Measles was declared eliminated from the Unites States in 2000. But look where we are now.
TRAVELERS - In the first two months of 2011, there have already been 29 cases of measles brought into the US. This is comparable to the ANNUAL number for the years 2000-2010. Of these patients, 7 were under the age of two; none had been vaccinated. Several were not immediately diagnosed correctly because their doctors had never seen an actual case of measles before.
UTAH 4/11/11 – Right now, a school district in Utah (an elementary school, junior high, and 2 high schools) is experiencing an outbreak of measles. The schools continue to stay open, but anyone who has not been vaccinated must stay home in isolation for 21 days to help prevent the disease from spreading.
TEXAS 4/6/11 - 2 confirmed cases of measles, the first in Tarrant County in 17 years.
MINNESOTA 4/4/11 - 13 confirmed cases of measles, all linked to one unvaccinated patient, plus 2 from other sources. Of these patients, 8 were hospitalized (that’s over half), ranging in age from 4 months to 51 years old. Some babies were too young to receive the vaccine; 6 patients were old enough but simply not vaccinated.
MASSACHUSETTS 3/3/11 - A faculty member with 45 students at the University of MA contracted measles overseas. Several other people caught the disease, including a student who lived in the same building as the teacher. All un-vaccinated faculty and staff who were exposed had to be quarantined.
MASSACHUSETTS 2/24/11 - A worker at the French consulate who contracted measles exposed 2000 people who worked in the same building. Any employees who were not already vaccinated were quickly given the vaccine. However, other people who happened to live in the same neighborhood or ate at the same restaurant are thought to have contracted measles from her.
SAN DIEGO 2008 – A patient of Dr. Bob Sears who was still un-vaccinated by age 7 went to Switzerland and contracted measles. On his return, he gave the disease 4 other children waiting in the doctor’s office (3 of them less than a year old), his 2 siblings and 2 of his classmates. His sister gave the disease to two of her classmates, and another sibling also contracted measles. In all, 839 people were exposed, 48 children were quarantined, several children became ill, and a 10-month-old baby had to be hospitalized.
The infant spent three days in the hospital with a fever of 106 degrees and a horrible rash. He dropped from 18 to 12 pounds in five days. He was sick for weeks. The parents, Megan Campbell and her husband, had to take a month off from work to help their baby recover. At times, “I wondered if he was going to be the same boy he was a week before,” Campbell told the interviewer on the radio program This American Life. “I just wondered how this family who had brought this into San Diego - what were they thinking?” Campbell said. “Did they feel for us at all? Did they feel bad about it?”
Is Measles One of the Common Childhood Illnesses, Like Chicken Pox?
No. Measles is not a benign disease. In 2000, measles was considered eradicated in the USA. This was a huge victory for public health, and it had a tremendous effect on the well-being and survival of young children. Measles is an airborne illness, meaning you will catch it from someone who is sneezing, coughing, or simply breathing the same air you are in an airplane or classroom. No contact with the sick person is necessary. The disease is highly contagious. If 100 un-vaccinated people sit in a doctor’s waiting room with someone who has the measles, at least 90 will catch it - and they may each pass the disease on to innumerable others. At greatest risk of death are babies who are too young to get the vaccine, and old people who are too old to have received it. Measles also causes miscarriages in pregnant women. If you aren’t sure whether you are immune or not, have your blood tested, particularly if you are thinking about getting pregnant.
Generally the measles vaccine is bundled with 2 others into a MMR shot that protects against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (German measles). It is usually administered to kids 12-15 months old. Another shot, the DPT combination, confers immunity against 3 other deadly diseases: Diptheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), and Tetanus. Most physicians recommend that babies and young children follow an inoculation schedule that protects them as soon as possible so little babies are not forced to fight off life-threatening diseases.
Although we think of measles as being associated with a rash, it is actually a disease of the respiratory system. This is why many patients end up in the hospital. Complications can include pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, and death. Worldwide, about 200,000 people die of measles each year; it is a leading cause of death among children in developing countries. Do we really want to have the same risks to the survival of young children as a developing country?
Some people honestly believe it is not their problem if their child gives the measles to another family’s baby. An article in the NY Times quoted parent Sybil Carlson of San Diego as saying, “I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good.”
But what is this “sacrifice” she is so worried about? No one is asking her to drop her baby in boiling oil. In fact, she is being asked to protect her child from a virulent illness. Why is the vaccine so feared?
The Fraudulent Research of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, published research in the British medical journal The Lancet that supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine in 8 cases of the inexplicable and mysterious disorder called autism. This article should never have been published. The conclusions have never been replicated or verified, and Dr. Wakefield has now been thoroughly discredited. The Lancet took the extraordinary measure of retracting the article.
Dr. Wakefield’s study was a fraud – but it pierced the hearts of parents’ fears for their children. What most parents do not realize is that Dr. Wakefield used his “research” to create a vast money-making scheme. First, he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from lawyers who were lining up to sue the manufacturers of vaccines. Even worse, he planned to sell diagnostic tests for vaccine-induced diseases - a business venture he predicted would make over $40 million in 3 years. These glaring conflicts of interest obviously warped his conclusions.
The Anti-Vaccination Movement
Enter celebrity and Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy, who claims her son Evan developed autism after being given an MMR vaccine. She also claims that he was cured by a treatment called chelation therapy, which removes mercury from the body. This is an indefensible claim, since children are not “cured” of autism, and mercury is not associated with it. Doctors have noted that most likely little Evan had a disorder called Landau-Kleffner syndrome, which is often misdiagnosed as autism.
To help pay for Evan’s care, Jenny McCarthy wrote a book called Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey into Healing Autism. She made the rounds of all the radio and TV shows, arguing that a vaccine made her child autistic, but she cured him. She gave millions of parents both false fears and false hopes. She became the poster girl for the current movement against vaccinating children. Suddenly doctors ran into a wall of resistance regarding childhood vaccinations.
Since Dr. Wakefield first published his fraudulent study, 18 other studies have investigated the supposed link between autism and vaccines. ALL of them came back negative. “Autism Speaks,” one of the groups that raises awareness of the disorder, split over the issue of whether still more studies are needed. Dr. Wakefield’s research has already been disproved, but some parents within the autism community want to spend still more money on the subject of vaccines. Others, recognizing that funds are limited, are ready to move on, and would like to invest in other areas of research.
In the meantime, outbreaks of measles are becoming more common. Since parents have become afraid of vaccines in general, other childhood diseases, like whooping cough, are on the rise as well. Many doctors have noted dryly that if parents had any clue what these diseases were really like, they would not play Russian Roulette with their children’s health by avoiding vaccines. Gary L. Freed, director of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, told CNN: “I took care of a child who died of measles encephalitis because he was not vaccinated. It was a horrible death that was needless and preventable, and those parents never forgave themselves for not vaccinating their child.”
Not having your child vaccinated, or delaying vaccinations for your child, is not in the same category as “letting nature take its course” with other common childhood illnesses. Not vaccinating is a decision to put your child at risk of death by leaving him or her unprotected. In this case, the “greater good” actually IS your personal good.