Measles Schmeasles.


I am SO DAMNED SICK of all the hype about the ‘outbreak’ of measles at Disneyland.  So far, nationwide, there are something like 171 ETA 87 cases connected to Disneyland.  171, 87, people.   And how many have died?  NONE. 

When my children were small, my mother, a former nurse and special education teacher, asked me not to continue with the current vaccination schedule because she had concerns about a possible MMR/autism connection.  Now, keep in mind, this was in the early 80’s, LONG BEFORE DR. WAKEFIELD.  My oldest son did have a change in behavior after receiving his first MMR.  It concerned her enough that she made the request.

She also had concerns based on Japanese research, if I remember correctly, about other problems like ADD/ADHD and vaccine induced encephalopathy.  So I did as she asked.  My children *were* fully vaccinated.  Just not according to the CDC schedule.   And not until they were ready to start school.  The key, I believe is that in the 80’s, and early 90’s, the vaccine schedule was approximately HALF the number it is today, and doctors were much more proactive about NOT giving vaccines to children who were sick.  Today?  Not so much.

Let’s talk about measles for a minute, shall we?  My oldest son is the product of a high school romance, and is actually a half brother to my other two children.  Because I was a single mother for the first part of my oldest son’s life, I had to work to support us.  The day care he went to was in the home of an older German woman, who also watched 4-5 other children.  One of these children got measles when Dear Eldest Son (DES) was 12 or 13 months old (14 mo?).  DES got it shortly thereafter.  And so did I.  Now, DES was too young to receive the MMR yet; it was given at either 15 or 18 months of age then (I can’t remember for sure which).  I, however, had been fully vaccinated as a child and *should* have been immune.  Yes, well.  So, at the age of 19, I spent a week with my child in a darkened house, both of us feverish, rashy, and suffering from headaches and light sensitivity.  And then we got better.

This is the normal course of measles, by the way, in a basically healthy population with good sanitation.  Between 2000 and 2005, I believe there were less than 10 deaths from measles.  There have been ZERO deaths since 2005 from measles.  It’s not exactly a terrifying horrible disease that kills millions in the US every year.  And you should know that the side effects *of* the measles vaccine are the SAME as the measles:  encephalopathy, pneumonia, febrile seizures, death.  Adverse effects per the package insert.  Oh, and you can get measles *from* the vaccine.  This is because it is a live virus vaccine.  12 month old with lab confirmed measles, vaccinated Jan 2015.  The difference is that vaccine induced immunity wears off.  That’s why I got it even though I had been vaccinated.  And that’s why DES got it even though he was breastfed, because my waning vaccine induced immunity couldn’t protect him.  We both are PERMANENTLY immune now, though, because we have actually had measles.  My titers reflect this. 

Contrast my story with this:  Doctor fed up with measles outbreak takes controversial stance.  Oh, yes, those children with measles are such a threat.  It’s such a deadly disease that ZERO people have died in the past near-decade.  Terrible risk, isn’t it Dr. Goodman?

Well, here’s the thing.  The strain of virus in the vaccine is no longer the wild type strain of measles.  This is well documented and can be easily (though expensively) checked when measles is confirmed in lab testing.  So people who are vaccinated, AND up to date on their vaccines, can still get and transmit measles, thanks to genetic drift away from the vaccine strain that causes a less than robust immune response.  The body doesn’t quite recognize measles because it’s not quite the same, but sort of the same, so the immune system can’t decide if it should respond with the antibodies it has already made against the vaccine strain or if it’s something else entirely.  Here is a study that documents the differing immune type responses (in cell cultures) between the two.  Notice the statement that the vaccine strain doesn’t induce the strong immune response that the wild type does.  That’s key to this discussion.  Now I should say that my original major was microbiology and immunology, but I do not pretend to be any sort of an immunology specialist or expert, and this is what I get from the studies I have read.  A less than robust immune response is why people are not immune and get subclinical or atypical disease.

So you get measles, you feel crappy (sometimes) but you don’t look like you have measles.  The good thing is that after you *get* measles, you will actually be immune.  Here are some studies that document measles infection in vaccinated populations:  Subclinical measles in Greenland,   Measles and subclinical measles in Africa,  just for a very small sample.  Google “subclinical measles in vaccinated people” for many many more examples.  In fact, the CDC admits this in the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) for August 24, 2013:  “Thirteen (8%) of the patients had been vaccinated, of whom three had received 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. “  You can read the rest of the report here.

It’s not that uncommon for outbreaks to occur, and the hype over how dangerous it is is dreadfully overstated.  For instance, this Wikipedia  article quotes the CDC as stating in the 20 years after the measles vaccine was introduced, it prevented an “estimated 5200 deaths”….that’s 260 per year.  Now I’m not trying to denigrate 260 people dying every year from measles, it’s still tragic, but hardly on the same level as, say, heart disease in which the CDC estimates 600,000 deaths every year – 1 in 4 deaths EVERY YEAR from something mainly lifestyle related.

