The value of these cases is in the emotional pain and suffering of the parents, and the physical pain and suffering of the baby (assuming a viable baby). Under Maryland law, the maximum allowable recovery for such a claim is $868,750 in a medical negligence action (assuming Mom and Dad both file a wrongful death action).

Under the hypothetical of the mother seeking recovery for the loss of a non-viable baby, the maximum allowable recovery is $695,000 if the allegation is medical negligence, and $755,000 if the allegation is non-medical negligence. (The Maryland Legislature has for some strange reason imposed different caps depending on whether the negligence is medical or non-medical, e.g., a car accident).

As for the question of whether an unborn child feels pain, please click on the link below for a blog by Brian Nash on this very issue.

Related Nash and Associates Links

Does a fetus feel pain

Hysteria over malpractice “crisis”

 

 

 

Week in Review: (May 29 – June 4, 2001) Eye Opener Health, Law and Medicine Blog

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

From the Editor:

We didn’t get to post as many blogs as usual this past week due to the simple fact that our lawyers/blawgers were spread around the country doing depositions and meetings, in court and getting ready for some major trials coming up very soon.

Sometimes the real practice of law (which is what we do when we’re not on WordPress blawging away) just gets in the way (read – big smiley face).

Brian Nash

 

Here’s what our blawgers wrote this past week. We hope you enjoy! Oh – thanks for stopping by too.

Summer Vacation Checklist: Add Vaccination to Your List

By: Theresa Neumann

Ahhh, summer vacation is coming. Passport? Airline tickets? Three 1oz containers? Zipper-lock bag? Sunblock? Camera? Vaccination status?

Summer is typically the busiest time for vacationers to explore new territories, or even old ones. Granted, the economy has replaced some travelers’ grand plans with much more modest ones, but many are still planning trips to Mexico and other foreign destinations. The summer is also a big time for missionary groups to head to under-served areas to provide assistance and medical care. The events of September 11th have forever changed travel for the United States and countries all over the world. There is now a new concern…..your vaccination status! Read more

The Grief of Losing an Unborn Child

By: Mike Sanders

For parents who have lost an unborn child, the sense of grief is no different than if the child had been born and then died. Unfortunately, our society seems less sympathetic to the loss because there is no infant that we have seen and gotten to know. We all recognize the agony of losing an older child. Even if we haven’t experienced it ourselves, we can at least try to understand how sickeningly awful it must be. We can then offer our support and love and condolences to those who have experienced it. With an unborn child, however, it’s different. We have a tendency to minimize the grief associated with losing an unborn child, as if the fact that the child wasn’t yet born makes him or her less real. Even medical providers are guilty of this. I’ve had women tell me that their doctors tend to treat miscarriage or stillbirth as a medical condition, not the loss of a loved one. For the parents of such children, however, the loss is deep and real and long-lasting. Read more

Legal Boot Camp: The Story of Mark and Susan – Common Law Marriage in Maryland

By: Jason Penn

Mark and Susan had been living together in a small apartment in Baltimore for 12 years. Both of their names were on the lease and they share a used car to commute back and forth to their jobs. Both names appeared on the utility bills and although they never had an actual “ceremony,” they always considered themselves to be husband and wife. Mark and Susan always assumed that the state of Maryland would consider their relationship to be a “common law marriage.” Ten months ago, Susan began experiencing unfamiliar stomach pains. Her doctor assured her that she was fine and that no follow-up examinations were necessary. Six months ago, Susan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Tragically, Susan died last week. Mark is certain that Susan was the victim of medical malpractice and wants to file an action for medical malpractice. Mark is now concerned that his common law marriage might not be valid.  Is it? Read more

Home Births: Increasingly Popular But Are They Safe?

By: Sarah Keogh

Many little girls grow up fantasizing about what they want to be when they grow up; perhaps they want to be the President, or an artist, or a doctor, or an architect. Others might be daydreaming about being a princess or an astronaut. However, I do not know of many little girls who grow up dreaming about how they would like to bring a child into this world. Yet once these girls grow up into adults, many of them feel strongly about having a birth plan that is just as magical as all of their other dreams. Images of a comfortable labor or a display of womanly strength may play a role; perhaps they want music or a particular image available to them. Some want as few interventions as possible, while others would prefer an epidural at the hospital door. No matter what vision of childbirth a woman has, the desired end result is almost universally a healthy child. Read more ….

Sneak Peak of the Week Ahead

  • Two Sessions (yes, it’s almost summer) of our Legal Boot Camp Series –
  • Parents of children with Cerebral Palsy – Part II
  • Loss of Consortium – some things about this claim you need to understand
  • ….AND even more….

