It is almost impossible to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper and not hear about the current measles outbreak in the United States. One of the reasons this has garnered attention is because the disease was considered to be completely eradicated in the United States since 2000. Since then, in the past 2 years alone we have seen a large increase in the number of reported measles cases in this country. As of this writing, there are currently 121 cases being reported across the country in the year 2015.
Measles is a virus passed on through direct contact or through the air. It lives in the mucus membrane of a person and by touching your eyes, mouth, or nose after being exposed drastically increases your chance of infection. The virus can stay airborne for up to two hours after an infected person has left the area. Measles are one of the most contagious viruses for this reason and because once infected, individuals do not begin to show symptoms for at least 7 days. Some individuals may take up to 3 weeks to show symptoms, meanwhile they continue on their daily business.
Measles are still considered a global health issue resulting in the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO in 2013 approximately 145,700 deaths were caused by measles. Most of those who died were under the age of 5 years old. Since the only preventative measure for measles is a vaccination, there is an initiative in place to improve access to the resource to hopefully globally eradicate this preventable disease in the future. Access to and use of the vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in infection rates between 2000 and 2013 worldwide. Unfortunately, even with the drop in infection rate the mortality rate in that same time span was estimated at 15.6 million.
The measles vaccination is given in two steps. The first one is given between 12 and 14 months of age. The second is administered between the ages of 4 and 6. When administered correctly, these vaccinations are found to be 97% effective. It also bears repeating, there has been no conclusive link between autism spectrum disorders and vaccinations. Although the recent connection between autism and vaccinations was promoted by a now discredited doctor, the idea of vaccinations causing other conditions is not a new one.
Back in the late 1800s, vaccinations were also given and met with equal conflict. A British activist names William Tebb wrote in a paper,
“Cancer is reported to be increasing not only in England and the Continent, but in all parts of the world where vaccination is practised.”
It was felt that since people were being injected by ‘impure matter’ they were becoming sicker compared to their unvaccinated counterparts. The idea vaccinations are a conspiracy from the medical community also has been an unfounded rumor since the early 1900s. That does not stop conspiracy theories from continuing.
For example, The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) a registered non-profit organization in the province of Quebec, Canada recently reported that measles outbreaks are actually engineered in part by the pharmaceutical industry.
It does not matter if we are talking about the measles vaccination or the small pox vaccination, this is a conversation that has happened before and will continue.
USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/video/measles-5-things-you-need-to-know/4034424264001
Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/02/05/meet-the-crunchy-chemical-hating-anti-vaccine-conspiracy-theorists-from-100-years-ago/