On February 7th, the Times Herald headlined with “Case of measles suspected,” about a teen-aged boy right here in Montgomery County. Naturally, worrying kicked in. Had the virus traveled here all the way from California, where 103 cases had already been confirmed? Philly’s news station KYW was all over the story, too, and seven-year-old Harry heard the report as he sat in the back seat of the family car on the way to basketball practice.
His question was immediate: “What’s measles?” followed up with, “Can it make you die?”
After explaining a bit about the disease, he finally settled down when his mom ended with, “You don’t have to worry about it; you’ve been vaccinated.”
And that, of course, makes all the difference, not just for Harry, but the rest of us, too.
Writing for USA Today, Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, explained that back in 1990, four diseases, measles among them, were responsible for the deaths worldwide of almost 2 million children, five years and younger. Thanks to immunizations, however, by 2013, that number has been reduced by 70% to 600,000.
Hotez then goes on to posit that lots of children are still at risk in part because of the media’s silence about these advances. This, he concludes, has allowed “fringe groups to disseminate false claims about vaccines and their alleged links to autism …. despite a total absence of scientific credibility or even plausibility given what we know about the genetics of autism …”
The result: While back in 2000, the CDC was able to announce that measles had been eradicated in the U.S., that’s no longer true. In fact, Read the rest of this entry »