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Lab Mom

Lab Mom spent 15 years as a Lab Manager in Academia before off-tracking in 2010 to stay at home with her two daughters. She blogs about the juggling act of motherhood and a science career, which encompasses a lot more then the cliche work-life balance.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

In light of my recent bout of an easily preventable illness, the topic of Haiti's cholera outbreak and what can be done to prevent it from becoming an epidemic seems timely.

It appears a debate has started over the effectiveness of a large scale vaccination program and whether or not it is worth attempting.  Dr. Paul Farmer's commentary in The Lancet (as well as additional articles in this week's New England Journal of Medicine) pushing for the use of vaccinations is in opposition to the views of the Pan-American Health Organization who feel a vaccination program would be too difficult and costly.

The whole thing reminds me of the "Starfish" story where a little boy is throwing stranded starfish back into the sea, and although there are so many he will knows he will only save a few. When questioned about why he even bothers his response is "Because I have made a difference to this one."

That is also my outlook on the Cholera vaccination attempt.  Even if you only vaccinate 1 million people (the number of vaccination doses the PAHO has 'stumbled' upon), out of the 10 million people who live in Haiti, to those million you have prevented possible (or perhaps even probable) illness and death.  An although clearly it will not be the magic solution, it is something that can be taken on proactively and preventatively, before people are in crisis.

It has become apparent that what the PAHO is already doing (sanitation and hygiene education as well as isolation and treatment of the infected) is not working,  It is time to change the game plan.

Granted, even with a vaccination program in place there will be many hurdles to overcome. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't make the attempt.  All we can do is walk down the beach and start tossing those starfish back into the sea.  One by one.  Even if vaccination can't entirely stop the spread of cholera, every time an individual gets the vaccine, we have made a difference to that person.

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Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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This is kind of like that old rotavirus vaccine problem.  When rotashield first came out there was small fraction of children in the US who experienced intussusception (folding up of the intestines) and the vaccine was pulled from shelves.  The risk of intussusception was 1:10,000 for children who recieved the vaccine and the condition is not immediately life threatening and treatable.  The problem is that the number of children afflicted with Rotavirus in undeveloped countries is significantly higher and include mortalities.  However, since Rotashiled was pulled in the US due to intussusception, US sales could not be used to subsidize its use in undeveloped countries.  So I guess to make a long story short...a lot of children suffered because a few children in the US had to stay in the hospital an extra night.

Jennette Green

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It is not an easy task to be amongst those saving humanity from disasters! Cholera is deadly but it is very much preventable! Thanks for the wonderful works you guys are doing!

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