The Measles

So, it is still up in the air whether Mike will have to undergo a bone marrow transplant, as I said in my last post, “Winding Down.” (July 13, 2019) The procedure is designed to be curative for some types of cancer. It involves harvesting healthy stem cells from the blood, preserving them, and saving them for transfusion back into the patient. Prior to the procedure the patient is given a lethal dose of chemo drugs which kills off all the cancer cells, along with all the blood forming cells, and the entire immune system. Once the poison is cleared from the body, the healthy stem cells are returned to the patient. The cells migrate to the bone marrow and repopulate it, creating new red cells, white cells, and platelets. What I did not realize (why would I?) is that the procedure destroys all the immunity against infections built up during a person’s lifetime. So, 12-18 months later, the patient needs to be vaccinated against all the diseases that he had contracted as a child, or had been vaccinated against. If Mike has this done, he will go a year or more during which time he will be vulnerable to polio, chicken pox, mumps, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, and yes, measles. His vulnerability makes me nervous. I kind of like the guy, and I don’t want him to get sick. What really makes me angry, though, is the number of people who are not having their children vaccinated. We are seeing measles outbreaks in the USA at this time, after a several year period in which the disease was nearly eradicated.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that causes runny nose, cough, and rash. The case fatality rate is around 1-2 cases per thousand infected patients. Immuno-compromised people are more susceptible to complications. The most common cause of death is pneumonia, but death can also be caused by encephalitis or overwhelming infection leading to cardiovascular collapse and death. Many cases of measles encephalitis are followed by signs of permanent brain damage. There is also a syndrome caused by the measles virus called Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis which can appear several years after the measles infection, and is debilitating and usually fatal. Measles is spread by droplets excreted into the atmosphere from the mouth, nose, or throat. The virus can survive in a closed room for up to 2 hours. Viral excretion begins up to 4 days prior to onset of symptoms, and 10-12 days prior to the onset of the rash. Susceptible persons exposed to measles virus have at least 90% chance of contracting the disease. So, it is one of the most contagious diseases known. There is no animal reservoir. Cats or dogs can’t get the measles. However, the virus is closely related to the distemper virus.

Measles is at least 97% preventable by vaccination. In the USA the first dose is given between 12-15 months of age. It is a live-virus vaccine, and is given in combination with the mumps and rubella vaccines (MMR) or as a measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chicken pox) vaccine (MMRV.) Unfortunately, there are people who are not having their children vaccinated, and it has reached a level in which we are seeing measles outbreaks. There have always been people who object to vaccination, ever since the practice was developed in the 1700’s. A few preachers have railed against the practice, seeing it as an attempt to frustrate God’s means of retribution for sinfulness. Thus, to vaccinate is to form an alliance with the Devil. There are also people who just don’t like other people, especially the government, telling them what to do. There are people who are naturally suspicious. You can find them scouring the internet reading about various conspiracy theories.

In 1998 an article authored by Dr.  Andrew Wakefield was published in the Lancet, a highly respected British medical journal. Dr. Wakefield presented evidence that the measles vaccine caused autism. Subsequently, his data was questioned, and many studies established that his finding was false. It was determined that he had received funding from litigants against vaccine manufacturers. The Lancet retracted the article, and Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in the UK. But the damage was done. There are still plenty of people who believe that the vaccine causes autism.

Another source of measles outbreaks in unvaccinated populations is among the Orthodox Jews, mostly in Israel and in New York. Most Orthodox rabbis are strong advocates for vaccination, but one rabbi in particular has influenced his followers in New York to not have their children vaccinated. So people may not have their children vaccinated out of fear, ignorance, paranoia, superstition, or cantankerousness, among other reasons. The net result is that both children and adults are getting sick, and putting people at risk. As I said, it really makes me angry. I just needed to get this off my chest.

It has been another hot, steamy day in Happy Meadows. Mike and I went outside after the boys left this morning. He pulled weeds and I snooped around. We had a couple of deer visit, and lots of hummingbirds. Mike got pretty tired so we came back inside. It was a pleasant way to spend the morning. Now I’m thinking it’s time for one of my special power naps. I hope you also had a pleasant day, wherever you might be. And do us all a favor, and make sure your cats, dogs, and kids get all their shots.  Be safe, be well, and always know that you are blessed. So long from Happy Meadows!

Author: Black Magic

Black Magic is a handsome, charming, and self-absorbed cat who lives with Mike and Judy Gordon in Marietta, Georgia. He is about 7 years old, and he will remind you at every opportunity that his grandfather was Black Jack, that famous cat who wrote his own autobiography. Black Magic has a great many opinions, and despite his natural feline arrogance, he seems to be genuinely spiritual. But the reader can decide for him/herself.

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