Invisible Threat

21 04 2014

One hundred trillion bacteria live on the surface of your body. And on mine.

We’re all teeming with germs so small, they’re invisible to our eyes.

For the most part, we coexist in peace and sometimes with mutual benefit. But, there are microbes lurking that bring pestilence with them.

They pose an invisible threat to me, to you, and possibly, to humankind.

A couple of years ago, a respected group of award-winning student filmmakers was asked to take a look at infectious diseases and the brouhaha erupting around vaccines. They declined, until they saw firsthand what happens to puppies when dog owners choose not to vaccinate against parvovirus.

The students then decided to investigate vaccines for humans, and the diseases vaccines prevent. They wanted to find out if there is cause for parents to refuse to vaccinate their children against potentially deadly diseases.

They wanted to answer the question: Are children safer vaccinated or unvaccinated?

Invisible Threat is the film that came out of their investigation. In 40 fast-moving minutes, this documentary drills into the science of disease transmission and the results of infection, and the safety and efficacy behind the design and manufacture of vaccines.

The students spoke with families, scientists, and experts who spilled onto the screen a thick soup of facts and fears, science and emotion.

At the end of their extensive research, the students were satisfied that they’d found the answer to their question. Children, and indeed all of us, are safer vaccinated.

This film is available for screenings. If you would like to show this film in your community, contact producer Lisa Posard: InvisibleThreatInfo@gmail.com

At some point in the near future, the film will be available for anyone to view online. We will let you know when that happens.

The student filmmakers are all a part of Carlsbad High School’s Broadcast Journalism Class (CHSTV), but CHSTV Films is an extracurricular program outside the class. Their teacher is Doug Green, who also directs the films.

Lisa Posard is an award-winning documentary producer and education advocate. She is a former President of the Board of The Carlsbad Educational Foundation, Chair of a successful $198 million school bond political campaign, and PTA President.

She now utilizes her advocacy background to give teens the opportunity to create peer-to-peer educational films. Her first film won international acclaim for teaching tolerance and anti-bullying by documenting teens discovering the lessons of the Holocaust as they interviewed survivors, visited concentration camp memorials, and spoke with German teens with Nazi grandparents. The Dachau Memorial Museum, National Holocaust Museum, ADL, and schools across the country have used the film with curriculum as an educational resource.

The second film documents hunger in the U.S. and was used for an advocacy campaign by Feeding America. That campaign blossomed into a national teen anti-hunger charity featured in PEOPLE Magazine. The film won numerous awards, was televised, and continues to be utilized by hunger organizations to spread awareness. Lisa is the mother of three teenagers. Her oldest daughter wrote Invisible Threat.

In recognition of the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1st, we are participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of this important issue.  Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC.  Follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

You have the ability to make a difference in our fight against infectious diseases.  Follow our Invisible Threat Blog Relay and find out how you can be a part of the movement.   Tomorrow’s post will be hosted by Shot of Prevention and will provide details about how you can help ensure your elected representative takes the time to see this important film on May 1st.    

 

by Trish Parnell





Sports and Infectious Diseases – Part 2 of 3

10 04 2013

bloodborneWhat risk does an athlete with a bloodborne pathogen pose?

The American Academy of Pediatrics tackled this difficult issue in December, 1999, with a policy statement on HIV and Other Bloodborne Viral Pathogens in the Athletic Setting.  In it, the Academy made clear, “Because of the low probability of transmission of their infection to other athletes, athletes infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C should be allowed to participate in all sports.”

That participation, however, assumes all athletes and coaches will follow standard precautions to prevent and minimize exposure to bloodborne viruses.  The Academy tackled each infectious disease individually:

HIV: The risk of HIV infection via skin or mucous membrane exposure to blood or other infectious bodily fluids during sports participation is very low . . . such transmission appears to require, in addition to a portal of entry, prolonged exposure to large quantities of blood.  Transmission through intact skin has not been documented: no HIV infections occurred after 2,712 such exposures in 1 large prospective study.  Transmission of HIV in sports has not been documented.  One unsubstantiated report describes possible transmission during a collision between professional soccer players.

Hepatitis B: HBV [hepatitis B virus] is more easily transmitted via exposure to infected blood than is HIV . . . the risk of infection [is] greater if the blood [is] positive for HBV e antigen . . . transmission of infection by contamination of mucous membranes or broken skin with infected blood has been documented, but the magnitude of risk has not been quantified.

Although transmission of HBV is apparently rare in sports, 2 reports document such transmission.  An asymptomatic high school sumo wrestler who had a chronic infection transmitted HBV to other members of his team.  An epidemic of HBV infection occurred through unknown means among Swedish athletes participating in track finding (orienteering).  The epidemiologists concluded that the most likely route of infection was the use of water contaminated with infected blood to clean wounds caused by branches and thorns.

An effective way of preventing HBV transmission in the athletic setting is through immunization of athletes.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children and adolescents be immunized.  Clinicians and the staff of athletic programs should aggressively promote immunization.

Hepatitis C: Although the transmission risks of HCV infection are not completely understood, the risk of infection from percutaneous [through the skin] exposure to infected blood is estimated to be 10 times greater than that of HIV but lower than that of HBV.  Transmission via contamination of mucous membranes or broken skin also probably has a risk intermediate between that for blood infected with HIV and HBV.

“There is clearly no basis for excluding any student from sports if they are infected,” said Dr. Steven J. Anderson, who was chair of the Academy’s Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness when it drafted the Academy’s policy, “and we should also try to protect the confidentiality of each athlete.”

