EV-D68

7 10 2014

We were writing an update on EV-D68 when this email arrived from CDC. We think the points are important for parents to know, so we’re going to share this with you and will provide future updates as warranted.

As parents, we’re all concerned about this virus which isn’t really new, but has captured the nation’s attention. If you have questions, please ask them in the comments and we’ll get answers for you.

[This information is current as of 23 October, 2014 and has been slightly edited for length (believe it or not). The bold text includes the latest updates]:

The United States is currently experiencing a nationwide outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) associated with severe respiratory illness.

From mid-August to October 23, 2014, CDC or state public health laboratories have confirmed a total of 973* people in 47 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68.** This indicates that at least one case has been detected in each of those states but does not indicate how widespread infections are in each state.

In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall. We are currently in the middle of the enterovirus season. EV-D68 infections are likely to decline later in fall.

For the week of October 8-12, 34 states reported to CDC that EV-D68-like illness activity is low or declining; 8 still have elevated activity, and only 1 has increasing activity.

Many state health departments are currently investigating reported increases in cases of severe respiratory illness in children. This increase could be caused by many different viruses that are common during this time of year. EV-D68 appears to be the predominant type of enterovirus this year and is likely contributing to the increases in severe respiratory illnesses.

Due to increasing knowledge about the nationwide EV-D68 outbreak, there has been a very large increase in the number of specimens tested from patients with severe respiratory illness. Awareness of these initial results is also contributing to increased recognition of new cases.

CDC is prioritizing testing of specimens from children with severe respiratory illness. There are likely many children affected with milder forms of illness.

Of the more than 1,700 specimens tested by the CDC lab, about half have tested positive for EV-D68. About one third have tested positive for an enterovirus or rhinovirus other than EV-D68. Almost all of the CDC-confirmed cases this year of EV-D68 infection have been among children. Many of the children had asthma or a history of wheezing.

CDC has developed, and started using on October 14, a new, faster lab test for detecting EV-D68, allowing CDC to rapidly process in about seven to 10 days the more than 1,000 remaining specimens received since mid-September. As a result, the number of confirmed EV-D68 cases will likely increase substantially in the coming days. These increases will not reflect changes in real time or mean the situation is getting worse.

As a result, confirmed cases increased today and will likely continue to increase in coming days. This does not mean the situation is getting worse.

Faster testing will help to better show the trends of this outbreak since August and to monitor changes occurring in real time.

EV-D68 has been detected in specimens from eight*** patients who died and had samples submitted for testing.

CDC is reporting the test results to state health departments as we obtain them. State and local officials have the authority to determine the cause of death, the appropriate information to release, and the time to release it. CDC will defer to states to provide this information.

So far, state and local officials have reported that two of these deaths were caused by EV-D68.

CDC will post updated data to the website every Thursday.

CDC understands that Americans may be concerned about these severe respiratory illnesses and the new reports of neurological illness. Severe illness is always a concern to us, especially when infants and children are affected. We will share information as soon as we have it, and post updates on our website (http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-outbreaks.html).

Clinicians should consider EV-D68 as a possible cause of severe respiratory illness, particularly in children, and report unusual increases in the number of patients with severe respiratory illness to their health department.

The general public can help protect themselves from respiratory illnesses by washing hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with sick people, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they are having difficulty breathing, or if their symptoms are getting worse.

*Total confirmed case count includes results from State Public Health Laboratories that can do testing to determine type of enterovirus.
**The primary reason for current increases in cases is that a backlog of specimens is being processed from several states that are investigating clusters of people with severe respiratory illness. It can take a while to test specimens and obtain lab results because the testing is complex and slow, and can only be done by CDC and a small number of state public health laboratories. These increases will not necessarily reflect changes in real time, or mean that the situation is getting worse.
***Investigations are ongoing; CDC will review and update available data every Wednesday.

 

BACKGROUND

Enteroviruses are very common viruses; there are more than 100 types.

It is estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year. Tens of thousands of people are hospitalized each year for illnesses caused by enteroviruses.

Different enteroviruses can cause different illnesses, such as respiratory, febrile rash, and neurologic [e.g., aseptic meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain)].

In general, the spread of enteroviruses is often quite unpredictable. A mix of enteroviruses circulates every year, and different types of enteroviruses can be common in different years.

In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall.

 

Enterovirus D68

EV-D68 was first recognized in California in 1962. Small numbers of EV-D68 have been reported regularly to CDC since 1987. However, this year the number of people with confirmed EV-D68 infections is much greater than that reported in previous years.

