With all this talk about H1N1, what is being missed?

Unfortunately H1N1 has claimed another life:

Article: “Kansas Man, 75, Dies From H1N1 Flu

And this recent death is in line with what I’ve been hearing about H1N1: if you’re in good health, you have nothing about which to worry. Save the vaccines for those at greatest risk.

Why are we a society so concerned about getting sick? It seems that in some households, children are inhaling more Lysol than oxygen. Have we lost touch with common sense? (Wait… on second thought, don’t answer that.)

Trust me, there are diseases out there that are much, much more troublesome than H1N1. Here’s my question: with all of this focus on H1N1, why are we not hearing anything about the rising measles problem in the United States? I guarantee you that measles is a much bigger problem than H1N1, and it’s a problem that is unfortunately growing.

In 1994 the World Health Organization declared that the United Kingdom no longer had an endemic strain of measles, which means that all cases of measles were the result of importation: someone contracting measles elsewhere and bringing it into the UK. The United States would receive a similar declaration 6 years later in 2000.

As a result of the declaration, vaccination of children with the MMR triple vaccine slowed to the point where health officials warned that chains of infection could now be sustainable. Further complicating matters regarding vaccination would the 1998 publication in the journal The Lancet of the since widely discredited study that supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Again, that study has since been widely discredited and the official consensus in the global medical community is this: the MMR vaccine does not cause nor aggravate autism.

As a result of misconduct and ethics violations related to the study, Andrew Wakefield has been stripped of his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom and is completely discredited in the medical community. In 2004 several of the researchers linked to the Wakefield study would publish a retraction of their findings.

But the damage was done. Suspicions and fears would be confirmed in 2008, where it was declared by British health officials that a strain of measles was once again endemic in the British population, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

And the case isn’t looking good for the United States.

Between January through April 2008, the United States had more cases of measles through just that 4-month period than was seen for entire years between 2000 and 2007. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would report in the August 22, 2008, report of their MMWR publication that there were 131 reported cases of measles between from January 1 to July 31, 2008. In 7 months, the United States would have more than twice as many measles cases as was typically seen for an entire year.

I have not been able to confirm a total number of cases for the entire year 2008, and the current number of cases of measles for 2009 is not available. I have contacted the CDC to see if this information is available and I will post the response when I receive it.

Measles was once a major health concern, and at the current trend, it will be once again, unless it can be arrested before it grows out of control. At the current rate, the United States is on track to the same situation the UK is currently facing: an endemic strain of measles resident in the population.

Measles is the most infectious virus currently known, second only to smallpox (now extinct except for lab samples). A person who is not immune to measles has greater than a 90% chance of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. And a carrier who aspirates (cough or sneeze) will have created a cloud of measles virus that is viable for up to two hours.

With all of the focus on H1N1 and seasonal influenza, why is no one talking about this? Personally, what I’m hearing about measles concerns me more, because it is a symptom of a greater problem.

If you are a parent, make sure your children’s vaccines are current.