Dr. Anderson, a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington and a team doctor for many high school athletic teams, ballet companies and the U.S. Olympic Diving Team, suggests students should have access to any sport, except boxing, which the Academy opposes for all youths because of its physical risks.

“I personally feel parents have no obligation to disclose the infectious status of their children to anyone,” said Dr. Anderson.  Strict compliance with standard precautions is critical for this open-embrace of all athletes, regardless of their infectious status.  Coaches and teachers must have a plan in place to handle blood spills, said Dr. Anderson, including latex [or non-permeable] gloves, occlusive dressings, appropriate sterilizing solutions, disposal bags and even a printed protocol for coaches, athletes and officials.

The following is an excerpt of a sample school policy, used by numerous public school districts and in compliance with ADA that addresses HIV infection:

“The privilege of participating in physical education classes, programs, competitive sports and recess is not conditional on a person’s HIV status.  School authorities will make reasonable accommodations to allow students living with HIV infection to participate in school-sponsored physical activities.

“All employees must consistently adhere to infection control guidelines in locker rooms and all play and athletic settings.  Rulebooks will reflect these guidelines.  First aid kits and standard precautions equipment must be on hand at every athletic event.

“All physical education teachers and athletic program staff will complete an approved first aid and injury prevention course that includes implementation of infection control guidelines.  Student orientation about safety on the playing field will include guidelines for avoiding HIV infection.”

In addition to the Academy, several sports and other health organizations have also weighed in on this issue.  According to the NCAA, National Football League (NFL) and World Health Organization, athletes with HIV should be permitted to participate in all competitive sports at all levels.

These organizations all endorse immunization against hepatitis B for all athletes.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) echoes Dr. Anderson’s suggestion that coaches, trainers, athletic directors, school officials and others take the lead in educating themselves, their teams, parents and their communities about the importance of effective disease prevention.

Trainers and coaches, they suggest, should provide the following information in age-appropriate terms to all participants before or during any competition :

  • The risk of transmission or infection during competition.
  • The risk of transmission or infection generally.
  • The availability of HIV testing (for teens and adults).
  • The availability of hepatitis B vaccination and testing (for parents, teens and adults).

“Athletic trainers who have educational program responsibility should extend educational efforts to include those, such as the athletes’ families and communities, who are directly or indirectly affected by the presence of bloodborne pathogens in athletic competitions,” the NATA stated in a position paper.

See PKIDs’ Infectious Disease Workshop for more information.

Photo courtesy of Lolie Smith





Infectious Diseases Start to Spread

16 05 2011

If we could see millennia into the past, before people started forming societies, we would probably see them living isolated from one another—nomadic in nature.  This lifestyle was a natural barrier to the spread of infectious disease.  But, when they started clustering together, planting crops and staying in one place, infectious diseases surfaced and became lethal foes of humanity.

Cities grew, people started traveling for business, soldiers traveled for war, and they were all prime candidates to be carriers of disease.  Just as in the recent past, when the Native American population was decimated by the diseases brought in by the Europeans, so too have populations in the past two thousand years been seriously affected by a disease’s introduction into their society.  Bayer Pharmaceutical’s A Brief History of Infectious Disease illustrates this phenomenon:

430 BC, the plague of Athens resulted from 200,000 inhabitants and villagers fleeing into Athens when threatened by the Spartans.  An unidentified infectious agent, from Ethiopia via Egypt, killed one-third of this population and ended the Golden Age of Athens.

166 AD, the Antonine plague was brought to Rome from Syria by returning Roman troops.  The plague had been introduced to Syria from India by the marauding Huns.  The plague (probably smallpox, bubonic plague, and measles) devastated the Roman Empire, killing 4–7 million people throughout Europe.  The resulting social and political upheaval led to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Circa 160 AD, bubonic plague (‘Barbarian boils’) carried by invaders from the north, led to the collapse of the Han Empire in China.

1346 to 1350, the bubonic plague pandemic started in China and moved along the trade routes through South Russia to the Crimea, which was besieged at the time.  This bubonic plague killed more than one-third of the population of Europe.

1492, influenza, smallpox, tuberculosis and gonorrhea began when Columbus went to the Caribbean.  The local inhabitants did not have immunity to these endemic European infections, and as a consequence, many of the people on the island of Hispaniola (where Columbus first set foot in the New World) died.  Replacement of the population by African slaves introduced African infectious diseases such as malaria and yellow fever into the Caribbean and Americas, which, in turn, killed many European settlers.

1542, bubonic plague started in Egypt, killed 40 percent of the population of Constantinople, and spread all over Europe.

Early trading period, blackwater fever (malaria), yellow fever, bloody flux (dysentery), and worm infestations made trading with the continent of Africa difficult.  The impact on travelers and soldiers was so severe that Africa was called ‘the white man’s grave.’

16th century, similarly devastating epidemics with European and then African infections – introduced by the Spanish into Central and South America.  After the Spanish invasion, the population of Mexico decreased by 33 percent in 10 years and by 95 percent in 75 years.

As trade journeys lengthened, chronic infections such as tuberculosis and venereal diseases were introduced by European sailors to the Pacific islands, which lost 95 percent of their population as a result.

Present time, even during the past few decades, there has been a resurgence of epidemics such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the United States and AIDS, genital herpes, and chlamydia worldwide.

This is one in a series of excerpts from PKIDs’ Infectious Disease Workshop.  We hope you find the materials useful – the instructor’s text and activities are all free downloads. 

Photo credit: AJC1