Health officials are battling an outbreak of measles spreading in the large Somali community in Minneapolis. In Pennsylvania a case of measles is traced to an Indian child. There’s a measles outbreak tracked to Maryland. A potential measles outbreak is brewing in Boston.
What’s going on?
Measles has almost been eradicated from the United States. So why is measles suddenly threatening to breakout?
Health officials point to a simple problem: in recent years, fewer parents chose to vaccinate their children. It creates a cycle that applies to many infectious diseases like small pox.
Over the years, scientists and people worked together to develop vaccines to kill the disease and, as more people used the vaccine, the disease retreated. The world-wide campaign against small pox. for instance, succeeded in eradicating the disease from the world–because it no longer had humans hosts to live and spread among. Measles was close to being eradicated in the U.S.
Ironically, as the disease retreated and fewer people got sick, many others decided they, and their kids, didn’t need to be vaccinated anymore. As a result, when infected people returned from Africa or Europe, many American citizens didn’t have an immunity to the disease. Measles seems to be getting a foot-hold here again.
Serious? Yes–people can die from measles.
Health officials warn that since measles rates are low in the U.S. it wouldn’t take many infections to cause an epidemic. That’s because of something scientists call the “R-factor.” It’s a way of measuring how fast the disease will replicate itself in other hosts and, therefore, how fast it will spread–especially if few people were protected by vaccination.
In Minneapolis and Boston, the main fight is to try to contain the outbreak to prevent the spread from growing into a full epidemic.
But…what if terrorists tried to use a disease to kill American citizens?
Defense experts say the biggest hurdle for terrorists would be the “release mechanism.” How would they release it for infection of the maximum number of people?
Disease like small pox and measles would be easier to release because the viruses are airborne and passed like the common cold. At least with measles, we have vaccines in great quantities. That’s not the same for small pox.
My book, Reprisal, is a story about terrorists who use small pox as a weapon of mass destruction by trying to infect many school children to start an epidemic. If you’re intrigued, or scared, by the idea, check it out at my web site or Amazon books.
Is your family vaccinated against measles? Are you doing anything to protect yourselves? Should the government step in and do anything for the people who refuse to get vaccinated? As doctors warn: even if you don’t want to do anything for yourself, think of all the other people you will infect if you’re not vaccinated.