Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Putting Your Mind at Ease About the Measles

Disclaimer - The information in this newsletter should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition.  Dr. McIntyre is a licensed healthcare professional, but this column is intended only to make you aware and to make you think.  The primary sources cited in this article are the websites for the Center for Disease Control, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Vaccine Information Center.

Last December, a family visited Disneyland.  According to officials, one of them had the Measles virus.  Over one hundred others received the same diagnosis in the months that followed and ongoing media frenzy has ensued.

Television has a way of dramatizing even the most objective story.  Stripping away the sensationalism, the real question is: should we be concerned about the Measles?

There are 319 million people in the United States.  150 people have had the Measles, thus far, in 2015 and 644 people had the Measles last year; an infinitesimally small percentage of the American population.  To put that into perspective, between 16 and 64 million people (5-20% of US residents) are diagnosed with seasonal Flu viruses each year.  The number of new Measles cases has been waning since the first week in February and, of those already reported, none led to deaths.  In fact, there have been no deaths from Measles in the United States in 15 years. 

The symptoms of the Measles are of the variety comparable to a bad cold, with a characteristic rash being the defining characteristic that separates it from other viral infections.  Basically, it makes you feel really lousy for several days, much like with the Flu, and then you get over it. 

Considering that it is a virus that primarily attacks the developing immune systems of younger children, it is perfectly reasonable for parents to be alarmed by what they are seeing on the news.  However, the situation has been over exaggerated.  One California Pediatrician was even quoted as saying that “Our nightmare would be for someone to show up at our door with the measles.”  Such an attitude has helped create unwarranted fear throughout the public and suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the virus.  Even at its height over five decades ago, the Measles was responsible for just 500 deaths in 500,000 diagnosed cases per year (0.001%).  Can the Measles be dangerous?  Yes, but not to the degree that should elicit widespread panic.  If you evaluate what the Measles does rather than what it can do, you will find very little reason to worry. 

A simple evaluation of the situation reasonably leads to the conclusion that we can breathe easy.
Perhaps of greater concern is of how the Measles coverage has fanned the flames of a larger issue.  Inevitably, when there are numerous cases reported about conditions for which the general population receives a vaccination, the story shifts to the modern argument between those who vaccinate and those who do not.  A recent CNN poll revealed that 80% of American parents believe that vaccinations should be mandatory and that 60% believe that unvaccinated children should be banned from public school and daycare.  This article is not intended to draw a line in the sand and pick a side.  Contrary to popular opinion, the vaccine debate is not that black and white and, as such, is a broader topic for another day.  This article does, however, support the parental right to choose whether or not to vaccinate.  It also supports the ethical ideal of informed consent between patients and their doctors, meaning that patients get to choose what treatments are administered based on verbal and written facts about the risks and benefits. 

Many a debate should be had in regards to vaccines, but emotions often run too high (thanks in no small part to the media) for this debate not to devolve into a knockdown, drag out argument.  Hopefully, a little bit of perspective on the matter will ease the minds of anxious readers and allow cooler heads to prevail.  We have the capacity to rise above and have genuine discussions on such pressing matters. 

It might help if the two opposing sides better understood the other’s choices.  It would also be beneficial for both sides to recognize that there are more than two views.  Since much of the fervor surrounding the Measles cases has centered on the so-called “anti-vaccine movement,” though, it is important to point out to the pro-vaccine group that there are still very real concerns about the safety of vaccines.    

Thousands of severe reactions are reported to the CDC each year which have resulted in prolonged hospitalization, permanent disability, or death.  Many reactions never get reported, with some sources stating that they are “grossly underreported.”  The fact, though, is that adverse reactions happen.  $3 billion have been paid out to victims of adverse reactions to vaccines.  Yahoo Parenting published an article in February that detailed the stories of some of these victims.  The daughter of Dr. Susan Lawson, for instance, was left with permanent brain damage after receiving the MMR vaccine.  She had previously had the utmost faith in medicine, but after seeing her child become a toddler for life “felt shocked, bewildered, and guilty” by her vaccine experience.  “Like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects,” said a CDC spokesperson to the author of the article.  The MMR vaccine, in addition to adverse reactions, has been responsible for over 100 deaths since 2000. 

Scientists are unable to prove that a definitive connection exists between vaccines and so many of the potential adverse effects, but rarely are they also able to prove that a connection does not exist.  The fine print states that “the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship.”  No two people are exactly the same, so we may never know with 100% certainty that vaccines are or are not safe.  Thus, there may always be a debate. 

As you can see, this current Measles situation is not as extreme as it may seem, which means that our response to it does not need to be extreme either.  Using the recent Measles scare as a platform to condemn parents who choose not to vaccinate is without merit.  It certainly should not be used as a way to lobby for stripping patients of informed consent under the guise of “public health” needs. 

Upper Cervical Perspective: No matter your position on vaccines, the true issue at hand is immunity.  If you are concerned about infection, in general, there are things that you can do to build a strong immune system on your own.  Upper Cervical Care ensures the basic, neurologic component, connecting the brainstem to the brain and glands that govern immune response.  Eating your fruits and vegetables, of course, is extremely important, too.  Being active helps; keeping your body moving.  The less stress the better, as well, so if you need support in this area then make sure that you get it.  On that note, surround yourself with positive people, places, and things; it will help you keep stress manageable.  Essential oils offer a natural alternative to symptom depressing drugs and is actually a true "preventative medicine." 

Thinking good things for you, as always,

Dr. Chad

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