The Measles Initiative and the myth of mild measles

9 Jul

Advance warning: this post has basically nothing to do with autism. It is about a group called the Measles Initiative. I found the site for the Initiative while looking for information about the effects of measles in the non-developing world. There have been outbreaks in France, for example, in recent years. Large enough outbreaks that people have died.

Here is a figure from a presentation given by Daniel Floret of the Claude Bernard University Lyon and Chairman of the French NITAG and of the French Working group on measles elimination.

Yes, even in modern times, in developed countries like France, measles can kill. Unfortunately, segments of the autism communities play an active role in disseminating the misinformation about measles (downplaying the risk) and the vaccine (inflating the risk).

One thought: you’ve probably seen groups and people on the net claiming that the developing world doesn’t need vaccines. Clean water and/or improved sanitation they say, will suffice. Of course, we would all like to see better water and sanitation worldwide. But next time you see that argument posed, ask yourself, “Has this group ever advocated for or raised money to improve the water or sanitation anywhere?”

In the past 10 years there has been a major initiative to increase vaccination rates in Africa. This has had a major impact, with measles deaths dropping by 90%. The World Health Organization announced the success of this effort in a press release, Measles deaths in Africa plunge by 91%.

Measles deaths in Africa fell by 91% between 2000 and 2006, from an estimated 396 000 to 36 000, reaching the United Nations 2010 goal to cut measles deaths by 90% four years early. The spectacular gains achieved in Africa helped generate a strong decline in global measles deaths, which fell 68% worldwide – from an estimated 757 000 to 242 000 – during this period.

Unfortunately there hasn’t been a strong focus on measles reduction in South Asia, and measles deaths have not changed. The following image shows that as the number of deaths have dropped in Africa, they have not dropped in south Asia.

It really bothers me that so much of the bad information about vaccination comes from a segment of the autism communities. It bothers me that this misinformation puts people at risk. There is a real risk of injury and death, even in the developed world as we can see from the data from France. Measles vaccines work. They prevent deaths. And, while I haven’t gone into it in this discussion, the MMR-causes-autism notion has been tested carefully and it is wrong.

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4 Responses to “The Measles Initiative and the myth of mild measles”

  1. Todd W. July 9, 2011 at 14:30 #

    Thanks for posting this, Sullivan. It’s very important for people, especially those in the autism community who spread misinformation, to realize that diseases like measles are not something to be simply brushed aside casually.

  2. Ruth July 12, 2011 at 14:43 #

    For years I’ve felt sandwiched between these two views because our family has personally lived through both traumas.

    I have a sibling whose Asperger’s has never been formally diagnosed although his family doctor has confirmed it to me. For most of my life I thought our failure to get along was entirely my fault.

    My ex’s brother who grew up in Africa and was not vaccinated in the 70s died of SSPE, a complication of measles, after two years in a coma. His family had to care for him at home, and needless to say no one has ever been the same since.

    Clean water can’t do it all, although it’s a basic human right.

  3. Ruth July 12, 2011 at 14:44 #

    look forward to others’ comments

  4. Calli Arcale July 14, 2011 at 16:21 #

    “Clean water can’t do it all, although it’s a basic human right.”

    Quoted for truth.

    Your experience is haunting. It’s very clear that while sanitation is desperately needed, it will not solve the problem, and we need vaccination as well. (Bonus: vaccination and sanitation are not tied to one another, nor does the one have to wait for the other.)

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