Friday, October 31, 2014
Hawaii media fail to warn of measles risk
by Larry Geller
There are compelling reasons to get vaccinated against measles, but for some reason local media (Star-Advertiser, KHON, KITV…) have not mentioned any of them. A column in Civil Beat does mention the dangers of contracting measles, but you have to scroll quite a bit down to get to it. The article is about the possibility of placing new restrictions on world travelers.
Here’s what I have not seen that I think the public ought to be told about:
Possible complications of measles are pneumonia, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), ear infections, diarrhea, seizures, and death. These complications are more common in children under age 5 years and adults over age 20 years.
Measles can be prevented with vaccination.
[Hawaii state Dept. of Health, Immunization Branch – Home]
Ok, but how common are complications? The CDC has much more:
About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications, including
- Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
- Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
- Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
These complications are more common among children under 5 years of age and adults over 20 years old.
Even in previously healthy children, measles can be a serious illness requiring hospitalization. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, and about 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.) For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it. Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Complications of Measles]
Other cities where measles outbreaks have occurred vary in their news coverage. But here in Hawaii, this is all that the public is given:
What are the symptoms of measles?
The symptoms of measles generally begin about 14 days (range 7 to 21 days) after a person is infected, and include:
- Blotchy red rash
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Feeling run down, achy (malaise)
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik’s spots-not always present)
That’s not the whole story. Runny nose doesn’t sound that bad, and even the possibility of tiny white spots may not motivate parents who are uncertain about vaccination to take their kids in for the jab.
The vaccine-deniers have had their success. Measles should have been gone by now, but thanks to quacks and their ability to spread misinformation via the Internet, vaccination levels have dropped in many areas to the point where both children and adults are at risk. Measles is also brought in by overseas visitors, but it can take hold only when the local population has a less-than-adequate level of vaccination.
So come on, Star-Advertiser, let’s have the complete story on measles. Same for the rest of you media, too.