Valley Fever: The Mysterious Fungus Infecting the Southwest without a Vaccine or Cure

Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis, also known as cocci, is a fungal disease endemic to the soils of the Southwest. Around 60% of those exposed never have symptoms. The majority of the other 40% have flu-like symptoms. About 5 to 10% of those exposed develop serious and long-term problems with their lungs. In about 1% of those exposed, the fungus spreads throughout the entire body, infecting areas such as the brain and bones (1).

Although the first diagnosis was in 1892, Valley Fever continues to infect people without a vaccine or cure. Continue reading

Ebola and Cultural Misunderstandings

The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa has generated fear over the possible global spread of the disease due to traveling, improper health care, and the potential transmission of disease through bodily fluid exchange or, less likely, airborne contamination.

Experts generally trace the origins of Ebola to fruit bats which can carry the disease without being affected themselves. Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the CDC on the Approval of New Meningitis Vaccine

Last year, almost all of the Princeton students received two doses of the meningitis B vaccine called Bexsero, which was developed by Novartis. Bexsero, while not formally approved by the FDA in the US, had been approved in other nations globally and as a result, was recommended by the CDC and FDA for use to control the Princeton outbreak. Data was also collected by Princeton and CDC on the effect of the vaccine on the Princeton outbreak.

However, recently, the FDA approved Trumenba, developed by Pfizer, as a vaccine for meningitis B. At the same time, Bexsero, used at Princeton, has still not been approved by the FDA. Why has the vaccine which was used not only at Princeton but also as UCSB not approved by the FDA? Does data suggest that Trumenba performs better than Bexsero? Or are there other reasons behind approving Trumenba?

Below is a Q&A with Dr. Manisha Patel, who has been involved been involved with the Princeton meningitis outbreak. The discussion focuses on the differences between the two vaccines, reasons why Bexsero was recommended for the Princeton outbreak and reasons why Trumenba was approved first by the FDA.

PPHR: What makes meningitis B so difficult to vaccinate against? I understand that in morbidity and mode of transmission, all serogroups of meningitis are relatively similar.

PATEL: The main question is “Why don’t we have a meningitis B vaccine when vaccines for serogroups A, C, W and Y are available?” Continue reading

Approving Trumenba: Why Not Bexsero?

DSC03308-C2-PURPLELast Wednesday, the FDA approved a vaccine for Meningitis B1,2, the same strain of bacterial meningitis that Princeton students faced last year. Yet the newly-approved drug is not Novartis’ Bexsero, which thousands of students at Princeton and UCSB have received in the past year. Instead, the FDA approved Pfizer’s Trumenba. This forces us to wonder why the FDA decided to approve Trumenba first, even though Bexsero has now been used safely and effectively in the United States and is approved in Canada, Europe, and Australia3.

The most straightforward explanation for the earlier approval of Trumenba is that Pfizer filed for approval before Novartis4. Continue reading

Hear from the scientist who discovered the meningitis vaccine

Don’t miss this chance to listen to and speak with Dr. Rappuoli, the developer of the Meningitis B vaccine that you received last winter! It will be an incredible lecture that you don’t want to miss with a Q&A session designed to give students an opportunity to engage in a discussion about the vaccine with the developer himself. The event is co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Health Review and the Woodrow Wilson School.
Join the event on Facebook and spread the word!: https://www.facebook.com/events/1401903213422241/

Public lecture: “Towards a Meningitis-free world” – Rino Rappuoli, PhD

Thursday, Apr. 24 – 4:30pm – 6:00 – Lewis Thomas Laboratory Auditorium (LTL 003)
Public reception to follow

Rino Rappuoli is Global Head of Vaccines Research for Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics. He discovered and developed the Meningitis B vaccine recently administered at Princeton.

This event is free and open to the public.

PPHR

Meningitis Forum–Get Your Questions Answered

Want your questions about meningitis answered? After reviewing the literature, consulting information from the CDC, and/or speaking with experts, an editor from PPHR will respond to posts on this page within 48 hours. We encourage all questions as well as a productive discussion about the situation on campus.

Check it out here: https://pphr.princeton.edu/forums/forum/open-anonymous-forum-for-meningitis-outbreak-princeton-university/

DISCLAIMER: The Princeton Public Health Review is not affiliated with the CDC and is a publication operated by undergraduates. While editors’ responses will be based on thorough research, please bear in mind that our views might not necessarily coincide with those of the University or the CDC.

Exclusive Q&A with CDC’s Head of Meningitis and Vaccine Preventable Disease Branch Dr. Thomas Clark

Recently, a student at Drexel passed away from meningitis caused by the serogroup B bacteria which caused an outbreak here at Princeton. The student had been in close contact with Princeton students a week before becoming ill. Further studies revealed that the bacterial strain in the Drexel student was the same as the outbreak strain at Princeton, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Find out about the concerns regarding the transmission of the bacteria and further steps to be taken directly from Dr. Thomas Clark, head of the meningitis vaccine initiative at CDC.

PPHR: Are there any concerns about spreading the disease even after students are vaccinated (both doses)?

Dr. Clark: Yes. When it comes down to it, we study vaccines and learn if they work or not, and whether they are effective at protecting against disease in people. Continue reading

How far should they walk?

We have accepted that there currently exists no cure to HIV/AIDS, simply antiretroviral drugs that can dramatically slow its effects. Along with these drugs, education, and lots of preventative measures against it, the proportion of the population living with HIV/AIDS should be minute. As residents of a developed nation where we can find doctors’ offices and hospitals on every other corner, we never think about what would happen if there was no healthcare facility nearby and we had no car to drive to the nearest one, or even a computer to look up its location. This is the major issue plaguing the fight against HIV/AIDS, and in rural areas where few resources are available, we are no closer to solving it.

The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), launched in 2003, was founded for the purpose of reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in 15 focus countries in Africa, Asia, and South and Central America. Continue reading

The impact of restrictions on pain relief

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration published an official online statement, proposing new restrictions that will make regulations on some of the most commonly prescribed pain medicines, such as Vicodin, stricter. According to the official statement, the “FDA has become increasingly concerned about the abuse and misuse of opioid products, which have sadly reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the United States1.”

The classification of “epidemic” is not an exaggeration. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 36,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2008, and most of these deaths were the result of prescription drug overdose2. Continue reading

Q&A with President Emeritus Harold Shapiro: Public health and policy–what does it involve?

The full scope of Public Health’s responsibilities is something which is continuously being debated.  Many things come to mind when we think of public health. Compulsory vaccines, combatting epidemics and outbreaks all come to mind. But who makes these decisions? And how are the ethical concerns evaluated and dealt with by the state and federal governments? Additionally, how is public opinion taken into consideration when evaluating the ethics behind key scientific discoveries? Below is a Q&A with Professor Harold Shapiro who is former President of Princeton and professor in the departments of economics and public policy. He has served as the chair of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee established during President Clinton’s administration.  He has dealt with issues of cloning and embryonic stem cell research—two of the most prominent ethical and moral questions raised by developments on the scientific frontier in recent years.

Find out what he has to say about ethical protocols, ethical issues as well as his view of public health and bioethics in the following Q&A. Continue reading