Tag: measles

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

While folks often try and make it seem like measles is a common childhood illness, we know that it can be dangerous.

“One of the patients was a 20-year-old pregnant woman who had rash onset on January 5 following exposure to her 12-year-old brother. After delivering a healthy baby on January 6, the mother developed severe pneumonia that was followed by respiratory arrest. She was resuscitated and transferred to an intensive care unit in a larger hospital nearby in Tennessee.”

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Transmission of Measles Across State Lines — Kentucky, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia

Rarely do people who have really had measles describe it as just a fever and a rash. They remember that it was called a harmless killer for a reason.

Is Measles Dangerous If You Are Pregnant?

And there are some situations in which measles can be especially dangerous, including if you get sick when you are very young, very old, or have immune system problems.

Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.
Pregnant women should be screened for measles immunity.

And what if you are pregnant when you get measles?

“The Health Department announced today that the number of measles cases has grown to 390, including two pregnant women diagnosed with the infection, one diagnosed in mid-April.”

The Number of Measles Cases Grows to 390

If you are pregnant and you are exposed to someone with measles, you can get IVIG post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent you from actually getting measles, but this typically only works if given within six days of the exposure.

“To date, studies have not identified an increased risk for birth defects when pregnant women get the measles during pregnancy. However, studies suggest that measles infection is associated with an increased risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and the baby being born with a measles infection.”

When Measles Strike, It’s Not The Happiest Place On Earth For Pregnant Women

Unlike a rubella infection during pregnancy, a measles infection is not thought to cause birth defects. Tragically, it can, like rubella, lead to an increased risk for having a miscarriage.

“Infants who develop congenital measles are at increased risk for mortality and for subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which is more common when measles is diagnosed in infancy. In addition, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis in newborns infected with measles either congenitally or shortly after birth appears to be more severe, with a shorter latency and rapidly progressive course.”

What Obstetric Health Care Providers Need to Know About Measles and Pregnancy

And if the mother gets measles very late in her pregnancy, it can also lead to a case of congenital measles, or a baby being born with an active measles infection.

“In 52% of cases, measles was likely acquired from a relative. Complications included pneumonia in one child; two pregnant women required hospitalization, including one who miscarried.”

Notes from the Field: Measles Outbreak Among Members of a Religious Community — Brooklyn, New York, March–June 2013

Don’t take the risk that you might get measles while you are pregnant.

Make sure you are vaccinated and protected before you ever start thinking about getting pregnant, as pregnancy is a contraindication to getting the MMR vaccine. And you should wait at least 4 weeks after getting vaccinated before getting pregnant.

More on Measles in Pregnancy

Did CBS and Hulu Remove the Brady Bunch Measles Episode?

Have you heard the latest anti-vaccine conspiracy theory?

Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.
Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.

Remember the Brady Bunch measles episode?

The one where all the kids got sick and two different pediatricians had to visit the house to check on the kids?

Did CBS and Hulu Remove the Brady Bunch Measles Episode?

While anti-vaccine folks apparently use the fact that the Brady Bunch did a measles episode as a reason to skip or delay their own child’s vaccines, they have gone a little further now, coming up with a conspiracy theory about efforts to keep people from watching the episode.

Are CBS and Hulu part of a conspiracy to silence anti-vaccine folks?
Are CBS and Hulu part of a conspiracy to silence anti-vaccine folks?

The episode, Is There a Doctor in the House?, aired during season 1 on December 26, 1969.

For reference, this was just after the updated measles vaccine was approved in 1967, and when there were at least 25,826 measles cases in the United States and 41 deaths.

Why didn’t they talk about any of that during the episode?

Although some folks read a lot into the episode, it was basically about how Carol and Mike each called separate pediatricians to the house for the kids, one for the boys and one for the girls, instead of just calling one for the newly formed Brady bunch.

But think about it… If measles is so mild, why did they have to call their pediatricians?

And if nothing else, remember that it shows how contagious measles really is. All of the kids got sick!

