Two cases of measles, the highly contagious virus, have been confirmed just outside of Boston, according Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Later reports traced the disease to a Framingham Trader Joe’s shopping market.
And while most people in the United States have received vaccines against the disease, or got it and recovered as children making them immune, health officials are advising anyone displaying any symptoms to call a doctor. (It’s not recommended you go to a health care facility, out of fear you may infect others who have not been vaccinated.)
Many adults associate measles with mild illness and relatively harmless red spots. Not quite, says Ronald Samuels, MD, MPH, associate medical director of Boston Children’s Primary Care Center. “Measles is different from chicken pox. A mild case of measles doesn’t exist.” That message takes on a new urgency in light of data released by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), which tallied 159 reported cases of measles from January 1-August 24 of this year.
The U.S. declared measles eliminated with no cases of continuous transmission for 12 months or longer in 2000. Since then, the number of annual cases has ranged from 37 to 220 in 2011. The current numbers suggest a potential problem.
The uptick isn’t huge, but could signal that the U.S. is on track to follow the path of England, which saw measles cases swell from 188 in 2004 to 2,030 in 2012. England has since launched an MMR immunization catch-up program to target previously unvaccinated children in an attempt to contain the spread of measles. …
For years, measles has been rare in the United States, thanks to immunization. But recently, that has changed. This year we’ve seen lots of outbreaks, mostly started by unimmunized people going to or coming from countries that have lots of measles—and then giving the infection to unimmunized people here. In Massachusetts we have had 24 cases of measles this year—19 since May!
What is measles?
Measles, also called rubeola, is a very contagious respiratory illness.
What causes it?
Measles is caused by a virus. It is spread through the air when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or simply breathe near someone else. It lives in the mucus of infected people, so if an infected person has mucus on their hands (from touching their mouth or nose) and touches something (like a doorknob), they can leave the virus behind for others to catch.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, sore throat, rash, red eyes, cough, and body aches. Sometimes people with measles get white spots in their mouth called Koplik spots. The spots in the mouth and rash usually start a few days after the illness has begun, so at the beginning it can be hard to tell measles from the common cold or flu. …
As you may have heard on the news this morning, the British Medical Journal further discredited the research of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, an English doctor whose work attempts to link autism to vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella. Wakefield’s data and research practices have been questioned in the past, (he was barred from practicing medicine in the U.K. by the country’s General Medical Council in May) but two new articles from the BMJ go as far as to claim that his research was not only incorrect, but purposely falsified, possibly for financial gain.
Yesterday’s article and accompanying editorial will be the first in a series stating that Wakefield either misrepresented or altered information in his study of 12 children, whose autism he claims was linked to vaccination. According to the article’s author Brian Deer, the series will “expose the bogus data behind claims that launched a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and reveals how the appearance of a link with autism was manufactured at a London medical school.”
Since 2004 Deer has been publishing stories discrediting Wakefield’s findings on the dangers of MMR vaccination, and now accuses the doctor of purposely submitting falsified data to prove his theories. A separate BMJ editorial written about Wakefield calls his work “an elaborate fraud.”
According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all children who get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (more than 80%) will have no side effects. Still, despite scientific evidence, there are a growing number of parents who opt not to get their children vaccinated because they fear the vaccinations could be linked to autism.
Last night PBS aired Frontline: the Vaccine War, an in-depth journalistic look at vaccinations, and why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children.
As in most vaccination reports, the idea that there is a correlation between the mumps, measles and rubella vaccination and cases of autism was at the forefront of the discussion. The show has generated a good deal of debate about social responsibility versus parental choice, and is creating a stir on both sides of the vaccine issue.
The Frontline program is similar to a Thrive post from April 14, which looked at two separate outbreaks of measles in North America and the cost they posed to the public-at-large. Children’s Hospital Boston’s Ronald Samuels, MD, MPH discussed the vaccination controversy and his views on the subject.