In the news, at least locally....the big headline maker is all of the cases of measles that are popping up both here and across the country. In my county alone a number of cases have made the news and most can be traced back to certain local restaurants. People are up in arms and with the start of school close at hand, many are voicing loud opinions about the necessity of kids being immunized before school is in session.
Now I know that for the last decade, there has been a huge controversy about childhood vaccinations. Some parents are adamant about their kids having every vaccine known to man to prevent problems on down the line. Other parents are just as adamant that their kids NEVER have a vaccine touch their bodies. Many feel these vaccines can lead to autism, severe reactions and in some cases.....even death. The other side of that coin is that these vaccines were developed to wipe out epidemic diseases such as polio, whooping cough and yes.....measles.
I was born post polio. By the time I came along this disease had been eradicated by the vaccine and it was commonly given to kids to prevent any outbreaks. In the 1960's, the measles vaccine was coming on the scene but I don't believe it was a mandatory vaccine (by medical profession standards) at the time. As I recall, the vaccines and boosters I got as a kid were for the diseases that had potentially chronic or fatal effects. In the 60's and 70's, kids still got measles and chicken pox and while not a particularly fun time, you coughed, ran a fever and scratched for 5-7 days and then went on with life. Usually in families with numerous kids, if one kid got it.....then the parents battened down the hatches and prepared for it to run its course through the house.
Now a days though, it is a different story. There are vaccinations for everything and kids get them from almost birth, clear up to their late teens. And yes, there have been many reports of reactions and even deaths from vaccines, but the opposing argument maintains that many lives have been saved and up until the last few years, most of the vaccinated diseases have been eradicated due to the vaccines.
With the current outbreak of measles and the disease spreading so quickly I do understand the schools not wanting to start in August with this hanging over their heads. Since vaccinations are not mandatory(parents can refuse to vaccinate their kids for numerous reasons) and a lot of parents are anti-vaccine then this could wreck havoc on a new school year. However, I really didn't think measles was that big of a deal (unless of course you are pregnant or your health was already compromised.) Since millions of kids survived the disease and thrived after having it long before there was a vaccine, I decided to see what measles was really all about. I myself have never had it. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen a case of it.
According to WebMD, measles can cause high fever, sore throat, coughing and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. It takes 8-12 days after exposure to come down with the disease and you are contagious from 4 days before the rash starts until 4 days after it stops. The whole disease lasts about 2 weeks and like any disease, it depends on the individual as to how bad the symptoms are. These are just the normal run of the mill symptoms. However, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), there can be side effects that are much more ominous and even deadly that go along with the measles virus. About 30% of all those who get measles will have one of these sides effects.
The CDC states that 1 out of every 20 with the measles virus will develop pneumonia. This can be critical and even life threatening. One in ten will come down with a severe ear infection as a result of measles and in many this can lead to some form of permanent hearing loss. Severe diarrhea happens in about 8% of the cases and 1 in every 1,000 will come down with encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) which can cause seizures, mental retardation and even death. In those with encephalitis, 2-3 out of every 1,000 will die. I always figured that the measles themselves would be no fun, but I didn't know that the side effects could be so damaging. In fact, I had no idea that measles even had side effects.
I am neither adamantly for or against vaccinating but I was vaccinated as a child and all my kids have been vaccinated. With David's health already being somewhat compromised, I was curious to know if even after getting the vaccine if you could catch measles during an outbreak. Again I went to the CDC and pulled up their Measles Fact Sheet. According to their info, if you are properly vaccinated with both doses, then 95 out of 100 who receive the vaccine will remain measle free. On the other hand, if you haven't had the vaccine and you are exposed, you will almost definitely get the disease.
So now we have a summer outbreak. As of May this year, the CDC had recorded a record high of 280+ cases. This was the largest number since 1994. The numbers have undoubtedly climbed since May as we are currently having new cases pop up right and left here in Kansas. What does this mean? Well luckily I haven't heard of any deaths related to measles and from what I have heard, the cases are simply running their course. I don't know if any cases have wound up in the hospitals but I did hear that the ER's are trying desperately to keep possible cases out of their waiting rooms.
I guess the question is.....are measles making a come back? Is the choice to not vaccinate going to end up being a death sentence for many in this or future outbreaks or will it be like the old days pre-vaccine, where most people caught it, suffered with it and came out on the other side?