Why are measles coming back?

❝ We eliminated measles in the U.S. in 2000. Somebody should tell the measles. Because even though the virus has no permanent home stateside, it keeps getting in—more and more, it seems.

❝ If you were born in the U.S. after about 1968, you’ve lived your entire life with virtually no interaction with the measles. Consider yourself lucky. The virus causes fevers over 104°F, inflamed eyes, a cough, plus a rash that begins as tiny white spots and becomes an itchy red mass spreading outward from the head to cover your entire body. And that’s just your basic measles encounter. About 30 percent of measles patients get extra complications, including diarrhea, pneumonia, brain inflammation, and permanent blindness. In healthy areas, few people died of the disease—only about 0.3 percent—but in impoverished or malnourished populations that figure jumps up to around 30 percent.

❝ Before the measles vaccine, 3 to 4 million people got the disease every year and basically everyone had gotten it by age 15. That might sound like pretty good news. If everyone gets it as a kid, surely it’s like chicken pox—you get it, then you’re over it. In some ways, that’s right. But it also means that the potentially permanent complications (and the fatalities) disproportionately affect little kids.

❝ We’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to live in a world where young children regularly get serious diseases. It’s difficult to notice an absence of deaths, so here’s some perspective: from 2000-2012, the measles vaccine saved about 13.8 million lives. If we continue the way we’re going, though, we might get a different perspective. From 1989-1991, measles saw a huge comeback because people weren’t getting vaccinated enough—and we may not be too far from that happening all over again.

We’re losing herd immunity and that’s sufficient to allow this childhood killer back. RTFA for sensible discussion. By now – if you’re a regular reader of this blog – I take it down to two questions: ignorance or stupidity.

In this instance, I’d say both. I grew up before vaccines were common in the US. Every spring the kids in our factory town sooner or later got round to figuring out who died over winter…and from what. I had measles and waltzed right through. My kid sister wasn’t so lucky. Ended up in hospital in an oxygen tent with pneumonia before she kicked it.

We also had to contend with scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, rheumatic fever and more. The summer was saved for polio.

2 thoughts on “Why are measles coming back?

  1. Mike says:

    “As Minnesota confronts its second measles outbreak in seven years, public health officials are battling to contain the disease while also trying to educate parents in the face of an organized opposition. As happened in 2011, anti-vaccine activists are reaching out to Minnesota’s Somali community, where both outbreaks have been centered, with messages that reinforce the discredited belief that vaccines cause autism.” http://www.startribune.com/in-minnesota-measles-outbreak-health-officials-fight-a-two-front-war/420786463/ “Ironically, just a few years ago Somali children in Minnesota had extremely high vaccination rates (higher than other kids in fact). Then, in 2008, an apparent cluster of autism cases among Somali children in Minneapolis prompted a scare based on a discredited theory involving the measles vaccine that was popularized 20 years earlier by British researcher Andrew Wakefield. For Somali 2-year-olds, immunization rates were as high as 92 percent in 2004, but today stand at just 42 percent.”

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