Earlier this year (2015), it was announced that five children under the age of 1 were diagnosed with measles. All of the children attended the same daycare facility, Palatine KinderCare. The news was released by the Cook County Dept. of Public Health. The big question is: Why weren't the children vaccinated? Is it because the parents are ignorant? Is it because they think that "Big Pharma" is out to inject their children with harmful chemicals that will give them autism and, potentially, cause cancer?


The children were not immunized because the measles vaccine is not available for children who are under the age of one.

Ultimately, children are the ones who generally suffer when other people decide that their personal, entirely unsubstantiated, and entirely unscientific beliefs are more important than other individuals' health and well-being. Remember that.

And of course, the story doesn't end there. Health officials were concerned about the other infants that attended the Palatine KinderCare. As a result, another 10 children had to be watched and remain at home for 21 days. That means babysitters. That means lost work. That means lives disrupted. Remember that.

Measles. Image Credit: the CDC

And others did catch measles. A number of subsequent cases were linked to KinderCare Learning Center.

Ultimately, all of this is terribly ironic considering how much people tend to worry about (and sensationalize) Ebola. Although we may look at a person who is infected with Ebola like some modern day Typhoid Mary, it is (for all intents and purposes) not very easy to spread Ebola. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get Ebola just by looking at an infected person. The virus is not spread through the air, but through bodily secretions (like blood, saliva, and urine). Moreover, Ebola is not contagious until the more advanced stages.

Do you know someone who is visibly sick with Ebola? Do you plan on touching the infected person’s bodily secretions? No? Then you have little to worry about.

The same cannot be said for measles.

Image credit: Creative Commons / Via Flickr: julien_harneis

Measles is a highly contagious disease. It is spread through the air, and it can remain live for up to two hours after leaving the body. In an interview with Rutgers, when asked how infectious it is, pediatric infectious diseases specialist Glenn Fennelly asserted, "It’s highly contagious. If you are nonimmune and have contact with an infected person, there is a 90 percent probability that you will contract measles."

And that's any contact. At all. Remember that.

If that's not enough, it's a respiratory infection that causes serious complications in about 3 of 10 people, and you may not even know that you have it. Fennelly continues, "Measles can be deceiving since its initial symptoms appear to be like those of a cold or flu, such as high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes." This eventually progresses to the rash that many of us associate with the measles. Although many will eventually recover, about 1 in 1,000 will get something known as "acute encephalitis," which is a swelling of the brain. This leads to a number of negative side effects, the worst of which is a coma and, in about 15% of these cases, death.

Even if you recover, you are not out of the woods.

Years after recovery, individuals may develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). This usually surfaces 6 to 8 years after infection. There is no cure for SSP. It is, for nearly all who contract it, a death sentence. The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) notes, "Individuals with SSPE will die within 1 to 3 years of diagnosis. In a small percentage of people, the disease will progress rapidly, leading to death over a short course within three months of diagnosis....Prevention, in the form of measles vaccination, is the only real 'cure' for SSPE."

Fortunately, because of vaccines, we have seen a 90% decrease in the number of SSPE cases. But people aren't getting vaccinated anymore.

A child with measles. TImage Credit: mediacolor/Alamy

In a recent press release, Jorge Parada, a hospital epidemiologist and medical director of the Infection Prevention and Control program at Loyola University Health System, notes that modern medicine might actually be the root cause of the current measles outbreak. He asserts that, ultimately, individuals in the United States may be victims of the effectiveness of modern medicine: "The problem is that people appear to have not only forgotten the negative impact of these infections, but also that these infections are still prevalent elsewhere – so it is only a matter of time before they get reintroduced to the United States. The current measles outbreak is a textbook example of this,” Parada says.

And Parada asserts that, as the recent daycare cases show us, people must be vaccinated, if not for their own health, then for others: "A young adult may have a healthy immune system and get a very mild version of an infectious disease but the oldest and youngest, or someone with a chronic disease who is immunocompromised, or pregnant are at much greater risk for severe infection and complications,” he says. “If you won’t get vaccinated for yourself, do it for your grandparents or for your baby niece or just for the greater good of society.”

We really can't say this enough times, the 1998 research paper that stated that vaccines cause autism was subsequently (and substantially) found to be fraudulent. It was retracted by The Lancet, the British medical journal that originally published it. Worried about other side effects? Don't be. As Roald Dahl noted in the 1980s, "In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunization."

Get immunized. We shouldn't need to still be saying this in 2015. Remember that.

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