In case you need to be caught up, there is a measles epidemic in Samoa and over 50 kids have already died.
While that easily dwarfs the number of deaths in many other countries, where there have been thousands of deaths, Samoa has been getting some extra attention because some of the blame rests with anti-vax influence on the island nation.
Samoa even got a visit from Bobby Kennedy last June!
Jim Meehan Supporting a Farmer Helps Explain the Deaths in Samoa
It is even more amazing that many of these folks have been doubling down on their anti-vax activism even as measles deaths have continued to climb.
It seems that Edwin Tamasese, a farmer in Samoa who is also described as a holistic healer, is being advised on how to treat kids with measles by James Meehan, an ophthalmologist in Oklahoma who now practices integrative and functional medicine.
How do either have the training or background to help sick kids in a measles epidemic?
That they don’t is easy to see from Meehan’s letter of support…
Wait, why would anyone vaccinate a child who was already infected with measles?
Probably because it is a part of routine measles postexposure prophylaxis guidelines. In fact, giving a dose of MMR within a few days of exposure to someone with measles can reduce their risk of getting sick with measles or of developing complications of measles.
Of course, you wouldn’t actually give the MMR vaccine to someone who was already sick with measles though. Instead of simply being infected with measles, that would be someone with measles disease.
There are no indications for antibiotics to treat uncomplicated viral diseases, unfortunately, secondary bacterial diseases can occur and do need to be treated.
“These results document that MV infection can suppress both innate and adaptive immune responses and lead to increased susceptibility to bacterial infection.”Slifka et al on Measles virus infection results in suppression of both innate and adaptive immune responses to secondary bacterial infection
In fact, it is these secondary bacterial super-infections, including pneumonia and mastoiditis, that can make measles so deadly.
“Mortality from measles is predominantly caused by complicating bacterial infections.”Factsheet about measles
It is a big reason that kids with measles, a viral infection, likely need to be treated with antibiotics.
Kids with measles typically have a high fever and are very irritable.
While we have been moving towards an approach of letting fevers run their course these days, in case fever does have some beneficial effects, there are also studies that have shown that in critically ill patients, fever is associated with increased mortality.
Why do we genotype measles strains?
So that we know where outbreaks originated from.
Unlike some other infections, the genotype doesn’t help you figure out whether or not the vaccine will work against it. Measles is a monotypic virus. The MMR vaccine protects against all measles strains.
“The outbreaks in Samoa and Tonga are caused by the D8 strain (genotype) of measles virus.”Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 2, 26 November 2019
An no, for the millionth time, 38% of the measles cases in the Disneyland outbreak were not caused by the vaccine strain!
Those folks with the vaccine strain were the ones who were recently vaccinated and had a “febrile rash illness,” a common side effect of the vaccine.
They did not have measles!
While vaccinating someone who is truly immunosuppressed with a live vaccine is contraindicated, it seems like Meehan thinks that most of the folks on Samoa are immunosuppressed and shouldn’t be vaccinated!
There is a state of emergency in Samoa that has closed schools, banned public gatherings, and mandated vaccines, as they attempt to get their measles epidemic under control. They are also getting help from UNICEF, the New Zealand Red Cross, UK’s Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT), the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT), and the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT).
More help is coming from the CDC and the EUCPM.
They do not need folks like Tamasese and Meehan interfering with these efforts because they think they can do it better, even as they scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids – the one thing that will end the epidemic.
It should be noted that as much as anti-vax folks are crowing about Tamasese and Meehan’s efforts to get kids vitamin A, their protocol severely under doses kids!
Anyway, mega doses of vitamin A are most helpful in reducing mortality in hospitalized kids with measles. It is also important to keep in mind that vitamin A only reduces mortality – it doesn’t eliminate it. Vitamin A is not a cure for measles.
And the mega doses of vitamin C they are giving aren’t going to help prevent complications. They are just giving the kids diarrhea, which is not a good thing if they might already be malnourished!
What’s the biggest takeaway from the Samoa epidemic?
Measles is deadly.
More on Jim Meehan and Samoa
- The Tragedy in Samoa Was Not Caused by the MMR Vaccine
- The Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- This Is the Modern Anti-Vaccine Movement
- The Myth That Measles Isn’t Deadly
- Did the Measles Vaccine Have Only a Meager Effect on Measles Deaths?
- Did Better Hygiene and Sanitation Get Rid of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?
- What Are the Greatest Tricks Anti-Vaccine Folks Use to Persuade Parents to Skip Vaccines?
- More Questions to Help You Become a Vaccine Skeptic
- MMWR – Prevention of Measles, Rubella, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, and Mumps, 2013: Summary Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
- Study – Measles virus infection results in suppression of both innate and adaptive immune responses to secondary bacterial infection
- ECDC – Factsheet about measles
- Study – Vitamin E and Vitamin C Supplementation does not Improve the Clinical Course of Measles with Pneumonia in Children: a Controlled Trial
- Measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 2, 26 November 2019
- WHO/UNICEF Secretariat Supporting Measles Outbreak Preparedness and Response in the Pacific measles Outbreak in the Pacific – Situation Report No 1 22 November 2019
- Samoa Measles Outbreak – New Zealand Response
- Australian doctor talks about measles struggle
- ‘There are no words’: Samoa buries its children as measles outbreak worsens
- Measles: Samoa warns against anti-vaxxers
- Aussie anti-vaxxer’s ‘NaziSamoa’ claim blasted by doctors
- Zero Deaths Next Week Should Be Our Mission
- Alternative healers threaten reporters as Samoa measles epidemic worsens
- Samoa Measles Outbreak Highlights Dangers Of Anti-Vax Movement
- Samoa measles patients ‘deteriorating before our eyes’ – doctor
- Alternative therapists spruik ‘healing water’ amid measles crisis in Samoa
- Measles epidemic: Samoa’s govt ‘worried’ by low vaccination rates for under-4s
- Samoa measles outbreak: Red Cross staff describe ‘immense’ workload
- WHO – Measles and rubella in the Western Pacific
- WHO – Our Work in Samoa