Measles Panic?


people_measles7 Many of my social media friends and real world friends work as pediatric providers and nurses. Much of what I read in the blogosphere and my custom news feeds focuses around healthcare. If I knew how to filter out the word used the most often, I have no doubt that it would be measles. The past few weeks I have had several very concerned seniors asking about getting a measles vaccine. The coverage of this measles outbreak is ridiculous and disproportionate to the threat involved.

41,249 people committed suicide.
33,854 people died in motor vehicle accidents
2,800 people died from medical complications
10 people died of malaria, ( yes ,malaria)
46,717 people died of drug overdose ( many of them prescription) and
29,000 of an alcohol induced deaths.
Measles? ZERO. Really. ZERO. There were 159 confirmed measles cases from Jan-Aug of 2013 and no one died.

This coverage and the resulting near panic is because measles is just sexier to the news folks than the 249,000 folks that die from diabetes related causes each year. Showing pictures of a measles rash gets the CNN endless loop of coverage. My physician friends are furious at the anti-vaccine crowd in a way I never see them at parents who feed their kids junk food, which will kill so many more than measles.

There is a viral video of pediatrician saying he will not allow the non vaccinated or the alternate vaccine scheduled kids in his practice. This sort of over reaction serves no one. We should always be careful with our patients with compromised immune systems. We need to put down our pitch forks and torches and let the measles monster go so we can direct out time and talent to much more pressing health concerns.

2 responses »

  1. Ah, but measles is a pressing health concern. I’m not sure where your figures apply, but in 2013, 145,700 people died of measles globally (WHO). The majority of these were children under 5 years old. The hugh majority of these deaths were in poorly developed countries where vaccination uptake is lower and healthcare is less available.

    The issue is that once vaccination reaches a certain level the ‘herd immunity’ is lost. Outbreaks of measles are a symptom of that in society. The reason measles is a monster is because it can kill a perfectly healthy child in under a week and it is completely preventable by a vaccine that costs under a dollar a child.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of other diseases killing lots of people that also need attention (and as you have stated above, there are bigger killers than measles in Western countries), but you’d be foolish to write off measles. Just because it’s no longer a familiar death in the ‘developed world’ doesn’t mean it won’t be again if we don’t take it seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ( This is now my 4th attempt to reply to this comment- Oh, the joy of learning curves!)
      Dear Running with Stethoscopes,
      Firstly, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I used figures from the CDC . I used these figures because I was focusing on the disproportionate coverage of the measles outbreak on the news programs here in the USA. At any given moment for the past month, every single television channel is carrying endless stories of the outbreak. No one has died. Even if hundreds more people should come down with the measles it is highly unlikely anyone will die here in the states. Death is very rare in healthy, well nourished folks who have access to medical care. We can now treat the secondary infections that used to take the lives of children before antibiotics.

      The children that die are malnourished, unhealthy babies living in crowded conditions in areas that lack access to healthcare. I would fully support coverage of the children dying of diarrhea, and the myriad of other preventable illnesses in those countries. But, I get frustrated with media trying to instill panic in people needlessly. Today, I had a squeeze a patient in for an emergency visit during my already overbooked clinic day. The 28 year old was told by her mother that she had to be seen before getting on a plane the next day. The woman had a few cherry angiomas on her tummy. I have seen countless children over the past few weeks brought in by their terrified parents. And no, that isn’t hyperbole, these parents are really scared. The children have had diaper rashes, newborn milia, a mosquito bite, eczema etc. I am seeing so many children with common colds because the parents just want to make sure it isn’t measles. Squeezing in these extra patients all day means I have less time to spend talking with the parents of the 4 year old with a BMI of 99.97 and bottle rot of their teeth.

      Measles is important. I agree. But at this point the endless hours of television coverage, complete with “breaking news” of every single new case is not helpful. I am not writing it off. I promise.


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