The strains of EV-D68 circulating this year are not new.

CDC, working with state health departments, has identified at least three separate strains of EV-D68 that are causing infections in the United States this year; the most prominent strain is related to the strains of EV-D68 that were detected in the United States in 2012 and 2013.

There is no evidence that unaccompanied children brought EV-D68 to the United States; we are not aware of any of these children testing positive for the virus.

It is common for multiple strains of the same enterovirus type to be co-circulating in the same year.

Respiratory illnesses can be caused by many different viruses and have similar symptoms. Not all respiratory illnesses occurring now are due to EV-D68.

EV-D68 has been previously referred to as human enterovirus 68 (or HEV-68) and human rhinovirus 87 (or HRV-87). They are all the same virus. The D stands for enterovirus species D.

 

SYMPTOMS

EV-D68 infections can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, or no symptoms at all.

Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches.

Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they are having difficulty breathing, or if their symptoms are getting worse.

Enteroviruses are known to be one of the causes of acute neurologic disease in children. They most commonly cause aseptic meningitis, less commonly encephalitis, and rarely, acute myelitis and paralysis.

CDC is aware of two published reports of children with neurologic illnesses confirmed as EV-D68 infection from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing.

 

PEOPLE AT RISK

In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses and become sick. That’s because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to these viruses. We believe this is also true for EV-D68. Adults can get infected with enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.

Children with asthma may have a higher risk for severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 infection.

 

TRANSMISSION

Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, the virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum.

The virus likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others.

Diagnosis

EV-D68 can only be diagnosed by doing specific lab tests on specimens from a person’s nose and throat.

Many hospitals and some doctor’s offices can test sick patients to see if they have enterovirus infection. However, most cannot do specific testing to determine the type of enterovirus, like EV-D68. CDC and some state health departments can do this sort of testing.

CDC recommends that clinicians only consider EV-D68 testing for patients with severe respiratory illness and when the cause is unclear.

 

TREATMENT

There is no specific treatment for people with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 infection.

For mild respiratory illness, you can help relieve symptoms by taking over-the-counter medications for pain and fever. Aspirin should not be given to children.

Some people with severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive supportive therapy.

There are no antiviral medications are currently available for people who become infected with EV-D68.

 

PREVENTION

You can help protect yourself from getting and spreading EV-D68 by following these steps:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, or when you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • There are no vaccines for preventing EV-D68 infections.

Children with asthma are at risk for severe symptoms from EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses. They should follow CDC’s guidance to maintain control of their illness during this time:

  • Discuss and update your asthma action plan with your primary care provider.
  • Take your prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long term control medication(s).
  • Be sure to keep your reliever medication with you.
  • Get a flu vaccine when available.
  • If you develop new or worsening asthma symptoms, follow the steps of your asthma action plan. If your symptoms do not go away, call your doctor right away.
  • Parents should make sure the child’s caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his/her condition, and that they know how to help if the child experiences any symptoms related to asthma.

 

WHAT IS CDC DOING

CDC continues to collect information from states and assess the situation to better understand  EV-D68 and the illness caused by this virus and how widespread EV-D68 infections may be within states and the populations affected.

CDC is helping states with diagnostic and molecular typing for EV-D68.

We are working with state and local health departments and clinical and state laboratories to enhance their capacity to identify and investigate outbreaks, and perform diagnostic and molecular typing tests to improve detection of enteroviruses and enhance surveillance.

CDC has developed, and started using on October 14, a new, faster lab test for detecting EV-D68 in specimens from people in the United States with respiratory illness. CDC will provide protocols to state public health labs and explore options for providing test kits.

CDC’s new lab test is a “real-time” reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or rRT-PCR, and it identifies all strains of EV-D68 that we have been seeing this summer and fall. The new test has fewer and shorter steps than the test that CDC and some states were using previously during this EV-D68 outbreak. This will allow CDC to test and report results for new specimens within a few days of receiving them.

The previous test, which CDC used for about nine years,  is very sensitive and can be used to detect and identify almost all enteroviruses; however, it requires multiple, labor-intensive processing steps and cannot be easily scaled up to support testing of large numbers of specimens in real time that is needed for the current EV-D68 outbreak.

We are providing information to healthcare professionals, policymakers, general public, and partners in numerous formats, including Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), health alerts, websites, social media, podcasts, infographics, and presentations.

