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Don't Get Caught Without the MMR Shot

The choice to not vaccinate a child may put whole communities at risk.

I attended a wedding this weekend for my daughter’s close friend whom she has known since her early days at Moorpark High School. The weather was just perfect, unlike Texas which is burning up or the southeast which has been torn up by super cell tornadoes. No, the weather here will do just fine.

Even in London, where it had been raining, the sun came out as the Prince and his Kate emerged from their nuptials at Westminister Abbey. Some two billion people worldwide watched that wedding. Aside from Brits, it was reported that the next largest group gathered outside the church was American. Yanks may despise being ruled by royalty but we just love to look at the pageantry.

Those Americans who made their way across the pond to be part of the royal shindig will soon be returning home. Unfortunately, a few may inadvertently be bringing home an unwelcome souvenir, the virus that causes the measles.

There is presently a measles outbreak in the United Kingdom as well as in France and Germany. For families planning to travel to Europe this summer, doctors are strongly advising vaccinating any children who are heading overseas well before they depart. That includes very young children who, under normal circumstances would be considered too young for the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), should be immunized before heading into a country with a current outbreak.

Europe used to be a very safe place where measles had become just a bad memory. But after Dr. Andrew Wakefield published his study in 1998, now debunked and labeled fraudulent, which linked the possibility of a child becoming autistic due to the MMR vaccine, hordes of parents have shunned having their children  inoculated.

Did you know that more than 20 percent of the children in Great Britain are unvaccinated? Did you know that France and Germany are both in the midst of measles outbreaks unlike anything experienced in decades? And did you know that Minnesota, Utah and New Jersey are currently experiencing outbreaks?

In Minnesota, the Somali community has hosted three recent appearances by the discredited and de-certified Dr. Andrew Wakefield. That community has demonstrated that it fears autism, which they erroneously still believe is linked to the MMR vaccine, more than they fear the terrible scourge of measles.

Consequently, eight of the 23 measles cases in that state just this year have been members of the Somali community. In the 10 years prior to 2011, a total of only 10 cases were reported in Minnesota for that entire decade.

Even those who have been vaccinated, and that would be most of us, are vulnerable. Utah is experiencing an outbreak and the vaccination rate there is 97 percent. New Jersey is also in the midst of a measles outbreak.

California was the focus of a 2008 measles outbreak. It began when a San Diego family returned from a trip to Switzerland. The seven year old son, who was intentionally not vaccinated, caught the measles and brought the virus back with him. You don’t have to be on the same airplane with an infected person or carrier, you just have to be in the same airport at the same time. The San Diego boy alone exposed 839 people to the potentially deadly disease.

Dr. Jane Seward, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the April issue of Pediatrics that parents who believe the MMR is more dangerous than measles are playing a dicey game with public health.
The article quoted her as saying, “It is a reminder that people who choose not to vaccinate don’t just put themselves or their children at risk, but also their communities, which includes infants who are too young to immunize.”

If you are planning a family vacation to Europe or any location where the measles is endemic, please talk with your pediatrician about vaccinating your children. They don’t have to travel to Europe to be exposed, European tourists can and have brought it here. Safety and peace of mind is just one shot away.

Babs May 03, 2011 at 06:27 AM
Yes alot of people are being exposed to measles and some are actually getting it. But seriously now, how many have died or have been permanantly injured??? Stop trying to scare people.
Rebecca Whitnall (Editor) May 03, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Good question, Babs. I looked at the World Health Organization's website (http://tinyurl.com/y8szy8e) and it looks like the latest data they are reporting is from 2008. Here's what they said: "In 2008, there were 164 000 measles deaths globally – nearly 450 deaths every day or 18 deaths every hour." What I didn't see is information about what percentage of people who get measles die from it, but WHO did say, "Severe complications from measles can be avoided though supportive care that ensures good nutrition, adequate fluid intake and treatment of dehydration with WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution. This solution replaces fluids and other essential elements that are lost through diarrhoea or vomiting. Antibiotics should be prescribed to treat eye and ear infections, and pneumonia. "
Joan Bien May 24, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Babs: I just noticed your comment. People should be scared of measles, particularly since we have and have had the tools to prevent the disease. It is one of the most highly infectious diseases known to us. Most of the deaths, and they are painful and ugly deaths, happen to infants who are too young to get the vaccine. It is about stepping up to the plate of personal responsibility. What about a pregnant woman being exposed to measles. It only takes being in the same approximate place, indoors or outdoors, within a couple hours of an infectious person. If the baby lives, the chances of blindness or other devastating problems are quite high. Does that scare you? Adults who refuse to vaccinate their children are the truly dangerous and scary people. They are so arrogant and intentionally ignorant, so sure that medicine and science are irrelevant to their personal responsibility. Should tax cheats get the same benefits from services as taxpayers? Should drunks be allowed to drive? If you choose to ignore the risks to others that you are consciously generating, cheating in other words, then you should be held responsible for that decision. Scary, for sure. I think it is time to stop the easy anonymity of those who choose to put the public at risk. There should be serious consequences for such seriously dangerous behavior. Please, Babs, look into the history of measles or influenza or polio or small pox. It will make you sick.

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