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The Dangers of Measles and Not Vaccinating

Updated on April 23, 2019
Jade Hassenplug profile image

I love to spread awareness and help keep people safe and informed. I do my best to thoroughly research topics before writing on them.

WARNING

Some of the images I used in this article may be graphic to some readers. Please proceed at your own caution.

A quick guide to the symptoms of measles.
A quick guide to the symptoms of measles. | Source

What is the Measles Virus?

Overview Measles also known as Rubeola, is a viral infection in the respiratory system. It is very contagious and can spread quickly through contact with mucus and saliva of an infected person. The measles virus can stay alive for several hours on surfaces such as drinking glasses, eating utensils or other items an infected person may touch. These infected particles can be transmitted through the air and means anyone in close proximity of these items or the infected person can become infected themselves.

Symptoms These symptoms listed generally appear within 2 weeks or 14 days of exposure to the virus. Common symptoms include coughing, fever, red eyes, light sensitivity, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, white spots inside the mouth and widespread red itchy skin rashes. The skin rashes can appear within the first three to five days and can last up to seven days. The rash generally appears on the head and spreads down to other areas of the body.

Other less common symptoms that can occur are, ear infections, bronchitis, miscarriage or preterm labor (if infected person is pregnant) a decrease in blood platelets, blindness and severe diarrhea.

Please note that the measles virus can also lead to more life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and even death in people with weakened immune systems.

Treatments Sadly there is no medication to treat measles. The virus typically disappear within two to three weeks but your doctor may also recommend the basics. Resting to help your body boost your immune system, keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, investing in a humidifier to help with coughing and sore throats, and taking vitamin A supplements.

Red itchy rash that comes from measles.
Red itchy rash that comes from measles. | Source
White spots in the mouth from measles.
White spots in the mouth from measles. | Source

History of Measles

One of the first written accounts of measles was by a Persian doctor, Rhazes, in the 9th century. This same doctor published the first book on the differences between smallpox, chickenpox and measles. The measles virus emerged from the rinderpest, or cattle plague, as a zoonotic disease.

The measles virus is an endemic disease. If exposed to a population that doesn’t have a resistance built up to the virus, it can be devastating. In 1529, Cuba, a measles outbreak killed two-thirds of the native population that had previously survived smallpox. Half of the population of Honduras was exterminated from the measles virus just two years later. Mexico, Central America and the Inca civilization also had horrible measles outbreaks.

Between 1855 to 2005, it is estimated that about 200 million people world wide have been killed by the measles virus. 20% of Hawaii’s population was killed in the 1850’s by this virus and over 40,000 in Fiji were killed in 1875. That’s about one-third of their population. Measles killed half the population of the Andamanese as well in the 19th century. Before the vaccine for measles was introduced, it is believed around seven to eight million children alone have died each year.

In 1954, a 13 year old boy, David Edmonston from the USA, was able to help doctors and scientists. Doctors where able to isolate the virus causing disease from the boy’s body after he had contracted measles. They were able to adapt and propagate the virus in chick embryo tissue culture. As of now, there have been 21 strains of the measles virus that have been identified.

Vaccines are important for keeping the community safe.
Vaccines are important for keeping the community safe. | Source

The Measles Vaccine

In Boston Massachusetts,1954, John Enders and Dr Thomas Peebles collected blood samples from several infected students during an outbreak. They were trying to isolate the virus and create a vaccine. John Enders and his colleagues were able to isolate the virus in David Edmonston’s blood and had transformed David’s strain of measles into a vaccine. So in 1963, Enders and his colleagues successfully made a vaccine for the measles virus and licensed it in the United States and it became available to the public.

In 1968, Maurice Hilleman and his colleagues had made an improved vaccine. This vaccine has been the only vaccine used for measles in the United States since 1968. Usually this vaccine is combined with other vaccines for mumps and rubella. This is called the MMR vaccine.

It is recommended that children should get two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose should be administered when the child is between 12 to 15 months of age and the second does should be administered when the child is between the ages of 4 to 6 years old. Teenagers and adults should make sure they are up to date on their MMR vaccinations as well. This vaccine is safe and very effective at preventing these diseases. Just the first dose is about 93% effective and with two doses, it’s 97% effective.

