Measles — both as an illness and regarding the MMR vaccine — has made headlines with near-constant frequency in recent years. Misunderstandings and misinformation have flooded the minds of the general public, leading to judgments and interpretations that are not only incorrect, but dangerous as well. In an attempt to clear up confusion, we’re going to lay out the facts surrounding the measles virus and the MMR vaccine.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus of the same name. In addition to the easily-identifiable skin rash that breaks out on those infected, measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, and other flu-like symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, measles can be deadly: in the ten years following a governmental mandate requiring all U.S. healthcare providers to document diagnosed cases, an average of 6,000 measles-related deaths were reported every year.
The measles vaccine was invented in 1963; at the time, it was estimated that 3 to 4 million people were infected every year, causing between 400 and 500 deaths, 48,000 hospitalizations, and 1,000 cases of encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
Measles was eradicated in the U.S. by the year 2000, but has since seen a resurgence due to anti-vaccination mindsets. A fraudulent study came out in 1998 claiming that the MMR vaccine (which also guards against mumps and rubella) could cause autism struck fear into the hearts of many parents, and many started opting out of their children’s essential vaccinations.
Due to the highly contagious nature of measles, it’s estimated that 90% of people who lack immunity and are close to a sickened person will become sick themselves. In order to best protect ourselves and our vulnerable loved ones, everyone who can must receive their measles vaccine.