Measles Update

Posted - 22 January, 2015

Recently, the media has had a field day sensationalizing a measles outbreak stemming across the country. The CDC has confirmed that the current outbreak did originate from someone who was sick with measles while visiting Disneyland between December 15th – 20th last year. Several more people also came down with measles after their trip to Disneyland during that same time period, and then brought it back to the states where they live. This is why the illness has spread to Oregon, Utah, Washington, Colorado and even Mexico. These people are being carefully monitored by local public health agencies and being quarantined to stop measles from spreading even further. I personally know what a painstaking process this is since my daycare had a pertussis outbreak over the summer, which you can read about here.

This post is not a one sided vaccine debate. I know I am tired of reading those. So tired. I am a mother who makes careful, educated decisions regarding vaccination, the food I feed my kids, and the kind of environment they are surrounded in. I also find their immune systems to be particularly fascinating which is why I wanted to see what was up with measles, and what would happen if a child came down with it. I also found it upsetting that everyone, especially on social media, is in a sheer state of panic over 59 cases of measles. After all whooping cough had over 10,000 confirmed cases last year, and that is just in my state of California alone.

So here’s the deal. In 2000 the CDC declared measles eliminated in the United States. This does not mean that measles was eradicated worldwide. In fact, it really means that on average the U.S. still sees about 200 cases of imported measles a year because it is a huge problem currently in places like the Philippines. So basically international travelers bring the illness back to our country. Now, 2014 did see a huge spike in the number of measles cases with a whopping 644 cases by the end of the year. The question is: why such a dramatic increase now after all these years??

I find it maddening that the media will tell you with 100% certainty that the anti-vaxers are solely responsible for the Disneyland outbreak, simply because it is in California where there are a higher percentage of parents opting out of vaccines. Really? The last time my family and I went to Disneyland we saw another family next to us with luggage tags on their stroller stamped with CHINA. It just makes sense to me that there would be an outbreak of a non-native ilness like measles in a place where people visit from all over the world.

So please, take a deep breath. To help calm you down, here is a quote Dr. Bob sears recently posted on his FB page regarding the recent measles outbreak, “Deadly? Not in the U.S., or any other developed country with a well-nourished population. The risk of fatality here isn’t zero, but it’s as close to zero as you can get without actually being zero. It’s 1 in many thousands.”Again, 59 cases of measles in this current outbreak with the norm being around 200 imported cases a year. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the pertussis epidemic – with over 10,00 cases reported last year in California alone. Two of those cases were infants less than five weeks old who sadly died.

So, the question remains as to why the huge increase of cases this year. Here are my two cents – measles will never take an infants life they way pertussis can wipe out a perfectly healthy, American newborn overnight. So lets not worry about measles, for now. Lets not focus on an annoying rash and put all of our attention towards a cough that fills your lungs with so much fluid you choke it back and struggle to breathe. Lets develop a new, safe vaccine that actually works for pertussis because to me it just doesn’t make sense that 90% of pertussis patients were fully vaccinated. But I digress…

Lastly, I will admit that going from 200 cases of measles to 644 does seem to be from parents opting out of the measles or MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. But I do not blame these parents. After all, what would you do if you were asked to inject your child with a shot that also carried the nickname “the autism vaccine?” Especially if you educated yourself and knew that each of these MMR diseases can be annoying and uncomfortable, but rarely life threatening. So on one side we have an outbreak of something truly nasty like pertussis with the majority of infected fully vaccinated, and on the other we have 28 people who were not vaccinated and came down with measles after going to Disney. Just saying.

Kids get rashes all the time. Here is my daughter’s latest. No other symptoms.

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