CDC has obtained one complete genomic sequence and six partial genomic sequences from viruses, representing the three known strains of EV-D68 that are causing infection at this time.

Comparison of these sequences to sequences from previous years shows they are genetically related to strains of EV-D68 that were detected in previous years in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

CDC has submitted the sequences to GenBank to make them available to the scientific community for further testing and analysis.

 

GUIDANCE FOR CLINICIANS

Clinicians should:

  • consider EV-D68 as a possible cause of acute, unexplained severe respiratory illness, even if the patient does not have fever.
  • report suspected clusters of severe respiratory illness to local and state health departments. EV-D68 is not nationally notifiable, but state and local health departments may have additional guidance on reporting.
  • consider laboratory testing of respiratory specimens for enteroviruses when the cause of respiratory illness in severely ill patients is unclear.
  • consider testing to confirm the presence of EV-D68. State health departments can be approached for diagnostic and molecular typing for enteroviruses.
  • contact your state or local health department before sending specimens for diagnostic and molecular typing.
  • follow standard, contact, and droplet infection control measures

The antiviral drugs pleconaril, pocapavir, and vapendavir, have significant activity against a wide range of enteroviruses and rhinoviruses. CDC has tested these drugs for activity against currently circulating strains of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), and none of them has activity against EV-D68 at clinically relevant concentrations.

 

SURVEILLANCE

U.S. healthcare professionals are not required to report known or suspected cases of EV-D68 infection to health departments because it is not a nationally notifiable disease in the United States. Also, CDC does not have a surveillance system that specifically collects information on EV-D68 infections.

No data is currently available regarding the overall burden of morbidity or mortality from EV-D68 in the United States. Any data CDC receives about EV-D68 infections or outbreaks are voluntarily provided by labs to CDC’s National Enterovirus Surveillance System (NESS). NESS collects limited data, focusing on circulating types of enteroviruses and parechoviruses.

For a large image and details of EV-D68-like illness activity in states, see http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-activity.html.

MORE INFORMATION

CDC Enterovirus D68 in the United States, 2014 website: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-outbreaks.html

CDC Enterovirus D68 general website: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html

CDC Enterovirus D68 for Health Care Professionals website: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/hcp/EV-D68-hcp.html

CDC Activity of Enterovirus D68-like Illness in States website: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/outbreaks/EV-D68-activity.html  

CDC What Parents Need to Know about Enterovirus D68 webpage: http://www.cdc.gov/features/evd68/

Enterovirus D68 in the United States: Epidemiology, Diagnosis & Treatment, COCA Call, September 16, 2014 (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/coca/calls/2014/callinfo_091614.asp)

Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with Enterovirus D68 – Multiple States, 2014, Health Alert Network, September 12, 2014 (http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00369.asp)

Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with Enterovirus D68 – Missouri and Illinois, 2014, MMWR, September 8, 2014 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6336a4.htm?s_cid=mm6336a4_w)

Clusters of Acute Respiratory Illness Associated with Human Enterovirus 68 — Asia, Europe, and United States, 2008–2010, MMWR, September 30, 2011 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6038a1.htm)





Summer + Mosquitoes = Dengue Fever?

13 05 2014

The dengue fever virus is the most common virus that mosquitoes transmit and infects about 100 million people worldwide every year, killing about 25,000. In spite of this frequency, though, the United States, with the exception of Puerto Rico, has been mostly dengue-free for decades—until 2009.

image by infidelic

That year, a woman in New York turned up with a dengue infection, having just returned from a trip to the Florida Keys. Her case was the first of a handful that led public officials to conduct a survey of the Key West population. To their shock, they found that about 5% of residents, or about 1000 people, showed evidence of dengue exposure in 2009.

The mosquito that carries the virus occurs in warm areas of the country, including Florida and Texas, and indeed, isolated cases of dengue have cropped up a few times since the 1980s along the Texas–Mexico border. But the cases in 2009 and more in 2010 have authorities concerned that dengue now has achieved an intractable foothold on the continental United States.

Work on a vaccine against dengue is ongoing, but in the meantime, the only preventive is to avoid the bug that carries the virus: the mosquito.

Wearing repellent when in areas where they occur is one tactic. Another is removing breeding places, such as any containers with standing water. The precautions apply wherever you’re going, whether to areas where dengue is already endemic or where it is emerging. The CDC provides regular updates for travelers, including a page specific to the Florida cases.

