Posts Tagged ‘polio’

Vaccinations help protect us against serious diseases

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

April 21-28 is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), a time to highlight the benefits and importance of immunizations. Vaccines are proven to be safe and effective. When your baby gets vaccinated, he receives protection against serious diseases, and the community is also protected from the spreading of infections to others.

What you need to know:

  • Immunizations help protect your baby’s health. In the first 2 years of life, your baby gets several vaccines to protect her from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis) and measles.
  • Vaccines help build immunity. Vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to help protect against diseases.
  • Vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals.
  • Getting more than one shot at a time won’t harm your baby. Your baby, even as a newborn, is exposed to many germs in the environment, his immune system can handle many shots at once.

Because vaccines protect against diseases that are not common anymore, you may wonder why you need to vaccinate your baby. These diseases are not common, but they still exist. When your baby receives a vaccine, you are protecting him from a serious disease and its complications, but you are also preventing the spread of these diseases.

Vaccines have protected many children from serious diseases for more than 50 years! And of course you would like to do everything possible to protect your baby. This includes making sure your baby’s vaccinations are up to date. This immunization schedule from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows each vaccine your baby needs up to 6 years. Make sure your baby doesn’t miss or skip any vaccines.

If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about what vaccines you may need. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant. Vaccines are needed throughout different stages in your life, especially before and during pregnancy.

 

Join the blog-a-thon for NIIW

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

niiw-blog-a-thon-badgeThis week is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), a time to talk about vaccines.

Do you remember mumps? How about chicken pox? For so many children, these are diseases they never had or will never get. But I remember them well – the incredible pain and swelling from mumps, the constant itching and scars from chicken pox, not to mention the many days of school that I missed. I knew kids who were hospitalized due to complications from both mumps and chickenpox.

Even my kids had chicken pox – one more severely than the other – as the vaccine was not yet available. How I wish they could have avoided that disease!

Rotavirus is another potentially very serious condition that most babies and children can avoid today. My daughter ended up in the hospital for two days due to complications from rotavirus – a very scary experience!

But perhaps the one that hits home the most for me is polio. The March of Dimes would not be here if it were not for this devastating disease. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted this paralyzing disease, he called on our organization to raise money in order to fund research to develop a vaccine. The March of Dimes is named for the dimes that were “marched” to Washington from countless people to fund research into finding a vaccine in time to spare any more men, women, children and babies from getting this crippling disease.

We were successful. The polio vaccine was rolled out to the public in 1955 as a result of the pioneering work of March of Dimes’ funded researchers Drs. Salk and Sabin.

Due to the development of this vaccine, polio is practically a part of world history. It no longer exists in America, and is almost totally eradicated in other parts of the world. When you stop to think about it, that is really AMAZING. This little vaccine prevents lifelong paralysis and pain in millions of people.

What started with combating polio has led March of Dimes to continue working hard to ensure all babies get a fighting chance for a healthy start in life.

But vaccines are not just for babies

As important as it is for babies and children to receive their vaccines, it’s also critical that adults who come in contact with children stay up-to-date with immunizations. For example, pertussis (whooping cough) can be fatal for a baby. When parents and caretakers get the vaccine, they are ensuring that their baby will be protected until he is old enough to be immunized. In fact, it is so important to get this vaccine that all pregnant women are recommended to receive the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.

There’s no doubt about it -even adults need vaccines. And women need them before, during and after pregnancy.

It would be a very different world without the lifesaving vaccines that have spared us from so many diseases. NIIW is a time to highlight the importance of protecting babies and children from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in the U.S.

We’re a healthier nation and world because of them.

Please share your support for childhood immunizations by participating in this week’s blog-a-thon. Here are the details.

 

Three quarters of a century young (yes – we’re 79 years old!)

Monday, December 19th, 2016

fdr-warm-springs-kidsIt’s that time of year, when magazines are full of stories and photos of the year in review, and people look back to take stock of their accomplishments. This post is taking it a step further…here is a celebration of our past 79 years!

Why the dimes? (we get this question a lot)

The March of Dimes was started in 1938 when Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was a time when polio was on the rise nationwide. The name for the fundraiser “March of Dimes” was coined by comedian and radio personality Eddie Cantor as a pun on a popular movie newsreel of the era, The March of Time. Cantor asked his radio audience to send dimes to the White House to help polio patients and support research. After billions of dimes were received, the organization became known as the March of Dimes. The end result of this effort was the development of the polio vaccines, which have almost completely rid the world of this disabling disease.

check in boxIt is very unusual for a nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission as completely as that of the March of Dimes. So, when the March of Dimes checked off the box on the successful development of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, we turned our focus to that of preventing birth defects and infant mortality. With thousands of birth defects on record, we’ve had our hands full.

