Tag: mortality rate

Remembering Measles

I don’t remember treating any kids with measles in medical school or residency.

We certainly saw a lot of other now vaccine-preventable diseases when I was in training, from rotavirus and pneumococcal disease to meningococcal disease.

“When I graduated from medical school, many of the current vaccines were either not yet invented or just beginning to be widely used. I still remember what health care was like in the pre-vaccine era, and I remember that there seemed to be at least one child in each neighborhood who spent much of her life in an iron lung because of polio. As a young resident in pediatrics, I heard, on the whooping-cough ward, the coughing and choking of children with pneumonia. I remember the brain damage from encephalitis caused by measles, and the birth defects of babies whose mothers had had German measles during pregnancy. In my first years in pediatric practice, I remember making hospital rounds every morning and treating children with meningitis, and complications of chicken pox and other illnesses that have been either eliminated or lessened in severity by the widespread use of vaccines. Also, I remember more than a decade ago when Great Britain temporarily stopped the routine use of the DTP vaccine because of a reaction scare (which later turned out to be a false alarm) and consequently suffered a resurgence of whooping cough. Because of my “historical” perspective, I have grown to appreciate the value of vaccines as a necessary public-health measure. Currently in our pediatric practice, we follow the vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Dr. William Sears on Ask Dr. Sears: Vaccination/Immunization Concerns

But I trained in the post-elimination era for measles.

Remembering Measles

Although some folks only seem to have the Brady Bunch to use as a guide, fortunately there are many other ways to discover what measles used to be like.

I asked some of my old instructors…

“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 Koplik’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 hyperpigmented 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

After reading that account, I’m glad my kids are all vaccinated and protected and hopefully won’t ever get measles, as it sounds horrible.

Although I have never seen it, I can certainly 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?

“I’ve often called measles ‘the harmless killer’ because, although most youngsters recover uneventfully, the disease a certain amount of really serious damage.”

Dr. Joseph Molner

Can you imagine intentionally leaving your kids unvaccinated and at risk of a harmless killer disease?

In this 1959 article in the Madera Tribune, Dr. Bundesen warns parents to take measles seriously.
In this 1959 article in the Madera Tribune, Dr. Bundesen warns parents to take measles seriously.

It is important to note that even a “mild” attack included a fever that could hit 104F or higher and, altogether the symptoms could last up to 12 days, as the cough often lingers after the rash has cleared up.

Measles is definitely contagious.
Measles is definitely contagious.

And in the pre-vaccine era, everyone ended up having measles, as it was so contagious.

Not everyone survived having measles though.

Even after improved sanitation and hygiene dropped mortality rates for measles and other diseases in the early part of the 20th Century, a lot of kids still died with measles.
Even after improved sanitation and hygiene dropped mortality rates for measles and other diseases in the early part of the 20th Century, a lot of kids still died with measles.

It was once well known that measles was not always so easy on kids.

1953 medical advice column
1953 medical advice column

Why have so many folks forgotten that fact?

Do you think that a 106F fever comes with a mild disease?
Do you think that a 106F fever comes with a mild disease?

Is it because vaccines work so well that we don’t see or hear about measles that much anymore?

Kids with measles feel awful.

At least we don’t hear about them until immunization rates drop and we start having more and more outbreaks.

Is that what it’s going to take to get you to vaccinate your kids? An outbreak in your city? Your child’s school? Or are you going to wait until your kids get sick?

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Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

Anti-vaccine folks have gotten pretty good at pushing propaganda to keep you scared to vaccinate and protect your kids.

Now, they even have quizzes to help test how much of that misinformation you remember!

Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

A quiz about measles outbreaks by the ironically named Physicians for Informed Consent was recently promoted by Dr. Bob Sears.

How did Dr. Bob get 12 out of 12 correct if most of the answers are really wrong?
How did Dr. Bob get 12 out of 12 correct if most of the answers are really wrong?

Let’s take a look at some of the questions and the anti-vaccine answers

There is only so much that better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition can do, which is why about 400 to 500 people were dying of measles in the 1950s and early 1960s just before the first measles vaccines were developed.
There is only so much that better hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition can do, which is why about 400 to 500 people were dying of measles in the 1950s and early 1960s just before the first measles vaccines were developed.

