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Health Highlights: May 21, 2013

Report Backs Park Service Response to Yosemite Virus Outbreak Great Britain in Throes of Measles Outbreak

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Report Backs Park Service Response to Yosemite Virus Outbreak

A federal probe into a deadly viral outbreak last year among campers at Yosemite National Park found that park officials acted appropriately.

Nine tourists staying at the California park fell ill with hantavirus and three died. An investigation traced the infections to deer mice nesting within the double walls of new tents in Yosemite's Curry Village family camping site, according to the Associated Press.

The new report from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General found that the National Park Service responded appropriately and according to department policy.

"When the outbreak was identified, NPS mobilized to contain and remediate the outbreak and to prevent further outbreaks," Mary Kendall, a deputy inspector general, wrote in a letter tied to the report, the AP reported.

Current park policy did not require that park officials approve design changes to the tents linked to the outbreak, the report found. However, the park service should initiate cyclical pest monitoring and inspections of public accommodations to minimize the threat, the report's authors said.

Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, the concessionaire responsible for the Curry Village tents, said it would adhere to the recommendations in the new report and is removing the type of tent cabin implicated in the outbreak.


Great Britain in Throes of Measles Outbreak

Great Britain is struggling with an unprecedented measles outbreak that health officials blame on a controversial and now-discredited study that linked the measles vaccine to autism.

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 1,200 cases of the potentially fatal disease so far this year, after a record number of nearly 2,000 cases last year. Britain once reported only several dozen cases every year, but now has the unwanted distinction of ranking second in Europe, behind only Romania, the Associated Press reported.

"This is the legacy of the Wakefield scare," said Dr. David Elliman, a spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, referring to a paper published in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues that has been widely rejected by scientists and retracted by the journal that originally published it.

Wakefield's study suggested a link between autism and the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine -- called the MMR. Britain's top medical board banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in the country, ruling that he and two of his colleagues showed a "callous disregard" for the children in the study, the AP reported.

Following publication of the study, rates of MMR immunization fell drastically across Great Britain as many worried parents chose not to have their children vaccinated. Rates plunged from more than 90 percent to 54 percent, the AP reported.

Now, almost 15 years after the MMR/autism controversy began, there's "this group of older children who have never been immunized who are a large pool of infections," Elliman said. The majority of those now getting sick -- including many older children and teens -- have never been vaccinated, the AP reported.

The outbreak has been centered in Wales. Immunization drives are under way there and in other parts of the country with a goal of immunizing 1 million children aged 10 to 16, the AP said.

Since the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, worldwide deaths from the disease have plunged about 70 percent. However, it's still one of the leading causes of death in children under 5, and it kills more than 150,000 people every year, mostly in developing countries, the AP reported.

In Britain, about 90 percent of children under 5 have been vaccinated against the rash-causing disease, which is very contagious. But for children now aged 10 to 16, the vaccination rate is below 50 percent in some parts of the country, the AP said.

In the United States, most states require children to be vaccinated against measles before starting school. Last year, there were 55 reported cases of measles in the United States, where the vaccination rate is above 90 percent, the news service reported.

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