The Return Of A Deadly Disease

by Patrick Appel

Russell Saunders blames anti-vaxxers for the measles outbreak in NYC:

This is not some inconvenience to be laughed off. Measles is a highly-contagious illness caused by a virus. It usually presents with a combination of rash, fevers, cough and runny nose, as well as characteristic spots in the mouth. Most patients recover after an unpleasant but relatively uneventful period of sickness.  Unfortunately, about one patient in every 1,000 develops inflammation of the brain, and one to three cases per 1000 in the United States result in death. …

Just over a dozen years ago this illness was considered eliminated in our country, and this year people are being hospitalized for it. All due to the hysteria about a safe, effective vaccine. All based on nothing.

Brian Palmer fears such outbreaks could get more serious:

Falling vaccination rates are now an urgent concern in public health. Measles incidence dropped 99 percent after the vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2000 and 2007, the United States saw an average of just 63 measles cases per year, and almost all of those victims brought the disease into the United States from abroad. In 2013, however, the incidence of measles tripled. Unlike in previous years, the majority of the victims contracted the disease here in the United States, meaning that measles outbreaks are now a serious national problem. It could get worse. Vaccination rates in the United States remain at about 90 percent, but in the United Kingdom, where vaccination has fallen below 80 percent, the disease is once again endemic.

Tara C. Smith spells out why she vaccinates:

I’ve spent almost 20 years of my life studying infectious diseases up-close and personal, not from random websites on Google. I’ve worked with viruses and bacteria in the lab. I respect what germs are capable of. I worry about vaccine-preventable diseases coming back because oflow levels of herd immunity. I cry over stories of babies lost to pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases. As I’ve noted before, chicken pox has played a role in the deaths of two family members, so I don’t view that as just a “harmless childhood disease.” Vaccines have eradicated or severely reduced many of the deadliest diseases from the past: smallpox, polio, measles, diptheria.

But that’s not the only reason I vaccinate. I vaccinate because I’m all too aware of the nasty diseases out there that still don’t have an effective vaccine. My current work focuses on a germ called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”), a “superbug” which kills about 11,000 people every year in the United States. We have no vaccine. I previously worked on two different types of Streptococcus: group A and group B. Group B is mainly a problem for babies, and kills about 2,000 of them every year. It leaves many others with permanent brain damage after infection. We have no vaccine. Group A kills about 1,500 people each year in the U.S. and can cause nasty (and deadly) infections like necrotizing fasciitis (the “flesh-eating disease”). We  have no vaccine. These are all despite the fact that we still have antibiotics to treat most of these infections (though untreatable infections are increasing). Infectious diseases still injure and kill, despite our nutritional status, despite appropriate vitamin D levels, despite sanitation improvements, despite breastfeeding, despite handwashing, despite everything we do to keep our kids healthy. This is why protection via vaccination is so important for the diseases where it’s available. If vaccines were available for the diseases I listed above, I’d have my kids get them in a heartbeat.