But was the episode removed so that you can’t watch it anymore?

Where's Episode 13?!? Where are episodes 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 17, and 18? Were they all about measles too?
Where’s Episode 13?!? Where are episodes 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 17, and 18? Were they all about measles too?

Since a lot of other episodes are missing, and not just from season 1, it doesn’t seem very likely.

Why did they pull Season 6, Episode 4 Little Ricky Gets Stage Fright of I Love Lucy? Was that the one where he was got a smallpox vaccine?
Why did they pull Season 6, Episode 4 Little Ricky Gets Stage Fright of I Love Lucy? Was that the one where he was got a smallpox vaccine?

And keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for there to be missing episodes when you try to stream these older shows online.

Mostly remember that when you think that everything is a conspiracy, everything looks like a conspiracy, even when it is easy to find a more reasonable explanation.

More on the Brady Bunch Measles Episode Conspiracy

How Can a Measles Infection Trigger a Growth Spurt in Kids?

Wait, what?

Some folks think that one of the benefits of getting a life-threatening illness is that it can help your kids go through a growth spurt?

How Can a Measles Infection Trigger a Growth Spurt in Kids?

While the theory doesn’t make any sense to me, as a skeptic, I’m going to research it and see what I find.

For one thing, the myth seems to have its origins among anti-vaccine folks who think that measles means “gift from a goddess” in ancient Sanskrit.

It doesn’t.

Most people think that the etymology of the term measles is Dutch

But that isn’t the only reason this theory doesn’t make sense.

We know that a recent measles infection can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick with other diseases. And this effect can last a long time, for up to three years!

“The measles virus can cause serious disease in children by temporarily suppressing their immune systems. This vulnerability was previously thought to last a month or two; however, a new study shows that children may in fact live in the immunological shadow of measles for up to three years, leaving them highly susceptible to a host of other deadly diseases.”

A deadly shadow: Measles may weaken immune system up to three years

Now I’m thinking that having measles and then having a weakened immune system for up to three years isn’t going to help your rate of growth.

But still, that’s not evidence that it couldn’t happen…

“In Papua New Guinea a different pattern emerged again, with measles having an enormous effect on growth. Skin sores also reduced growth to some extent. The fact that measles was not important in The Gambia was probably due to the policy there of giving measles vaccine routinely.”

Cole on Relating growth rate to environmental factors–methodological problems in the study of growth-infection interaction.

The effect on growth in Papua New Guinea wasn’t positive.

What other evidence is there, besides the fact that we know that folks with measles need a lot of extra energy while they are recovering from their infection, so likely don’t have a lot leftover for a growth spurt?

There’s the fact that precocious puberty can be a complication of some infections, including measles. What happens if your child has precocious or early puberty? An early growth spurt? Yes, actually, but then they stop growing earlier than they should and they end up being shorter than their genetic potential.

Some more indirect evidence against any kind of extra growth spurt from a natural measles infection is that the mean height of young adults today, most of whom were vaccinated and didn’t have measles, isn’t that different from those measured in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Since the first measles vaccines were introduced in the 1960s, the folks in red likely had measles, while those in blue were likely vaccinated. Why aren't the older folks taller because of their measles boost?
Since the first measles vaccines were introduced in the 1960s, the folks in red likely had measles, while those in blue were likely vaccinated. Why aren’t the older folks taller because of their measles boost?

Mean height has gone down a little bit in recent years though.

The explanation?

No, it’s not because we don’t get measles anymore!

It’s because of poor diet choices and that obesity is also up. Genetic factors and immigration are also thought to play a role. And that previous increases because of improvements in nutrition and health conditions have likely leveled off for many people.

“An important number of decelerations was related to infection with measles which provokes initial wasting; later, recuperation was partly through increase of weight and arm circumference, and partly through delayed stunting.”

Growth decelerations among under-5-year-old children in Kasongo (Zaire). I. Occurrence of decelerations and impact of measles on growth

Perhaps the best evidence against the idea of a growth spurt with a measles infection though is an actual study that shows that kids have actual decelerations in their growth during their infection and while recovering.

