Notebook > Medicine
Peter Boyle speaks in opposition to the birth-control pill proposal at an Oct. 17 Portland School Committee meeting

Middle sex

Medicine | School board gives out pills but won't give in on reporting sex crimes

Issue: "Saving Isaac," Nov. 10, 2007

In Portland, Maine, a 7-2 school board decision to offer prescription birth-control pills to students at King Middle School has both triggered a recall effort and thrown school health-care providers into conflict with state law. Citizens angered by the board's mid-October decision launched a petition drive, hoping to recall board members who voted for the new policy, which targets students ages 11 to 15. They must turn in a parental consent form to use health-care center services, but providers may keep treatment details confidential from parents.

The board's prescription-pill move prompted Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson to look into the King center's sex-crime reporting policy, and the news isn't good: Not one report for King, nor any of the other five school-based health centers in Portland. This though state law requires health workers to report all known or suspected cases of sex with minors age 13 and under to the state health department and to the appropriate district attorney.

Fatal flaw?

Cancer: Study links Gardasil with deaths, but experts remain skeptical

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Activist group Judicial Watch stirred controversy by publishing data on adverse reactions to Gardasil, the new vaccine against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer. Three states this year added Gardasil to their lists of mandatory vaccinations for sixth-grade girls. Since HPV is sexually transmitted, critics argue that requiring young girls to receive the vaccine presumed sexual activity where little exists and might also encourage early or promiscuous sexual behavior. Meanwhile, a May 2007 editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine questioned whether childhood vaccination would prevent cervical cancer later in life.

Last month Judicial Watch released data it obtained from the Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) showing more than 3,400 adverse reactions, including 11 deaths, after Gardasil was administered.

But the FDA and Gardasil's maker, Merck, say there is no proof linking the VAERS reports with Gardasil. And Gene Rudd, a physician and senior vice president of the Christian Medical Association (CMA), agrees: "It's very inappropriate to conclude or imply that there's a safety issue with Gardasil based on these data."

Rudd said doctors and researchers from CMA and other groups examined the VAERS data and found ample evidence of duplicate and medically unreliable reports. Given the large size of the vaccinated population-about 1.6 million people-Rudd said, "So far, there are no statistical trends that suggest a cause-and-effect relationship."

Stepping up staph fight

DISEASE: Central Virginia Community College became the latest facility to succumb to MRSA fears, closing its main campus Oct. 30 for some high-powered cleaning after a staff member was diagnosed with the drug-resistant infection known by its full name as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

At a trade show in Chicago, cleaning product makers reported record sales as schools, sports facilities, and hospitals across the country take drastic steps to fight the virulent-and sometimes deadly-staph infection. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that invasive infections caused by the bacteria strike nearly 94,000 people every year and kill about 19,000. The majority of such infections, which are resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics, occur in health-care settings and among the elderly. But last month's CDC report showed nearly 14 percent were "community-acquired," striking healthy people in schools, locker rooms, and other everyday settings. Doctors and experts say that it's possible to avoid most MRSA-related germs by common-sense precautions: Wash hands, cover open wounds, and don't share things like towels, razors, or uniforms.

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