Teen tells Senate why he defied his mom to get vaccinated
By LAURAN NEERGAARD
AP Medical Writer
Wednesday, March 6
WASHINGTON (AP) — An Ohio teen defied his mother’s anti-vaccine beliefs and started getting his shots when he turned 18 — and told Congress on Tuesday that it’s crucial to counter fraudulent claims on social media that scare parents.
Ethan Lindenberger of Norwalk, Ohio, said his mother’s “love, affection and care is apparent,” but that she was steeped in online conspiracies that make him and his siblings vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases like the ongoing measles outbreaks.
“I grew up under my mother’s beliefs that vaccines are dangerous,” Lindenberger told a Senate health committee. He’d show her scientific studies but said she instead turned to illegitimate sources that “instill fear into the public.”
Last December, despite his mother’s disapproval and realizing that “my school viewed me as a health threat,” Lindenberger began catching up on his missed immunizations. He told lawmakers it’s important “to inform people about how to find good information” and to remind them how dangerous these diseases really are.
This year is shaping up to be a bad one for measles as already, the U.S. has counted more than 200 cases in 11 states — including about 70 in an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest.
Measles is one of the most contagious viruses, able to be spread through coughs and sneezes for four days before someone develops the characteristic rash. It’s dangerous: 1 in 20 patients get pneumonia, and 1 in 1,000 get brain swelling that can lead to seizures, deafness or intellectual disability. While deaths are rare in the U.S., measles killed 110,000 people globally in 2017 — and unvaccinated Americans traveling abroad, or foreign visitors here, can easily bring in the virus.
The vaccine is highly effective and very safe, John Wiesman, Washington state’s health secretary, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.
In fact, a massive 10-year study of more than 650,000 children born in Denmark offered fresh reassurance that there’s no risk of autism from the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine. An autism-vaccine link was long ago exposed as a fraud but still is cited by vaccine opponents. In Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday, researchers compared vaccinated and unvaccinated tots and concluded: “Our study does not support that MMR vaccination increases the risk for autism, triggers autism in susceptible children or is associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”
In the U.S., more than 90 percent of the population nationally is properly vaccinated but there are pockets of the country, including in Wiesman’s hard-hit state, where fewer children get immunized on time or at all. They in turn are a hazard to people who can’t get vaccinated — babies who are too young or people with weak immune systems.
Vaccination against a list of diseases is required to attend school, but 17 states, including Ohio, allow some type of non-medical exemption for “personal, moral or other beliefs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The hearing came a day after the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Pinterest to better counter vaccine misinformation spread through their sites.
“We have an opportunity, and in my view, an obligation, to work together to solve this public health crisis,” wrote Dr. Kyle Yasuda, the group’s president.
Lindenberger created national headlines after he posted on Reddit several months ago that, “my parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme” and “god knows how I’m still alive.” He asked how to go about getting vaccinated on his own.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a how-to-list for youths ages 7 to 18 who’ve missed childhood shots.
Lindenberger’s mother, Jill Wheeler, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that that she was proud of how her son carried himself even though “I didn’t agree with anything he said.” Wheeler said she feared her children having a bad reaction if they were vaccinated, and questioned why a teen was given a national platform to discuss the topic. “They’ve made him the poster child for the pharmaceutical industry,” she said.
Tuesday, the high school senior told the Senate panel that parents aren’t the only ones who need better education. “Most of my friends didn’t even understand they could get vaccinated despite their parents’ wishes,” Lindenberger said.
AP reporter John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Are viruses the best weapon for fighting superbugs?
March 6, 2019
Author: David Pride, Associate Director of Microbiology, University of California San Diego
Contributor: Chandrabali Ghose, Visiting Scientist, The Rockefeller University
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Antibiotics won the battle against resistant bacteria, but they may not win the war.
You probably know that antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs, have hampered physicians’ ability to treat infections. You may also be aware that there has been a steep decline in the number of new antibiotics coming to market. Some headlines suggest humanity is doomed by antimicrobial resistance; even politicians and governments have weighed in, comparing rising antimicrobial resistance to other popular crises such as climate change. Although I believe these assertions are exaggerated, antimicrobial resistance is a serious problem.
I am a physician scientist with a specialty in infectious diseases. I have been fascinated by the role that bacteria play in human health, and the potential for using viruses to treat bacterial infections.
What causes antimicrobial resistance?
One significant factor contributing to antimicrobial resistance is the excessive use of antibiotics. In the U.S., where antibiotics are widely available, some patients demand these drugs for many different illnesses. Many physicians appease their patients because they don’t understand when and when not to use them and because there is no regulatory structure to limit their use. Anyone with a prescription pad can prescribe any antibiotic to treat any condition and rarely, if ever, face any consequences. There are some efforts to reduce antibiotic use, but the scope of the problem in the U.S. remains large.
Some countries, such as Sweden, use incentives to encourage doctors to improve antibiotic uses. But there is no counterpart for this system in U.S. hospitals and clinics.
