By Kathy Hubbard
Sometimes life is baffling. Take the fact that in 2000 measles were declared eliminated from the United States, but last week the governor of Washington declared a state of emergency because 55 cases of measles were confirmed in Clark County.
And, it’s not just in Washington. Texas is the eleventh state so far to report a measles outbreak adding their numbers to California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and, of course, I already mentioned Washington.
So, the question begs to be asked. Why is there a measles outbreak? You know the answer. Children aren’t getting vaccinated. Before I go on a rant about vaccinations I want to tell you about measles.
“In the ninth century a Persian doctor published one of the first written accounts of measles disease,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains. By 1912, healthcare providers in the U.S. were required to report all diagnosed cases of measles yielding a first decade average of 6,000 measles-related diseases each year.
“In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated three to four million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles,” the CDC says.
Let’s look at this disease a little closer. Called rubeola, measles infection is caused by a virus. Roughly 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus the following signs and symptoms start to appear: fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat and inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis).
Sounds a bit like coming down with a cold, right? Then tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background are found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek. These are also called Koplik’s spots. And, then there’s the tell-tale skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another.
What starts out with a low fever escalates quickly to one as high as 104 to 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time the rash that starts on the face spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. And it doesn’t miss a spot, believe me.
The most common complication is an ear infection, but bronchitis, laryngitis or croup and pneumonia are all on this list as well. The above mentioned encephalitis will affect about one in 1,000 people. It may occur at the time of infection or months later and can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
“Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears,” CDC says.
Women who are pregnant need to take special care to avoid contracting measles because the disease can cause preterm labor, low birth weight and maternal death.
So, I beg you to tell me, why are people choosing not to vaccinate their children? I have two ideas. The first is that parents today don’t have any concept of how dangerous this disease is, so they don’t see the importance of vaccinations. They think that because the disease has been designated as eradicated, it means it won’t reoccur. Well, we know that’s wrong.
The second idea for not vaccinating is because of the massive amount of misinformation that has been circulating on social media. Although debunked over and over again, there are parents who believe that vaccinations are the direct cause of debilitating conditions such as autism. So very wrong.
Like all of us who were born before 1957, I remember childhood diseases. They were worse than awful. So, I implore you. If you think you have a good “philosophical” (not talking about medical or religious) reason for not having your child vaccinated, talk to your pediatrician, do the research and think about the fact that immunizing your child is also immunizing the children who have medical issues and can’t be vaccinated.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.