Measles, a viral infectious disease that attacks the immune and respiratory system and that has long been considered eradicated, is making a comeback in New York City. Twenty cases have been reported in the last week – nine of them children – in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The disease is quite rare, with 189 cases reported in 2013 – which was the second-largest outbreak, according to the CDC, since the disease was eliminated with a vaccine in 2000.
The anti-vaccine movement, with figureheads like The View's Jenny McCarthy, contends that vaccinations cause other diseases such as autism. Public health officials are in part blaming the resurgence on them.
When Ms. McCarthy recently took to Twitter to ask, "What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate? Reply using #JennyAsks," she got an earful:
Someone who think vaccines are safe, Botox is poisonous and who doesn't pick their nose and eat it on MTV #JennyAsks
— Michael Rops (@SkepticalBelg) March 14, 2014
My ideal mate likes the idea of kids not getting polio #jennyasks
— MAC @ Hoyos (@MACatHoyos) March 15, 2014
Ouch. So what do the actual medical authorities make of this bizarre measles occurrence?
New York health officials say the outbreak of measles might be due to a failure in medical facilities to recognize the disease, and thus unable to qaurantine infected people in time before the disease spread. And, according to the NY Times, "of the nine children, seven were too young to be vaccinated or within the window of 12 to 15 months old when the vaccination is recommended. The other two were from families in which the parents refused to allow the vaccination." (Emphasis mine.)
The news should be a wake-up call for the anti-vaccination movement, which gained momentum in 1998 after article published in the journal The Lancet that said that the MMR (measles-mumps-rumabella) vaccine could cause autism. Regardless of the fact that the study has since been retracted, the anti-vaccine movement continues unabated.
In 2010, a study concluded that "[t]he alleged autism-vaccine connection is, perhaps, the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years." There is no evidence to support the rather insane notion that getting a vaccine could cause autism. Mercury, commonly cited as a major contributor to damage done by vaccines, hasn't been used to preserve vaccines since 2001.
Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post has rightly pointed out that even engaging someone like Ms. McCarthy in a debate about vaccination infers that there is a debate to be had about it. There simply isn't.