Our work after polio

The March of Dimes has funded research looking for the underlying genetic causes of birth defects to help us better understand what can go wrong and hopefully how to prevent them. We’ve funded research into the development of surfactant therapy to treat breathing problems in premature infants, which has saved thousands of lives since 1990. We’ve successfully championed and promoted newborn screening so that more infants with devastating conditions are identified and treated in a timely manner; and we led the campaign to add folic acid to grain foods in the United States, thereby reducing serious birth defects of the brain and spine by 27%.

We began educating the public on how to have a healthy pregnancy by producing a robust website of articles, print materials, this blog, and using social media to help women understand what they can do to have a full-term, healthy baby. We began answering individual health questions from the public in 1996 and still continue to answer thousands of questions every year.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our work with babies, birth defects and infant mortality provided a natural transition into fighting premature birth, the number 1 cause of deathPassing the time while your baby is in the NICU among babies in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. Despite the advances in neonatal medicine, many babies still die, and the ones who survive often face a lifetime of disability – from mild to severe. In short, it is simply something that we knew we needed to fight.

So, in 2003 we launched our Prematurity Campaign. And in 2011, we launched the first of five prematurity research centers, each one staffed by the best and brightest scientists, and each one focused on a different aspect of prematurity. The best part of this 5-pronged approach is that the researchers all talk to one another and collaborate, encouraging synergy. Our goal is to be as successful with ending prematurity as we were with eliminating polio.

We also continued in the quest to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa flour in the U.S., and…drum roll please…we were successful this year! This is very important for the Hispanic community as corn masa flour is a staple for many Hispanic families. Fortifying corn masa flour products such as tortilla chips, tacos, and tamales, with folic acid will help prevent more devastating neural tube birth defects like Spina Bifida.

Wait…there’s more…

In the meantime, another related mission has surfaced – stopping the Zika virus. The devastating effects that Zika can have on a developing baby are well documented (microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and developmental delays).

The March of Dimes led a coalition of almost 100 organizations to educate Congress about the dangers of Zika and was successful in the passage of federal funding to combat the virus. We continue to raise awareness with our #ZAPzika campaign to let women know how to protect themselves. By working with the CDC, we‘re educating the public about this virus so that pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from Zika.

Yes. We’ve been very busy. The past 78 years have gone by quite fast.

Is there anything else in our future? Glad you asked!

A new March of Dimes President.

With the start of 2017, we will be under the leadership of President, Stacey D. Stewart, MBA, a woman of experience, intelligence, creativity and integrity. We’re so excited to welcome her.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

We are confident that under the leadership of Ms. Stewart, we will once again check off the box on a mission accomplished.

 

 

Celebrating Jonas Salk, MD

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Jonas SalkTomorrow is Jonas Salk’s 100th birthday. Salk’s eldest son Peter Salk, MD, recently came to the March of Dimes National Office to speak about his father and The Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation. It was touching to hear the history and personal stories about Salk.

Peter recounted how his father had initially thought he would become a lawyer or congressman. But college chemistry set him in a new direction. While attending NYU Medical School, a microbiology class inspired him to begin his quest in vaccine research. Before long, he became one of the most famous researchers of the 20th century.

Jonas Salk, MD. was intrigued by the idea of creating a vaccine from inactivated versions of a virus. He first worked on an inactivated flu vaccine but he is most remembered for his pioneering work in creating a polio vaccine in the midst of the polio epidemic.

Basil O’Connor, President of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes) was intrigued by Salk’s research and decided to fund Salk’s efforts to develop the vaccine against infantile paralysis, also known as polio. In 1955, it was announced that the Salk vaccine was safe and effective against this disabling, sometimes fatal infection. Salk’s vaccine rapidly reduced polio infections by 97%. With the help of the Salk vaccine and later the Sabin oral vaccine, both developed with March of Dimes funding, polio infections have been eliminated from the United States for nearly 3 decades. Polio still occurs, however, in some developing countries.

Salk vaccineIn addition to being a preeminent physician and researcher, Salk had a philosophical side. One question Salk would ask is “Are we being good ancestors?”  It was the foundation on which he based his life, and his unending quest to help improve mankind. Peter ended the presentation with one of Jonas’ quotes: “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” Jonas believed each person was responsible for making a difference in the world. By eradicating polio in the United States, Jonas Salk fulfilled his own dream.

You can learn more about Jonas Salk’s life and contributions by watching this historical footage reel.

The March of Dimes remembers, honors and celebrates Jonas Salk’s accomplishments as we continue our mission to improve the health of babies.

