Monday, July 06, 2015

By now, shouldn't we not even know about something called measles?

When we kids came down with chickenpox, I came to understand all the more the wonderful life that we had compared to decades past when the first sign of a bubble on the skin panicked people about the dreaded smallpox. Thus, it was no surprise when the family thanked the "amman" goddess after the recovery, despite the life in an industrial township amidst all the science and technology.  When I returned to school after the few days off, my class teacher exempted me from attending the school assembly under the hot morning sun, which was quite a reward! ;)

There were worries about mumps and measles too, when we were kids.  After hearing about a kid who died from diphtheria, I had one more addition to my vocabulary of dreaded diseases even though I had no clue what any of those ailments were.

Life, even a few decades ago, was an obstacle race.  Viruses and bacteria were always waiting to trip people of all ages down and with any one obstacle the race could end.  We have quickly forgotten how difficult existence was a mere generation or two ago, in any part of the world.

A virus or a bacteria doesn't forget, however, as long as it is given a chance to live.  If those suckers live, we die.  Which is what happened recently a little bit north of where I have now made my home for more than a decade:
In Clallam County, Washington, a woman has died of complications from measles. This is the first U.S. death from measles since 2003.
In more than a decade!
She likely contracted measles when she visited a health facility; a person who was later identified as having measles was there at the same time. The woman who died was apparently taking a series of medications that lowered her immune system’s ability to fight off disease. Although she didn’t present a rash or other obvious external symptoms, she died of pneumonia caused by the measles infection.
She was only twenty years old.  How awful!  Awful because measles is preventable.  
Measles, the world’s most contagious virus, was all but eradicated in the United States fifteen years ago, and it shouldn’t make anybody sick, let alone cause deaths.
Almost eradicated from the country.  Yet, now this death.  What happened?
But in 1998, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published an article in the medical journal The Lancet concluding that there was a connection between the childhood measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. Wakefield’s results have never been replicated, throughout a wide variety of studies, several of them involving thousands of children, and an investigation by the British General Medical Council found that Wakefield had violated ethics rules and shown “callous disregard” for the pain of children in his research. In 2010, The Lancet retracted the article, and Wakefield became a pariah in the medical world. Nonetheless, the paper had set off a wave of fear of vaccinations, first in England and then throughout the Western world, which has never fully subsided.
Wakefield is worse than the uninformed and ill-informed rural "leaders" in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigera thanks to whom polio eradication is taking a tad longer than it should.  In contrast to those Pakistanis and Nigerians, Wakefield was a trained physician. A man of science!
Nearly two hundred thousand children in the developing world died from measles last year. The number of deaths worldwide has fallen dramatically over the course of the past decade, as a result of an intense vaccine drive led by the Gates Foundation and GAVI, the global vaccine alliance. Most Americans, however, have never seen a case of measles, and neither have most practicing pediatricians. That has made it difficult to convey the dangers of avoiding vaccination.
What a tragic irony that Washington-based Gates Foundation goes around the world vaccinating kids while parents resist vaccination in their own backyard in Washington and the US!  People have forgotten the nasty, brutish, and short lives of a few generations ago.  But then, those who forget history are bound to relive it; unfortunately, they make the rest of us also relive it sometimes to the point of dying from it :(

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