Just over five years ago, the New York City Department of Health issued a warning about an outbreak of Measles in northern Manhattan and the Bronx and urged all New Yorkers to make sure they are vaccinated against Measles. It highlighted what we are experiencing today with the current Measles outbreaks in the news.

MEASLES OUTBREAK

Since January 1, 2019, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta) reported 880 cases of Measles confirmed in 24 states (as of May 20, 2019)*. This constitutes the largest number of cases reported in the U.S. since Measles was eliminated in 2000 (in the United States). Surpassing the 667 cases reported for all of 2014 with over 7 months to go, it marks the largest number of cases for a single year in 25 years. States that have reported cases to the CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Washington.*

CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

Additionally, a few weeks ago, the Church of Scientology cruise ship, Freewinds, remained quarantined as it arrived at its home port at the Caribbean island of Curacao. On voyage, the measles outbreak aboard the cruise ship was discovered while at sea en-route to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. “Only those who can prove that they had already been vaccinated or have previously had the measles will be allowed to disembark,” said Dr. Izzy Gerstenbluth, Chief Epidemiologist for the Curacao Biomedical and Health Research Institute. The incubation period for the disease is 21 days.

OUTBREAK PATTERNS

If you were to look at the graphs of Measles outbreaks in the past decade alone, you’d see a pattern. It looks much like a saw-tooth wave spiking in 2011, again in 2014, and now in 2019. It appears as an exponential curve to a peak that I can only surmise, when it does, it scares the public into submission and committing to become vaccinated, and then it plummets once again the following year. Based on historical data, a reasonable expectation exists that after this years peak, we’ll see a tremendous drop in the 2020 statistics for the same reason.

“If we don’t take the time to learn and understand history, we are destined to repeat it.”

The fact is, the only disease to have ever been permanently eradicated is smallpox. While eradicated from any natural occurrence in the general population, it is still forever present as strains of the disease that are stored, both by the United States and Russia. Arguments as to whether or not to destroy the last two remaining samples of smallpox are the subject of great debate as proponents claim there is no longer a need to house and maintain the dangerous disease as multiple conspiracy theories evolve as to their purpose and opponents claim the necessity to keep it because there has never been any real verifiable confirmation that all strains of the virus have been destroyed. Nonetheless, these two samples are housed and stored in very heavily secured facilities in their respective countries.

By the numbers (summarized):

  • Diphtheria 5,796 (1950) to 3 (1980); 0 ~ 1 cases annually.
  • Tetanus 486 (1950); ~ 27.8 cases annually.
  • Pertussis 120,718 (1950) to 1,010 (1976) surging again (2004-2005, 2010, 2012, & 2014); 17,972 (2016) cases.
  • Polio 33,300 (1950) to 0 (2000) ~ 0 cases annually (3 reported since 2000)
  • Measles 319,214 (1950) to 37 (2004) surging again (2005, 2008, 2011, 2014); 764 (to Date).
  • Mumps 152,209 (1968) to 231 (2003) surging again (2006, 2010, 2016); 6,389 (2016)
  • Rubella 46,976 (1966) to 1 (2016)
  • CRS 82 (1969) to 2 (2016); ~ 1 case annually

Courtesy CDC

RESURGENCE & REEMERGENCE

Resurgence and reemergence of these once almost eradicated diseases is attributed in large part to those who refuse to vaccinate for what is otherwise a preventable disease. “My parents never told me that I had never been vaccinated,” said one student at one of the two California Universities under quarantine. Often, decisions not to vaccinate stem from gross (mis)information regarding perceived dangers of vaccination that are largely perpetuated on social media by the ignorance of those who repeat it. Their message goes viral, and so too do the diseases that the vaccines are designed to prevent. Dr. Mark Hutson, a very prominent Atlanta physician and pediatrician said (paraphrased):

“Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing diseases that affect humans and have been proven to be safe and effective for both children and adults. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, no neurological or developmental disorders have been reported. If an individual researches vaccines on the internet, most of what they will find will be anti-vaccination websites which are counterproductive and detrimental to the overall health and well being of all of us as more and more people abstain from getting vaccinated against preventable diseases.”

I concur, and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why that occurs in A Cause for Pause; Sex & Intimacy. Media coverage doesn’t help. The only thing it tends to do is to alarm the public whenever it suits them to make a story out of it.

Eighteen states allow parents to opt out of school immunization requirements for non-medical reasons with exemptions for religious or philosophical beliefs. Idaho has 8 of the top 10 counties with the highest exemption rates. In Camas County alone, nearly 27% of kindergarten students’ parents opt out of childhood vaccinations. This rural setting is much less of a concern than it is for the top urban hot spots where the most vaccination exemptions were given in Seattle, Spokane, & Tacoma, Washington;  Portland, Oregon; Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City & Provo, Utah; Houston, Fort Worth, Austin & Plano, Texas; Detroit, Troy, & Warren, Michigan; and Kansas City, Missouri all having more than 400 exemptions. It isn’t a problem until the first exposure. Then it escalates into a very big problem rather rapidly.

