th-10

 

Today, there are two measles outbreaks in the United States to talk about.  Only one involves humans.

In Texas — a state where immunizations are mandatory for children to attend public schools — measles has hit an anti-vaccine church community hard.  Twenty-one people are sick right now, but JoNel Aleccia says more are expected to contract the viral illness:

Sixteen people — nine children and seven adults — ranging in age from 4 months to 44 years had come down with the highly contagious virus in Tarrant County, Texas, as of Monday. Another five cases are part of the outbreak in nearby Denton County.

All of the cases are linked to the Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, where a visitor who’d traveled to Indonesia became infected with measles – and then returned to the U.S., spreading it to the largely unvaccinated church community, said Russell Jones, the Texas state epidemiologist.

“We have a pocket of people that weren’t immunized,” said Jones, noting that vaccination rates typically hover above the 98 percent range in his county.

Infections spread to the congregation, the staff and a day care center at Eagle Mountain International.

The ill people were all linked to the church that is a division of Kenneth Copeland Ministries. That group advocates faith-healing and advises people to “first seek the Wisdom of God” and then appropriate medical attention in matters of health, according to an online statement.

 

It’s easy to see how a dreadful disease like measles can spread through a community of unimmunized people.  Even home-schooling (where vaccinating is not required by the state) doesn’t protect children, especially if they end up in the church to worship or in the  day-care with other kids.  Church leaders have apparently seen the light:

In the wake of the measles outbreak, however, Pearsons has urged followers to get vaccinated and the church has held several vaccination clinics, according to its website. Health officials said the church administration has been very cooperative in the outbreak investigation.

 

Phil Plait knows that measles is completely preventable as long as people do the right thing and get vaccinated:

Measles is not a disease we should screw around with. Out of 1,000 people who contract it, one or two will die, and many more will require hospitalization. In general, those at risk are seniors and infants too young to be vaccinated. Approximately 100,000 children a year worldwide die of measles. That’s more than the entire population of my hometown of Boulder, Colo. Imagine an entire city of children dying from a preventable disease, and perhaps you can understand why I’m so vocal about this.

Talk to your board-certified doctor, and if he or she recommends it, get your vaccinations. Not just for measles, but for many other easily preventable (and potentially deadly) diseases as well. Remember, adults need boosters every so often, so make sure you ask about that, too.

Vaccines are one of the greatest triumphs of modern medicine. Don’t believe the anti-vaxxers. Get the truth.

 

There is another outbreak of measles and this one is occurring in the waters off the Mid-Atlantic coast of the U.S.  Nidhi Subbaraman reports that genetic testing has confirmed that morbillivirus — an RNA virus that causes distemper in dogs, rinderpest in cattle, and measles in humans — is to blame for a massive dolphin die-off:

This is a second big strike for the virus, which was the chief agent behind a wave of infections that struck bottlenose dolphins between June 1987 and March 1988, killing more than 700 animals before retreating into the blue.

“We are now calling it a morbillivirus outbreak,” Teri Rowles of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program said during a telephone press briefing on Tuesday. As of Aug. 26, 333 animals have died on coasts between New York and North Carolina.

 

Sounds like dolphins could use a vaccine:

Infections have “always been happening in cycles,” Perry Habecker, staff veterinary chief at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC News.

The genetic makeup of bacteria and viruses changes slightly over time, Habecker said, and populations of animals can also lose their immunity. “There’s no doubt in my mind that these kinds of disease have been [recurring] for millennia.”

 

The cautionary tale here is that diseases like measles, tetanus, pertussis — indeed, all the childhood diseases we immunize against — have been striking humans for millennia as well. These viruses and bacteria don’t just one day disappear.  They are always present, always looking for the susceptible host (often an unimmunized child) to infect.  Once inside a human body, these microbes do what they’ve done since life on earth began:  they  multiply and spread themselves to other susceptible hosts.  Even people who have been completely immunized may one day find themselves — through age, or illness, or viral/bacterial mutations — susceptible.  This is why it is important that everyone who can get immunized should get immunized.

Parents who refuse to immunize their children (or themselves) put so many other people at risk for getting sick and dying.  With all that science informs us about these diseases and the safety of vaccines that prevent them, not immunizing (when there are no contraindications for doing so) is nothing more than a thoroughly selfish act.

 

(Image: Yahoo! Images)