It’s not Ebola you should fear: the surprise measles epidemic

Sofia P.

Staff Writer

Measles was thought to be a disease of the past, known by this generation as something from story books. The United States was supposed to have been done with measles in 2000, as it left the country through the vaccine, and everyone should have been vaccinated. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the primary way for the disease to enter the country is from an infected visitor coming from another country, and sadly that is exactly what happened. America was less prepared than it was originally thought to be.

America can blame Andrew Wakefield, a former doctor, for the current measles epidemic. In 1998 he published in a medical journal that there was a connection between vaccines for certain diseases, such as the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and children developing autism, and went as far as to say vaccines caused other diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes. The General Medical Council, the UK’s medical regulator, went in and investigated how he got these results and found that he had manipulated the results. There was no connection between vaccines and the diseases he had listed. The CDC published that there were no serious side effects for vaccines to people of good health. If unhealthy, there is a small chance that someone may experience fever, allergic reactions, or fainting. Wakefield would also be found by medical researchers to have done unethical practices such as subjecting children with autism to colonoscopies and lumbar punctures, without the approval of the institutional review board, as part of his research with autism. After this, researchers started to dig deeper into his history and discovered he paid children at his ten year old son’s birthday party to donate blood for his research on the effects of vaccines. Wakefield’s medical license was revoked in 2010 by the U.K.’s General Medical Council for ethical violations. He still made out with profits for his false research and continues to try to convince people that vaccines cause autism.

Although this connection between vaccines and autism had been proved untrue, the public was fed this false information, and some parents were worried. The measles vaccine is a standard vaccine given to young children, but doctors cannot give anything to a child forcefully without the consent of the parent. Some parents who had been exposed to the lies created by Andrew Wakefield declined to give their children the vaccine. In December of 2014, at Disneyland in California an outbreak of measles was caused due some children not being immunized. Dr. Krista Webb, social studies department head, says, “It is scary that measles has been reintroduced into the US. It is a dangerous disease, and parents need to get their children vaccinated.” The CDC is guessing that the disease was brought by a foreigner, due to the strand of measles that was spread in the Philippines in 2014. This is not definite though, as the disease could have also come from fourteen different countries. There have been 176 identified cases of the measles, from January 1st to March 13th, and the numbers keep growing. The states that are currently affected are as follows: California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arizona. There has also been a case in Mexico. This means that the disease is more or less contained to a certain area, but people need to be informed about the risks of contracting measles just in case it spreads to the east coast.

Even with this outbreak, some people have still not considered the risks that come with not immunizing their children. Measles is a very serious disease and has a 90 percent transmission rate, meaning it is highly contagious. The symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and rash. The measles can also lead to other health complications, which may lead to hospitalization, such as pneumonia, encephalitis (which can lead to cognitive and mental impairment as well as blindness and loss of hearing), and death. Parents who do not understand how dangerous a disease like measles is to children are also considering exposure parties. There have not been any confirmed exposure parties, but doctors claim they have been asked about it by many parents wanting to know the risks. Also a radio station received a call from a woman saying her friend had offered to expose her child to the measles. The woman declined the offer but called to see if that had been the right decision. The idea is to expose the children to the measles and have them create a natural immunity. This comes from the 1980s when parents would have chicken pox parties to expose their children to the early and less harmful strain. Dr. Webb said, “Exposure parties are just stupid. I had a friend who exposed her child to chicken pox just to get having a sick child over with, and he contracted the most dangerous case of chicken pox I’ve ever seen. And measles is much more devastating a disease to be exposing your children to and can have long term effects on your child.” The only problem is that measles is not as mild a disease as chicken pox. One or two out of 1,000 people who contact measles will die due to the disease. Children from ages one to twelve can still be vaccinated. Due to many young doctors never having been exposed to this disease before, trying to control the disease is slow going.

Another problem is the misinformation about autism. Although autism cannot be successfully diagnosed until a child is of two years of age, it is not a disease that a child develops through the environment; even if a child does not develop the disease until he or she is five years old, it is not because of any isolated part of his or her environment and most likely started in the womb. Autism cannot be caught and spread, but measles can and is an air spread pathogen.

Andrew Wakefield denies that his research was a fraud, but people should not get wrapped up in his lies. If people want a reliable outlet for information on diseases, they should use the CDC’s website, not ones that spread medical information that is not confirmed by actual doctors. Misinformation should not be a cause of death.




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