Historical amnesia: Measles outbreaks remind us why it’s perilous to forget life before vaccines

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Image: Health Heritage Research

I suffer, like most people, from a notorious Catch-22: Vaccines save us from diseases, then cause us to forget the diseases from which they save us. Once the threat appears to be gone from our lives, we become lax. Or worse, we make up other things to worry about. Thus, some well-meaning parents avoid vaccinating their children out of misplaced fear that the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) causes autism. 

This irrational fear is why the United States has experienced almost 1,200 cases of measles so far this year, almost two decades after public health officials proudly declared it eliminated. 

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And so, parents forget, or more likely never knew, that 33 of every 100,000 people who experienced actual measles ended up with mental retardation or central nervous system damage. 

Related article:  How your history with the flu could shape your body's response to vaccines

They forget that an outbreak of rubella in the early 1960s resulted in 20,000 children being born with brain damage, including autism, and other congenital abnormalities.

They forget that, before it was eradicated by a vaccine in the 1970s, smallpox left many survivors blind, maimed, or brain damaged. 

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One remedy for this Catch-22 is to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves about the world before vaccines. 

Read full, original post: The world before vaccines is a world we can’t afford to forget

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