Raise your hand if you have heard about the ongoing outbreak of measles within the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a total of 127 reported cases of measles within 10 states since last fall. Just last month, Washington declared a public health emergency due to at least 50 cases arising with the state, predominately from Clark County, an area known to be highly affiliated by the anti-vaccine movement. Since then, the vaccination rate for measles has skyrocketed to an astonishing 500%, as Americans seek defense from the disease. In today's time, vaccines are incredibly important for one's health and those around them. Creating awareness for public health is crucial to maintaining a healthy society, especially in times of health scares.
Now, what is the measles disease? Measles, also known as "Rubeola" is an airborne disease, caused by Measles morbillivirus, and can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or direct contact with secretions. Measles only affects humans, there is no "measles for other animals." Once a person is infected, they will have a very irritable rash spread across their body, from head to toe, within two weeks. Some side effects of measles are fever, encephalitis, ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, rashes, and corneal ulceration—some can create permanent damage. Dr. Pritish Tosh states that measles is mainly a childhood disease, as children are more susceptible and have a higher mortality rate when exposed to the disease. There is no cure for measles, however, antibiotics can remedy the disease during the infection period of two-to-three weeks.
So, what can we do to combat the measles virus? Well, the CDC highly recommends getting the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccination—aka the MMR vaccine—as soon and as early as possible. The MMR contains live, attenuated—or weakened by scientific methods in a laboratory—measles, mumps, and rubella—that stimulates your immune system responses, but not enough cause the symptoms of disease. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccination—the 1st at 12-15 months and the 2nd at 4-6 year—in order to empower the T and B cells that will kill off those specific pathogens in your body in the future. The earlier the exposure, the stronger the immune system response will be in the future.
So, what does it mean for the people vaccinated and those who are not? The earlier the exposure to the vaccine, the stronger the immune system response will be in the future. Last year, I learned from Professor Dr. Meysick that through artificial active immunity, the total number of antibodies within a community increases with each vaccine, protecting throughs in that community. In addition, microbiologists from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have concluded that this herd immunity decreases the circulation of infectious agents in susceptible populations. But what does that mean for those who are not vaccinated? According to the World Health Organization, since measles is so contagious, compared to other diseases, if it infects an unvaccinated person, they will be incredibly susceptible to the disease, which increases the risk of other people in that community who are also not vaccinated or have a weak immune system to begin with. Thus, explains why measles is still so prevalent in a low vaccinated area like Clark County, Washington.
This is why the priority for vaccination should be held with the utmost importance. Since the introduction of the MMR vaccine in 1963, has reported that the prevalence of measles has decreased by at least 99%. However, the CDC and WHO warn about the common diseases held in foreign countries that people from the US have the potential to bring back and start a mass infection. That is why they express caution to one's health overseas and be vaccinated before traveling; since this fall, the CDC has traced the measles epidemic of the US all the way from Venezuela. This is why vaccines are necessary to increase our and other's immune system's strengths against foreign pathogens and diseases. In order to protect others from diseases, we must first protect ourselves.
I hope this has been informative to your health and please stay health throughout this semester. Thank you.
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