While mortality rates did indeed decline for most diseases and conditions in the early part of the 20th century because of advancements in living conditions, nutrition, and health care, that effect had plateaued by the mid-1930s.

Being unvaccinated and unprotected is the main reason why people in underdeveloped countries die from measles, not low vitamin A…

It is true that vitamin A deficiency increases the risk for more severe complications and death from measles, which is why it can be more deadly in undeveloped countries where malnutrition is a big problem.

“Because of gaps in vaccination coverage, measles outbreaks occurred in all regions, while there were an estimated 110 000 deaths related to the disease.”

Measles cases spike globally due to gaps in vaccination coverage

Unfortunately, the other big problem in many of these countries is that these kids are unvaccinated because of a lack of access to vaccines.

This child doesn’t appear to have measles…

Immune globulin is a treatment option if you have been exposed to measles, but it is not actually a treatment once you have measles. And high dose vitamin A mainly benefits those with a vitamin A deficiency, which is unlikely in an industrial country, like the United States.

The only benefit of having measles, which you have to earn by having measles and surviving without complications, is that you will have developed immunity to measles.

In addition to having no other benefits, you will then be at risk for SSPE and may have wiped out your immune system for a few years.

While you are at risk for encephalitis and seizures after a natural infection, after getting a dose of MMR, one risk is a febrile seizure, which is typically thought to be benign.

The risk of having a febrile seizure after the first dose of the MMR vaccine is about 1 in 2,500 doses. There is also a small risk of having a febrile seizure if the flu vaccine is given at the same time as a Prevnar or DTaP vaccine.

It is important to note that vaccines are not the only reason that children have febrile seizures. Many infections, including vaccine preventable infections, can trigger febrile seizures, in addition to causing more serious types of non-febrile seizures.

This is not true.

It is very unlikely that any of the kids who develop febrile seizures after a vaccine will later develop epilepsy.

“Febrile seizures can be frightening, but nearly all children who have a febrile seizure recover quickly, are healthy afterwards, and do not have any permanent neurological damage. Febrile seizures do not make children more likely to develop epilepsy or any other seizure disorder.”

Febrile Seizures Following Childhood Vaccinations, Including Influenza Vaccination

Without any risk factors (parent or sibling with epilepsy, having complex febrile seizures, or abnormal development), a child with febrile seizures has the same risk of developing epilepsy has any other child.

Do anti-vaccine folks really read the inserts?

Like many other vaccines, the package insert for MMR does say that it has “has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or potential to impair fertility.” That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t undergone safety studies for its potential to cause cancer, genetic mutations, and impaired fertility though.

Wait, what? Yeah, all vaccines have preclinical toxicology studies, including single and/or repeat dose, reproductive and developmental, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and safety pharmacology. If any issues are found, further studies are done.

The only way to think that a natural measles infection is safer than the MMR vaccine is if you believe that all reports to VAERS have been confirmed as being caused by the vaccine (they aren’t) and you don’t think about the fact that relatively few people get measles any more (so you don’t see or hear about many measles deaths) because most folks are vaccinated and protected!

How did you do on the quiz?

Did you easily spot all of the anti-vaccine propaganda?

More on Fact Checking an Anti-Vaccine Measles Outbreak Quiz

Did 79.4% of the Reported Child Deaths to VAERS Get a Vaccine on the Day They Died?

We know that reports to VAERS are unverified.

“When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”

Guide to Interpreting VAERS Data

They can’t be used to prove causality or definitively say that an adverse reaction or side effect was caused by a vaccine.

Did 79.4% of the Reported Child Deaths to VAERS Get a Vaccine on the Day They Died?

Still, it might be surprising to learn that in the majority of reports to VAERS about deaths in children, most had been vaccinated on the day they died.

Did 79.4% of the Reported Child Deaths to VAERS Get a Vaccine on the Day They Died?
The study is easy to find…

Is that true?

It’s actually not.

The idea for the statistic comes from a report, Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, United States, 1997–2013, that was published in the 2015 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“No concerning pattern was noted among death reports submitted to VAERS during 1997–2013.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

Wait.

How do we get to “no concerning pattern was noted” to 79.4% of the kids were vaccinated on the day they died?

