In the news

A childhood vaccine that grownups should have.

          Measles has been in the news recently because of several large outbreaks, due primarily to the failure of parents to allow their children to be vaccinated. But there is another “childhood disease,” whooping cough, that has also become more common for the same reason.

Whooping cough, whose medical term is pertussis, is life-threatening to infants below the age of six months. It has an agonizing, sometimes fatal course. It is almost entirely preventable if the mother has received the pertussis vaccine in the prior couple of years, including during pregnancy. The antibodies that she passes to her child before birth provide protection during the six months that it takes for three injections of the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccine to reach protective levels in the infant.

Whooping cough is so named because of the unusual sound that a struggling infant makes in trying to take in a breath during severe coughing spells. In older children and adults there is no whoop; the illness takes the form of bronchitis – usually about three or four weeks of cold symptoms with moderate coughing and discomfort. If an unimmunized or incompletely immunized baby is exposed to an adult with pertussis, that infant can become seriously ill.

A strategy that works

Before the infant arrives, persons over the age of eleven in the household and any prospective visitor (especially grandparents!) should receive a DTaP booster. (The “a” designates a new version of the DPT vaccine.) Protection against pertussis lasts for at least five years; protection against diphtheria and tetanus lasts much longer, perhaps a lifetime, making it an even better deal.



Trans fats are gone. Do you miss them?     

Trans fats are chemically engineered vegetable oils such as peanut and cottonseed oil that prolong the shelf life of baked goods. Because they are uncontestably related to heart disease and stroke the U.S. government banned them, effective June 2018.

Food manufacturers growled and complained but many of them saw the writing on the wall and began to eliminate them in 2015 when the FDA announced the 2018 ban. Some companies removed trans fats from their products as early as 2006.

Denmark implemented a ban in 2004 and since then has seen a dramatic decline in the incidence of cardiovascular disease. On a smaller scale, people who lived in those parts of New York State where trans fats had been banned for three or more years were found to have significantly lower rates of heart attacks and stroke.

One less thing to worry about but some people fear that a ban on sugar will be next. Don’t bet on that one making it through Congress!


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