Q: Why is there a measles outbreak in Minneapolis? Doesn't that state have a high vaccination rate? — Kevin Q., Rochester, Minn.
A: Minneapolis has had a large community of Somali immigrants since the 1990s, refugees who have fled their civil war. Measles kills about 10,000 children a year in Somalia, so when the refugees arrived here, they were glad to have access to the measles vaccine and gave it to their children.
Then between 2010 and 2011, the Somali Americans thought they were experiencing a high rate of autism among their kids. They asked local and national authorities to investigate. Researchers from the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health found that autism rates in Minneapolis' Somali community were higher than the national average. However, the rate was identical to autism rates in Minneapolis' white population. But that data came too late to prevent antivaccine activists from swooping in with a misinformation campaign.
In fact, the Washington Post reported that one of the antivaccine movement's founders, Andrew Wakefield (the doctor who was alleged to be have reported data in a biased way and stripped of his medical license after he published a study with fake data linking vaccines and autism), was among those who had met with Somali parents. Local health authorities in Minnesota are still dealing with antivax activists spewing misinformation about vaccines and with the resulting measles outbreak, with 44 cases reported as of this writing.
So let's help set the record straight! The cause of autism continues to elude the scientific community, but we know it's not vaccinations. We spent a month reviewing every study on vaccine safety and interviewing 150 experts on all sides of the issue. Our conclusion: Vaccines aren't perfectly safe, but the chance that a vaccine will effectively and safely prevent disease is more than 40,000 times greater than the chance it'll cause any serious side effect. Read about it in "YOU: Raising Your Child" and at www.doctoroz.com/article/book-excerpt-you-having-baby-vaccines.
Q: I've got an arthritic hip and am doing physical therapy, but I'm still in pain. I don't want to take an opioid pain reliever, because I don't want to get addicted. Why can't we develop better pain-relieving medications that are as powerful as morphine, without the risk of addiction? — Jamie K., Cleveland
A: First of all, Jamie, get a referral for a pain-management specialist or program. These doctors may offer additional approaches to pain relief, and they'll keep an eye on you so you can avoid addiction. Also, if you're under the care of a pain management specialist, you'll be up-to-date with the latest therapies.
For instance, there's radiofrequency ablation — and a newer form called "cooled RFA," which may be even more effective. RFA is done with a needle that's placed close to the nerve that's sending the pain signal to your brain. It zaps the nerve so it cannot transmit the pain signal. The effect of the zapping can last about eight months and can be repeated. Another interesting option? Aromatherapy may help reduce pain.
Though not yet available, there's also potentially game-changing new research from China: Scientists may have found a way to deliver nonaddictive and nondrowsy pain relief by manipulating the peripheral nervous system. The PNS contains the first line of sensors that register pain before it's sent to the central nervous system in the spinal cord and brain. If, as the researchers suspect, they can modify the messaging that starts in the PNS, they can prevent pain signals from reaching the CNS.
As far as addiction is concerned, the vast majority of folks who are prescribed opioid pain meds and follow their doctor's prescription don't get addicted. The addiction problem is driven usually by illicit drug use — not medical treatment for acute pain. And while it's true that taking opioids has risks, pain-management docs are good at minimizing them. Trust your docs, stick to their plan and we hope you'll feel better faster.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.