The problem goes beyond humans; 70 percent of all antibiotics are actually used on animals. This means that humans can be exposed to antibiotics by just handling animal products. The drumstick you are preparing for dinner might also have antibiotic-resistant bacteria tagging along.
Once antimicrobial resistance develops in a bacterium, it doesn’t always go away. For example, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) evolved resistance to multiple different antibiotics; yet, despite efforts to reduce its spread by limiting the use of antibiotics that led to its emergence, MRSA still persists in hospitals and the community.
An alternative to antibiotics
Another reason for finding alternatives to antibiotics is that we share our microbes with the people and pets who live around us; thus, others can acquire one of these superbugs without ever taking an antibiotic.
A not-so-obvious reason for developing new therapies is that our bodies are home to a large community of microorganisms, including bacteria, called our microbiome. These microorganisms are necessary to maintain our health. Those same antibiotics that kill harmful bacteria also kill the good ones.
There is an alternative to antibiotics, but it was dismissed by medicine years ago.
The original phage therapy story
That alternative was something called phage therapy, which uses viruses that infect bacteria, called bacteriophages, to kill disease-causing bacteria. Bacteriophages, or phages, were used frequently in the early- and pre- antibiotic eras between the 1920s and ‘40s to treat life-threatening infections.
But phage therapy had many disadvantages. The first was that phages were unpredictable. One type of phage might wipe out the bad bacteria in one individual but not another. So hospitals had to keep a broad collection of phages to kill disease-causing bacteria from all their patients. An antibiotic such as vancomycin, by comparison, predictably kills entire groups of bacteria.
Another downside is that phage collections require maintenance. So not only did hospitals have to keep a large variety of phages on hand, but they had to keep them in shape. So medicine chose antibiotics for convenience, and hadn’t looked back in any meaningful way, until recently.
Making a comeback?
So, why is phage therapy making a comeback? Antibiotic resistance is an obvious answer, but doesn’t explain the full story.
As a specialist in infectious diseases, I have been interested in phage therapy as long as I can remember, but only recently have I felt comfortable saying this out loud. Why? A physician might be considered a “quack” just for mentioning phage therapy because the early attempts were neither a rousing success or a colossal failure. Like any therapeutic, it had its strengths and weaknesses.
However, now scientific advances can guide us toward which phage is best for destroying a particular microbe. With the rising antimicrobial resistance crisis, physicians and scientists have a well-timed opportunity to work together to develop effective phage therapies.
The proof of this comes from recent landmark phage therapy cases. The successful treatment of a physician with a life-threatening infection and a grave prognosis caused by a multi-drug resistant bacterium at my institution serves as a great example. Another pivotal case circulating in popular media has kept this trend going. We physicians may be able to treat just about any disease-causing bacterium; it is just a matter of finding a suitable phage.
A big part of phage therapy research is devoted to “phage hunting,” where we microbiologists scour the soil, the oceans and the human body to identify phages with the potential to kill the bacteria that ail us. While the pace of these studies has been slow, the new research is revealing the therapeutic potential of phages in medicine.
You might think that with all the phage hunting and landmark cases that we would start using phage therapy all the time, but we don’t.
The case for using phages
One advantage of antibiotics is that since they have been used for decades, we know a lot about their safety. Physicians make simple calculations every day about the risk-benefit ratio of using antibiotics, but aren’t equipped to make the same calculations about phages. Does anyone really want a doctor injecting them with a virus to cure a bacterial infection? I doubt that would be anyone’s choice when the question is posed that way.
But, remember that phages are natural. They’re on every surface of your body. They are in the ocean and soil, and in your toilet and sink. They are literally everywhere. Thus, putting a phage into your body to kill a bacterium quite frankly is something that nature does to us every single day, and as far as we know, we are no worse for the wear.
Phages are estimated to kill half the world’s bacteria every 48 hours and are probably the most potent antibacterial agents out there. Is there really a compelling reason to be concerned when a doctor gives us a phage instead of us acquiring that same phage from our sink at home? Only time will tell. Unfortunately, as antimicrobial resistance continues to rise, time may not be on our side.
Jon Richfield, logged in via Facebook: I am a great fan of phages and the potential for engineering them, using them not only against bacteria, but also fungi, and possibly even some of the larger viruses, but it seems to me that their use in combination with some of the antibacterial chemicals such as antibiotics, should be of interest as well.
For example, if an antibiotic excludes or reduces the risk of secondary infections while the phage controls a primary infection of plague or TB, or kills an emerging strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria during phage treatment, that might be of value, shouldn’t it?
Woman accused of swaying boy to kill dad makes plea deal
By JOHN SEEWER
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman who won a new trial after being sentenced to life in prison for convincing her 10-year-old adopted son to kill his father entered a plea to lesser charges.
A judge sentenced Judith Hawkey last week to 10 years in prison, including the more than five she already has served.
Hawkey, 52, had been scheduled to go on trial this week in the mysterious 2003 shooting death of her husband. But instead, she entered an Alford plea to involuntary manslaughter and child endangering charges.
