Will The Spread Of Ebola Be Worse Than AIDS?

The spread of the Ebola virus has a certain déjà vu about it. You may recall that the AIDS virus, which began in the 1980s, was hosted by monkeys which then spread to humans? Well, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola’s initial host was fruit bats, which spread to monkeys, apes and pigs. So this is all sounding pretty familiar, yeah?

Ebola was actually identified in 1976, preceding the AIDS virus. There have been epidemics in certain places in Africa ever since but, this time, Ebola has already killed 4500 people in West Africa and it is now hopping around the globe. There are people coming and going from international airports daily and travel isn’t going to stop, just because of Ebola. We all need to be extra careful of contamination – regardless of what country we live in.

Ebola transition is similar to AIDS; via bodily fluids, like blood. However, it is far more infectious because it can be transmitted via saliva and sweat as well. It’s not airborne as early reports suggested. Dr. Bruce Ribner, who cares for Ebola patients, being treated at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta said that even the skin of patients is potentially infectious. Therefore, Ebola is not only within the person, it also lies on their surface.

To stop the spread, germ control is essential. Regularly wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Ebola is first identified by a high fever, so if you see anyone who looks unwell and sweating due to a high fever, stay clear. If you are experiencing these symptoms, head directly to a GP. Many doctors surgeries around the country have signs which specify, anyone experiencing a high fever needs to tell staff immediately, so they can be isolated from other patients inside the clinics. It’s not a joke and we all need to be vigilant.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has updated guidelines for health workers, which are more specific than previous recommendations. This is after a health worker in the US contracted Ebola while caring for a patient. Previous guidelines were determined to be too confusing and health workers have been put at risk due to unsure practices.

From contagion to death takes only a matter of weeks, not years like AIDS. Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University’s school of public health and leader of the CDC’s task force on AIDS in the mid-1980s, said that unlike AIDS sufferers, who may not have any symptoms for years and unknowingly spread the disease, Ebola sufferers show symptoms quickly. This may be a key difference of the two viruses. Curran, went on the say that “It potentially gives us a way to break the back of the epidemic”.

This is excellent news. Unlike the wild spread of AIDS, which has occurred since the 1980s and taken millions of lives, Ebola – although far more deadly – maybe easier to eradicate. More good news is that unlike the AIDS virus, which was around for more than a decade before it was thoroughly understood and investigated, the WHO, CDC and government officials have learned that a fast response could potentially save millions. If the AIDS virus has taught them anything; they know they have to contain the spread of Ebola quickly before it gets completely out of control.

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October 20, 2014

Why Vaccinating Your Child Is A Moral Responsibility

“Immunisation has been a great public health success story. The lives of millions of children have been saved, millions have the chance of a longer healthier life, a greater chance to learn, to play, to read and write, to move around freely without suffering”

–  Nelson Mandela, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1993

If you’re a fan of modern science, you’ll know that vaccines save millions of lives every year. And yet, shockingly, the anti-vax movement is still alive and well, poisoning the community with fear and dangerous misinformation and myths. And, consequently, levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia.

In fact, anti-vaccination propaganda is so rife, you may find yourself even having to battle members of your own family, as I have, to enforce them to get vaccinated before they come into contact with your precious newborns. I will never forget a hospital midwife congratulating my husband and me on our decision to vaccinate our firstborn, saying there were “babies dying just down the hallway” of pertussis, commonly called whooping cough.

Vaccination not only protects individuals, but also the community. And so I believe vaccinating your child should be mandatory. For far from being just a personal choice or issue, parents have a moral and community responsibility to protect their children, and everyone’s else’s, from preventable diseases.

It’s been said that vaccination programs introduced around the world over the past 70 years have resulted in the global elimination of smallpox and regional elimination of polio and measles, and it is estimated vaccines save the lives of up to three million people each year, including two million children each year.

In Australia, immunisation – receiving a vaccine and becoming immune to a disease, as a result of being vaccinated – has, without question, markedly reduced the incidence of many vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, haemophilus influenza B, measles and rubella.

So, why all the fear and misinformation? Here are some fast facts which will hopefully dispel any myths you may have heard:

Myth: Vaccines are unsafe.

Truth: This is false: all vaccines currently available in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This testing is required by law and is usually done over many years during the vaccine’s development.

vaccination, immunisation, preventable diseases, health

Myth: You don’t need to give your child a full course of vaccines for them to be protected.

Truth: It’s essential to vaccinate your kids on time. Measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio and Hib vaccines protect more than 95 per cent of children who have completed the course. One dose of meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months protects more than 90 per cent of children. Three doses of whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine protects about 85 per cent of children who have been immunised, and will reduce the severity of the disease in the other 15 per cent if they do catch whooping cough.

Myth: Breastfed babies don’t need vaccinations.

Truth: In the first months of life, a baby is protected from most infectious diseases by antibodies from her or his mother, which are transferred to the baby during pregnancy. When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at serious risk of deadly infections and so the first immunisations are given before these antibodies have gone. And children get so many immunisations because new vaccines against serious infections continue to be developed. The number of injections is reduced by the use of combination vaccines, where several vaccines are combined into one shot.

Myth: I give my child vitamins, they don’t need to be immunised.

Truth: Immunisation is the safest and most effective way of giving your child protection against disease. After immunisation, your child is far less likely to catch the disease if there are cases in the community. The benefit of protection against the disease far outweighs the very small risks of immunisation.

Myth: If I don’t vaccinate my child, it doesn’t affect anyone else.

Truth: False! If enough people in the community are immunised, the infection can no longer be spread from person to person and the disease dies out altogether. This is how smallpox was eliminated from the world and polio has disappeared from many countries.

Myth: Parents and grandparents don’t need to be immunised.

Truth: Anyone who comes into close contact with your baby, including parents, grandparents and carers must be vaccinated for they are commonly carriers of some childhood infections and diseases. For example, several studies of infant pertussis (whooping cough) cases have indicated that family members, and parents in particular, were identified as the source of infection in more than 50 per cent of cases.

Myth: Vaccination will make myself and/or my child sick.

Truth: Some children and adults experience minor side effects following immunisation. Most side effects last a short time and those affected recover without any problems. Extra fluids and paracetamol will ease fever and soreness. Vaccines are much safer than the diseases they prevent.

Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

Truth: This one is commonly pedalled by anti-vaxers. The myth that vaccines are somehow linked to autism has been widely discredited after Andrew Wakefield, a non-doctor, who had multiple conflicts of interest, suggested it. His now notorious Lancet paper was retracted in 2010, he was struck from the medical register for “dishonest, unethical and callous” behaviour and the British Medical Journal accused him of deliberate fraud. And while we currently don’t know what causes autism, we do know what doesn’t: vaccines.

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September 16, 2014