When a large measles outbreak in California was attributed to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, people panicked. At least the media would have you believe that was the case. Like Ebola this disease has become the new thing to fear. It has also brought to light the decision by some parents not to vaccinate their children. However, this measles scare might just be overblown by the media.
Measles is not a run of the mill illness, and can be a serious thing. Before the vaccine existed, 450 to 500 people in America died every year from it. However, for most people it is not much different than a bad case of the flu with a painful rash. It is a terrible thing, but is not as deadly or fearsome as it has been made out to be.
One of the real dangers of the virus is its contagiousness. It is spread through the air by a cough or a sneeze, and it can live up to two hours on surfaces and in the air. Anyone not immunized has a 90 percent chance to be infected when exposed to the virus. This is why the case at Disneyland spread so quickly.
In places where the vaccine is not as readily available, the measles infliction is still a big problem. There were 562,000 deaths from the virus in 2002. Global vaccination efforts by the likes of the Red Cross and the CDC brought those numbers down to just 122,000 by 2012. Despite these great strides, measles is still one of the leading killers of children world wide.
The problem is, that is only with those who have not been immunized. For those who have, it is 97 percent effective. When those who’ve been immunized due get the disease, it is generally a mild case. Those are pretty good odds of not just survival, but immunity. It seems then, so long as someone is vaccinated, the measles scare has indeed been overblown.
Still, while most people have no adverse effects, there are some side effects to vaccination. Some experience temporary pain and swelling at the site of injection. Between five and ten percent get a mild rash and low grade fever. Basically, a small percentage gets a mild case of the measles. A study from 1998 suggesting it causes autism has since been discredited. No other studies have come to this same conclusion.
Despite the great benefit to potential risk ratio of the measles vaccine, the US and specifically southern California has become ground zero for an anti-vaccination movement. In fact, the movement has gone far enough to lead over 100 other countries to have a vaccination percentage higher than the 91 percent the US has. Other western countries with declining immunization rates include Spain, Canada, Denmark and Belgium.
Perhaps then, the real scare should not be measles itself, but the complacency of those who have chosen not to provide the vaccination to their children. This virus is one that can be beaten with a simple vaccination, yet unfounded fears have led some to ignore the concerns. No one should let overblown fears over a measles vaccination scare them into not vaccinating themselves or their children.
Opinion by Varon Laub