Have a Great Weekend, Everyone!

Home Births – Increasingly Popular But Are They Safe?

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

image from hobomama.com

Many little girls grow up fantasizing about what they want to be when they grow up; perhaps they want to be the President, or an artist, or a doctor, or an architect. Others might be daydreaming about being a princess or an astronaut. However, I do not know of many little girls who grow up dreaming about how they would like to bring a child into this world. Yet once these girls grow up into adults, many of them feel strongly about having a birth plan that is just as magical as all of their other dreams. Images of a comfortable labor or a display of womanly strength may play a role; perhaps they want music or a particular image available to them. Some want as few interventions as possible, while others would prefer an epidural at the hospital door. No matter what vision of childbirth a woman has, the desired end result is almost universally a healthy child.

Home Birth Rates Decreasing for Years…Now Dramatically Increase

It is no wonder that women often have strong feelings about what they want for their birth experience and how to best accomplish their goals. Historically, women gave birth at home. That practice changed and by the early 1950s, almost all women in the United States gave birth in a hospital setting. According to an NPR article about a recent study published in Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, “the percentage of home births in the U.S. had been dropping slowly but steadily every year” from 1989 to 2004. Surprisingly, the trends reversed dramatically in the four-year period between 2004 and 2008. The study found a 20 percent increase in the number of women in the United States who gave birth at home between 2004 and 2008. Despite this increase, we are still talking about a small percentage of total births – less than 1 percent.

Increase is Mostly in Non-Hispanic White Women

A twenty percent increase is still a very large amount in a 4-year period. I was interested in the implications of this change. First, one of the most surprising (to me) findings in the study was that the change was not seen across the board. The article explained that “[m]ost of the rise was due to an increase in home births among non-Hispanic white women.” A New York Times article said that:

[t]he turnabout was driven by an increase of 28 percent in home births among non-Hispanic white women, for whom one in 100 births occurred at home in 2008. That rate was three to six times higher than for any other race or ethnic group.

I did not find any explanation or hypothesis for why this particular segment of the population was increasingly choosing home births over hospital births. Though the study does suggest that it was a change by choice as the article explained that “[r]esearchers found among the 25 states that tracked planning status in 2008, 87 percent of births that occurred at home were planned.”

Are Home Births Advisable? Are they Safe?

So, is the increase in home births a good thing? Certainly, I support a woman being comfortable and happy in her choice for a birth plan. I have given birth twice and know that it can be both one of the more uncomfortable and simultaneously one of the most overwhelmingly joyous moments of a woman’s life. A home birth affords a mother a setting that is likely more comfortable and certainly more familiar than most hospitals. And yet, as I mentioned earlier, women really just want a healthy outcome for both them and their baby. Can a home birth accomplish this goal?

Most of the medical community, certainly most associated with hospitals, say that home births are not the safest option for babies; however, neither are all hospital births.

Leading members of the medical community respond that hospitals — where 99 percent of all U.S. births take place, according to the CDC — are the safest places to have a baby, with modern medical interventions available.

The newborn death rate is two to three times higher for planned home births than for those that take place in hospitals, said George Macones, chairman of the committee on obstetrical practice at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has long opposed home births. Some home-birth advocates say such studies are flawed.

“There’s no question that if you come to a hospital, there’s a one in three chance you end up with a C-section, and it’s certainly true that some of them aren’t medically indicated,” Macones said. But at home, where there is less monitoring of the baby, there is more chance of a bad outcome, he said. “Obstetrics can be a risky business. Things can go wrong.”

From a Washington Post article

Home births, even those attended by a certified nurse midwife, do not provide the medical technology and care that can be present at in a hospital setting. Perhaps this is what many women may be trying to escape when choosing to give birth at home. I know that normally I would rather stay out of a hospital at all costs since hospitals may raise the risks associated with medical interventions and infections. Additionally, the high C-section rate at hospitals may also subject women to unnecessary risks. This is one of the concerns mentioned in the New York Times article:

Other research has suggested many women choose home birth because of concern about high rates of Caesarean sections and other interventions at hospitals, said the new study’s lead author, Marian F. MacDorman, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics. “The two trends are not unrelated,” Dr. MacDorman said.

Additionally, the NPR article reports that the new study published in Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care found that birth outcomes are improving for babies born at home:

Researchers … found a statistically significant improvement in birth outcomes for babies born in the home. Infants who were born preterm fell by 16 percent. The percentage of home births that resulted in infants with a low birth weight also fell by 17 percent…One reason for the better outcomes could be that more women are planning to give birth at home. Researchers found among the 25 states that tracked planning status in 2008, 87 percent of births that occurred at home were planned. MacDorman also suggested that midwives could be getting better at choosing low-risk women to be candidates for home birth.