Dengue fever can hit hard or harder, depending on the symptom severity. The “mild” version of the disease can involve a high fever, a rash, severe headache and pain behind the eyes, and nausea and vomiting.  Given that these symptoms are largely nonspecific, if you see your doctor about them and have traveled in a place where dengue fever occurs, be sure to mention it. A more severe form of dengue fever is dengue hemorrhagic fever, which begins much like the “mild” form but then progresses to symptoms that can include nosebleed and signs of bleeding under the skin, known as petechiae.  This form of dengue can be fatal.

The most severe manifestation of the disease, dengue shock syndrome, includes the symptoms of the milder forms along with severe abdominal pain, disorientation, heavy bleeding, and the sudden drop in blood pressure that signals deadly shock.  Onset is typically four to seven days after exposure, and the mild form usually lasts only a week, while the more severe forms can involve either a progressive worsening or a sudden worsening following an apparent improvement.

Oddly enough, having dengue fever once does not mean you’re safe from it. Indeed, some studies indicate that a second bout of dengue fever often can be worse than the first, with a greater risk of progressing to the hemorrhagic form.





One Day, on the Way to the Army

24 04 2014

Today is World Meningitis Day, and the start of World Immunization Week. Are you young and healthy? Stay that way! It’s Your Choice, so choose to get immunized and get on with what life has in store for you.

Abby Blanco-Wold was a young woman on her way to the Army when she was attacked by meningitis. This is Abby’s story, as written by her.

 

TWO DAYS TO GO

Two days to go, and I would have been gone, off to the ARMY . . . Tuesday at dawn.

Out to the gun range my dad and I went, I did really well, to our amazement!

I wanted to shoot a gun once before basic training, the old men that were there found it quite entertaining.

Abby before meningitis changed her life

I had this slight headache throughout the day—didn’t recognize the faint scent of death’s bouquet.

Later that night, out with friends one last time, I threw up by a building, but then I felt fine.

We went home anyway, but stopped for a treat. I didn’t even feel bad enough not to eat.

I awoke in the night, throwing up once again . . . except this time throwing up took forever to end.

So I went back to sleep, but when I arose, intense pain was all over, from my head to my toes.

We need to go now, something’s not right. Upon changing my shirt, came the real fright.

Fever, throwing up, aches and pains, purple spots. The familiarity is chilling. Meningitis, I thought!

To the hospital my friends and I immediately rushed. Oh my God, if it’s true, my family’s going to be crushed!

Meningitis it was, but I already knew. I deteriorate quickly—my feet are both blue.

My parents arrive, “Mom, I have to go pee,” but not a drop would come from my failing kidneys.

I said to the doctor, “I know I might die, but can I have some pain medicine so I don’t have to cry?”

So, here I am in this bed instead, more worried about being AWOL than being dead.

In a war against nature, my body will try to fight off these enemies, so that I don’t die.

In this ICU, my family will weep, counting the moments that I am asleep.

Many of my doctors will quickly be stunned, watching my body grow increasingly rotund.

One by one my organs start to shut down; my urine is now coming out blackish- brown.

Covered all over in dark purple spots, as my vessels are littered with millions of clots.

Soon I can no longer breathe on my own, and more IVs into my body are sewn.

A ventilator’s my new buddy, I guess. How much longer can my body handle this stress?

This struggle is one that I simply must win, but things are so bad, more family flies in.

My priest comes to the hospital to say a prayer. My parents and brother are so numb they just stare.

He gives me just one last sacrament, as my body revolts, to my detriment.

Are they right, my last rites? Will tonight be my forever goodnight?

Suddenly, my blood pressure drops so low and so fast, my heart almost stops.

I am so, so very tired of this fighting, but I won’t give up—sorry that it’s so frightening.

Today, things aren’t good, the attending can’t lie, twenty percent chance to live, and that’s high.

Both my insides and outsides are going crazy. Now I’m in a coma, and my adrenals are lazy.

My prognosis looks so terribly bleak. How strong will my family be? Or how weak?

Am I allowed to die? Will you all fall apart? Will you succumb to the pain of your breaking hearts?

A few days later, it comes, a faint beacon of light. Can a miracle save me from this morbid plight?

Slowly but surely from the ventilator I’m withdrawn, and most of my organs start to turn back on!

I lay in this bed, comatose still. Reality sets in, but survive, yes I will!