“For child death reports, 79.4% received >1 vaccine on the same day.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

All the report is saying is that for kids who were vaccinated, 79.4% of them received more than one vaccine on the same day. It wasn’t the day they died though.

That kids would get more than one vaccine on the same day isn’t surprising. Few parents skip or delay vaccines so much that they just get one shot at a time.

“In our VAERS review, we did not detect any concerning patterns that would suggest causal relationships between vaccination and deaths.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

If anything, this report confirms that vaccines are safe and with few risks.

“The number of death reports in children exceeded those in adults in all years, and in both groups the number of reports has decreased in recent years.”

Moro et al on Deaths Reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

It is surprising that anti-vaccine folks would use it to try and scare folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

More on Deaths Reported to VAERS

Behind the Curtain of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Ever wonder what anti-vaccine folks talk about?

How they do their research?

Behind the Curtain of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Here you go!

How do you argue the point that vaccines killed off all of the diseases?
That seems like a reasonable question…

There is a good reason that folks have a hard time arguing this point.

Vaccines work.

But let’s see how they do…

It is with her summary that says you can treat cancer naturally and without chemotherapy.
It is with her summary that says you can treat cancer naturally and without chemotherapy.

The idea that we simply renamed diseases to make them disappear has to be the silliest anti-vaccine claim that you will hear. If that’s true, why not come out with an RSV vaccine or an HIV vaccine and rename those diseases?

If smallpox was renamed to monkey pox, then where are all of the kids with monkey pox?
If smallpox was renamed to monkey pox, then where are all of the kids with monkey pox?

The idea that better hygiene, sanitation, and good nutrition made now vaccine-preventable diseases go away is a very good theory, because those things did actually improve the mortality rates for most things in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately, those effects plateaued by the 1930s.

When my uncle got polio in Brooklyn in the early 1950s, our family and access to very good hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. It didn’t help. Remember, a lot of people were still dying at the time from polio, pertussis, diphtheria, and measles.

It was vaccines.

Actually, it’s the charts and graphs with declining mortality rates from better hygiene and sanitation in the early 20th century that anti-vaccine folks can use to fool folks into thinking that vaccines don’t work. If they actually look at disease rates, with a few exceptions, they will see that they were mostly unchanged.

Charts with mortality rates won't prove their point, but are their only chance to fool folks. They have no chance if they use disease rates...
Charts with mortality rates won’t actually prove their point, but are their only chance to fool folks. They have no chance if they use disease rates

This is actually an interesting idea. Do viruses and bacteria become attenuated or less dangerous over time? Considering that smallpox was around for thousands of years and was still deadly right up until it was eradicated, in general, there is plenty of evidence against this idea. You can also look at polio, which still paralyzing people.

Scarlet fever has become less dangerous, but no evidence that many other diseases have over time.
Scarlet fever has become less dangerous, but no evidence that many other diseases have over time.
Sanitation, plumbing, clean food, hygiene worked to get rid of diseases - anything but vaccines...
Anything but vaccines…

This is another silly idea. It implies that vaccines actually cause outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease. If this were true, then as we have been vaccinating more and more people, wouldn’t rates for all of these diseases have been going up over the years? And how did we eradicate smallpox? How are we so close to eradicating polio?

Then why do we see outbreaks in clusters of folks who are mostly intentionally unvaccinated.

Instead, we see outbreaks in clusters of folks who are mostly intentionally unvaccinated and no, it’s not just during “shedding season.”

Witch's brew of vaccines?
Again, anything but vaccines…

Do you really believe that ‘they’ are purposely “releases (sic) these diseases again, to cause hysteria, to get people back in their corner vaccinating again?”

It's a conspiracy! Big Pharma!!!
It’s a conspiracy! Big Pharma!!!
Vaccines are not killing people.
And yet, life expectancy and infant mortality rates are going up…

We know why they are coming back… It ain’t magic.

Are you prepared to argue their point now?

Did they convince you that we renamed diseases, flushing toilets and clean water got rid of all diseases, vaccines cause outbreaks, or that all of the diseases we developed vaccines for just naturally got milder and went away?

Or did they convince you to go out and vaccinate and protect your kids?

More on Behind the Curtain of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

More Measles Hysteria From Bob Sears

Most folks remember Dr. Bob’s response to the measles outbreak in his home town.

He told folks DON’T PANIC!!!!

