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The Sciences

Measles on the rise in Australia and Switzerland, too


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At what point do we start to hold antivaxxers responsible? I ask, because we're on the verge of a record year for measles in Australia: in Victoria, 11 cases have been reported in 2009 so far. That's far more more than in 2006 and 2007 combined, and under extrapolation is as bad as an outbreak in 1999 where over 100 cases were reported. As if that weren't enough, Switzerland has had 22 cases reportedin two days. Is antivax rhetoric to blame here? The Australian article doesn't say how many of these people were not vaccinated; several were adults, so they should have been vaccinated well before this craze of linking vaccines to health problems started up. But some kids were on that list, and I wonder if they were vaccinated, and if not, why not. However, for the outbreak in Switzerland, it does look like antivaccination insanity is to blame:

Switzerland has been affected by measles outbreaks more than other European countries in recent years because of the relatively low level of vaccinations and the presence of educational and religious communities that decline vaccination. The outbreak described here indicates that anthroposophic communities are an at-risk group, because many parents in these groups choose not to vaccinate their children with the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine. Anthroposophy, based on the writings of the social philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), combines human development with an investigation of the divine spark found in all of nature. Anthroposophical doctors emphasize nature-based therapies that support the body's innate healing wisdom.

Antivaxxers. For whatever reasons they believe what they do, they're wrong. A previously healthy 12-year-old girl died of measles-induced encephalitis in a Geneva hospital last week. In 2008, a child in Minnesota died due to a disease that was preventable through a vaccine. Measles is on the rise in the UK. And some people are all too happy to spread the lie that the vaccines are causing all sorts of health problems, when it's been shown pretty conclusively that they aren't. This pernicious bit of antiscience has a body count. Kids are dying. And they will continue to do so unless we make ourselves heard. Vaccines do have a health risk, but it's minuscule compared to the very real threat of measles, rubella, mumps, Hib, and many others. Talk to your doctors. Do the research. Jenny McCarthy and her followers are wrong. How many children will get sick, how many will die, before everyone understands that? Thanks to Cristiana Senni for the update about Switzerland.

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