A fellowship and a double helix

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

genetic-counseling1In 1952, James Watson was an unknown scientist who applied to the March of Dimes for a fellowship proposing research on X-ray diffraction patterns of proteins and nucleic acids. Knowing that the March of Dimes funded basic science as well as polio prevention, Watson hoped that the grant he would receive might enable him to conduct a year of research and cover his lab expenses. His modest grant award of $5,678, roughly equivalent to $50,000 today, led to one of the most momentous discoveries of the age. On April 25, 1953 Watson and his colleague Francis Crick published “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” in the journal Nature. The field of molecular genetics was launched. They had discovered the double-helical structure of DNA.

Much has been written about Watson and Crick’s famous discovery, for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1962. Their path-breaking research vastly expanded the field of genetics, leading to knowledge unimaginable in their day. Their accomplishment also prefigured what the March of Dimes would do next. After funding the vaccines that brought the scourge of polio to a halt, the Foundation turned to the riddle of birth defects, knowing that the keys of genetics would open further doors to this intractable problem.

By the 1960s, the March of Dimes sponsored birth defects and clinical genetics conferences to keep medical professionals up-to-date with progress in the field. We helped to develop a universal standardized language (the karyotype) to describe human chromosomes. At a March of Dimes conference in 1969, Dr. Victor McKusick proposed that science might create a molecular map of all genes. His idea sparked the March of Dimes to organize a series of human gene mapping workshops that ultimately led to the Human Genome Project of the 1990s.

Our interest in genetics goes beyond science itself to assisting individuals and families. We have developed the field of genetic counseling to help parents and parents-to-be understand the risks of inherited disorders. We helped to establish the first master’s degree program in genetic counseling at a U.S. college. In the 1980s we sponsored an educational program on Genetic Decision Making and Pastoral Care, enabling clergy from different religions to understand the complexities of genetics in order to give appropriate counseling to concerned families. At the same time, our funding of scientific research has remained fundamental. Our grantees have identified the gene for Fragile X Syndrome and have created therapies for other life-threatening disorders.

As we note the 60th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s famous article on the double helix of DNA, we look forward to a time when birth defects and premature birth have receded into the past just as polio has done. Our steadfast commitment to “stronger, healthier babies” is grounded in the building blocks of genetics that help us identify the causes of disease.

The Military and the March of Dimes

Monday, November 12th, 2012

military-and-mod4

In its drive to promote healthy pregnancy, the March of Dimes considers every avenue of outreach. This has included cordial ties with U.S. Armed Forces in order to support military families. Historically, our earliest years coincided with the global catastrophe of World War II when our founder – President Franklin D. Roosevelt – was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. In that troubled time, our military ties were many and various. An early research grant went to Drs. John Paul and Albert Sabin to find out why American GIs in Egypt contracted polio when native populations seemed immune to the disease. The Foundation created a fund-raising unit that coordinated its annual “March of Dimes” campaigns with all branches of the military. Our Armed Forces Division was so popular that top brass such as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote enthusiastic public messages of support for our fight against polio.

After the war, the most conspicuous military program was the Military Air Transport Service (MATS). MATS was a standing agreement of the March of Dimes with the U.S. Air Force to airlift iron lung respirators to epidemic areas and even individuals with paralytic polio to hospitals for special care. In one case, MATS cargo aircraft shipped iron lungs to a polio epidemic in Japan in 1961. With the advent of the Salk polio vaccine developed with March of Dimes funds, the Foundation ensured that military personnel were protected from the polio virus. Military personnel and their families from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard dispensary to the U.S. Army Hospital at West Point participated in March of Dimes polio vaccination programs.

When the March of Dimes turned toward birth defects prevention in the 1960s, our involvement with the military also turned in a new direction. We then maintained on staff an official liaison to the military as we broadened our approach to birth defects by focusing on all the determinants of healthy pregnancy. And, in our examination of the genetic causes of birth defects, we provided advice to Viet Nam era veteran groups about medical and genetic counseling for victims of Agent Orange. Our relationship to the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been mutually supportive for decades, and several March of Dimes national ambassadors have been members of military families. One of these, Cody Groce, was very proud to appear with Gen. Colin Powell at our National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, DC in 1998. Our most recent effort in support of military families has been our involvement in Operation Shower.

In the darkest days of World War II, FDR offered these words to characterize his understanding of the March of Dimes mission: “Nothing is closer to my heart than the health of our boys and girls and young men and young women. It is one of the front lines of national defense.” With this impetus, the March of Dimes went on to defeat polio and launch a new mission against birth defects and prematurity. FDR’s original sentiment bears close resemblance to our passionate quest for “stronger, healthier babies” today.

Note on photo: Sailors in formation spell out “March of Dimes” on board aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1962