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For want of a Vaccine
Author: TriSec    Date: 02/07/2015 13:00:02

Nearly 30 years ago now, I had the extraordinary privilege to travel to Nova Scotia, Canada as part of an American Boy Scout troop that had been invited to participate in “ScotiaJamb”, a province-wide jamboree of Canadian scouts. Nearly 7,000 Scouts and Scouters from across many of the Maritime Provinces journeyed to the brand-new provincial park at Dollar Lake to partake in the inaugural festivities.

But about 3 weeks before the troop departed, my younger brother was diagnosed with varicella, or the chicken pox. I dutifully checked in with my doctor, who suggested that I was probably exposed, but in the dark ages of 1987…there was no vaccine for this disease. So, I rolled the dice and decided to travel with my troop.

We checked in to camp on a Sunday evening, and enjoyed the festivities and the first few days of the jamboree. But on Tuesday afternoon, I started feeling rather run-down, and I was sure I had a fever. Later that evening, I presented at the medical tent with an elevated temperature, general malaise, and the first visual evidence of the dreaded pox.

After that, time ceased to exist. My temperature skyrocketed, and I recall nothing from the next 24 hours. The doctors and staff in the medical tent were later to tell me that had my temperature reached 105, they actually had an RCAF helo on standby to whisk me to the hospital at Halifax, some 40 miles from the campground. The only thing I recall was being briefly lucid while an injured scout was screaming in the next bay…I told the nurse, “Bring him in here, and I’ll show him what pain is!”. Or at least that’s the way I remember it.

But overnight Wednesday into Thursday, my fever broke. Fortunately, the crisis receded as quickly as it came upon me, and the medical staff cautiously let me go to the lake to get in the water and cool off. I finally got to go back to my campsite on Friday, after being made an honourary member of the Medical Staff (I still have the patch), my Jamboree experience thoroughly ruined, but never forgotten to this day.

I was 21 years old when this all happened…I’ve read in the ensuing years that chicken pox tends to strike adults harder than children, and one of the many side effects is quite possibly infertility. I guess I could dramatize it somewhat….I almost died, and my life was changed, because the varicella vaccine simply didn’t exist when I had the disease.

But this was just the chicken pox; essentially a childhood disease, and a rite of passage for many of us when we were younger. Perhaps the author of "Melanie's Marvelous Measles" has the two diseases confused. Given their overall lack of intelligence, I wouldn't be surprised.

Measles is not to be trifled with. All of the information below was culled from our friends at Wikipedia....

Measles, also known as morbilli, or rubeola is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus. Initial symptoms typically include fever, often greater than 40 °C (104.0 °F), cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Two or three days after the start of symptoms small white spots may form inside the mouth, known as Koplik's spots. A red, flat rash which usually starts on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body typically begins three to five days after the start of symptoms. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and last 7–10 days. Complications occur in about 30% and may include: diarrhea, blindness, inflammation of the brain, and pneumonia among others.

Measles is an airborne disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of those infected. It may also be spread through contact with saliva or nasal secretions. Nine out of ten people who are not immune who share living space with an infected person will catch it. People are infectious to others from four days before to four days after the start of the rash. People usually only get the disease at most once.

Measles affects about 20 million people a year, primarily in the developing areas of Africa and Asia. It resulted in about 96,000 deaths in 2013 down from 545,000 deaths in 1990. In 1980, the disease is estimated to have caused 2.6 million deaths per year. Before immunization in the United States between three and four million cases occurred a year

That is all very ominous. I also learned today that the disease is actually incurable. Once you have it, all you can do is treat the symptoms and provide general palliative care - there is no "magic" drug that makes this go away, you can only treat the symptoms and hope the patient's own body can fight off the infection.

No specific treatment is available. Supportive care, however, may improve outcomes. This may include giving oral rehydration solution (slightly sweet and salty fluids), healthy food, and medications to help with the fever.

Think about that for a minute. If between 3 and 4 million people died every year in aviation accidents, or playing baseball, or from the common cold...these things would not exist in the United States, would they?

But of course there is something we can all do about it. At the proper time, all of us had little direct say over the matter, but it falls under the purview of "responsible parenting."

The measles vaccine is effective at preventing the disease. Vaccination has resulted in a 75% decrease in deaths from the disease since the year 2000 with about 85% of children globally being vaccinated.

It just boggles my mind that this is even a debate.

1 comments (Latest Comment: 02/07/2015 16:40:15 by Will in Chicago)
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