Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Should Parents Do About the Measles Outbreak at Disneyland?

Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion piece. I am not a doctor. This article is not intended to be medical advice. 

At this point, every parent in the United States has heard: There is an outbreak of measles happening in relationship to Disneyland. Anytime there is an "outbreak" of any disease for which a vaccine exists, the internet breaks. The media covers the story round the clock. "Health experts" urge everyone to vaccinate. Even parents who had been delaying or avoiding the vaccine for various reasons start to second guess themselves. People's claws and fangs come out and people start breaking up friendships and family reunions over others' vaccination statuses. Some people are even threatening to sue.

What do I think parents really need to be doing in response?

Calming the F down.
(I helped you out and kept this safe for work)

I get it. You're going all mama bear because you perceive a threat to your cubs. Measles is something that not very many people in our generation have experience with, so it's really scary. It's understandable. People often fear things they do not understand.

Let's review some facts, shall we?

On average, less than 100 people get the measles each year in the United States.(source) Last year was a record breaking year when 644 cases were reported.(source)

Your chances of catching measles in 2014 (the worst year for measles in decades) was about 1 in 478,000. By comparison, your chances of being struck by lightning were about 1 in 500,000. You were just as likely to be struck by lightning as you were to catch measles in the US last year.(source)

Even though people have been getting sick, it's really really important to note that nobody has died from the measles in the USA in the last 10 years - This is despite several "record breaking" outbreaks, not dissimilar from the one happening now.(source)

So....should we get the shot?

This is the thing: while your chances of getting the measles is about 1 in 478,000, your chances of having a severe complication from the MMR vaccine are pretty similar - about 1 in 500,000 who receive the MMR vaccine will experience a severe reaction including deafness, long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness or permanent brain damage. This is according to the CDC's own data - not some crazy anti-vaccine website.(source)

So it's better to get the shot?

Not so fast.

While your chances of  catching measles and having a bad reaction to the MMR vaccine are pretty similar, your chances of recovering fully from measles is 99.99%(source).

Your chances or recovering from a severe reaction to the MMR vaccine?  Let's just say they aren't so good. 

Since 1988, there have been 96 deaths in the USA caused by the MMR vaccine. Compared to just 2 from measles.(source)  I think I'll take my chances with the measles.

Chances of severe complication from

MMR vaccine vs. Wild measles
1 in 500,000                   vs              1 in 956 million

Already vaccinated? You especially do not need to panic. A single dose of the MMR vaccine prevents transmission of measles 95% of the time.(sourceSo while I'm not personally vaccinating my kids with the MMR, chances of your kids getting it are really really low. I'm not disagreeing that the MMR vaccine is effective at preventing measles. I AM saying that statistically, the risks of having a complication from the vaccine are much higher than the risk of complication from measles.

So what should you do?

In the same way that you should not go swimming during a thunderstorm, you probably want to exercise some caution. Is someone in your family immune compromised? They might want to postpone their trip to Disneyland. And really, if they are severely compromised, they should probably avoid large crowds of people during illness season from November-May each year anyway (some like to call it "flu season" but the truth is that everything is going around during this time - not just the flu).

And by all means: if you come down with symptoms of measles (high fever, cough, runny nose, rash) STAY HOME and away from people until you are well again.

In the meantime, keep calm, go about your day and stop breaking up with your friends whose kids aren't vaccinated. 

For further reading see: Why We Said No to the Measles Vaccine

Author's note: Whenever I talk about reasons not to vaccinate for measles, people start asking "well what about mumps and rubella?" (the other diseases targeted by the MMR). You can read my thoughts on mumps here. Rubella is generally only a threat to pregnant women who lack immunity to it. If you are a female thinking about having children and you do not have immunity to Rubella, you may want to consider the vaccine together with your primary care provider.

About the Author: 
Carissa used to think that people who didn't vaccinate their kids or who ate organic food were elitist hippies. After the birth of her son in 2010, she and her husband used their research backgrounds to learn more about ways in improve and maintain health in children and as a result chose to selectively vaccinate their son, moved to an organic whole foods diet and stopped using plastic in their kitchen. To learn more about some of the changes they made on their journey toward better health, check out her posts on health & beauty.

