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March 23, 2015 | by  | in Science | [ssba]

The Truth About Measles

Measles is an extremely infectious, airborne disease caused by the measles virus. The first signs often include a high grade fever, running nose, and sore throat—symptoms which are generally indistinguishable from those of the common cold. However, the diagnostic symptom of measles are the raised, itchy red bumps which litter the body from tip to toe. Although 90 per cent of healthy individuals make a full recovery after contracting measles, approximately one in 10 requires further medical attention. Complications from measles include severe ear infections, leading to hearing impairment if left untreated; as well as diarrhoea and, in rare cases, pneumonia or encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which may lead to seizures and/or death in extreme cases.

Severe complications of measles and many other contagious diseases most often affect those with ill-developed immune systems. This includes children, especially infants under the age of one, as well as pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. The key thing to remember about measles is that it is a preventable disease, as it is able to be vaccinated against. The MMR or measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has been shown to be 99 per cent effective in preventing the contraction and, more importantly, the transmission of measles.

Pathogens such as viruses and bacteria elicit an immune response. In order to avoid serious harm our bodies act in a multitude of ways to boost our intrinsic defences and remove the invading guest. Vaccination acts to forewarn our immune system of a pathogen, enabling memory and therefore an increased efficiency and heightened response when the real pathogen is encountered. It is important to note that most vaccines do not contain “active” organisms, merely characteristic but relatively innate pieces of the pathogen being vaccinated against. Statistically, adverse reactions to vaccines are insignificant with respect to their efficacy. When a pharmaceutical drug is released to the public, what most of us do not see is the years of evidence-based research, undertaken by thousands of individuals, concluding that the therapeutic benefit of the drug in question does indeed outweigh any associated risks or side effects. This is a fundamental aspect of healthcare and medical research, and is aptly named the “Risk-to-Benefit Ratio”. Vaccination works in exactly the same way.

Although you may hear horror stories of children or even adults dying from an unpredicted allergic reaction to a seemingly safe vaccine, these are the anomalies. An extreme allergic reaction or anaphylaxis in response to a vaccination is comparable to such a reaction from a bee sting or a spider bite. The biological response is the same, the mechanisms are the same. It is not some intrinsic property of the vaccine nor are “ALL vaccines loaded with chemicals and other poisons” as suggested by The Healthy Home Economist and other natural health websites that incorrectly denounce vaccinations. There is also no reliable evidence to correlate complex conditions such as Autism or Irritable Bowel Syndrome to the use of vaccines; to publicise such information is completely irresponsible. Take a look at both sides of the argument for yourself, examine the internet, and note the number of lives that have been saved as a result of global vaccination schemes. Polio, tetanus and measles vaccines are success stories—nothing less.

The recent measles outbreak in Disneyland, California highlights the importance of vaccination. From 1 January to 27 February 2015, 170 new cases of measles across 17 states were reported to the CDC. Given that measles was successfully eliminated from the United States in 2000, this was a terrible but very preventable tragedy.


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