Before vaccines for measles it is estimated that between 3 and 4 million people got measles every year in just the United States alone. Out of these cases, 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1,00 developed swelling of the brain all from measles. After the widespread use of the vaccine it has led to about a 99% reduction in measles cases in the United States. Measles is still active and common in other countries that don’t have the vaccine or have populations that can’t get access to the vaccine.

With all vaccines and medications there are some side effects. Almost all children and adults who get the MMR vaccine have no side effects but in very rare cases some people have had side effects such as seizures, deafness, brain damage and coma. These severe side effects occur in less than 1 out of every million doses of the vaccine.

This is an Anti Vaxxer Decal.
This is an Anti Vaxxer Decal. | Source

Dangers of Not Vaccinating

While it has been a legal requirement to vaccinate your children if they are attending daycare, or any kind of schooling, there have been some exemptions such as religious reasons or medical reasons there has also always been a sort of anti-vaccination movement. In recent years it’s been getting more attention though, and so it’s gained traction and followers who refuse to vaccinate their children. These people are risking not only their children, but the health of other children and even adults by not getting their children vaccinated for measles among other diseases.

Besides the risk of your children possibly dying from a preventable disease at a young age, you also have to realize that not vaccinating your child forces your children into lifelong difficulties that normally wouldn't be a problem. Anytime your child goes to the hospital or doctor or needs to ride in an ambulance, you are required to alert medical staff of your child’s vaccination status. If your child is not vaccinated, they will need distinctive treatment with medical precautions that are out of the ordinary. Because of this, the medical staff may be less familiar and less experienced with these procedures and may be unable to properly treat your child.

Other implications to not vaccinating your children could cause them to have social difficulties as they grow up as well. Your child could experience exclusion from activities or quarantine if they or others are sick. If your child gets sick or gets exposed to a disease, they may need to be isolated from other people including family and friends. Your child may be asked to be taken out of school for an extended period of time if there is any kind of outbreak in the community and they may be excluded from any social activities or special events with the other children or family. Your child’s education can suffer greatly if your child is not vaccinated and is unable to attend a lot of the time. Not only your child’s life but yours as well can be affected by this. If your child needs to be isolated due to an illness or excluded from class or school activities that means your schedule could be compromised as well. You would need to take time off of work to monitor your child, and that would impact your income and ability to pay bills and buy other essential items.

Myths About Vaccines

There are a lot of myths out there so I won’t be discussing ALL of them in this article section.

Some parents out there believe that the MMR vaccine among other vaccines, cause autism in their children. This is unfounded as numerous studies have been done and this has never been proven. There is no link between autism and immunizations. In fact, autism happens in the womb before the child is even born, it can’t be spread or caused by any kind of vaccine.

Another excuse parent’s use is that if other children are getting vaccinated then their children don’t need to. Not vaccinating your child will put your children at a higher risk of getting a life-threatening disease no matter how many other children are vaccinated. Immunization of a community is called ‘herd immunity’ but it only works if the percent of people vaccinated is 95 or higher. In 2003 the rate of national vaccinations in children from ages 19 to 35 months was only about 80%.

Another growing myth is that major illnesses have largely disappeared, so we don’t need vaccines anymore. This is a dangerous and very naive idea to believe. The only reason these diseases and illnesses seem to have disappeared is because of vaccines. Although, despite the amount of people getting vaccinated, there are still a number of outbreaks in the United States. In 2003 there were 13 children who died of infection from an outbreak of pertussis. This is a respiratory illness that causes spasms of coughing that can last for weeks or months at a time. Non vaccinated children can spread the infection even easier to others who are vulnerable such as the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and other people who are not vaccinated.

If you have children (or plan to) are they vaccinated?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      5 months ago

      This is a really important article and has been on the news here in the UK quite recently. There are so many children who cannot be vaccinated because of medical reasons and these are the children who are most at risk. Therefore it just makes sense to have children vaccinated in order to protect themselves and others. Thank you for sharing.

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