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Health Capsules: Vaccine Poll

The recent measles outbreak appears to have changed some Americans’ thinking regarding routine childhood vaccinations.

The recent measles outbreak appears to have changed some Americans’ thinking regarding routine childhood vaccinations.

Vaccine poll 

The recent measles outbreak has led to an increase in the number of Americans who favor routine vaccinations for children, a recent poll suggests.

In late February, a HealthDay/Harris poll of more than 2,000 adults revealed that 87 percent of those surveyed considered childhood vaccines to be safe. In a similar poll taken in July 2014, 77 percent of those surveyed said they believed the vaccines were safe.

Also in the February poll:

• Eighty-two percent of respondents said childhood vaccinations should be mandatory for all children, compared to 77 percent in the July poll.

• Seventy-nine percent of respondents said there is at least a moderate level of risk of an unvaccinated child contracting a disease against which vaccines are designed to protect, an increase of 5 percent since July.

• Sixty-nine percent of respondents said a child contracting a vaccine-preventable disease would present at least a moderate danger to other children, compared to 64 percent in July.

Despite the increase in the number of pro-vaccine adults, the poll found that among younger adults and parents of young children, many continue to believe that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine can cause autism.

“That ‘link’ (between the MMR vaccine and autism) was based on falsified data,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America. “But the idea that the MMR causes autism is still out there.”


Genetic testing question

Given the chance, the majority of parents would be interested in testing to learn if they or their children had a genetic risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s disease, a University of Michigan study found.

Researchers decided to gauge interest in whole genome sequencing, a technology that uses a small amount of blood or saliva to examine an individual’s DNA makeup for information about future disease risk. The technology currently is used to determine medical causes for people with undiagnosed health problems.

The study found that roughly 59 percent of adults, including parents and non-parents, were interested in genome sequencing. Among parents, almost 62 percent said they would be interested in the technology for themselves, and 58 percent said they would be interested in learning the DNA makeup of their children.

“Particularly fascinating was that parents’ interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children, too,” said Beth Tarini, M.D., senior study author. “It appears to be a global decision for the family.”


Traffic light labels

The nutrition labels on packaged foods provide a wealth of information to help with making healthy food choices, but according to a study published in Obesity, simple “traffic light” labels would be more effective.

Researchers at the University of Bonn labeled 100 foods either with traditional nutrition facts labels or traffic light labels. The traffic light labels used red for products high in fat, sugar or salt; green for products with a lower percentage of fat, sugar or salt; and yellow for foods with nutritional content somewhere in the middle.

Study participants were placed in a brain scanner, shown foods with each type of label and asked to say how much they would pay for the products. They were willing to pay significantly more for a healthy food if it was labeled with a green light rather than with a traditional nutrition label. Their willingness to pay for an item was less if it was labeled with a red light instead of a conventional label.

According to researcher Dr. Bernd Weber, traffic light labels seem to increase the weight consumers place on health when making food-purchasing decisions.

“The traffic light label (appeared) to enable the study participants to better resist unhealthy foods compared to a label containing the traditional information on grams and percentages of the particular ingredients,” Weber said.


Marijuana and memory

Northwestern University researchers have linked regular marijuana use in the teenage years with poor long-term memory in adulthood.

For a study, researchers tested young adults who had not smoked marijuana for the previous two years but who began using cannabis at age 16 or 17 and smoked it daily for about three years. Study participants did not abuse any other drugs.

The former cannabis users had an abnormally shaped hippocampus – the region of the brain associated with memory – and performed 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests, compared to those in a control group.

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are the ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,” said Dr. John Csernansky, study author and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Researchers noted that changes observed in the shape of the hippocampus appear to last for at least a few years after people stop using marijuana.


New treatment for migraine pain

A recent research study using a non-invasive treatment resulted in significant pain relief for migraine headache sufferers.

In a study involving 112 people who experienced migraine or cluster headaches, researchers administered the anesthetic lidocaine via catheter to nerves in the back of patients’ nasal cavities. The procedure utilized an image-guided treatment to deliver lidocaine to a nerve center known as the intranasal sphenopalatine ganglion.

Prior to and again on the day following treatment, patients were asked to rate the severity of their headaches on a scale of 1-10. The average pain level among patients was cut in half the day after the procedure, falling from an average of 8.25 to an average of 4. One month later, patients reported an average pain level of 5.25 – a 36 percent decrease from pre-treatment.

According to lead researcher Kenneth Mandato, M.D., an interventional radiologist at Albany Medical Center, lidocaine “acts as a ‘reset button’ for the brain’s migraine circuitry.”

“When the initial numbing of the lidocaine wears off, the migraine trigger seems to no longer have the maximum effect that it once did,” Mandato said. “Some patients have reported immediate relief and are making fewer trips to the hospital for emergency headache medicine.”

Mandato said the treatment is not a cure but does offer a temporary help that is minimally invasive and safe. He plans to reassess patients at the six-month post-treatment mark.

The research was presented at recent the annual scientific meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology.

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