The plea means she did not admit guilt, but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her. Hawkey’s attorney declined to comment.
A state appeals court in 2016 ordered a second trial for Hawkey because it said testimony shouldn’t have been allowed from three witnesses.
Defiance County Prosecutor Morris Murray said Tuesday that he agreed to the plea deal because he wanted to make sure his office secured a conviction tying Hawkey to her husband’s death.
“We felt strongly she was definitely involved and had a substantial influence over the child,” he said. “There was no question this was not an accidental shooting.”
Several factors, including the appeals court ruling, would have made getting a second conviction more difficult, he said.
The appeals court judges said there was enough evidence for a conviction at Hawkey’s first trial, but they also called the case a not overwhelming one — saying everything originated from her adopted son, Corey Breininger.
It was the son who came home from elementary school in 2003 and fired the shot that killed his father, Robert Breininger, at their house outside Defiance, near the Indiana state line.
The shooting initially was ruled an accident and stayed that way for nearly a decade until Corey Breininger told a former teacher, and then investigators, that Hawkey persuaded him to kill his father because he was dying and to make it look like an accident.
Corey Breininger was never charged in the case.
A jury convicted Hawkey of aggravated murder and insurance fraud in 2013. Authorities had concluded that Hawkey used the boy to kill her husband and collect a $500,000 insurance payout, noting later that she had started the paperwork the day after the shooting.
But Hawkey’s attorneys argued there were many inconsistencies in Corey Breininger’s story.
Among the issues raised was that he told an investigator that Hawkey had beaten him for years and that she had tried to kill him several times.
Hawkey’s former defense attorney said that a social worker who visited the house before the shooting saw no signs of abuse and that medical records did not back up those claims.
Before Hawkey was sentenced in 2013, she said Corey Breininger shot his father because they had decided to send him to a military school and he didn’t want to go.
“He made up the whole story,” she said then. “I will be back for another time because I did not do this.”
State Representative Erica C. Crawley appointed to Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality
COLUMBUS—State Rep. Erica C. Crawley (D-Columbus) today (March 5)shared news of her recent appointment to the Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality, a bipartisan panel tasked with decreasing the state’s infant mortality rate.
“I am excited to work with my colleagues to decrease our state’s infant mortality rate through providing better pre- and post-natal care and increasing affordable housing, home visitation, and access to transportation,” said Rep. Crawley. “Although we have seen an overall decrease in the number infant deaths, it is time we make tackling infant mortality a priority and focus increased resources on addressing the racial disparities in birth outcomes for African American babies.”
Rep. Crawley will join a bipartisan, bicameral team of legislators, designees from executive agencies and representatives from Ohio’s hospitals and community-based programs. Formed in 2014, the goal of the commission is to improve Ohio’s infant mortality rate to help more Ohio babies celebrate their first birthdays.
In the Ohio Department of Health’s 2017 Ohio Infant Mortality Study, black babies had an infant mortality rate three times that of white babies. Ohio has the second highest infant mortality rate in the nation.
Trout Releases Scheduled to Begin 3/1/2019 Ohio DNR in Wildlife
COLUMBUS, OH – More than 100,000 rainbow trout will be stocked this spring in 66 Ohio public lakes, creating excellent fishing for anglers across Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The first rainbow trout release is scheduled for Friday, March 8, at Adams Lake in Adams County.
Rainbow trout releases will take place across Ohio from March 8-May 19 as long as areas are ice-free and accessible to anglers. Information about the trout releases, including updates to the schedule due to weather and stocking locations, is available at wildohio.gov or by calling 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).
By stocking these lakes throughout the state, good fishing is available for anglers of all ages to get out and enjoy quality spring trout fishing in a family-friendly environment. Many stocked locations will feature special angler events, including youth-only fishing on the day of the trout release.
Rainbow trout are raised at Ohio’s state fish hatcheries and measure 10-13 inches when they are stocked by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The daily catch limit for inland lakes is five trout.
Anglers age 16 and older must have an Ohio fishing license to fish in state public waters. Ohio fishing licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. An annual resident fishing license costs $19. A one-day fishing license costs $11. The one-day license may also be redeemed for credit toward the purchase of an annual fishing license.
Licenses and permits can be purchased online at wildohio.gov and at participating agents throughout the state. A complete list of participating license sales agents can be found at wildohio.gov.
Sales of fishing licenses along with the federal Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program continue to fund the operation of the Division of Wildlife’s fish hatcheries. No state tax dollars are used for this activity. This is a user-pay, user-benefit program.
The SFR program is a partnership between federal and state government, industry, anglers and boaters. When anglers purchase rods, reels, fishing tackle, fish finders and motor boat fuel, they pay an excise tax. The federal government collects these taxes, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers and disburses these funds to state fish and wildlife agencies. These funds are used to acquire habitat, produce and stock fish, conduct research and surveys, provide aquatic education to youth, and secure and develop boat accesses.
For a list of trout stocking dates and locations, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/trout-stocking-dates.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.