Tag: measles myths

How Many People Have Died from Measles in 2019?

As measles cases climb, some folks are interested in just one thing, how many people have died from measles this year?

A lot of people are dying from measles this year.
A lot of people are dying from measles this year.

The rest of us?

We understand that as we see more and more cases, it simply increases the chances that someone might eventually die.

How Many People Have Died from Measles in 2019?

So far, we have been very lucky that there have been no measles deaths, even as we pass 1,000 cases.

Not that 1,000 cases is some magic number where you start to see deaths.

Consider that we only had 188 cases in 2015, when we had the last measles death in the United States. That year, a woman got caught up in a small outbreak in Washington.

Where Are People Dying of Measles in 2019?

There are also many countries with rather small numbers of cases that are seeing measles deaths.

The last death in France, in April 2019, occurred after only 852 cases were reported.

In Romania, the first death of 2019, in January, came after just 133 cases.

Measles acts quickly. Do your part to protect yourself and others.

And since the outbreaks in Europe started in 2016, there have been deaths in:

  • Bulgaria – only 416 cases
  • Portugal – only 202 cases
  • Spain – only 457 cases
  • Switzerland – two deaths and only 197 cases!

Of course, there are more deaths in countries that are seeing more cases.

Again, since 2016:

CountryDeathsCases
Romania5917,850
Greece43,270
Italy139,277
France44,138
UK12,000
Germany12,000
Israel24,256 (since 2018)
Ukraine1752,034 (2019)
Serbia155,797 (since Oct 2017)
Brazil1219,036 (since 2018)
Tunisia303,141 (2019)
Malaysia62,129 (since 2017)
Thailand235,893 (since 2018)
Guinea141,359 cases (2019)

And a lot more deaths in some countries:

  • Madagascar – at least 1,233 reported deaths among 122,840 registered cases
  • Philippines – at least 389 deaths in 2019, with over 30,000 cases.
  • Venezuela – at least 134 deaths since 2017, with over 9,585 cases
  • Democratic Republic of Congo – at least 1,460 deaths this year, with over 84,000 cases
  • Nigeria – at least 89 deaths this year, with nearly 29,000 cases
  • Chadat least 191 deaths this year, with over 18,000 cases

Measles is on the rise.

Measles deaths are on the rise too. While the risk of complications of measles can be reduced with vitamin A treatment, that doesn’t eliminate them. And the benefit is mostly in those who are already vitamin A deficient. Vitamin A has a much more modest effect in developed countries, where measles deaths still occur.

What to reduce your child’s risk of dying from measles?

Get them vaccinated and protected.

Tragically, this all comes after we were making progress towards measles elimination, reaching a record low for global cases and deaths just a few years ago.

How will we respond? An even stronger effort to finally get measles under control? Or continued worsening, with more cases and more deaths?

More on How Many People Have Died from Measles in 2019

How Could Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have the Measles Right Now?

Seven vaccinated kids with measles?!?

But doesn’t the measles rash typically show up after three to five days of fever?

Wait, that couldn’t really happen, could it? Seven vaccinated kids with measles in one family?

How Could Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have the Measles Right Now?

While anything is possible, this story is very improbable once you look at the details…

“When her 12-year-old son spiked a fever and started complaining of a sore throat right before Passover, Mrs. Pearl (not her real name) wasn’t worried. She confidently crossed off a host of possible infections that he was fully vaccinated for.

She thought he had strep throat, like two of his siblings.

They headed to urgent care for a rapid strep test, but the result was negative. Undeterred, she put her son on antibiotics at the nurse’s recommendation, and sent her son to bed.

He’d worsened by morning.

He woke feeling feverish and broken out in a rash.”

Jennifer Margulis

Could that be measles?

He ended up testing positive for measles, even though he was fully vaccinated. Only two days of fever before he developed his rash though, and no word that the fever continued, as you would expect with measles…

“Not long after, Mrs. Pearl’s 10-year-old broke out in a similar rash.

This child didn’t spike a fever but his breathing was labored and he complained that his eyes hurt.

He also tested positive for the measles.”

Jennifer Margulis

Although they all could have been exposed to someone else, it is important to note that the incubation period for measles is 7 to 14 days. The “not long after” scenario sounds like too short a time to get “measles” from his brother. Also, no fever, which would be very strange for measles…

But the other five kids had more classic symptoms of measles, right?

Nope.

