Measles: A rash of misinformation
Feb 14, 2013 | Green Med Info | Dr. Tyson Perez
With the recent release of a provocative children's book entitled Melanie's Marvelous Measles, a debate has ensued regarding the effectiveness and wisdom surrounding measles vaccinations.
When I first heard about the book, I went to Amazon to order a copy
for myself. The amount of negative reviews was staggering. People were
claiming that the information was "dangerous", "harmful" and
"ill-informed". Some were even calling for the book to be banned. It
took me a few minutes to read it from cover to cover. Rather than
critique the book, which has already been done quite eloquently by
others, I would like to talk about the widespread fear surrounding
measles and the misinformation regarding the vaccine.
References to measles can be found as far back as the 7th
century. Measles is an RNA virus that was first isolated in 1954. A
typical infection produces a characteristic skin rash starting at the
head and progressing down the trunk and extremities. The rash is
typically preceded by a high fever. Around this time, blue-white spots
(Koplik spots) can be found on the mucous membranes. These are
considered pathognomonic for measles. Other symptoms may include cough,
runny nose, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, anorexia and lymphadenopathy.
According to the CDC, prior to the introduction of the vaccine, measles
was a nearly universal infection occurring most commonly in 5-9 year
olds with 90% of U.S. children immune by age 15. Most kids recovered
fully within a few weeks with life-long immunity. Reported complications
from data collected between 1985-1992 included pneumonia (6%),
encephalitis (.1%), seizures (.6-.7%), and death (.2%).
These occurred most frequently in children under 5 and adults over 20.
These complications may, in fact, have been exacerbated by allopathic
interventions to treat common symptoms such as fever reduction using
Many people are aware that the first licensed
live-virus vaccine was introduced in 1963 (Edmonston B strain) but few
know that there was also a kill measles vaccine (KMV) licensed that same
year. That vaccine was pulled in 1967, however, after it
was discovered that individuals who received the KMV and were
subsequently exposed to the wild virus were afflicted with a more severe
atypical form of measles. Today's vaccine, known as MMR,
contains attenuated, live-measles virus (Edmonston-Enders strain) mixed
together with mumps and rubella virus. There is an alternate version of
the vaccine, known as MMRV, that combines MMR with the varicella virus.
The measles virus is cultured on chick embryo fibroblast tissue and
the vaccine contains human albumin, neomycin, sorbitol and gelatin. The
2013 CDC recommendations include 2 doses of MMR, the first at 12-15
months and the second at 4-6 years.
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