As another new study fails to find any connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, there has been a series of articles warning that the decision not to vaccinate children, for whatever reason, is allowing the disease to spread in the U.S.
Scientific American reports that the number of measles cases in the U.S. for 2008 is more than double that of the annual rate for the previous six years. From January to July 2008, there were 131 cases of measles versus an average of 63 cases per year over the previous six years – all of which were infections caught abroad. The most recent cases in the States, however, were driven by local transmission among unvaccinated people, mostly children. As WebMD reports:
In Washington, an unvaccinated child likely caught measles at a church conference attended by 3,000 junior high school students, some from foreign nations. That child infected seven other children in her household; they spread measles to 11 other people. Of the 19 cases, 16 were school-age children. Eleven of these kids were homeschooled; none was vaccinated because of their parents’ beliefs.
In Illinois, a teenager who recently returned from Italy — where there are ongoing measles outbreaks — seems to have infected four unvaccinated girls ages 10 to 14. Eventually, 30 people came down with measles. All but one of the cases were children or teens aged 8 months to 17 years. Cases included 25 homeschooled children whose parents held anti-vaccination beliefs.
Vaccination against measles is crucial because the disease is highly contagious; Jane Seward, MB, MPH, deputy director of the CDC’s viral disease division, points out that in a room of 100 unvaccinated people, 90 to 95 could catch the disease from one infected person coughing. Seward tells Scientific American’s blog that “people have forgotten what measles looks like and have forgotten how infectious it is…
Back in the early part of the century, it killed thousands of people a year. The biggest year was 10,000. Over the years, those deaths declined but in the 1960s, right before the vaccine was developed, it killed 400 to 500 children every year out of 500,000 reported cases at that time. Three to four million cases actually occurred, because not all cases get reported.
Of those 500,000 reported cases, there were 4,000 cases of encephalitis a year. That’s brain infection and can have some serious sequellae, like retardation and things like that. Measles can also cause pneumonia…
Some parents think that American medical care is such that it can treat any complication on measles. They’re not right on that. Medical care is the same as the 1960s in terms of encephalitis. There’s very little that can be done to alter that outcome. And there is no treatment for measles as such. There are no antivirals to use.
The latest study by researchers at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health on the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism compared children with both autism and gastro intestinal (GI) problems and children with just GI problems. Cells were biopsied to see if they contained genetic sequences of the measles virus. The objective was to
determine whether children with GI disturbances and autism are more likely than children with GI disturbances alone to have MV RNA and/or inflammation in bowel tissues and if autism and/or GI episode onset relate temporally to receipt of MMR.
The results provided strong evidence that there was no connection between the vaccine and autism.