“Of the seven other children that Mrs. Pearl had tested—all of whom had been fully vaccinated—five more showed no immunity to measles.”

Jennifer Margulis

What about the negative titer tests?

That’s actually not unusual after measles vaccination. It’s not proof or any kind of indication that the vaccine didn’t work. It has been long known that most vaccinated people who have negative measles titers will show an anamnestic immune response if they get another dose of MMR.

What does that mean? It means that they were likely immune, even with the negative titer.

“In the event that a HCP who has 2 documented doses of MMR vaccine is tested serologically and determined to have negative or equivocal measles titer results, it is not recommended that the person receive an additional dose of MMR vaccine. Such persons should be considered to have presumptive evidence of measles immunity. Documented age-appropriate vaccination supersedes the results of subsequent serologic testing.”

Immunization of Health-Care Personnel: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

In fact, we don’t routinely check titers after MMR, at least not for measles.

And their symptoms?

“Two hours after getting the MMR booster, Mrs. Pearl’s 16-year-old spiked a 102-degree fever and broke out in a measles rash.

Four days later her three other children, all of whom had received the MMR booster, all had measles rashes, canker sores in their mouths, gastrointestinal problems, and lethargy.”

Jennifer Margulis

Canker sores with measles? Kids with measles get Koplik spots, but no one describes them as canker sores.

Fever and a rash developing at the same time?

Yeah, none of that sounds like measles. At all.

Remember, the classic symptoms of measles include 3 to 5 days of a high fever with cough, coryza, and conjunctivitis, followed by a rash, with continued fever.

“According to Mrs. Pearl, the health department official also told her that measles vaccine failure is common and that about half the people getting measles in the current measles clusters in Brooklyn are fully vaccinated.”

Jennifer Margulis

Actually, only 27 of the 566 people in Brooklyn with measles have been known to be fully vaccinated, with two doses of MMR. How much less than half is that? It is less than 5% of cases.

Measles vaccine failure is not common at all.

Why Did They Say That Seven of My Vaccinated Kids Have Measles?

So how do you explain what happened to this family?

Besides the likelihood that they had another, more common virus causing their symptoms? With mouth ulcers and diarrhea, like maybe Coxsackie virus?

Do you really need another explanation?

How do you explain the positive measles tests?

They were almost certainly a false positive.

“The test kits in use have been shown to have high sensitivity and specificity. However, cross-reactions with other viral diseases, e.g. rubella and Parvovirus, may occur.”

Dietz et al on The laboratory confirmation of suspected measles cases in settings of low measles transmission: conclusions from the experience in the Americas.

They didn’t state which test was done, but it is important to note that several are available. This includes an immunoglobulin test, PCR from a throat swab, and PCR from a urine specimen. The most accurate testing is done by the CDC.

“Detection of specific IgM antibodies in a serum sample collected within the first few days of rash onset can provide presumptive evidence of a current or recent measles virus infection. However, because no assay is 100% specific, serologic testing of non-measles cases using any assay will occasionally produce false positive IgM results.”

Serologic Testing for Measles in Low Prevalence Setting

Did they have confirmatory tests, after their initial positive test? Were they done at a state lab? Did all of her other kids test positive for measles?

“She’s angry at the measles vaccine failure and worried about her family members, especially her pregnant daughter.”

Jennifer Margulis

She should be angry at folks pushing misininformation in her community.

“I used to think people who don’t vaccinate were crazy,” Mrs. Pearl says. “Now I’m not so sure. Maybe they’re right. Maybe my body doesn’t want to take garbage. Something is a red flag. After my story, I’m not so sure where the measles started. I’m legit. I did vaccinate. All my kids are up to date. Children ages 22 to 7 all getting the measles?”

Jennifer Margulis

Something is indeed a red flag. To get to the bottom of it, Mrs. Pearl should revisit the idea that her kids really had measles.

More on Vaccinated Kids with Measles

Alexander Langmuir on Measles

It’s a shame that most people only know of Alexander Langmuir because anti-vaccine folks like to make it sound like he was against vaccines.

How do they do that?

By making up quotes and using some real quotes out of context.

Alexander Langmuir on Measles

Remember the Alexander Langmuir quotes about flu vaccines?

He never really said that “no one should take the flu vaccine.”

And now folks are misrepresenting what he said about measles.

Alexander Langmuir was a big advocate of the measles vaccine.

So what did he really say?