Are Birth Outcomes at Home Improving Because Lower Risk Mothers Are Delivering at Home?

Now this idea is one that resonated with me. Perhaps the key to the safety of home births is which women are giving birth at home. I remembered reading a story in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago about a local midwife who was convicted in a baby’s death. What stuck with me about this tragic story was that the mother did not seem (at least to me) to be a good candidate for a home birth. A couple of small paragraphs late in the article explain:

It was a case most obstetricians would call high-risk: The first-time mother in Alexandria was 43, and the baby was breech, which essentially means upside-down from the normal head-first position.

The baby’s position wasn’t the problem, Carr said; the problem was that the baby’s head became stuck.

Two women who supported the mother during the September delivery said in interviews that both Carr and the mother knew the risks involved in such a delivery. They both said everything was going well, until it wasn’t.

This sounds like a horrible accident that could have happened even with the best of intentions. However, another Washington Post article explained the details surrounding how the midwife, Karen Carr, came to be working with this mother:

[Law enforcement officials] said Carr was unlicensed in Virginia, agreed to perform a high-risk breech delivery in a woman’s home after other care providers refused, and ignored warning signs that the delivery was not going well.

Ultimately, prosecutors said, Carr allowed the baby to remain with his head stuck in the birth canal for 20 minutes and then, after delivery, tried to resuscitate him for 13 minutes before calling for emergency medical help. The boy never gained consciousness or displayed brain activity, and he died two days later at Children’s National Medical Center in the District when life support was removed.

The parents sought out Carr in August after nurses at a licensed birthing center in Alexandria said they could not deliver at home because of the fetus’s position in the womb; breech births are most often delivered by Caesarean section because the risk of complications from a breech delivery — in which the baby is positioned feet-first — are high, according to medical officials.

Carr agreed to do a home delivery and, prosecutors said, declined to call for help when things got out of control. A medical examiner ruled that the death was due to complications from a breech birth at home.

While the midwife might have been performing outside the standard of care, my question in reading these articles is whether it is reasonable for a midwife to agree to a home delivery for a high risk mother, who is of advanced maternal age, whose child is breech, and who has already been turned down for delivery by a licensed birthing center based on the risks. It seems to me that the midwife and the family were taking a grave risk with this child’s life – a risk that the parents must have at least somewhat acknowledged since they sought out the home birth after being turned away by the birthing center. To what degree is it the midwife’s responsibility to assist a woman who insists on a home birth despite the risks? To what degree is it her responsibility to refuse to participate if the risks to the child are unacceptably high?

Does Insurance Matter?

Finally, I wonder what role insurance will play in the increasing number of mothers choosing to give birth at home. Vermont’s governor just signed a bill into law that will require private health insurance companies to pay for midwives during home births.  According to the Forbes article about the new bill, Vermont joins New York, New Hampshire and New Mexico in this requirement. Vermont’s rate of home birth is the highest in the country at 3 percent. The bill is expected to lower costs for low-risk births for women who choose to birth at home. I wonder, however, whether the choice to have a home birth that is reimbursed by insurance will open the door to additional mothers choosing to birth at home even if the risks are high.

What Do You Think?

At the end of the day, it seems that home births may be a good option for some low-risk women who have the support of a well trained midwife and accessible medical back-up in case of problems. That being said, for those at higher risk, perhaps there need to be other safeguards in place.

What do you think? Are you or have you been involved in home births? How are woman normally empowered to have the birth they want if they are high risk? What can be done to make the choice safer for the baby?

Related Posts:

The Grief of Losing an Unborn Child

Laughing Gas Making Its Way Back into the Labor and Delivery Department

The Grief of Losing an Unborn Child

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Image from HopeforParents.org

Fetal Death In Utero. It sounds so clinical, so devoid of meaning. Maybe that is by design. Medical terms have a way of masking the real human suffering that is being described.

Adenocarcinoma instead of cancer. Cerebral hemorrhage instead of stroke…and “fetal death in utero” instead of “losing an unborn child.” The medical terms are necessary, but they don’t capture the essence of the diagnosis. As one woman told me, “I didn’t lose my fetus. I lost my baby.”

