Thursday, July 29, 2010

To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate!!

I wrote this post last year.  I decided to repost today...

I read this article in the LA Times yesterday about vaccines and recent outbreaks of Measles in certain communities and it made me mad.  I well realize that parents on both sides of this argument feel very strongly.  So, this could get me in trouble, but I'm willing to take the risk.  The gist of the article is that in California there is a rising number of kindergartners who are getting vaccine exemptions  (essentially the parents saying we don't believe in vaccinating our kid).  They just have to sign a form and the kid can enter school unvaccinated.  This isn't such a problem if the majority of the other kids are vaccinated, but with as few as 5-10% unvaccinated kids you can get mini epidemics of diseases that are otherwise quite rare these days, ie measles, mumps, diptheria etc.  According to the LA times there have been several such measles outbreaks in the San Diego and the rate of unvaccinated kids is especially worrisome in several charter schools and non-catholic private schools.

OK, here is my take on this vaccine thing.  When I was a pediatric resident at the beginning of every year in clinic we reviewed the vaccine schedule, risks and benefits of all the vaccines and why we vaccinate against them.  As you can imagine, by the time we were third years my friend and I would joke that the reason to vaccinate against these diseases is because they can KILL.  Most of the diseases vaccinated against are things that kill people.  (OK recently we've added a few not so deadly disease to vaccinate against and I used to use this same argument to question if that was right).  But I digress the main issue at hand seems to largely be the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine (MMR).  This one started to fall out of favor after an article linked it to autism.  The fallacy of that study is that autism typically becomes apparent around 15-18 months and almost every child gets the MMR at 12-15 months.  The two were temporally linked, nothing more.  The only study that really looked at vaccines and autism rates showed no difference.  So, my argument and what I used to advise people to do if they were really worried was just delay the shot until their child was already talking.  OK, so there is the mercury thing, but manufacturers have gotten into that and combined more shots and made more of the vaccines without the mercury contained preservative so that is pretty much a nonissue.  Of course, again, you can delay, space them out and make it even less of an issue if really worried.

So back to the diseases behind the vaccines, why care.  Let's start with measles since that was what the article was about.  Measles still exists in the US and is especially prevalent in certain European countries, not to mention less developed nations.  Measles isn't so bad for the average school age kid, but it is DEADLY for infants, and not good for the elderly or immunocompromised.  I took care of a 9 month old infant who had measles encephalitis as a resident.  The child spent two weeks essentially comatose.  She ultimately went home, but the long term effects are likely significant.  Hello this baby almost died, her parents were rightly infuriated and scared.

 How did she get it?  Her older sibling's friend wasn't vaccinated.  She came home from vacation with measles and before she got sick played at the vaccinated friends house.  Thereby exposing the unprotected child.  The child who was too young to get vaccinated even though her parents would have.  You see there is the problem.  It isn't just one kid.  It effects the community.  The LA times article had several similar vignettes of infants under 1 year of age being exposed to measles by unvaccinated friends of their older siblings.  The year before the measles vaccine was released-  ~500 people died from the measles and ~4500 kids had measles encephalitis.  Do I really need to say more?

OK, so now mumps.  Mumps doesn't seem so bad, right?  It used to be the biggest cause of male infertility.  That's right mumps infections in prepubescent or adolescent boys can leave them infertile.  How about Polio?  Now eradicated from the Western Hemisphere, but its long term effects were devastating.

I could go on, but I think I have said enough.  I guess my bias is obvious.  Please people vaccinate your kids.  If you're really worried, it isn't terrible to slow down the vaccinations, but please.  These are bad diseases.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So, I have a stalker...

So, I have a stalker..
Or there is a very bad spy?
Or there's a time traveller in my neighborhood?
Or just a very creepy guy?

I run from my house around the Silver Lake Reservoir and back, a lovely almost 5 mile run with a nice amount of hills v. flat, few stop lights, on packed dirt.  I run the route 2-3 times per week most weeks. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, whenever I have time.

Still some large percentage of the time, I see the same guy on the same corner in the same clothes. He's older, with a big pot belly and wispy grey hair that always looks the same.  Lately he even acknowledges me.  Who is he? Why is he always in the same spot?  I thought about this while i ran the other day.

Having read the Time Travellers Wife, I wondered if he is a stalker travelling throug time to alway sbe there when I run.  Maybe that explains why he always looks the same.

Maybe he is jsut a sad, lonely old man who stands on the corner all day, but nah that story is sad.  I prefer it to be something fantastical.

Mr. Stalker guy will I see you tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Triathlon for a Cause

Last year I completed my first triathlon as a testament to my own health and recovery from cancer. In my mind it was the conclusion of my journey as a cancer patient. It was my way of stating that I had prioritized my own health and fitness.
Initially I never thought that I would do more than one triathlon, but as soon as it was done, I knew that I would do another.  However, I wanted to find a way to both pursue my personal athletic and fitness goals, while also benefiting this community of cancer patients of which I had unwillingly become a member.    The perfect solution is the CHLA/ Nautica Malibu Triathlon, which takes place on Sept 12.  In which I will do a 1/2 mile ocean swim, ride 18 miles, and run 4.
I am proud to work at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), and to be a member of their team for this event.  Even better, the official beneficiary of the nautical Malibu Triathlon is Pediatric Cancer Research at CHLA.

I remember all too well receiving my diagnosis, the first weeks of figuring out what to do, and that feeling of terror and confusion.  I was an adult, a physician no less; therefore,  I had loads of resources and support.  Further, my diagnosis wasn’t life threatening exactly, more threatening to my lifestyle.  I can’t imagine having to deal with that as a child, or worse as the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer.  The money raised by this event will help to give more of those children a chance to learn that through trials you can not only survive but achieve things you never thought possible.  I  hope that more children will be given that chance.

Thank you for your support of me while I train for my first International Distance Triathlon and thank you for your support of the outstanding research being done at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles to help pediatric cancer patients.

In order to donate please click on the link below or you can mail me a check (email me for the address and details.)

Again thank you!