In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread.
From January 1 to September 26, 2019, 1,243** individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 31 states. This is an increase of two cases from the previous week.Dr. David Brown at The Washington Post:
- This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992. More than 75% of the cases this year are linked to outbreaks in New York. Measles is more likely to spread and cause outbreaks in U.S. communities where groups of people are unvaccinated.
- The majority of cases are among people who were not vaccinated against measles.
- Measles can cause serious complications. As of September 26, 2019, 131 of the people who got measles this year were hospitalized, and 65 reported having complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis.
Measles is caused by a type of Morbillivirus; similar ones attack cats, cattle, seals and other animals. A common feature is the ease of transmission — a quality captured by what biologists call the “basic reproductive number” (denoted R0). It’s the number of new cases that occurs when an infected person circulates among susceptible people.
R0 is an average that depends on lots of things, including human behavior and population density. The biggest driver, however, is the bug itself. Measles has an R0 of 12 to 18 — so high that the infection is often described as the most contagious disease in man. In comparison, R0 for the 1918 pandemic influenza virus was 3.8. For smallpox, it is 4.5; for polio, 6; for SARS, 3.5.
The virus spreads through “respiratory aerosols,” which can hang in the air for hours. A study of measles transmission on airplane flights found that the average distance between the person with the disease and the person who came down with it was six rows. In one case, it was 17 rows.
None of this would matter if the measles vaccine wasn’t safe. But it is. The most common serious reaction — a seizure caused by fever — occurs in 3 out of every 10,000 shots. It also doesn’t cause autism, as innumerable studies have proved, although vaccine skeptics who think the question is still open are unlikely to ever be convinced.
It’s true that if you don’t vaccinate your child against measles you probably won’t pay a price for it. But eventually somebody will.
So, here’s the request: Vaccinate your child for that person.