Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Measles Reappearing in Montreal, QC

Measles making a come back in Montreal

Measles (rubeola), one of the childhood diseases rarely seen in Canada today, is making a come back. Currently, 14 cases of measles have been identified in Montreal: 12 in adults and two in children under five years old.

Why is this happening considering that we have childhood vaccines now? Two main reasons: the increase in international travel and people not vaccinating their children from childhood diseases like measles, mumps and German measles.

I know that there is a debate among some parents about childhood vaccinations like MMR (the vaccine against the three diseases) and the onset of autism, but time and time again, studies have shown that there is no link between the two. The anecdotal evidence that a child begins to show symptoms of autism weeks after an inoculation is just that: anecdotal. The thing is that the age when these children get the vaccination is precisely the age that the signs of autism begin to set in. According to the many studies that have been done, it’s a horrible coincidence.

It’s devastating to find out that a child is autistic. But it’s also devastating when a child dies of a common childhood disease – as they can from mumps, measles and German measles. The arguments that they're common diseases, that we lived through them, that they’ve been around for generations and we all lived just doesn’t cut it. The kids we know lived through the disease; we lived through the diseases, but many didn’t, or did but with life-long after effects.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most serious complications affect children under the age of five years and adults over the age of 20. (WHO fact sheet)

The most serious complications include:
· blindness
· infection and inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis (1/1000 cases)
· severe diarrhea possibly leading to dehydration
· middle ear infections (5% to 15% of cases)
· severe respiratory infections and pneumonia, which can lead to death (5% to 10% of cases)

Measles cause death in up to 25% of those affected in developing countries and between 1% and 5% in developed countries.

If someone who is immunocompromised, meaning their immune system isn’t working properly because of a disease like HIV or treatment for a disease like cancer, the fatality rate is as high as 30%.

Measles is very contagious and an outbreak like the one in Montreal is very serious. According to the public health officials, people who received vaccinations in the 1970s are at risk and should be re-vaccinated. This is because people born before that developed natural immunity through having the disease and people born after were vaccinated because of the massive national campaigns to have children vaccinated. The children born in the 1970s may have fallen through the cracks.

There have always been parents who decided not to get their children vaccinated against childhood diseases and they were lucky that their children didn’t get the diseases. However, chances are this was because of the “herd immunity,” or the fact that almost all the kids around theirs were vaccinated, thus leaving them with no exposure. But, these kids are now adults and haven’t been vaccinated – and are at high risk of developing measles, mumps or German measles if they are exposed to them. As more parents decide not to vaccinate, this herd immunity will wane and these diseases will become more prominent again.

News for Today:
Greater Montreal area confirms measles outbreak
Strokes kill more Canadian women than men: study
Folic acid supplements do not appear to reduce risk of colorectal tumors
New Study Suggests Number of Pills Not a Factor When it Comes to Daily Adherence to Medication

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