Measles is a very contagious disease. It’s usually something that people get over, without permanent damage, although complications are not all that uncommon. Deaths are relatively rare, but they do happen. At one time, a country like the United States would expect to experience a few dozen deaths from measles, mostly in children, per year.
That began to change when an effective vaccine was developed in 1968. It took some time for the vaccine to proliferate across the industrial world, and measles outbreaks continued into the 1980′s. However by the late 1990′s, measles had become an uncommon condition in most of the developed world. It did not go away completely, but by the turn of the 21st century, most public health officials considered measles to be a problem of the past and efforts on further eradication focused on third world countries, where low vaccine rates allowed it to flourish.
That began to change, however, as more parents started to buy into the propaganda of an increasingly well funded and vocal anti-vaccine movement. It started with claims that vaccine caused autism. Then they began to talk about all manner of “vaccine injury,” which, in most cases, was a complete fabrication. Yet the fear of vaccines took hold enough for many parents to leave their children unvaccinated. Many became so sold on the idea they would work to spread the message to others.
What happened is exactly what you would expect to happen. A disease as contagious as measles once again had a population capable of sustaining an outbreak and that’s what happened. In the United States, a single incident, where a number of persons were exposed in Disneyland resulted in a multi-state outbreak that has now spread to several states. The numbers keep climbing and are now well over one hundred and fifty, although its likely that far more have not been reported.
Of course, the US is not alone. Similar outbreaks and increases in rate of measles have swept the industrial world. Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany have also faced the prospect of decreasing vaccine rates leading to measles outbreaks. Other outbreaks have happened in the Netherlands, New Zealand, Italy, Singapore and New Zealand.
In many places, vaccine refusal has just begun to reach the critical number necessary for full scale outbreaks to be sustained in the population. This has resulted in some very dramatic upticks in the rate of the diseases. For example, Turkey reported 7,132 cases in 2014, up from 700 in 2013. In New Zealand, 2014 saw 281 cases reported, while only 8 cases had been reported in 2013.
Up until now, no lives had been lost to the outbreaks. There are a few reasons for this. One is that vaccines are still reasonably common and therefore, the outbreaks have been small compared to those of decades ago. Another reason is that, when someone gets measles, every effort is made to prevent them from dying.
Serious complications, complications that could even cause death, are not uncommon from measles. But when they do happen, the health system springs into action and usually manages to save the lives of those infected. For example, about 15% of those infected in the recent US outbreak ended up in the hospital. When this happens, they are monitored, fluids and fever reducers are given, antibiotics are called for if there are secondary infections and doctors monitor their recovery. Some will develop pneumonia and require breathing assistance, such as supplemental oxygen. Vitamin A may be given by IV, as there is some evidence of decreased mortality when high vitamin A levels are maintained.
Providing this kind of treatment for those infected, even if it is a minority of cases, is not cheap. It can be a big burden on the healthcare system. Overall, it turns out to be very expensive to deal with measles. Overall, the cost of both treating those badly infected and implementing measures to stop the spread ended up costing agencies in the state of California an average of more than ten thousand dollars per case.
But on the bright side, these measures, expensive though they may be, have proven effective in stopping people from dying. But not 100% effective.
With the growing number of measles cases, it was really only a matter of time before a life was lost. That’s finally happened.
What can we say to the anti vaccine groups about this?
Yes, they finally killed someone. And it was a baby, none the less. That should probably even count for two points. It probably won’t be the last, but it’s the first baby to die of measles in North America or Western Europe in some time, so I guess they deserve some credit on that one.
Predictable, of course. It was bound to happen.
The death occurred in Germany, although if the trend keeps up, we can expect to see death from measles elsewhere as well.
Toddler dies as measles outbreak hits German capital
Berlin (AFP) – A toddler suffering from measles has died in the German capital, health authorities said, amid the country’s worst outbreak in years and a debate about vaccinations.
The 18-month-old boy died on February 18, the first known fatality among more than 570 recorded measles cases since October in the German capital, a Berlin health department official told AFP on Monday.
The resurgence of the preventable disease in Germany, as well as in parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.
Health Minister Hermann Groehe said “the irrational fear-mongering of some vaccination-foes is irresponsible”.
“Those who refuse to vaccinate their children endanger not only them but others, threatening serious health problems.”
German national health officials said Monday there were no current plans to make measles vaccinations mandatory.
But they said the government would ensure that parents receive advice on the need for immunisations when children start early child care.
Vaccination certificates would also be checked during regular doctors visits, a health ministry spokeswoman said.
She added that “if that doesn’t help, other steps will have to be considered.”
Berlin’s prestigious Charite hospital said later in a short statement that it had treated the measles-infected child which had died and that the cause of death was “still being examined”.
The article goes on to point out an important difference between this outbreak and previous measles outbreaks in Germany.
The centre for diseases control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, said the Berlin wave of infections had “initially affected primarily asylum seekers, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia”.
“But now cases of the disease are occurring primarily amid the general population of Berlin,” it said in a statement.
Just like in the US, Canada and elsewhere, Germany had enjoyed a relative absence of measles, as most citizens had been vaccinated. The few cases that did occur, were often in immigrant communities, where vaccine rates were low. the fact that the German population is now able to sustain a measles outbreak is unsettling, although not surprising.
In 2001, the Journal of Infectious Disease published an article about the progress toward elimination of measles in Germany. Great strides had been made in the country since the reunification of the German Republic in 1991. Things have, unfortunately, begun to change in Germany over the past few years and at present, the country is battling an outbreak that has sickened hundreds.
Of course, those who do advocate that parents forgo vaccinations have killed other babies. This is not the first death they have caused, not by a long shot. It is the first to be caused by a measles outbreak, which could have been prevented. It likely won’t be the last. The situation in Germany is far from unique. It’s
This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 at 1:16 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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