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The Anti-Vaccination Crowd Gives Us A 20 Year High In Measles Cases

Vaccine Vial And Needle

Once declared eradicated, the number of measles cases in the United States is already at a 20 year high in 2014, and the fact that fewer people are getting vaccinated is largely to blame:

Largely because of resistance to vaccination, cases of measles have reached a 20-year high in the United States, federal health officials said on Thursday.

As of May 23, there were 288 confirmed cases in the United States — more than in all of 2013, and more than in the equivalent period of any year since 1994. The number is expected to increase during the summer travel season.

“This is not the kind of record we want to break,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of immunization and respiratory diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The measles virus, which is highly contagious, usually causes only a fever and a rash. But it can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness and even death. An unvaccinated American child who develops measles has about a one in 500 chance of dying, even with hospital care, according to the C.D.C.

There were fewer than 200 cases last year; the record low was 37 cases in 2004.

Eighty-five percent of this year’s cases were in people not vaccinated because of religious, philosophical or personal objections, Dr. Schuchat said.

In an unusual twist, over half were ages 20 or older. They may have included adults whose parents refused to vaccinate them years ago, she said.

Forty-three of the 288 who contracted the virus were hospitalized, most with pneumonia. None died.

Almost half the cases were part of a continuing outbreak in Amish communities in Ohio that started with missionaries who had traveled to the Philippines, which is experiencing an outbreak that has caused 41 deaths.

There were 60 cases in California, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Orange County, where large numbers of wealthy parents refuse to vaccinate their children.

The third-biggest outbreak was in New York City, which registered 26 cases in February and March. It was concentrated in Upper Manhattan, and cases are believed to have spread in hospital waiting rooms because doctors and nurses did not promptly recognize the symptoms. At least two children that contracted the virus were from families that refused vaccines; seven were too young to be vaccinated.

This chart from Vox demonstrates just how dramatically measles cases have actually spiked:

INSERT MEASLES CHART

I wrote about this earlier this year, when it seemed clear that we were indeed reaching a 20 year high in measles reports, and now that we’ve reached that point officially, the criticisms leveled at that time against the anti-vaccination movement seem to be all the more appropriate. Every parent who refuses to get their child vaccinated increases the risk that measles, or whopping cough, or any of the other number of childhood diseases that we had, for the most part, successfully eradicated at least in the developed world, manages to spread, most especially to people with compromised immune systems and children considered too young or too ill to receive the vaccinations in question as well as immigrants from nations where measles vaccination is not necessarily common. While 288 cases doesn’t seem like very much in a nation of more than 300 million people, the fact that there are any at all fourteen years after measles was thought to have been eradicated is a serious public health problem, and it’s one that was completely preventable.

Concerns about side effects from vaccination are, of course, well founded, and parents are right to question their children’s doctors about whether compliance with the recommended schedule of vaccinations is appropriate for their child. The problem is that most of what has become the anti-vaccination movement isn’t based on reasonable questions that we all ought to be asking medical professionals. It is instead based largely on pseudoscience and absurd rantings against technology by advocates who used that supposed “evidence” to scare well-meaning parents into thinking that the risks from vaccination are far higher than medical evidence actually tells us they are. The most famous of these lies, of course, was the assertion that there was a link between childhood vaccinations and autism that has since been entirely discredited and rejected by medical science. Before that happened, though, the myth of the vaccine-autism link spread around the world like wildfire and his given birth to a thousand irrational fears about something that is, in reality, one of the greatest public health achievements in human history, the effective irradication of childhood diseases that were once serious threats. When those lies are spread by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, Miyam Bialik, and Donald Trump, they are given an inappropriate air of credibility that makes debunking them far more difficult. As a result, we see stories like this one as well as others that have informed us of increases inthe number of reported cases of Whopping Cough and other diseases that are easily preventable.  The question is how much longer we’ll have to live with the consequences of pseudoscience and stupidity.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. jomike says:

    I hope Andrew Wakefield gets his due when the body count is tallied and the history books are written.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. swearyanthony says:

    “Concerns about side effects from vaccination are, of course, well founded, and parents are right to question their children’s doctors about whether compliance with the recommended schedule of vaccinations is appropriate for their child”

    What on earth… Well done Doug. Your relentless both-sides-do-it now touches on an area which will lead to unnecessary disease and death.

    No, concerns are not “well founded”. They’re shameless scaremongering. Try doing some research for goodness sake. You should be thoroughly ashamed of that writing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  3. PJ says:

    @swearyanthony:

    What on earth… Well done Doug. Your relentless both-sides-do-it now touches on an area which will lead to unnecessary disease and death.

    No, concerns are not “well founded”. They’re shameless scaremongering. Try doing some research for goodness sake. You should be thoroughly ashamed of that writing.