LESSONS FROM EBOLA

In 2014, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were the first Ebola patients to be treated in the United States at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia; convenient and in close proximity to the CDC. My immediate question was “why there?” Why do we need to bring this extremely dangerous disease into the country at all? I’m all for providing the necessary resources to save the lives of these people. But why couldn’t we have mobilized a field hospital in a remote isolated location besides a very populated urban city such as Atlanta, Georgia?

Subsequently, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, having traveled from there in recent days where an Ebola epidemic was fully underway, the same place where Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol contracted it, died from the disease on October 8, 2014 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas. 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham and 29-year-old nurse Amber Vinson became the first infected on US soil with the Ebola virus, both of whom had taken care of Mr. Duncan. Vinson boarded a plane from Dallas to Cleveland to prepare for her upcoming wedding. As a low grade fever emerged, she returned to Dallas setting off a chain of events that instilled chaos and fear for everyone she came in contact with. CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden said:

“Vinson should not have boarded the plane to Dallas, because of her slight temperature and because she had had contact with Duncan.”

Kaci Hickox treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone before returning to the United States on Oct. 24, 2014 where she was immediately placed into quarantine. She immediately defied the quarantine order.

DISNEYLAND’S PERFECT INCUBATOR

In 2014-2015, a Disneyland Measles outbreak was linked to low MMR (measles, mumps, & rubella) vaccination coverage of children prompting California legislators to set out to increase vaccination rates by eliminating philosophical exemptions. It’s a small step, but it helped. It really is going to take a whole lot of small steps to make a big one.

SELFISH DECISIONS

Here’s the point. If those who should otherwise know better would so selfishly jeopardize the lives of everyone else around them, what would lead you to believe that the decisions of those who don’t would be any better? The self-centered outrageous behavior of a few cost insurmountable time, money, and emotional duress to so many others. It’s unbelievable. Others weren’t given a choice. Others weren’t included in the selfish decisions of those who put their lives in danger. It demonstrates a complete lack of respect and consideration for everyone else around them.

This is one of those times that I wholeheartedly subscribe to the Spock quote on Star Trek:

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

I was reminded of this very type, albeit coming in the form of a disaster, of inconsiderate behavior on May 6, 2019, when a Russian Aeroflot airplane crash landed on the runway in Moscow as flames engulfed the aircraft as it came to halt. The only exit route to avoid the flames was the front door of the aircraft as 41 people lost their lives. I learned that many of those individuals perished because passengers in the forward cabin took the time to collect their belongings from the overhead compartments. As I watched the video footage, I was horrified to see them walking away from the burning aircraft; luggage in tow. Was it worth it? I just cannot comprehend how luggage could possibly be worth more than a human life. 

Yes, like everyone else, I do have an opinion on it.

“If you decide not to vaccinate your child, and you certainly have that right, it doesn’t give you the right to systematically infringe upon the rights of others to protect themselves by avoiding your duty, responsibility, and obligation to disclose potential infectious and otherwise preventable diseases that come with deadly consequences.”

Sorry, you’re rights stop where you’re endangering mine because I believe that you have the right to do anything you want in so much as your right in doing so does not infringe upon anyone else’s.

When I spoke out about this five years ago, I was accused, ostracized and ridiculed even, by some claiming that I feared Ebola. I never feared the disease. I would have had to have gotten close enough to have been exposed to it to fear it. People who behave like this have so little regard, respect, and consideration for everyone else around them. Our time, money, attention, not to mention emotional duress, are all inconsequential to them. Their persona exhibits “The world revolves around me”, and “I’m the center of the universe”. Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol didn’t have a choice. As for the others, they chose to inconvenience everyone else for their benefit at our expense. And that is precisely what these individuals are doing when they refuse to vaccinate their children.

VACCINATE! VACCINATE! VACCINATE!

While we’ve talked about Ebola, and what led up to this, Measles, the CDC has guidelines for recommended childhood immunizations. But don’t worry, your child’s pediatrician keeps track of those for you. I don’t have a problem with the decision not to vaccinate. I just have a problem with, while doing so, exposing everyone else to diseases that should have already been eradicated, but aren’t for the likes of those who don’t when empirical scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the necessity and safety of it for all of us.

For Everyone: Parent-Friendly Schedules (Courtesy of the CDC)

*Writer’s Note: The information for this article remains very fluid as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issues weekly updates with ever increasing Measles outbreaks in more affected states.

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