June 2024: Vaccines and Infectious Diseases in the News

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Find information about the latest vaccines and infectious diseases that have been in the news.

H5N1 Influenza virus

A type of influenza virus, known as H5N1, has been infecting poultry and dairy cattle. These infections are troublesome for their direct effect on the animals as well as their ripple effects on the economy, given the commodities they contribute to the national marketplace and as exports. For example, in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cattle and calves, poultry and eggs, and dairy accounted for about $220 billion of the $258.5 billion made in U.S. and international sales of animal-related farm products. Exports of related products in 2023 were valued at more than $34 billion.

Recently, a small number of isolated cases of people infected with H5N1 have been covered by the media. In the U.S. cases, each individual had worked with infected dairy cattle. However, after our collective experience with COVID-19, these reports have led to questions and concerns about whether this strain of influenza could cause a pandemic.

In this short video, Dr. Offit addresses the history and science related to H5N1 influenza viruses, including what we need to watch for when it comes to whether this virus could cause a pandemic.

COVID-19 during the summer

Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are seasonal viruses, meaning they tend to cause infections starting sometime in the fall or winter and throughout the spring. However, they tend to settle down during late spring through early fall throughout the U.S. On the other hand, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has not (yet) become seasonal, so while cases have declined dramatically in recent weeks, people continue to be infected with the virus.

While advisors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently chose a strain of SARS-CoV-2 to update COVID-19 vaccines for the fall, some people have still wondered whether they should be concerned about their levels of protection between now and the fall, especially with summer travel increasing.

In this video, Dr. Offit addresses the CDC recommendations for those 65 years and older, and he also discusses considerations for those younger than 65 years of age who are considered to be at high risk for severe disease if they get COVID-19, including people with chronic conditions of the heart, lungs or kidneys; those with diabetes or obesity; and those who are immune-compromised, such as from taking immune-suppressive medications.

Measles

More than 150 cases of measles have been diagnosed in the U.S. as of early June. Of these, almost half have been in children younger than 5 years of age, and about 8 of every 10 have been in unvaccinated people or individuals whose vaccination status is unknown. See "Measles Cases and Outbreaks" from the CDC.

To find out more about measles and the vaccine, check these VEC resources:

Vaccines and chronic diseases

Some people have wondered whether vaccines have caused an increase in chronic diseases. The short answer is no, but it is helpful to understand more about how we know this to be the case. A recent article in the VEC’s Parents PACK newsletter addressed three common talking points related to this issue. Check out “Do Vaccines Cause Chronic Diseases?" to learn more.

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