Tag Archives: vaccination

The Measles Outbreak

Like many people, this measles outbreak is really pissing me off.

15 years ago, measles was declared eradicated in the US (1).  In the first month of 2015, there were over 100 cases of measles (2).

So much for eradication.

We all know what happened.  Thanks to a fraudulent paper and idiotic celebrities, many American parents  became duped into thinking that vaccines are dangerous.  The anti-vax movement has some of the hallmarks of a great conspiracy.  For example, every time a point that anti-vaxers bring up regarding vaccines being more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, and that argument is proven wrong, they change to a new argument.

First, it was that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) combined vaccine causes autism.  That’s been proven wrong (3).  Repeatedly.  Also, the study that started this was considered completely fraudulent on a variety of counts.  So, the anti-vaxers started to blame thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative found in vaccines.  Besides the fact that thimerosal is made of the relatively harmless ethylmercury (4, as opposed to the bad methylmercury you eat when scarfing down your tuna sushi), the government caved in and removed thimerosal from vaccines. Autism rates continued to rise, proving this wasn’t an issue. But hey, great work, anti-vax conspiracy theorists- you have succeed in making life-saving vaccines exponentially more expensive and more difficult to get to impoverished areas worldwide where they are desperately needed.  Congrats!

Instead of saying, “Okay, maybe vaccines aren’t that super evil,” the anti-vaxers began attacking something new.  Vaccines have aluminum.  Vaccines cause allergies.  They’re made from aborted fetuses that are going to return from the dead as zombies and will jump out from our precious babies and eat our brains!

Just kidding on the last part.  NO ONE wants the brain of someone that doesn’t even understand the value of vaccinations.

There are plenty of other arguments that can all easily be refuted with a basic scientific understanding, backed up by decades of research and thousands of peer-reviewed, scientific papers (as opposed to the, like, three, that agree with the anti-vaxers).

What compelled me to write this is how close the outbreak is getting to my family.  I have to admit, my children are NOT fully vaccinated against measles.  Why?  Because they’re no old enough yet (although Roz will get her booster in April).

A daycare center in a Chicago suburb had 6 measles cases so far (5).  5 of the cases are in babies under 1 year of age, who simply aren’t old enough to get vaccinated yet.  Measles is highly contagious (6), so it’s likely this daycare center may have more of its infants getting infected.

What likely happened is that someone who wasn’t vaccinated spread the virus to at least one of the infants, who then passed it along to the rest.  This is why I’m angry.

The infants, little cute snuggly babies, were at risk because they are too young to be vaccinated.  Some other selfish person who is unwilling to actually understand the biology behind vaccinations decided to get them sick by refusing this protection.

Herd immunity is important.  It protects those who legitimately can’t get vaccinated because of age, allergies, or other actual health concerns.  Because the herd immunity wasn’t strong enough, these poor babies now have to suffer.

And that, to me, is just unacceptable.  Young babies should not be the ones having to deal with an eradicated disease.  Not when we have such powerful tools to protect ourselves and others.

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Polio: Past, Present, and Future

It took a lot of will power not to title this article “Marco! Polio!” I’d hate to make light of such a devastating infection, but I think it’s one of those overlooked topics that could really use a good attention-getter.

There are only a few areas where wild polio virus lives. This is a problem, because it can still be transmitted into other areas. Case-in-point: a recent outbreak in China, imported from Pakistan. Cases of polio have nearly doubled in Pakistan this year, and there have been some cases in China, too. 10 people in China have been infected, and one has already died. With international travel, the virus could easily end up in almost any country.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, for short, is a disease affecting the central nervous system, resulting in symptoms from fever and fatigue, to painful limbs. About 1 in 200 cases of polio results in paralysis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Polio is transmitted by the oral-fecal route. Even for that small fraction of Americans who don’t regularly ingest their neighbors’ poo, it can still be transmitted easily. In its heyday, before the development of a vaccine, there were nearly 60,000 cases of polio annually in the United States. Some of these outbreaks were connected to public swimming pools. It makes sense- right? You normally don’t completely sanitize your bottom after every BM. You go into the pool with some virus attached to you. It floats off happily. A young child jumps in, his or her mouth open. And presto, the virus has found a new host.

Nowadays, there are only about 10 cases of polio per year in the US, none of which are from indigenous virus. These cases are either imported from areas where polio has not been eradicated, or are vaccine related. Because the vaccine is a live, attenuated virus given orally, live virus particles can be passed out from some individuals. Vaccine related cases are caused when the vaccine virus, a live, attenuated strain, reverts back to wild-type virus. This normally occurs only when wild type virus is around- the two strains recombine. This also makes it extremely important to vaccinate everyone.

Another valuable reason to vaccinate everyone? Like smallpox, polio could easily become a disease of the past.