More Measles Hysteria From Bob Sears

That was nearly four years ago, during the Disneyland measles outbreak.

So what’s he saying now?

From panic to hysteria - Dr. Bob on the measles outbreaks.

He’s moved from panic (a sudden overpowering fright) to hysteria (behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess), but is still pushing his usual talking points.

He has changed the way he is talking about measles deaths though.

Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn't deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe - another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.
Dr. Bob Sears actually reassured parents that measles wasn’t deadly in developed countries, neglecting to mention the dozens of people who have died in outbreaks in Europe – another well-nourished population with lower vaccination rates than the U.S.

Remember how he used to say that measles wasn’t deadly and that no one had died of measles in a long time? Now, instead of acknowledging that a woman got caught up in the 2015 outbreaks in Washington and died, he has shifted to saying that there hasn’t been a pediatric death in a long time.

Either way, it is important to understand something he leaves out. There are few deaths from measles these days because most folks are vaccinated!

When did Dr. Bob’s book about vaccines come out? The one with the alternative vaccine schedule?

Whatever his motivation, let’s take a look at what Dr. Bob is saying about measles…

“Measles hysteria is everywhere. And it’s clear the hysteria is a result of media fear around this disease, a disease every child used to get (and handle virtually without complication) not that long ago.”

Dr. Bob Sears

Not that long ago?

I’ve been a pediatrician for 22 years and I have never seen a child with measles. Neither did I have measles, as I was fortunate enough to grow up in the post-vaccine era for measles – a vaccine that has been available for since the 1960s.

And while every child did indeed once get measles, in the pre-vaccine era, not all handled it without complications, which is why measles was called the harmless killer.

Anti-vaccine folks try to hide the risks of measles in mortality rates, but the reality of it is that about 500 people died each year up until the early 1960s when the first measles vaccine was developed.

And I guess that wasn’t that long ago, after all, we had good hygiene and sanitation and healthcare at the time, and yet, a lot of people still died.

“There is another side to this measles conversation: how we’ve unintentionally shifted the burden of disease to babies and adults, both groups who are more likely to experience complications, by vaccinating all schoolchildren and losing natural immunity.”

Dr. Bob Sears

There is really only one side to this.

Folks who are intentionally not vaccinating their kids are getting measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases and are putting us all at risk to get sick.

After all, the MMR vaccine provides life-long immunity to most people. That’s not the problem.

If we went back to the pre-vaccine era, when everyone got measles naturally, as Dr. Bob seems to be advocating for, not only would those kids have to earn their immunity, but many babies (those who hadn’t had measles yet) and adults (those with immune system problems) would still be at great risk.

Are you starting to see how silly his arguments are?

We almost had measles beat!

Consider that there were just 37 measles cases in the United States in 2004. And that we have already had more than twice that amount this month alone!

And while measles was cyclical in the pre-vaccine era, it shouldn’t be when folks are vaccinated and protected. What happened to the cycles between 1997 and 2007?

“Unlike natural immunity, the measles vaccine does NOT offer lifelong protection. Estimates of its protection average around 15 years, and describe a phenomenon in the vaccine world known as “waning immunity.”

Melissa Floyd

The measles vaccine provides lifelong protection. Waning immunity only refers to protection against mumps. And no, there is no call for a third MMR dose for extra protection against measles.

“The other trend we’ve seen over the past 10 years is an increase in adult measles cases. “

Melissa Floyd

Dr. Bob’s sidekick neglects to mention that in addition to unvaccinated kis with measles, the trend is an increase in measles cases in unvaccinated adults! After all, most folks who get measles in these outbreaks are unvaccinated.

“To recap: by losing natural immunity for measles for children 5-19 years old, we’ve exposed babies, pregnant women, and adults to measles—all vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience serious complications from the disease.”

Melissa Floyd

Perhaps the only true statement that they make – “we’ve exposed babies, pregnant women, and adults to measles—all vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience serious complications from the disease.”

And no, vitamin A is not a proven therapy or measles in developed countries. It mainly helps prevent complications in kids who have a vitamin A deficiency.

Hopefully, it is becoming evident that what we need to stop is the anti-vaccine propaganda that keeps folks from vaccinating and protecting their kids. We need to stop the outbreaks.

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