My personal suspicion is that, since the CDC makes $36.22 per 10 pack of vaccines it sells to licensed vaccine providers (that’s your local doctor), it has a pretty profound vested interest in making sure the population is forced into receiving the MMR.  This is especially true since the two main virologists who worked at Merck, the ONLY licensed M/M/R vaccine producers in the US, are being allowed to proceed with their lawsuit  against Merck for fraudulently inflating the effectiveness of the mumps portion of the vaccine.

So, in conclusion, I think the CDC is as corrupt as any private pharmaceutical company, and just as financially reliant on vaccine sales for their existence.  And because I think this, I believe they are deliberately chumming up hysteria and mongering fear about a relatively harmless childhood disease in order to protect a part of their revenue stream.  Vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, it’s up to you.  I’m just not that worried about a measles outbreak in my community.  Vitamins A and D, decent nutrition, lots of fluids, sunglasses, and common sense should be all we need to recover without sequelae.  And that’s it.

And now back to the regularly scheduled knitting and studying frenzy that is my life until my final exam on February 18.

 

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Life is Terminal.


death

I have had a hard time at work this week.  I have been yelled at and insulted by family members, had attempted intimidation by family members, and been asked straight up if I’m “resistant, am I sensing you are resistant to what I’m saying??”  by family members.  All four of these incidents are stemming from family members who are in either rehab or in long term care and on hospice; all of the the patients are in their 80’s.  All have conditions which are ultimately terminal.  One has end stage COPD (emphysema) and has dementia, one has colon cancer with two operations to remove sections of bowel, one has a surgically repaired fractured hip and dementia, one has Parkinson’s and advanced dementia and a surgically repaired fractured hip on top of it.   None of these family members has come to terms with mortality — not in themselves, and most certainly not in their family members.  They take their fear and lack of maturity regarding this oh-so-integral part of life out on us, the staff, by attempting to use yelling, name calling, insults, and intimidation to force us to *make* their family member our special priority and use our super powers to reverse fate.

You will notice I used lack of maturity in regard to them.  I truly believe this is so.  Once up0n a time, death was common and untimely death was more so.  Everyone had a death they had witnessed, everyone had  a funeral or three they had attended.  Death was something that was immediate, commonplace, an ever-present possibility.  One’s own death was contemplated as a religious observance:

“Dying used to be accompanied by a prescribed set of customs. Guides to ars moriendi, the art of dying, were extraordinarily popular; a 1415 medieval Latin text was reprinted in more than a hundred editions across Europe. Reaffirming one’s faith, repenting one’s sins, and letting go of one’s worldly possessions and desires were crucial, and the guides provided families with prayers and questions for the dying in order to put them in the right frame of mind during their final hours. Last words came to hold a particular place of reverence.”   – Atul Gawanda The New Yorker, 2009

I give you  Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist contemplations on death.

Medicine, in particular Western medicine and the doctors who practice it, are in large part responsible for the change in our culture from contemplation and acceptance of death to refusal to accept death in any form, any time, whatever.  Doctors themselves are uncomfortable with death, and often refuse to acknowledge the possibility even to themselves, let alone to their patients or family — hence the focus on endless medical interventions even in the face of – frankly – futility.  One can always find stories that showcase the 15% of patients who defy the odds and do well, like this one but the reality is that 85% of people (more in my experience) do not do this well at all.  In fact, they usually go from hospital to rehab facility back to the hospital to rehab to long term care and then, if they’re lucky and their family is compassionate and mature, to hospice.

I am of the firm conviction, having worked in the medical field for more than 20 years, that contemplation of death is a healty thing to do.  Not only is it healthy, but it is necessary for full maturity as a human.  Those who refuse to accept mortality, in themselves or in their family members, have not matured into a full human adult.  They are eternally teenagers, thinking they are the exception to the rule and that they are immortal — or even worse, thinking that if only their loved one could go on forever (or at least until after they themselves are dead) then everything will be just dandy.  I would say that this way lies madness, but I think it’s even worse than that:  this way lies unutterable cruelty.  The family members are not there, day after day, to see the misery and decline of their loved one.  We are.  The family members are not there in the dark hours of the night to see the suffering and despair.  We are.

Who are we?  We are not the doctors – they come in for 30 minutes perhaps daily, perhaps once or twice a week.  We are the nurses and nursing assistants, the social workers, and the ancillary staff.   We are the ones who are left hanging out to dry by our administrators when we don’t meet the expectations of the family, who are usually making the decisions for their loved ones.  We are the ones who see the suffering and try, as best we can, to comfort and support.  We are the ones who are trying to follow family dictates, however fanciful, and provider orders, however unrealistic.  We are the ones *with* your loved one.  Because you cannot deal with their mortality.

Please, if you love your family members, if you have respect for yourself, begin a contemplation of death.  Decide, with those closest to you, how you want your life to go if you cannot make those decisions for yourself.  Write them down, and ask your family members to abide by them for love of you.  Think carefully, for miracles do not exist, only blips on statistical charts.  Do not think yourself so lucky that you will be the blip.