Staying in good health and spirits is something many people take for granted. We benefit from being able to interact normally with those around us and for the ability to go about our lives in the way we want. That health and freedom can change when diseases invade our communities.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 764 individual cases of measles have been reported and confirmed in 23 states from Jan. 1 to May 3 of this year. This is the highest reported number of cases in the United States since 1994 and since measles was deemed eliminated and contained in 2000.
The increase in the occurrence of the disease has stemmed from U.S. residents who have traveled outside of the country to where large outbreaks are occurring but the majority of outbreaks have stemmed from the increase prevalence of the anti-vaccine movement.
Sociologist Jennifer Reich wrote for Vox Media: “There is no disagreement that vaccine refusal is the cause of outbreaks. More than 70% of measles cases this year were in people who had received no vaccines, and in all, 88% of cases were associated with under-immunized, close-knit communities. Yet parents’ decisions have effects that can reach far beyond these networks and neighborhoods.”
For over a decade Reich collected and compiled research for her book, “Calling The Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines.”
The parents Reich interviewed all gave different reasons for not vaccinating their children.
“Vaccines, these parents tell me, do not always protect children,” Reich wrote. “Some insist their children’s immune systems would benefit from contracting the illness. Some don’t trust the government agencies that approve vaccines because they are “too close” with pharmaceutical companies. Many believe their healthy lifestyle or prolonged breastfeeding ensures that their children will not experience the worst outcomes of a vaccine-preventable disease.”
The anti-vaccine or anti-vax movement has also gained momentum among celebrities, particularly those who have been vocal that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine causes autism. That connection has been disproved countless times but it hasn’t stopped the outspoken. Kat Von D, Jim Carrey, Charlie Sheen, Rob Schneider and Jenny McCarthy are notable names attached to the movement. McCarthy has been vocal that she believes the MMR vaccine caused her son’s autism.
The symptoms of measles typically appear after seven to 14 days and include a high fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis. Soon after tiny white spots appear in the mouth and a rash typically follows after. Measles can be prevented easily but in the face of the anti-vax movement, that is getting harder and harder.
Junior nursing major Ella Levasalmi said vaccination isn’t only important for the patient but for anyone who will be in contact with them.
“It’s important to vaccinate your children because it is not only protecting them but the people around them,” Levasalmi said.
Besides measles, unvaccinated members of the population can be susceptible to other ailments and diseases.
“One that is common every single year is the flu,” Levasalmi said. “College students will say ‘Well sometimes it’s not very accurate,’ but there are multiple strains of the flu. It’s just a matter of predicting which one is going to be the most prevalent.”
Though the flu is a less serious ailment then measles, the ignorance and misinformation is the same.
We live in a time now where constant streams of information are invading our social media, workplaces and schools. Present information with sources that look legitimate and you can make anyone believe anything.
This should not be the case when the health and safety of communities is at stake. Vaccines prevent disease. That’s the bottom line and anything that attempts to undermine that is dangerous.