Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fight the panic virus

    Happily, we have vaccines that are ef-fective in protecting us from many of the viruses that can kill us. Sadly, we do not seem to have an effective vaccine against the panic virus.
    In 1998, Seth Mnookin chronicled how a single British doctor, media superstars and uncritical journalists spread the completely made-up theory that autism was caused by the standard childhood vaccina-tion against measles, mumps and whoop-ing cough. Despite the entire body of sci-entific research and revocation of the doc-tor’s medical license, parents infected with the panic virus stopped accepting routine vaccinations for their children.
    The result is that completely prevent-able childhood illnesses are appearing again. California has confirmed 56 cases of measles so far this year. There are at least 112 confirmed cases in the U.S. Ohio has 212 reported cases of mumps.
    Ironically, vaccination refusal is most prevalent in the wealthiest, best educated communities. Marin County, Calif., one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., has a vaccination opt-out rate of almost 8 per-cent, while nearby and poorer San Fran-cisco and Alameda counties have a rate lower than 1 percent.
    The Marin County immunization coordinator recently told a local television sta-tion that at a private school in Sausalito, the New Village School, three out of four children are not fully immunized against measles, mumps and other infectious dis-eases that can cause serious illness, and even death.
    Sure, science has proven no connection at all between the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccination and autism, but the condition is so scary it seems rational to avoid what might happen. Plus, measles, mumps and whooping cough don’t really happen anymore, so what could be the problem?
    When the panic virus breaks out, how-ever, everyone suffers. The first case of measles in Redding, Calif., in 17 years was linked to someone who worked at the Ol-ive Garden. A student in Berkeley, who picked up the measles in the Philippines, had regularly ridden the BART mass tran-sit train from Oakland to Berkeley and attended classes while he was highly con-tagious.  
    Smallpox, once one of the deadliest human diseases, no longer exists because the world was vaccinated before mass media, globalization and a misplaced sense of en-titlement allowed the panic virus to stop the effort. We should step up the effort to inoculate ourselves against the fear that denies reality, vaccinate kids, take our boosters and look forward to the days when measles, mumps and even polio fi-nally disappear from the world for good.

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