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Good news and bad news from the day car front: Researchers have shown that unvaccinated children are in little or no danger of catching chicken pox from companions inoculated with a live-virus vaccine, but a separate study indicates they are in danger of catching other infections in a day care center.

Stephen A. Chartrand of the University of South Alabama in Mobile and his colleagues at New York University and Washington University in St. Louis wanted to know if, in the close confines of a day care environment, the live, attenuated virus used in a chicken pox vaccine (not yet on the market) could jump from a vaccinated child to a nonvaccinated child. Chartrand and his co-workers vaccinated 34 healthy children's contacts and no side effects to the vaccine.

While chicken pox itself is generally not serious, it prevents children who have it from attending day care for several weeks, leaving parents in the lurch; it is associated with about a quarter of the cases of Reye's syndrome; and it can have serious effects in children with leukemia, and in adults. If a vaccine developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme in West Point, Pa., continues to prove safe and effective, it may receive federal approval soon.

Less reassuring is a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, which found that one-third of upper respiratory infections and two-thirds of the ear infections suffered by children who attend day care were associated with day care.

"We're not trying to indict day care," says David W. Fleming of the CDC. "But you have a dilemma. When you get kids together the transmission of disease is going to be facilitated."

Though a higher rate of colds and flu among children in day care is common knowledge, there are few details available on the magnitude of the problem, Fleming says. He and his co-workers contacted 449 Atlanta-area mothers of children under 5; the women were from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The researchers asked them about day care attendance, breastfeeding history, parental age, race, education, socioeconomic status, smoking history, household details and whether the children had been ill in the past two weeks.

They found that day care, maternal smoking and crowded conditions in the home were all related to a higher incidence of infection. Specifically, children in day care had 1.7 times the rate of upper respiratory infections as children not in day care.

The next step, says Fleming, is to compare day care centers with low and high rates of infection to see what's behind the difference.
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Title Annotation:transmission of disease in day care centers
Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 26, 1985
Previous Article:Chemistry research: invest for rewards.
Next Article:On the road to deliberate release.

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