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A News Alert for a Preventable Disease

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

There was a news release in the past several day alerting physicians to five cases of invasive H. Flu bacterial infections in children under the age of five in Minnesota during 2008. The reason this is significant is that this is a vaccine preventable infection. In other words, children are vaccinated against this bacterial infection beginning at two months of age. This is also a series of vaccines with infants receiving a series and a booster dose during toddler years.

There are several issues regarding this newsworthy information of an infection that was dramatically reduced after vaccination began in the early 90s.

Number one, there has been a shortage of H. Flu (HIB) vaccine for the past year and infants are receiving the initial series, but doctors are withholding the booster dose in order to ensure adequate vaccine supplies for infants. At the present, it does not seem as if this is affecting vaccine efficacy but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state heath departments are watching for changes in rates of H. Flu disease which might indicate that the bacteria is having a resurgence as vaccines are delayed.

Secondly, in looking at the five cases in Minnesota (the last time there were this many cases was more than 10 years ago), three of the children had not received HIB vaccine as their parent’s refused vaccinations for their children. Of these three children, ranging in age from seven months to five years, all had invasive disease such as meningitis and pneumonia, and unfortunately one child died.

I was a much younger pediatrician when I used to see these infections and yes, I too saw children die, or have long-term consequences such a being deaf or mentally retarded due to H. Flu infections. The HIB vaccine changed this and I have not seen a case in over 15 years, which is about the time the vaccine was released.

This is a lesson in how vaccines work, not only for the vaccinated child, but also for the “herd” around them.

Make sure your child has received this very important vaccine, so that we will not see more articles about increasing H. flu infections and preventable deaths.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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