Some of these kids, those that survived, had a “permanent growth deficit.”

So much for the idea of a growth spurt…

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

More on How Did a Measles Infection Trigger a Growth Spurt in Kids


How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

Can you believe that there were only 37 measles cases in 2004?

This year, we sometimes get reports of 37 cases in a week.

What happened?

A rise in measles cases all over the world happened. And since folks do travel, that led to outbreaks in any community that doesn’t have high rates of vaccination.

How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

And that’s where the PEACH Vaccine Safety Handbook comes into play.

Since at least 2014, the PEACH project folks and have been distributing their magazines filled with misinformation about vaccines in Orthodox Jewish communities.

In addition to Lakewood, the PEACH magazine was sent to “a mailing list that included a comprehensive directory of Pittsburgh families affiliated with various branches of Orthodoxy.”

And it found its way to Brooklyn and other Orthodox communities. Many of the same communities where we are now seeing the largest measles outbreaks in recent history, although there are plenty of outbreaks in other places too.

Surprisingly, PEACH is pure PRATT – anti-vaccine points refuted a thousand times.

Folks really should read the package insert of vaccines and should understand what they say. They don’t say that vaccines are associated with autism.

The cartoons were a nice touch, but should have been a tip-off that none of it was true! There is even a cartoon about the HAZMAT myth.

It all does look very official and sounds scary though, so it is easy to see how parents could be mislead by the magazine, especially when they seem to cite references for all of their “facts.”

This PEACH timeline was originally posted on several anti-vaccine websites back in 2007…

But let’s look at some of the facts in the above timeline:

  • is there any reason why Germany might have seen a rise in diphtheria cases in 1945?
  • Ghana was not declared measles-free in 1967. Unfortunately, Ghana is still not measles-free…
  • while the SV40 virus did contaminate some polio vaccines, it has not been associated with causing cancer or any other problems
  • whooping cough cases rose in Sweden and the UK because they stopped using the DPT vaccine in the late 1970s and 80s over fears of side effects. Of course, we now know that these fears were unfounded and many kids suffered because those fears were hyped by a few doctors, the media, and players from the start of the modern anti-vaccine movement
  • frivolous lawsuits over DPT side effects is what led to the rise in DPT prices
  • Jonas Salk testified that “mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases in the USA since 1961” because the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines had already controlled wild polio in the United States!!!
  • What about the idea that “the February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine?” That’s actually kind of true. But it was just a survey of a small number of employees at Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center, most of whom believed that they actually were immune because they had likely been exposed to rubella so much in the past.

The rest of the magazine continues with the same kind of propaganda, trying to make folks think that vaccines don’t work, vaccines aren’t necessary, and that vaccines are dangerous.

Their experts?

From Russell Blaylock and Mark Geier to Tim O’Shea and Sherri Tenpenny, it is a who’s who of the worst folks in the modern anti-vaccine movement. They are certainly not the kind of folks you should be turning to for advice about vaccines, or anything else.

I wonder what they say about Shaken Baby Syndrome? Is it a vaccine injury too?!?

As we have seen with these growing measles outbreaks, although it makes a catchy slogan, you can’t always vaccinate later. You can wait until it is too late.

“I can only conjecture. But it has to be a combination a propensity towards conspiracy theories and religiosity gone awry based on bad information and in my view a gross misunderstanding of Halacha.”

AntiVaxxers – Religious Views Gone Awry

And that’s how you end up with the longest lasting measles outbreak in the United States in nearly 20 years.

More on How an Anti-Vaccine Safety Handbook Has Caused the Longest Measles Outbreak in Recent History

Making America Measly Again

Believe it or not, measles didn’t get it’s name from the measles virus.

Charles Bruxton did his dissertation on measles in 1793.
Charles Bruxton did his dissertation on measles in 1793.

After all, the virus wasn’t discovered until 1954, by John Enders.

Making America Measly Again

So where did the name measles come from?

