Rockland County, New York, has declared a state
of emergency following a severe outbreak of measles.
The county, on the Hudson River north of NYC, has barred unvaccinated
children from public spaces after 153 cases were confirmed.
Violating the order will be punishable by a fine of $500 and up to six
months in prison.
The announcement follows other outbreaks of the disease in California,
Texas, Washington, and Illinois.
Vaccination rates have dropped steadily
all over the country with many parents objecting for philosophical or religious
reasons, or because they believe discredited information that vaccines cause
autism in children.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day
said: “We will not sit idly by while
children in our community are at risk.
“This is a public health crisis and it is time to sound
According to the New York Times, the outbreak in Rockland
County is largely concentrate in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It is
believed it could have spread from other predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas
around New York which have already seen outbreaks of measles.
Ed Day said health inspectors had
encountered “resistance” from some local residents, which he branded
“unacceptable and irresponsible”.
“They’ve been told <<We’re not discussing this,
do not come back>> when visiting the homes of infected individuals as
part of their investigations,”
According to the CDC, there are 314 cases of measles currently reported in the US, with nearly half of those coming from Rockland County. The authorities had been making steady progress in encouraging religious communities to immunize children but communication had broken down in the last month.
Tribeca Film Festival has withdrawn Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, festival founder Robert De Niro announces.
On March 25, Robert De Niro stood by his decision to include Vaxxed by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month’s festival.
The link Vaxxed makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited.
“We have concerns with certain things in this film,” said Robert De Niro.
Robert De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the documentary would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue.
However, after reviewing the documentary with festival organizers and scientists, the actor said: “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
Vaxxed was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, who described it as a “whistle-blower documentary”.
In a statement issued following the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision, Andrew Wakefield and the film’s producer Del Bigtree said that “we have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art and truth”.
The British doctor was the lead author of a controversial study published in 1998, which argued there might be a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease.
Andrew Wakefield suggested that parents should opt for single jabs against mumps, measles and rubella instead of the three-in-one vaccine.
His comments and the subsequent media furor led to a sharp drop in the number of children being vaccinated against these diseases.
The study, first published in The Lancet, was later retracted by the medical journal.
Andrew Wakefield was subsequently found guilty of fraud by the General Medical Council and struck off the medical register.
According to a recent research, autism begins in the womb.
Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), research suggests.
The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, raises hopes that better understanding of the brain may improve the lives of children with autism.
It reinforces the need for early identification and treatment, says a University of California team.
Scientists from the University of California, San Diego and Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle analyzed post-mortem brain tissue of 22 children with and without autism, all between two and 15 years of age.
Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder
They used genetic markers to look at how the outermost part of the brain, the cortex, wired up and formed layers.
Abnormalities were found in 90% of the children with autism compared with only about 10% of children without.
The changes were dotted about in brain regions involved in social and emotional communication, and language, long before birth, they say.
The researchers say their patchy nature may explain why some toddlers with autism show signs of improvement if treated early enough.
They think the plastic infant brain may have a chance of rewiring itself to compensate.
“The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism,” said Prof. Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego.
Dr Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), said: “If this new report of disorganized architecture in the brains of some children with autism is replicated, we can presume this reflects a process occurring long before birth.
“This reinforces the importance of early identification and intervention.”
A new genetic study in Iceland has added to evidence that the increase in some mental disorders may be due to men having children later in life.
An Icelandic company found the number of genetic mutations in children was directly related to the age of their father when they were conceived.
One prominent researcher suggested young men should consider freezing their sperm if they wanted to have a family in later life.
The research is published in Nature.
According to Dr. Kari Stefansson, of Decode Genetics, who led the research, the results show it is the age of men, rather than women, that is likely to have an effect on the health of the child.
“Society has been very focused on the age of the mother. But apart from [Down’s Syndrome] it seems that disorders such as schizophrenia and autism are influenced by the age of the father and not the mother.”
The increase in some mental disorders may be due to men having children later in life
Dr. Kari Stefansson’s team sequenced the DNA of 78 parents and their children.
This revealed a direct correlation between the number of mutations or slight alterations to the DNA, of the child and the age of their father.
The results indicate that a father aged 20 passes, on average, approximately 25 mutations, while a 40-year-old father passes on about 65. The study suggests that for every year a man delays fatherhood, they risk passing two more mutations on to their child.
What this means in terms of the impact on the health of the child is unclear. But it does back studies that also show fathers are responsible for mutations and that these mutations increase with age.
And, for the first time, these results have been quantified and they show that 97% of all mutations passed on to children are from older fathers.
“No other factor is involved which for those of us working in the field is very surprising,” said Dr Stefansson.
He added that the work backed other studies that have found links between older fathers and some mental disorders.
“The average age of fathers has been steeply rising [in industrialized countries] since 1970. Over the same period there has been an increase in autism and it is very likely that part of that rise is accounted for by the increasing age of the father,” he said.
The findings should not alarm older fathers. The occurrence of many of these disorders in the population is very low and so the possible doubling in risk by having a child later in life will still be a very low risk.
Nearly all children born to older fathers will be healthy. But across the population the number of children born with disorders is likely to increase if this theory holds true.
Older fathers and therefore genetic mutations have been linked with neurological conditions because the brain depends on more genes for its development and regulation.
So mutations in genes are more likely to show up as problems in the brain than in any other organ. But it is unclear whether the age of fathers has an effect on any other organ or system. The research has not yet been done.
The reason that men rather than women drive the mutation rate is that women are born with all their eggs whereas men produce new sperm throughout their adult life. It is during sperm production that genetic errors creep in, especially as men get older.
Writing a commentary in the Journal Nature, Prof. Alexey Kondrashov, of University of Michigan, said young men might wish to consider freezing their sperm if future studies showed there were other negative effects on a child’s health.
“Collecting the sperm of young adult men and cold storing it for later use could be a wise individual decision. It might also be a valuable for public health, as such action could reduce the deterioration of the gene pool of human populations,” he said.
Dr. Kari Stefansson, however, said that from a long-term perspective the decision by some men to have children later in life might well be speeding up the evolution of our species.
“The high rate of mutations is dangerous for the next generation but is generating diversity from which nature can select and further refine this product we call man,” he said.
“So what is bad for the next generation may be good for our species in general.”
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