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  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The media measles hype is so over the top right now. Create hysteria and fear, pit parent against parent. This is simply an attempt to pave the way for tighter restrictions on vaccine exemptions, and even outright eliminations. It starts with the health authorities (with their pharma ties) the media stirs the frenzy (as expected) and the masses lap it right up because of fear (it feels safer to have a scapegoat to blame). More people need to do their own research, stop buying the hype, and realize what's really going on.

  2. I love this! I am so tired of how bad the rhetoric is getting. Sadly, I'm beginning to understand previous times in history when I used to think, "Wow, how could people have let it get so far?"

  3. My Mother's generation knew enough to give Vitamin A, usuallly as cod liver oil. The death rate is the highest in the very nutritionally defict. In third world countries, just adding vitamin A alone cuts the death rate in half and helps prevent blindness. Thank you VERY much for this REAL info, as many out there are using scare many Mom's with little ones now are just clueless and yes, down right nasty...thinking a vaccine is going to save everyone. We all had Measles, Mumps, Rhbella, Chicken pox, etc growing up and now have lifetime immunity. These natural antibodies were passed to my babies when breastfed at a time in thier lives while their bodies have only limited ability to make antibodies. (from birth to 6-8 months) The MMR cannot be given that young anyway. We have now created a situation, I believe, because of the MMR vaccine. Mothers that may be breastfeeding now and have only had the MMR vaccine have very limited antibodies or none to pass on to their young babies. From what I've read, it sounds as if at least half of those recently diagnosed with Measles have had the MMR vaccine. Thank you for this common sense article...seems like too many in this generation fall to the media's hysteria. The FREEDOM to choose what or when something is injected into our own children. No one should ever be forced to inject a potential live altering anything into their child. And YES, I've seem some very nasty remarks by young mothers that don't have a clue. They think a vaccine is going to save the's not that simple.

  4. The reason why it's so rare to get measles is because the vaccine works. Prevaccine there were 500,000 cases a year of which 500 died., in a population of 150 million. One in 300 people got the measles every year, and one in 300,000 died.

    But if you want stastics and quotes from the CDC:
    - The World Health Organization estimates there were 164,000 deaths globally from measles in 2008.
    - Following licensure of vaccine in 1963, the incidence of measles decreased by more than 98%, and 2–3-year epidemic cycles no longer occurred.
    - Sever problems and reactions are so rare with the MMR that it's hard to tell if they were caused by the vaccine.

    So if you think the vaccine doesn't work, or doesn't protect you, think again. The reason why you won't get measles is because everyone else went and got the vaccine. Even if your children don't get the vaccine, you are protected because millions of other children did.

    But if you want to revert to 1950s levels where 90% of children got the measles, and 1 in 500 of them DIED as a result, keep spreading this anti-vaccination stuff.

    1. She literally says she believes the mmr vaccine works (a single dose of the vaccine prevents the transmission of measles 95% of the time), but that's not the point here. You clearly didn't read what was written. Please stop spreading hate.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. He didn't. And she sure did say that. But her statistics are a bit lacking. The reason that your chances of catching measles are so low is due the number of people vaccinated against it. Prevaccine, things were a bit different. Please see above.

    4. If measles was such a terrible disease, there would be lillions of children catching it and perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand FYI.g every year. critically, these populations of unwell have a great chance of acting as a permanent reservoir to harm the crystal children of america. Parthon, don't let your facts get in the way of her beliefs.

  5. I don't understand. In the beginning of your response to this article you say 1 in 300000 die from measles. At the end you say 1 in 500 die from measles. Both examples are prevaccine.

  6. Thoughts? Please don't comment until you watch the video. Thanks :)!Vaccines-Autism-CDC-Now-Admitting-to-Omitting-Vaccine-Study-Data/c4nx/96DBBE9B-4D0F-400B-9065-3D1CF65FCDCF

  7. I enjoyed reading this, and I am not for or against vaccines. I do some, but not all.
    I do how ever need some clarification on the statement; nobody has died from the measles in the USA in the last 10 years. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, 2 people died of measles in 2009 & another 2 in 2010. I know this is no where near the number for the ones that supposedly died from the vaccine, but could you clarify on those 4 cases?

    1. Can you provide more information those cases? Maybe a link or a document I can look up? The most recent case I was able to find of a measles death in the United States was in 2003.


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