I hesitantly, emerge from my sleep to hallucinations, pain, a machine’s constant beep.

I wonder, what could have happened to me? I was out for two weeks—how could that be?

I’m hurriedly transported to a new room, but I cannot sit up or hold on to a spoon.

Surrounded by so many balloons, gifts, and flowers, and cards that I read for hours and hours.

Everyone is here rejoicing my life, while knowing my future holds plenty of strife.

Just lying here the pain is so bad, it seems unbearable for my mom and my dad.

My body’s covered with open wounds that need care. An open bed in pediatrics? I’ll be right there.

My first ambulance ride reveals my yellow streak, and I need lots of help, because I’m so weak.

In my new room, tons of doctors I meet, their topic of interest—my gangrenous feet.

I finally see them completely unwrapped, “please be careful, and don’t touch them,” I snapped.

After surgery I’m left with no toes, heels, or skin, so I stayed alive—but did I really win?

Two months with surgery every other day, please let my parents and my brother be ok.

Eventually the big decision day comes—bilateral below knee amputee? Now I’m one.

abby2

So my life goes on and prosthetics I wear, but my family will never get over the scare.

There in that room . . . I was just 22, but oh how through the experience I grew!

Meningitis information I soon eagerly sought. I discovered that there’s a vaccine—what a thought!

The knowledge of inner beauty did finally come, and I realize, somehow, the battle I won!

But in my head, I know some will die, and many families will forever cry.

And in my heart, I am in disbelief that a shot could have prevented all of this grief!





A Thoughtful Choice

17 04 2014

I remember lining up at school in the ‘60s to get vaccinated against smallpox and a few other diseases for which there were vaccines.

I also remember the years when my brothers and I took turns at getting measles, mumps and other diseases for which there were no vaccines.

In the end, we three were fortunate—no permanent harm from our maladies.

Fast-forward 30 years. My daughter was four months old when she was diagnosed with hepatitis B. She had not been vaccinated and subsequently developed a chronic infection.

It all sounds mundane when read as words on a screen. But in those early years, the heartache and anger I felt at having my daughter’s life so affected by something that was preventable . . . well, it was almost more than I could bear.

But again, we were fortunate. After years of infection, her body turned around and got control of the disease. Although we have bloodwork done every year to keep an eye on things, she has a good chance of living the rest of her life free of complications from this infection.

Over the years, I’ve met other parents whose children were affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. Some, like Kelly and Shannon, chose not to vaccinate their kids and ended up with horrible consequences. Kelly’s son Matthew was hospitalized for Hib and they came within a breath of losing him. Shannon did lose her daughter Abigale to pneumococcal disease, and almost lost her son. He recovered and was released from the hospital, at which time they had a funeral for their daughter.

Because of my job, I talk to and hear from many families with similar stories. Some children have died, some remain permanently affected, and some have managed to recover.

Also because of my job, I hear from parents who believe vaccines are not safe, and that natural infections are the safer choice. I understand and have experienced the emotions we as parents feel when something happens to our children. In a way, I was lucky. I knew exactly what caused my daughter’s problems. A simple test provided a definite diagnosis.

If we can’t identify the cause of our children’s pain or suffering, we feel like we can’t fix it and we can’t rest until we know the truth. When the cause can’t be found, we latch onto if onlys. What could we have done differently to keep our kids safe? If only we hadn’t taken her to grandpa’s when she didn’t feel good. If only we hadn’t vaccinated him on that particular day. If only. The problem is, the if onlys are guesses and no more reliable routes to the facts than playing Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.

The deeper I go into the world of infections and disease prevention, the more obvious it is to me that the only way to find the facts is to follow the science. Now granted, one study will pop up that refutes another, but I’ve learned that when multiple, replicable studies all reach the same conclusion, then I can safely say I’ve found the facts.

In our family, we vaccinate because for us, it is the thoughtful choice.

By Trish Parnell

Originally posted on Parents Who Protect





TB Today

24 03 2014

Tuberculosis. Sounds old-timey to me, a disease not of this century.

My 87-year-old uncle had TB when he was a teenager. He was sent to a sanatorium and came back about a year later, more or less healthy.

In those days, TB was the leading cause of death for teens and young adults. He was lucky to survive it.

Today, TB hasn’t dropped down the list much. It’s still a killer, and holds the number two spot in the world for leading cause of death from infectious disease.

One million kids get sick from TB each year. The World Health Organization says that in 2012, about 8.6 million people developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease.

