The measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California has now affected 94 people in 14 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How it began is uncertain, but the CDC suggests that it may have come from overseas.
“Although we aren’t sure exactly how this year’s outbreak began, we assume that someone got infected overseas, visited the parks and spread the disease to others,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Last year, the U.S. reported over 600 cases of measles — the largest number in over 20 years. Many of those cases were linked to people who had traveled to the Philippines, where there was an outbreak of over 50,000 cases of measles.
Since the measles virus is highly contagious, once it entered Disneyland, according to Dr. Schuchat, it most likely spread to unvaccinated visitors.
“This is not a problem with the measles vaccine not working,” said Dr. Schuchat. “This is a problem of the measles vaccine not being used.”
Peter Lipson, MD, an internal medicine doc in Michigan and contributor to Forbes magazine, wrote an article appropriately critical of physicians who endorse the anti-vaccine movement.
Before the studies of Andrew Wakefield were found to be fakes, a group of celebrities successfully promoted the false findings that MMR vaccines contributed to autism, among other conditions.
Physicians are “put in the unusual position of having to convince people that we actually know a bit more about health than second-tier, has-been celebrities,” said Dr. Lipson, who referenced Jenny McCarthy, the champion celeb of the anti-vaccine movement. “But there have been a few actual licensed medical voices over the last several years fighting to keep our kids sick.”
Dr. Lipson wrote in Forbes about Dr. Jay Gordon, a California pediatrician who is “pro-choice” on vaccinations and has successfully attracted a patient base of parents with similar paranoia. “His rantings are so incoherent that it’s hard to believe he ever passed his pre-med science classes,” Dr. Lipson said of Gordon.
Dr. Gordon believes the first shot shouldn’t be given until the child is at least three years old, but admits he has no scientific evidence to support his belief.
“I have no evidence based medicine, there’s no research saying that,” said Gordon. “I have anecdotal data that has told me that. Anecdotal data does not stand up to public scrutiny. It’s easy to attack. I have had, as I’ve said, many parents tell me that their child has been harmed by the MMR.”
The success of the measles vaccine is unquestioned and the disease was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000. But due to travelers and pockets of “anti-vaccine” communities, the disease has returned in recent, smaller outbreaks.
“The majority of the adults and children that are reported to us for which we have information did not get vaccinated or don’t know whether they have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Schuchat.
“Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to the person who aren’t immune will also be infected,” warns Dr. Schuchat. “You can catch it just by being in the same room as a person with measles even if that person left the room because the virus can hang around for a couple of hours.
Providers and parents: tell us your thoughts regarding vaccinating yourself, your children and your patients.
(Photo by PV2 Andrew W. McGalliard via Wikimedia Commons.)