With the recent release of a provocative children's book entitled Melanie's Marvelous Measles, a debate has ensued regarding the effectiveness and wisdom surrounding measles vaccinations. When I first heard about the book, I went to Amazon to order a copy for myself. The amount of negative reviews was staggering. People were claiming that the information was "dangerous", "harmful" and "ill-informed". Some were even calling for the book to be banned. It took me a few minutes to read it from cover to cover. Rather than critique the book, which has already been done quite eloquently by others, I would like to talk about the widespread fear surrounding measles and the misinformation regarding the vaccine.
References to measles can be found as far back as the 7th century. Measles is an RNA virus that was first isolated in 1954. A typical infection produces a characteristic skin rash starting at the head and progressing down the trunk and extremities. The rash is typically preceded by a high fever. Around this time, blue-white spots (Koplik spots) can be found on the mucous membranes. These are considered pathognomonic for measles. Other symptoms may include cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, anorexia and lymphadenopathy.
According to the CDC, prior to the introduction of the vaccine, measles was a nearly universal infection occurring most commonly in 5-9 year olds with 90% of U.S. children immune by age 15. Most kids recovered fully within a few weeks with life-long immunity. Reported complications from data collected between 1985-1992 included pneumonia (6%), encephalitis (.1%), seizures (.6-.7%), and death (.2%). These occurred most frequently in children under 5 and adults over 20. These complications may, in fact, have been exacerbated by allopathic interventions to treat common symptoms such as fever reduction using antipyretics.[15,16]