    I’m considering buying a botnet to be able to like this 100,000 times.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  4. ernieyeball says:

    From Centers for Disease Control
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm#mmrv

    MMRV vaccine side-effects
    (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella)
    What are the risks from MMRV vaccine?
    A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of MMRV vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
    Getting MMRV vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps, rubella, or chickenpox.
    Most children who get MMRV vaccine do not have any problems with it.
    ——————-
    Mild Problems
    Fever (about 1 child out of 5).
    Mild rash (about 1 child out of 20).
    Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (rare).
    If these problems happen, it is usually within 5-12 days after the first dose. They happen less often after the second dose.
    ——————–
    Moderate Problems
    Seizure caused by fever (about 1 child in 1,250 who get MMRV), usually 5-12 days after the first dose. They happen less often when MMR and varicella vaccines are given at the same visit as separate shots (about 1 child in 2,500 who get these two vaccines), and rarely after a 2nd dose of MMRV.
    Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 child out of 40,000).
    ——————–
    Severe Problems (Very Rare)
    Several severe problems have been reported following MMR vaccine, and might also happen after MMRV. These include severe allergic reactions (fewer than 4 per million), and problems such as:
    Deafness.
    Long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness.
    Permanent brain damage.
    Because these problems occur so rarely, we can’t be sure whether they are caused by the vaccine or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. Penn and Teller on Vaccinations (Mildly NSFW)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Mikey says:

    Concerns about side effects from vaccination are, of course, well founded

    [citation needed]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. ernieyeball says:

    The question is how much longer we’ll have to live with the consequences of pseudoscience and stupidity.

    Maybe we could start by highlighting the results of anti-vaccine nonsense.
    http://www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Anti-Vaccine_Body_Count/Home.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Just Me says:

    The anti vaccine crowd has been blessed to live in an age where awful diseases aren’t really a risk because most other people still got kids vaccinated.

    Now compliance is low and people are getting diseases.

    There are good reasons for some people to skip some or all vaccines (immune deficiencies, allergies etc) but skipping vaccines for what is essentially poor science (vaccine causing autism) puts people at risk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Foster Boondoggle says:

    ” The question is how much longer we’ll have to live with the consequences of pseudoscience and stupidity.”

    Does your local paper still carry horoscopes? Will your legislature or one in a neighboring state soon be voting to label foods “made from” GMOs? Do your elected representatives declare human- caused climate change to be a myth or a conspiracy by “the scientists”?

    If the answer to any of those is yes, then the answer to your question is “forever”.

    This has been another episode of simple answers to stupid questions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  10. rudderpedals says:

    What’s the libertarian position on compulsory vaccination?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. Pinky says:

    Definitely, definitely, we should call out the anti-vaccine crowd. They’re foolish, and they deserve to be called that. Definitely, we should spread the word that vaccines are almost completely safe, and society needs them.

    But – we should also avoid hysteria from the sane side. There was one major outbreak this year among Amish which resulted in 138 cases in Ohio. It’s not against the rules for Amish people to get vaccines, but they do have a lower rate of vaccination in general. I’m guessing that they’re not greatly influenced by Jenny McCarthy or any of the modern anti-vaccine doofs. If you took those 138 cases out of the total, we’d still have more than we should, more than we need to, but we wouldn’t be looking at headlines like these.

    Get immunizations. Immunize your children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Lenoxus says:

    @Pinky: I’m not following your point… where is the ‘hysteria’? You basically seem to agree that this 20-year low can be blamed on the anti-vaccine crowd and/or parental fears, not on the Amish incident, which is more of an outlier.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Stonetools says:

    @rudderpedals:

    While Doug’s heart in in the right place , his view does seem to compel a distinctly anti libertarian position on compulsory vaccination. I too would be interested in Doug’s response.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. bill says:

    narcissists don’t really care what others think about their lameness until they actually feel the repercussions of said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. @rudderpedals:

    What’s the libertarian position on compulsory vaccination?

    It varies from one libertarian to another depending on where they draw the line on how imminent a threat (in this case assault with an infectious disease) must be to justify the use of violence in self defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Pinky says:

    @Lenoxus: OK. There have been 288 cases of measles this year. 138 can be blamed on the low rate of immunization among Amish people. 150 can probably be blamed on declining immunization rates among people who believe stupid and/or conspiratorial things that celebrities and the internet tell them. Neither portion is good. The cause is bad information, although I think it’s likely that the Amish get different information than the general anti-vax member of the public. If we want to be intelligent in our debates, we shouldn’t promote deceptive information. It’s deceptive to say that “The Anti-Vaccination Crowd Give Us A 20 Year High In Measles Cases”. At the rate we’re going, we may well have a 20 year high in the number of measles cases not counting this Amish outbreak, and the blame should fall on the people who promote and believe anti-vaccination theories. Immunization is a worthy cause, but we shouldn’t use deceptive information to promote it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. al-Ameda says:

    When those lies are spread by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, Miyam Bialik, and Donald Trump, they are given an inappropriate air of credibility that makes debunking them far more difficult.

    As a result, we see stories like this one as well as others that have informed us of increases inthe number of reported cases of Whopping Cough and other diseases that are easily preventable. The question is how much longer we’ll have to live with the consequences of pseudoscience and stupidity.

    Well, I can attest to the affect of the idiocy of the anti-vaccination crowd up here where i reside — our local newspaper paper recently reported that Sonoma County has the highest incidence of Whooping Cough in the State of California.

    Sonoma County leads the state’s 58 counties in whooping cough infection rates this year, achieving a pace that is 14 times that of California as a whole amid a continuing upsurge, the California Department of Public Health reported Friday. The figures put Sonoma County at the epicenter of the outbreak, with 310 confirmed cases as of May 12, or a rate of 62.97 per 100,000 people, according to the agency’s latest update.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. grumpy realist says:

    I guess I’m a hard-nosed. Don’t vaccinate your kids? Then you don[‘t get any medical care, period. (Your kids do. No need to have them die because you’re being an ass.)

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