“This self-limiting infection of short duration, moderate severity, and low fatality has maintained a remarkably stable biological balance over the centuries. Those epidemiologists, and there are many, who tend to revere the biological balance have long argued that the ecological equilibrium of measles is solidly based, that it can not readily be disrupted and that therefore we must learn to live with this parasite rather than hope to eradicate it. This speaker, not so long ago, was counted among this group and waxed eloquent on this subject in print.

Happily, this era is ending. New and potent tools that promise effective control of measles are at hand. If properly developed and wisely used, it should be possible to disrupt the biological balance of measles. Its eradication from large continental landmasses such as North America and many other parts of the world can be anticipated soon.”

Alexander Langmuir et al on The Importance of Measles as a Health Problem

Alexander Langmuir didn’t think that measles was a benign disease.

“…any parent who has seen his small child suffer even for a few days with persistent fever of 105, with hacking cough and delirium wants to see this prevented…”

Alexander Langmuir

And he thought that we should work to eradicate it.

“The availability of potent and effective measles vaccines, which have been tested extensively of the past 4 years, provides the basis for the eradication of measles in any community that will raise its immune thresholds to readily attainable levels.”


Alexander Langmuir et al on Epidemiologic Basis For Eradication Of Measles In 1967

Alexender Langmuir, who was Chief Epidemiologist at CDC for 21 years and founded the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), said that “all infants should receive measles vaccine at approximately 1 year of age.”

What else did he say?

“When measles has become so widespread that epidemics are already present in several schools and in different communities within a city or county, more extensive communitywide measures must be undertaken. Then the full resources of the health and medical services of the total community, backed by well-coordinated voluntary agencies, will need to be mobilized. Again, priority should be directed first to the immunization of susceptible children in schools or who congregate in other enclosed spaces. If such immunization programs are carried out promptly and effectively, an epidemic of measles can be contained within 2 to 3 weeks.”

Alexander Langmuir

It would be nice to get back to where we could contain outbreaks in 2 to 3 weeks.

It would be nice if folks really listened to what Alexander Langmuir had to say and vaccinated their kids.

More on Alexander Langmuir on Measles

Should I Stop Calling Chickenpox and Measles Diseases?

Sherri Tenpenny wants us to stop calling chickenpox and measles diseases.

She thinks that we should call them infections instead…

Should I Stop Calling Chickenpox and Measles Diseases?

If you are like most people, you are probably thinking to yourself and maybe even shouting at your computer screen right now, “who cares what you call them, just get vaccinated and stop the outbreaks!”

When you vaccinate to avoid an infection, what you are potentially doing is preventing a death!
When you vaccinate to avoid an infection, what you are potentially doing is preventing a death!

Believe it or not, there is actually some precedent for changing the way we talk about diseases. While you may still refer to them as STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases out of habit, the prefererable term is actually STI, or sexually tranmistted infection.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Tenpenny’s reasoning.

“Why the change? The concept of ‘disease,’ as in STD, suggests a clear medical problem, usually some obvious signs or symptoms. But several of the most common STDs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of persons infected. Or they have mild signs and symptoms that can be easily overlooked. So the sexually transmitted virus or bacteria can be described as creating ‘infection,’ which may or may not result in ‘disease.’ This is true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few.

For this reason, for some professionals and organizations the term ‘disease’ is being replaced by ‘infection.'”

ASHA on STDs/STIs

In fact, their definitions sound nothing like Tenpennys…

Unfortunately, many STIs, even if they aren’t causing symptoms and disease, can still be contagious.

Measles and chickenpox don’t do that. Although you can be contagious just before you start to have symptoms, you will very quickly develop symptoms.

It is true that some viruses and bacteria can lead to subclinical infections, in which you develop immunity without ever developing symptoms, but that doesn’t usually happen with measles and chicken pox.

Polio is one of the best examples of when it does happen. Remember, nearly 75% of kids who got polio never had any symptoms. Tragically, those symptoms could be severe in the small percentage who did.

So as usual, Sherri Tenpenny is wrong.

Chickenpox and measles are infections that cause disease. And while most people recover after 7 to 10 days of symptoms, including a high fever and rash, some don’t.

Both also put you at risk for long-term complications, namely shingles and SSPE.

Remember, if you listen to folks like her and skip or delay your child’s vaccines and they get chickenpox or measles, the only thing you are doing is causing more people to get sick. A catchy slogan won’t prevent that or keep your kids healthy.

More on Diseases vs Infections