One idea is that it came from the Middle English word mesel, which means a leper. Another that it is from the Latin misellus, the diminutive form of miser – wretched.

“Measles is, he says, derived from the Dutch maseln (measles) ; the disease is also called in Holland mczsel-sucht, the measle-sickness; so translated by an old English writer. The literal sense is “small spots.” The original word occurs in the Middle High German mase,’ Old High German masa, a spot. Hirsch also states that the English word “measles” corresponds to the German Maal, and Masern, and the Sanscrit masurra, spots. Doubtless it is to this meaning of spots, hence spotty, that we owe the term “measly pork,” as applied to the meat of the pig when infested with scolices of tasnia.”

Sykes On the Origin and History of Some Disease Names

Most people think that the etymology of measles is Dutch.

It’s shouldn’t be a surprise that few of us know where the name comes from, as few folks have actually seen a kid with measles, even with the recent rise in measles cases.

“Typical case of measles – a couple days of high fever, with a sick (miserable) looking kid with running nose, bad cough, and red eyes. You can see Koplic’s spots if you know to look for them on the buccal mucosa (I describe them as grains of salts on red tablecloth). Fever gets higher and rash appears at peak of fever (day 3-4). The rash disappears with a brawny hyperpigmentation appearance. The child frequently gets diagnosed with an ear infection. If no complications (ear infection or pneumonia), recovery is quick once the fever resolves, but these kids look really sick, miserable, and sad during the acute phase. They have a measly look.”

Jeed Gan, MD

But I’m sure most of us can imagine that measly look

A child with measles and four days of the classic measles rash.
A child with measles and four days of the classic measles rash. Photo by CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice

What else can you imagine?

Roald Dahl's daughter died of measles in 1962, the year before the development of the first measles vaccine.
Roald Dahl‘s daughter died of measles in 1962, the year before the development of the first measles vaccine.

Can you imagine losing your child to a vaccine-preventable disease?

Measles deaths were once common in the United States. Let’s stop the outbreaks, as we have a safe vaccine, with few risks, and not bring measles deaths back as we get even more measles cases.

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Why Haven’t We Eradicated Measles Already?

The first measles vaccine was developed in 1963.

So why do we still have measles?

Shouldn’t measles be on the list with all of the other eradicated diseases, like smallpox and, well smallpox…

Why Haven’t We Eradicated Measles Already?

Eradicating a disease is not as simple as developing a vaccine.

If it were, a lot of diseases would have been eradicated already.

Hopefully, we will add more to the list of eradicated diseases, but there are some that will never be eradicated. Tetanus, for example, is ubiquitous in soil, so would be nearly impossible to eradicate. Other diseases, like rabies and yellow fever, would be hard to eradicate because they can infect animals or insects.

What about measles?

Anti-vaccine folks do not understand herd immunity.

While there was never a goal to eradicate measles by 1967, we have missed several deadlines to get measles under better control.

What was the first deadline?

“Recent successes in interrupting indigenous transmission of measles virus in the Americas and in the United Kingdom prompted the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and CDC to convene a meeting in July, 1996 to consider the feasibility of global measles eradication.”

Measles Eradication: Recommendations from a Meeting Cosponsored by the World HealthOrganization, the Pan American Health Organization, and CDC

Folks started talking about measles eradication in 1996.

Before that though, there had been a goal to eliminate measles in the United States.

“An effort is underway to eliminate indigenous measles from the United States; a target date of October 1, 1982 has been set.”

Although we missed that initial target date, we weren’t too far off.

“In 1978, the US Public Health Service initiated a Measles Elimination Program with the goal of eliminating measles from the United States by 1982. The goals of this program included (1) maintenance of high levels of immunity,(2) careful surveillance of disease, and (3) aggressive control of outbreaks. Unfortunately, the program failed, predominantly because of the failure to implement the recommended vaccination strategy and because of vaccine failure. An increase in measles cases was sustained from 1983 through 1991 and was particularly dramatic from 1989 through 1991.”