For any parent, the loss of a child is the most agonizing experience imaginable. As the father of two, I can’t even imagine being told that your child has died. I can’t imagine the life-long grief that follows. I almost decided not to write about this topic for that very reason – I didn’t know the pain of losing a child so who was I to write on it? But other times I’ve waded into topics despite a lack of personal involvement because the issue has touched those whom I care about. For example, I’m not a parent of a special needs child, but I’ve written on that topic because I am close to people who are raising special needs children. Their experiences deserve to be shared.  The same is true here.

For parents who have lost an unborn child, the sense of grief is no different than if the child had been born and then died. Unfortunately, our society seems less sympathetic to the loss because there is no infant that we have seen and gotten to know. We all recognize the agony of losing an older child. Even if we haven’t experienced it ourselves, we can at least try to understand how sickeningly awful it must be. We can then offer our support and love and condolences to those who have experienced it. With an unborn child, however, it’s different. We have a tendency to minimize the grief associated with losing an unborn child, as if the fact that the child wasn’t yet born makes him or her less real. Even medical providers are guilty of this. I’ve had women tell me that their doctors tend to treat miscarriage or stillbirth as a medical condition, not the loss of a loved one. For the parents of such children, however, the loss is deep and real and long-lasting.

Donnica Moore, M.D., an Ob/Gyn and the author of a book entitled “Women’s Health for Life,” summed it up well when interviewed by the New York Times:

Couples can feel there’s no socially accepted way to grieve. If you lose a family member, people know how to do that, they know how to support you and grieve with you. But this is new territory for a lot of us. It’s a tragedy for people who have gone through it that might not be on the radar of people who have not.

I’ve recently had the pleasure (strange word, I know, given the circumstances) of representing two wonderful families who lost children. One couple lost their 9-year-old son who died of a correctible heart condition that his pediatrician failed to detect, and the other couple lost their unborn daughter when the mother was 37 weeks pregnant after being sent home from the hospital where she had gone complaining of decreased fetal movement. It’s easy to see the grief for the first couple. One day they have a little boy going to school, playing, doing homework, and the next day he’s gone. With the second couple, it’s harder to see the grief, but it’s there. I’ll share their story briefly.

This was the first child for Michelle (not her real name) and her husband. They had already decorated the nursery and picked out a name. One evening (believe it or not, Michelle had just attended a baby shower earlier in the day) she felt that the baby wasn’t moving as much as usual and called her doctor’s office. They told her to go to the hospital, which she did. At the hospital, she and her baby were evaluated and told that everything was OK. She was told to go home and keep her regularly scheduled appointment the next day. When she went to her doctor the next morning, however, the doctor could not find a heartbeat. Her daughter, unfortunately, was gone. To make things even worse, Michelle then had to carry her deceased daughter inside her for another full day before she gave birth.

Michelle did her best to move on with her life. She continued to work. She and her husband had another child. But for the entire time I represented her (to its credit, the hospital approached us about resolving the case early on) there was not a single time I talked to her that she did not start to cry in discussing her first baby – the daughter who should now be three years old. She still grieves for the loss of her daughter, wonders why it happened, wonders what her daughter went through in those final moments. She asks herself whether she did anything wrong, whether she should have been more forceful that night in the hospital. These questions don’t go away for her. They’re the same questions that any mother would ask after losing her child – whether it was an unborn child or an older child.

We all need to do a better job of recognizing that the pain of losing an unborn child – whether by miscarriage or stillbirth – is deep and long-lasting. If you know someone who has lost an unborn child, don’t shy away from him or her. A simple and genuine “I’m sorry for your loss” is a good starter. Be there to offer support and talk just like you would if the child were older. Don’t expect it to go away in a matter of weeks, and don’t assume that a subsequent pregnancy somehow erases the pain of losing the previous child; it doesn’t. Also, try to avoid clichés, e.g., “everything happens for a reason,” “I’m sure you’ll be able to have more kids.” While such sayings are meant well, clichés tend to minimize the degree of loss. If you don’t know what to say, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know what to say.”

If you yourself have lost an unborn child, you need to treat this loss like you would the death of a loved one. It is a long, slow, painful process that not everyone will fully understand. That can add to the sense of loss because you may get the feeling that people are expecting you to be over it already. Don’t let their artificial time-tables dictate your own personal grieving. You may also experience feelings of guilt, asking yourself if you did something during your pregnancy that caused this (in almost every case, the answer to that question is a resounding no). You may feel resentful toward other parents or children, or find it difficult to be around children, especially those who are the same age as your child would be. You may wonder if you will be able to have another baby. All of these feelings are completely normal, but they will take time to resolve.

Additional Links

Here are some good links to learn more about the grieving process for unborn children.