We talked about the details of TB on this blog last June. Today, let’s watch a story unfold. This is Chapter One of EXPOSED – four short films by Aeras TB.

 

 

 

By Trish Parnell

 





A Brother’s Love

14 03 2014

My older brother, Evan, and I were 12 1/2 months apart.  We were the “twins” who weren’t really twins, but who shared a bond so close, that I still can’t believe he is gone.

I never needed to worry about having friends around, because I always had Evan.  We both loved sports, and I have the greatest memories of growing up playing baseball, soccer, and basketball together.  It was a great family time, and one I hope to impart to my children.

Evan wanted to be a pitcher on a college baseball team, and my dad took him around to different colleges in Georgia.  After tryouts at Georgia Southwestern University, Evan was asked to join the team as a walk-on player.

Me and Evan

Me and Evan

He was at a small university, but he loved it and loved his team.  I was attending the University of Georgia, and I was so proud of my brother for following his dream.  Both of us had plans to become orthopedic sports physicians and practice medicine together.  We would get married, our children would not only be cousins but best friends—everything was planned out, everything was in motion.

Then, Evan came down with a violent migraine, so we thought.

The ER physicians diagnosed him as having a “little virus,” but it wasn’t a “little virus.”  It was bacterial meningitis, or more specifically, “meningococcal disease.” My parents were told he had a 5% chance of survival.

I can only imagine, now that I am a parent myself, what horror they must have felt hearing that their son might die.  I was on spring break with some friends in Florida, and my parents couldn’t reach me until much later that night.  I immediately left to drive to the hospital where Evan was being treated.

In a spirit of youthful optimism, I felt that if Evan knew I was by his bedside, he would rally, just as each of us could always get the other one to rally.

But this horrible disease was stronger than all of the prayers and love being sent to Evan.  My parents and I watched the disease ravage Evan’s body,  as gangrene set in on his arms and legs.  We watched the machines monitoring Evan, willing the numbers to be stable, for some sign of improvement.

As Evan was transferred to a third hospital, a burn unit, we were told that Evan had a 1% chance of survival.  I remember asking my mom about life after death.  I didn’t understand how my brother could be so sick.  Evan went in for surgery to try to save his life, and both arms and legs were amputated.

That still wasn’t enough.

I watched my brother, in a medically induced coma, lie in bed with stumps, his face and body bloated from kidney failure.  I cried, I prayed, I begged.  I would go listen to music in my car, to try to escape from the reality of what was happening.

Then, Evan suffered 10 hours of grand mal seizures, and that caused irreversible brain swelling, and a herniated brain stem.

My brother, who I loved so much, was brain dead.

We all watched as Evan was disconnected from life support, flat-lined, and carried away in a body bag.  Those are my last images of my brother.

I missed that quarter of school, because Evan had been in the hospital almost a month.  When I went back, it was with a renewed determination to be a doctor.  I did get admitted to medical school, and when I graduated, I fist-pumped my arm, and said to myself, “Evan, I did this for both of us.”

I still talk to Evan, I still miss him so much, and I carry his memory with me everywhere.  My daughter’s middle name is Evan. When I got married, I did not have a best man, because that spot was reserved for Evan.

When my parents and I found out that Evan’s death could have been prevented with a vaccine, that was being routinely used in the military, it just made no sense.  Why hadn’t any of us been told about the vaccine?

Needless to say, I am a staunch vaccine advocate, and as a primary care physician, I make sure that all of my patients are up-to-date on all CDC-recommended vaccinations.

It really is your choice, and your life. Take control and protect yourself against infections by getting immunized.

by Ryan Bozof





Baby Armor

6 03 2014

And now, a timely reminder from CDC:PSA-superbaby

It’s easy for parents to think of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles or whooping cough as issues of the past, but we know that most of these diseases still persist around the world.

Just last year a higher than normal number of measles cases were reported in the U.S., including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996.

Making sure children get all of their vaccines is the most important thing parents can do to protect them from 14 serious childhood diseases before their second birthday. And CDC has created a series of print PSAs encouraging just that (including an adorable  super baby version).

CDC also has immunization schedules available for all ages and a handy scheduling tool that allows you to enter your child’s birth date and print out a custom copy of his or her personal immunization schedule.

As winter begins to fade and a new spring season starts creeping up, don’t forget to schedule your pediatrician’s visits and discuss vaccinations with your doctor. Let’s give our little super heroes the best protection we can.








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