Poland et al on Failure to Reach the Goal of Measles Elimination

There is also the fact that measles is just so dang contagious!

Improving vaccination rates and a two-dose MMR schedule helped decrease measles rates even further and finally eliminate the endemic spread of measles in the United States in 2000.

What were some other deadlines and goals?

  • In 1989, the World Health Assembly resolved to reduce measles morbidity and mortality by 90% and 95%, respectively, by 1995, compared with disease burden during the prevaccine era.
  • In 1990, the World Summit for Children adopted a goal of vaccinating 90% of children against measles by 2000.
  • Regional measles-elimination goals have been established in the American Region (AMR) by 2000, the European Region (EUR) by 2007, and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) by 2010.
  • A regional measles-elimination goals have been established in the Western Pacific (WPR) by 2012.
  • In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan with the objective to eliminate measles in four World Health Organization (WHO) regions by 2015 – the Region of the Americas, EUR, EMR, and WPR.
  • Countries in all six WHO regions have adopted goals for measles elimination by 2020.

Obviously, we haven’t hit all of the goals and deadlines on time.

What have we done?

We have tremendously reduced the number of children who get measles and who die with measles. For example, instead of meeting the 2010 goals of decreasing global measles mortality by 90% over 2000 levels, we have decreased it by 74%. The world has gone from an estimated 100 million cases and 5.8 million deaths in 1980 and an estimated 44 million cases and 1.1 million deaths in 1995 to “just” 7 million cases and 89,780 deaths in 2016.

There is still some work to be done though, especially with the uptick in cases and deaths in the last few years.

“Eradication of both measles and rubella is considered to be feasible, beneficial, and more cost-effective than high-level control.”

Orenstein et al on Measles and Rubella Global Strategic Plan 2012–2020 midterm review report: Background and summary

Work that we can still do if everyone makes the commitment to implement their elimination plans.

And folks vaccinate and protect their kids!

What’s the alternative?

To go back to when even more kids got sick and died with measles?

More on Eradicating Measles

Remembering When Everyone Had Measles

In the pre-vaccine era, everyone got measles.

What was that like?

Remembering When Everyone Had Measles

Although the first measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, an improved version wasn't available until 1968.
Although the first measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, an improved version wasn’t available until 1968.

Well, for one thing, before we had a measles vaccine, having measles was considered a rite of passage for kids, but only because they had no choice except to eventually get it!

And when measles came to town, as it inevitably did, most folks got it, leading to missing weeks of school, play, and work, etc.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.

At best, measles left you feeling miserable.

Tragically for some, they didn’t survive having measles.

“Before a vaccine became available in 1963, measles was a rite of passage among American children. A red rash would spread over their bodies. They would develop a high fever. Severe cases could cause blindness or brain damage, or even death.”

CDC says measles almost eliminated in U.S.

It should be clear that when measles was everywhere and everyone had measles, it could affect every aspect of your life.

Quarantines for measles were once very common, although everyone still ended up getting measles eventually.
Quarantines for measles were once very common, although everyone still ended up getting measles eventually.
In 1959, the Los Angeles Times reported that 80% of the kids in this school’s lower grades would be absent in an outbreak that had been ongoing since the previous month
Could you imagine your child’s college shutting down for two weeks because kids were getting sick? This was in 1956.
If measles was so mild, why were colleges shutting down for two weeks?
Quarantines were common to control outbreaks in 1949.
Too bad they didn’t have laptops in 1947, although even if they did, Will Jones would have been too sick to have worked from home when he had measles…
Remember the Lassie episode when Timmie had measles...
Remember the Lassie episode when Timmie had measles… When everyone got measles, measles was every were, even on TV.
Delaying a movie isn’t so bad…
But what about almost delaying a trip to the moon? Remember Apollo 13?
Measles deaths were common in 1952.

When everyone got measles, everyone had problems with measles.

We know what happens when immunization rates drop…

That’s why most of us are very glad to vaccinate and protect our kids. We don’t want them to get measles or any other vaccine-preventable diseases.

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