Florida GOP senators defend DeSantis’ surgeon general amid measles outbreak

“The measles outbreak in Florida shows the further polarization of vaccines, one area that once had overwhelming consensus across political parties and throughout the U.S. The measles vaccine is especially effective in protecting against the virus and, according to the CDC, has led to a 99 percent decrease in the virus compared to the pre-vaccine era.”


Syphilis cases are skyrocketing across the U.S. Here’s what you need to know.

“Cases of syphilis continue to climb in the U.S. New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday found that, while syphilis cases made up a fraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S., new diagnoses are dramatically increasing. More than 200,000 cases of syphilis were diagnosed in 2022, marking a 17% increase from the previous year. That represents an 80% increase since 2018, part of a “decades-long upward trend,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Congenital syphilis — which is when the disease is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy — has also gone up. The CDC reported in November that about 3,700 babies tested positive for syphilis in the U.S. in 2022 — more than 10 times the number diagnosed a decade earlier — and 300 of them were stillborn or died soon after birth.

Why are syphilis cases on the rise? “There has been a consistent decrease in funding for sexual health services and programs throughout last couple of decades,” Kristen Krause, deputy director for the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies at the Rutgers School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Life. As a result, fewer people are aware of the disease and are tested for it, including women.

Syphilis isn’t the most common STI in the U.S.; that distinction goes to chlamydia. But it’s hard to ignore how quickly cases are increasing across the country. Syphilis isn’t as well known as other STIs, but experts say it should be on your radar.”


Why are so few people getting the latest Covid-19 vaccine?

“Experts say the public’s disinterest in the latest Covid shots is likely a combination of poor messaging from authorities, a diminishing fear about a virus that three years ago was wholly unknown, and the political polarization of the pandemic itself. But whatever the reasons, that vaccine ambivalence still poses a health threat.
Elderly people and very young infants continue to have a higher chance than the rest of the population that they will be hospitalized with Covid-19. Vaccination rates have fallen off for the former group, who are also most likely to die from an infection, and they were never strong to begin with for the latter”

“The known unknowns for the future, which could spur another round of investment and interest in updated Covid-19 vaccines, are biological. The virus has been evolving and will continue to evolve and could, in theory, reach a point where the current vaccines are ineffectual.

The other question mark is inside of us. The reason many people still enjoy protection from serious illness is because our body’s T-cells are familiar with the virus and can activate when they detect it. They may not be able to stop an infection entirely (that is the role of antibodies, which are quicker to fade) but they can stamp out the virus before a person becomes too sick.

What we don’t know today is how long our T cells’ memory will last, and how durable that immunity really is. The only way to find out is for more time to pass.”


Congenital syphilis jumped tenfold over the last decade

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling for “urgent action” to address a tenfold rise over the last decade in cases of congenital syphilis — when the life-threatening infection is passed to an infant during birth. The agency found that the vast majority of the cases, nearly 90 percent, could have been prevented with better access to testing and treatment, a warning sign that vulnerable people are falling through the cracks of the American medical system.”

“Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics, but if left untreated in pregnant people, the STD can cause stillbirth, miscarriage and infant death. Infants who don’t receive treatment could also develop blindness, deafness, developmental delays or skeletal abnormalities. In 2022, the infection caused 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths.
“It’s particularly difficult to get your head around the increases when we know that this is preventable,” Bachmann said. “If a pregnant person is screened and treated in a timely manner, we really should not have any syphilis in babies.””


‘I can’t believe we’re talking about polio in 2023’

“Former President Donald Trump’s administration marshaled unprecedented federal resources to develop and promote a Covid vaccine in record time. But within a few weeks of its arrival, lingering resentment over lockdowns and mistrust of government led to a widespread backlash, particularly among conservatives, that persists almost three years later. Nearly four in 10 Republicans say they will “definitely” or “probably” get the new vaccine, according to polling conducted by Morning Consult and POLITICO, while nearly eight in 10 Democrats expect to seek out the updated shot.
That skepticism is bleeding over into other vaccines, like those that prevent measles, mumps and rubella. Dr. Umair Shah, Washington state’s secretary of health, said it may even take the death of an influential figure to a vaccine-preventable disease to shock the public back to wider acceptance of immunizations.

“I’m really concerned, and a lot of people in public health and health care are very concerned, that this is the beginning of a really rough and tough time,” Shah said. “Unfortunately, people are going to get sick. We’re going to lose lives.”

For decades, being openly skeptical of vaccines made one a pariah in all but the smallest of political circles. Both parties generally accepted that modern science had made essential breakthroughs in health care. To cast doubt on them placed you on the fringe. But public health officials fear those days are increasingly numbered.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who notched 15 percent support in a Harvard-Harris poll of the Democratic presidential primary field earlier this month, is running on his anti-vaccine bona fides. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is campaigning on his work to promote “medical freedom” and has said he would put Kennedy on a task force to investigate government overreach in medicine if elected president. Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur also running for the Republican nomination, has touted his plans to “expose and ultimately gut” the FDA and floated Kennedy as a running mate.

While these candidates are trailing in the polls, their followings are certain to outlast the campaign. Lingering resentment over pandemic restrictions is fueling further skepticism around public health, potentially leading to even lower vaccination rates, wider spread of disease and an inability to address future pandemics.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in this pandemic because of the bad information about vaccines and treatments,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health and former White House Covid-19 response coordinator under the Biden administration. “I certainly am worried about what happens over the next three to five years.”

The data show the vast majority of Americans still trust science, listen to doctors and vaccinate their children. But the growing number of those who don’t threatens to undo generations of work combatting deadly and debilitating diseases that haven’t widely circulated for decades.”