It's all over the Health News today, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, they're all reporting on the uptick in Measles cases in this country. For the first seven months of this year, 131 cases have been reported, the most in a decade, and more than double the cases for all of 2007. Of these cases, 15 were hospitalized, and 4 of those hospitalized were infants.
Of course, health officials and doctors are concerned about the increase. A decade ago, they declared the disease "eradicated," and now, the numbers are rising. And officials point to parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids--many because they fear autism as a side effect--as the cause. But as NPR reports, "Dr. William Schaffner, who chairs the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says there's absolutely no scientific evidence to back that [fear] up." Schaffner also points out the serious nature of the Measles disease, cautioning parents not to be "cavalier," pointing to complications like pneumonia and encephalitis that can occur with a Measles infection. He reminds us that, prior to "the Measles vaccine in this country, there were 400 deaths of U.S. children each year caused by Measles."
The CNN article also mentions an outbreak of whooping cough--"which can be fatal to children"--in San Francisco private school among unvaccinated kids.
So, potentially deadly--but totally preventable--communicable diseases are on the rise in this country. And the rise in infection rates is, by many health officials and medical professionals, laid squarely at the doorstep of parents who refuse to vaccinate.
But those parents who believe unequivocally that vaccinations pose a real danger, are, as the New York Times reports, "unapologetic about the return of Measles." J.B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue says "Most parents I know will take Measles over autism." Generation Rescue cites published medical studies on their web site, linking autism to the Measles vaccine (MMR).
Yet the return of Measles does pose a threat, especially for infants who are too young to be vaccinated. The more unvaccinated children there are, the more cases of Measles there will be, leaving infants more vulnerable to this serious illness than they were a decade ago.
I don't intend to stir major debate with this post, though I do think discussion is essential. This issue affects us all. I personally believe wholeheartedly in vaccination, and find the evidence linking autism to vaccines less than convincing, especially when examined next to the indisputable effects of infectious diseases. I have however, heard--and even blogged about--some frightening anecdotal evidence linking vaccination to autism, and even death.
And so, we are left to make these decisions for our families, using the available information to inform our choices.
Anyone out there feel differently about this issue? Let me know what you think.