More than 41,000 children and adults in Europe have been infected with measles so far in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This year, the U.S. has seen 107 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The WHO reports that measles was at an all-time low in 2016. In 2000, the CDC considered measles eliminated in the United States.
So what happened? Much of the resurgence can be traced back to fewer children getting vaccinated, say the CDC and WHO. In some cases, people had concerns that disorders on the autism spectrum might be linked to the vaccines children receive.
My son is on the spectrum. A vaccine wasn’t the cause.
Now we’re getting personal — at least for me. My son, Glen, has Asperger syndrome, which is a disorder on the autism spectrum.
Autism and autism spectrum disorder are a group of complex disorders that affect brain development. They are characterized by difficulties in communication, social interaction and repetitive behavior patterns.
Measles questions or need a vaccine?
There are more autism diagnoses than in previous decades, according to Stephen K. Johnson, M.D., a pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Springhurst.
He says debate remains on whether this increase is because there are more children with autism, changes in diagnostic criteria, more frequent autism screening, physicians’ increased familiarity with the signs of autism or a combination of all of these factors.
Increasing evidence suggests genetic factors and brain abnormalities are responsible for the development of autism.
It is not, he said, because of vaccinations.
“Although a 1998 study suggested that vaccines cause autism, the study and its author have been discredited after the results were found to be based on fraudulent data,” Dr. Johnson said. “Since that time, hundreds of well-designed studies involving over a million children have been conducted without finding any support for the idea that autism is caused by vaccines.”
‘My son doesn’t need a cure’
I field the question about autism and vaccines a lot.
My answer is a little less scientific than Dr. Johnson’s: I say it doesn’t matter.
Yes, I know. In reality, it does matter. But does it matter to me? No. Does it matter to my son, Glen? No.
During a discussion about vaccines, Glen asked me if he was sick, and why someone would risk a serious illness because they feared becoming like him.
These are some great questions. I can only answer them for me. Vaccinations did not cause his autism.
But more important, it is part of what makes my son who he is. There is nothing wrong with him. He does not need a “cure.”
Measles can be a serious disease and should scare you
Vaccinations shouldn’t scare you. But the return of measles should. Measles can be a serious disease.
- As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.
- About one child out of every 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions, deafness and intellectual disabilities.
- For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.
“Measles is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death,” said Sally J. Wheeler, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Clarksville. “It spreads very easily among those who aren’t vaccinated — just being in the same room with someone who has measles can get you infected.”
Recommendations for vaccines include:
- All children ages 12 months and older who have not received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine should get the first dose as soon as possible. A second MMR dose is routinely recommended between age 4 and 6 but can be given as soon as 28 days after the first dose.
- Adults born during and after 1957 who have never received an MMR vaccine and never had a medical provider indicate they were immune to measles should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Adults attending college or working in a health care setting should receive two MMR doses at least 28 days apart.
- Children 12 months and older and adults planning to travel internationally should receive two MMR doses at least 28 days apart. Infants should receive one dose of MMR before leaving the U.S.
Measles symptoms include:
- High fever
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes that may be sensitive to light