National Share

AmericanPregnancy.org

Related Nash and Associates Links

Pregnancy-related gingivitis and prematurity

 

 

 

Summer Vacation Checklist: Add Vaccination to Your List!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Photo from guardian.co.uk

Ahhh, summer vacation is coming. Passport? Airline tickets? Three 1oz containers? Zipper-lock bag? Sunblock? Camera? Vaccination status?

Summer is typically the busiest time for vacationers to explore new territories, or even old ones. Granted, the economy has replaced some travelers’ grand plans with much more modest ones, but many are still planning trips to Mexico and other foreign destinations. The summer is also a big time for missionary groups to head to underserved areas to provide assistance and medical care. The events of September 11th have forever changed travel for the United States and countries all over the world. There is now a new concern…..your vaccination status!

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States is experiencing its largest outbreak of measles in 15 years! USA Today reported a record 118 cases of confirmed measles in the USA between January 1 and May 20 of this year, mostly acquired abroad by unvaccinated individuals and brought back to the States. Measles was reported to have been “eradicated” from the USA as of the year 2000 due mostly to the efforts of immunization, but measles is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

Over 42,000 cases were diagnosed in an outbreak among young adults in Brazil in 1997! Third-world countries are not the only ones affected; over 7,500 cases have been diagnosed in France between January and March of this year, according to the CDC! And the outbreaks continue across most countries of Europe. Failure to vaccinate and receive periodic “booster shots” to provide immunity allows the virus to infect that individual who then gets sick. Since the virus is spread via respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), public modes of transportation allow for contact with infected individuals.

Measles is NOT just a rash!

According to the Associated Press, 2 of every 5 of these 118 patients required hospitalization; none died, but measles can have deadly consequences. Worldwide, measles causes nearly 800,000 deaths annually, mostly in small children. Some of the bad consequences include encephalitis characterized by vomiting, seizures, coma and even death; of those who survive this, approximately one-third are left with permanent neurologic deficits.

Once the spots are gone…

Interestingly, there is a late complication of measles infection, called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), that occurs from 5 to 15 years after the acute infection; the virus causes a slow degeneration of the brain and central nervous system long after the initial infection. Measles can also cause bronchiolitis or bronchopneumonia, and it can be associated with secondary bacterial infections due to the depleted immune system that occurs while fighting the virus.

Measles is NOT the only vaccine-preventable disease available for infection!

There have been recent outbreaks of mumps, another viral disease that has potential complications of pancreatitis, orchitis and even meningitis and encephalitis.

There have been outbreaks of Bordetella pertussis (part of the DPT vaccine), otherwise known as “whooping cough.” Pertussis can severely affect young children under 2 years, but it affects adults as well. Since the vaccine does not impart lifelong immunity, adults become a reservoir for this disease, unless a booster shot is given, and the adults spread the disease to unvaccinated children.

Haemophilus influenza type B, known as HIB, can cause typical cases of upper respiratory infections, sinusitis and otitis media (common ear infection); it can also cause epiglottitis, a potentially fatal infection of the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a flap of tissue that acts like a valve, protecting our airway when we eat and swallow food. This “valve” swells up so large from the infection that it can totally obstruct the airway and prevent a child from breathing; it is a medical emergency that can require emergent tracheostomy! An HIB vaccine has been available for years, and this infectious culprit had nearly been eradicated, as well, in the USA. The anti-vaccine movement has produced many children, adolescents and even young adults who have never received this vaccine  - et voila….there is a resurgence of HIB and Haemophilus epiglottitis.

Hepatitis B is a virus (HBV) for which a vaccine has also been available for over 20 years. It is a 3-shot regimen, but it also requires that titers be drawn after vaccination to prove immunity. HBV can be transmitted through sexual contact or any exchange of body fluids, including contaminated food in rare instances. Although the human body can fight some cases of HBV, other cases become chronic and lead to liver failure and/or liver cancer. Wouldn’t you know it? May is “Hepatitis Awareness Month” for the CDC!

There are plenty more vaccines available for a multitude of viral, bacterial and other infectious agents. Additionally, there are immunoglobulin shots that can address other infectious conditions and act as prophylaxis during your time abroad.

The Moral of the Story

Check your own vaccination status first. If you are not sure, your doctor can do blood tests to determine if you are immune to specific infectious agents…even the chicken pox virus! Secondly, take the time to check the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) for infections endemic to the area to which you are traveling. Follow guidelines offered for disease prevention and possible vaccines, medications or immunoglobulins available.

Be aware and be prepared! Protect yourself and those near and dear to you!