A Measles Primer

[This is an edited version from a piece I wrote in April 2008 regarding measles. Following this latest report, I felt it relevant to repost here. I don’t blame McCarthy exclusively for the rise in measles or other diseases preventable by vaccines. People were claiming vaccines caused autism before her, and the anti-vax movement was in full force before she started speaking out and writing books. However, she brought the anti-vax agenda to the mainstream, her television appearances and interviews were widely seen. She lent her celeb status to campaigns that otherwise may not have received airtime or funding. McCarthy does have some responsibility in the rising rates of these cases, and in persuading those who’ve been convinced to not vaccinate because of unfounded and false autism connections.]

“Give my son the measles. I’ll take that way over autism any day.”

“In a heartbeat,” she adds later on. [That’s an actual quote from Jenny McCarthy when she was on the Larry King Live show in 2008]

Perhaps Jenny hasn’t used her Google PhD to look up measles yet. Maybe she could ask her own pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon. On his own website [page no longer visible], you’ll find this:

Measles still causes a million deaths worldwide even though a very effective measles vaccination program in the United States has just given us our third year in a row with fewer than 100 cases of measles in our country.

Has Jenny ever read about measles in developing countries? This blog, Nigeria Health Watch, discusses another outbreak there in December 2007. The author asks, “How many children will have to die from measles in Nigeria?”

After reading that entry, Jenny may want to visit KidsHealth where she can read this information:

A child who is diagnosed with measles should be closely monitor for fever and other symptoms to detect any complications. In some cases, measles can lead to other health problems, such as croup, and infections like bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), myocarditis, and encephalitis. Measles also can make the body more susceptible to ear infections or other health problems caused by bacteria.

My child is prone to croup and bronchitis, she has been hospitalized for RSV, rotavirus, and [in the PICU for] a bacterial infection called pseudomonas (which she caught during a hospitalization for surgery). I can’t imagine ever saying I’d prefer measles, or pseudomonas, to autism.

Further information on measles, and the importance of vaccines, Jenny may want to visit the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO offers some startling facts*:

  • Measles remains a leading cause of death among young children, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for the past 40 years.
  • In 2006, it was estimated that there were 242 000 measles deaths globally: this translates to about 663 deaths every day or 27 deaths every hour.
  • Vaccination has had a major impact on measles deaths. Overall, global measles mortality decreased by 68% between 2000 and 2006. The largest gains occurred in Africa where measles cases and deaths fell by 91%. [2008 stats]

Some people need images, to let it all sink in. Here is what a “measles eye” looks like. And there’s these pictures too: [There are plenty of pictures online of how awful measles is. Educate yourself.]

I hope many will come forward and speak out against Ms. McCarthy, and this outrageous statement she made. I also wish Jenny would study up on measles, and realize how ridiculous she is to ask her son be given measles, any day, over autism. It is ignorant, and even offensive (to those who have suffered and died from measles, to the 27*mothers who every hour lose their child to this disease, and to autistic individuals who are here, alive on this earth).

*UPDATED February 2014 from WHO:

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2012, there were 122 000 measles deaths globally – about 330 deaths every day or 14 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.
  • In 2012, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
  • Since 2000, more than 1 billion children in high risk countries were vaccinated against the disease through mass vaccination campaigns ― about 145 million of them in 2012.

Please vaccinate your children. Learn the facts, speak to medical and science professionals, stay informed. I spent months researching vaccines and autism, partly because I am a science geek and I was curious, but mostly because I wanted to know without a doubt if vaccines had harmed my child. Too many parents are misguided by friends, by books, interviews, etc. Don’t put your child at risk in the name of quack science or laziness.