Saturday April 20, 2019
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Paralyzed Patients Start Walking Following A New Treatment

the researchers say this is not a cure for paralysis, and caution that it may not work on every patient. They say more study is needed.

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Paralyzed
A wheelchair sits in the viewing area at a golf course, June 19, 2017. Medical researchers are working to stimulate the spinal cord to allow paralyzed patients to stand and walk.. VOA

U.S. researchers are reporting progress in helping those paralyzed by spinal cord injuries to stand, and even to take steps.

Two teams of medical researchers working separately say an electrical implant that stimulates the spinal cord allowed three paralyzed patients to stand and move forward while they held on to a walker or were supported from the back.

One patient was able to walk the length of a football field.

“Recovery can happen if you have the right circumstances,” University of Louisville professor Susan Harkema said, adding that the spinal cord can “relearn to do things.”

Paralyzed
Bionic exoskeleton helps wheelchair users stand and walk. Flickr

Experts say that a damaged spinal cord leaves the brain unable to send messages to the nerves that activate the muscles.

The researchers believe those nerves are still alive, but are asleep.

Stimulating them with electricity, along with intense rehabilitation, can wake up those sleeping nerves and enable them to receive commands again.

Other earlier treatments using electricity allowed patients to stand and move their toes, but not walk.

Paralyzed
Experts say that a damaged spinal cord leaves the brain unable to send messages to the nerves that activate the muscles.

But the researchers say this is not a cure for paralysis, and caution that it may not work on every patient. They say more study is needed.

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Reports on the new therapy appear in the New England Journal of Medicine and the journal Nature Medicine. (VOA)

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New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

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The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)