Part one of three: In this three-part series, we will be tackling the issue of vaccines. Part one focuses mostly on the measles vaccination.
Across national and statewide media outlets, the reoccurrence of a measles outbreak has been making waves.
Spurred on by the anti-vaccination movement of current times, the question arises: Is the measles disease back in full force?
Louisiana is on the list of states that have reported a case of measles in 2018.
The Center for Disease Control press officer Kristen Nordlum spoke about the confusion that has arisen.
“There has been a lot of coverage (by national news outlets) over the last week and some of it has been misleading,” she said. “Last week we believe a news station reported that 21 states were involved in a 107-person measles outbreak. We believe this news organization misinterpreted the first paragraph of our Measles Cases and Outbreaks website that lists how many cases there has been this year. Since this article was published, several other outlets have published articles as well and it’s caused.”
The paragraph Nordlum is referring to on the CDC website reads: “So far in 2018, 124 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The states that have reported cases to CDC are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Current as of August 11, 2018.”
Bob Johannessen, the spokesman of the Louisiana Department of Health went into detail about the reported measles cases in Louisiana for 2018.
“There have only been two reported cases of the measles in Louisiana this year. Both of those cases were people who were visiting the US from another country. They were treated for measles here in the US and then they returned to their countries,” said Johannessen.
One of those cases was a man from England, visiting New Orleans for Wrestlemania.
Each month, CDC updates its Measles Cases and Outbreaks website with the total number of measles cases that have occurred in the U.S. and the names of states that have reported the cases.
While there have been 107 cases reported to CDC since January 2018 across 21 states, there is not one multi-state outbreak that CDC is investigating.
“Additionally, the number of cases that we’ve seen so far this year is similar to what we saw at the same time in 2017,” Nordlum reassured.
Nordlum went into detail about how the measles disease enters the United States and how it can spread.
“Every year unvaccinated travelers (Americans or foreign visitors) get measles while they are in other countries and bring measles into the United States,” Nordlum said. “They can spread measles to other people who are not protected against measles, which sometimes leads to outbreaks. This can occur in communities with unvaccinated people.
“Most people in the United States are protected against measles through vaccination. So measles cases in the U.S. are uncommon compared to the number of cases before a vaccine was available.” Nordlum explained.
She went on to say, “Since 2000, when public health officials declared measles eliminated from the U.S., the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 667 people in 2014.”
Measles can be prevented with MMR vaccine. The vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.
Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles; one dose is about 93 percent effective.
Local Walgreens pharmacist Jeffery Mullican reiterated the need of the MMR vaccination in regards to preventing a nationwide issue.
“The importance of the vaccine is that measles is no longer an endemic. By getting vaccinated we prevent outbreaks and significantly reduce the number of deaths.” Mullican explained.
To vaccinate or to not?
Just like all things in America, there is another side to the topic of vaccinations.
Anti-vaxxers have been gaining traction recently and offer up an argument against vaccination.
The Beauregard Daily News published a Facebook poll asking our community to vote either for or against vaccinations.
258 people voted in the poll: 245 for vaccines and 13 against.
The poll offered two options to the voters “vaccines are vital” or “vaccines are dangerous”.
Steaming from the poll many local parents and medical professionals reached out to the paper to explain where they stood on vaccinations and why they were against them.
Terry Stovall is a local mother and grandmother who has had a long history with the topic of vaccines, shared her story.
“When my oldest daughter was 18 months old, she was given the MMR vaccine. She was up to date on all vaccines at that point. That was in 1981.” Stovall said.
“Within a few hours, my normally happy, healthy baby was drooling some kind of black substance, not responsive and started having seizures, one after another,” Stovall continued. “My daughter continued to have seizures on the way from Rosepine to the hospital in DeRidder.
“When we arrived at the hospital, the staff took her to do a spinal tap. She stayed in the hospital a couple of days, but the doctors never came up with any cause for the seizures. They said that it just happened sometimes when they got their shots.” Stovall said.
Stovall took it upon herself to research immunizations and their ingredients and potential side effects on her own.
She decided to make the informed decision that mercury and thimerosal and other chemical ingredients “would never be forced on my children again” and chose not to vaccinate her two other children.
“I do not believe that the vaccination ingredients harm every child, but I do believe some children are more susceptible to harm by the ingredients, and their little bodies are inundated with so many potentially toxic ingredients that they just cannot handle.” Stovall shared.
“I am not downplaying the spread of diseases, and that what was once simple childhood diseases can cause severe health issues for persons who are immuno-compromised. However, I do believe that the vaccinations are just as dangerous for children with heightened immune systems.”
Amanda Craig, a local registered nurse offered her educated opinion on the matter of the measles disease and the topic of vaccinations.
“The problem with measles isn't that there are a lot of cases, it's that there are any domestic cases at all. At one point, we had completely eradicated measles domestically in the United States. The only cases you ever saw were ones brought from other countries.” Craig said.
“The surge in measles cases is very much related to the lack of faith in vaccine science,” Craig stated. “Vaccines themselves are rigorously studied and restudied, both individual ingredients and as a total product by both independent and government sources.
“That's how we determine our current pertussis vaccine is not as effective as we thought and need to revisit that vaccine and also how we determined that appropriately administered. It's not a static science where it's decided ‘vaccines are safe, we are done.’"
Craig believes that “part of the problem of mistrust lies in social media and how easy it is to both spread false information and falsely use the information to scare people.”
For those who think they may have been exposed to the measles virus immediately call your doctor and let him or her know.
Your doctor can determine if you are immune to measles based on your vaccination record, age or laboratory evidence, and make special arrangements to evaluate you, if needed, without putting other patients and medical office staff at risk.
People can find general information on measles on CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html.
Editor’s note: In part two of this series we will talk about the relationship of vaccines in schools, the laws surrounding vaccinations and will share more testimony from locals who are against vaccinations.
*Information, statistics and history all gathered from the Center for Disease Control’s website.