One out of every 1,000 measles cases progresses to acute encephalitis, which often results in permanent brain damage. One or two out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurological complications. [Wikipedia]
Measles is making the headlines almost every day at the moment as it rampages across the developed World infecting those who stand in its way. The media is publishing fear based media insights to why this disease, which they like to point out was an eradicated disease, is making a coming back and the devastating consequences it may have on our society if we don’t take drastic measures to tackle the issue now.
As our beloved press point out themselves on a daily basis, there is much misinformation circulating surrounding measles, the biggest one it would seem though is just how dangerous it is to a healthy society. The generally agreed upon figure used within media circles and indeed state health care institutions around the World are 1 or 2 in 1000 who contract the disease will die from it. That’s 0.1-0.2%. Which in itself isn’t a high chance, but does understandably raise alarm bells in any parents head. So, just how accurate is this figure?
Here is what the CDC state as the mortality rate for measles:
Nearly 1 or 2 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications. [source]
Lets take a look at the UK’s official Measles data. A simple test of this ‘1 or 2 in 1000’ mortality rate would be to check against their own data, we can simply add all the cases up included in their historical data and divide this number by the number of deaths recorded in their own historical data.
So the data ranges between 1940 and 2016, the total number of cases of the infection recorded amounts to 13,824,266, the total number of deaths amounts to 8298. This gives us a mortality rate of 1 in 1666.
Now, already this figure is substantially lower than the commonly used figure – but we also have to bare in mind this includes data taken from the War time era which as you’d expect contains a far higher death rate from the disease due to general ill health of the population.
So, lets remove the wartime data from the calculation and try again, this time we’ll begin the data collection from 1955, the war finished in 1945 but the population was still in recovery for many years after this, rebuilding infrastructure and individual health, so we’ve allowed 10 years for the recovery period.
So now we have 8,332,126 cases of measles in the time period between 1955 and 2016 with 1645 deaths in total. This gives us a mortality rate figure of 1 in 5065.
So for the sake of any arguments declaring that the death rate was vastly reduced due to the introduction of the vaccine we shall now do the same calculation based on data between the 1955 and 1985 (A measles vaccine was available in the UK prior to 1985, but few were receiving it until late 1980’s).
So we have 7,961,230 cases of measles between the years of 1955 and 1985 and a total of 1579 deaths. This gives us a mortality rate of 1 in 5042.
Now, we have to also take into consideration the accuracy of the data supplied to health authorities, how many cases of measles for example are going unreported and likewise how many deaths are likely to go unreported.
A study in the US National Library of Medicine determined that underreporting of measles cases could be in the region of 75%, this alone would dilute the mortality rate significantly, for example where we had a mortality rate of 1 in 5065 between the years of 1955 and 2016 it would bring this figure to a mortality rate of 1 in 9040.
However, it doesn’t end there – this underreporting was determined by using figures from local health authorities compared to those reported to government health authorities, it doesn’t take into account cases of measles which were not reported at all to anyone. This particular statistic is an unknown, however, I think it’s fair to say that a large number of cases would never be reported to a doctor as in many cases the infection is so mild that a trip to the doctor is unnecessary.
Because we don’t have a figure to go on for this we’ll can’t really adjust the calculation fairly, though even if just 25% of people don’t report a measles case to their local practitioner this would bring the rate above 1 in 10,000.
So what about unreported deaths, if measles cases are going underreported its only fair to assume that deaths caused by the disease may slip the net as well, right?
Well, this is a far more unlikely scenario as Measles is a fairly obvious disease to spot, the majority of cases produce a rash covering large portions of the individual, and in the cases of death you’d expect the symptoms to be pretty severe. We also know that in many of the cases over the past 20 years the measles virus was detected in deceased individuals who showed no signs of virus, but was present upon blood tests.
In fact, in many cases it could be argued that the death was not due to the measles virus itself as the individual was severely ill prior to contracting the disease, as this case shows in the UK:
In 2006, there was 1 measles death in a 13-year-old male who had an underlying lung condition and was taking immunosuppressive drugs.[source]
Also in this case in the US:
……measles encephalitis in a child aged 13 years who had chronic granulomatous disease, received a bone marrow transplant in October 2002, and died in January 2003. Measles was confirmed by a positive serologic test for measles IgM and isolation of measles virus from a brain biopsy. [source]
Its worth noting that in the above case it was not determined whether the Virus was of the wild strain or vaccine strain, what we do know is that no other cases of Measles were reported in the area, though this of course does not confirm there were no cases as the under reporting statistics pointed out earlier.
So while it is possible some measles deaths are missed, it would be highly unusual in the developed world, particularly in a time when measles is trying to be made out to be a rampant killer. It’s more likely measles deaths are being misreported, though this is just personal logical speculation.
Ultimately Its Your Body, Your Choice
While there are many reasons to take the measles fearmongering with a pinch of salt and likewise, there are many reasons to be concerned about contagious diseases such as Measles, ultimately it’s your choice how you tackle it. There is the argument that while healthy individuals may not be in danger from the effects of Measles, they need to vaccinate to prevent the spread of measles to those in poor health, the herd immunity argument.
But the herd immunity argument is flawed in so many ways, firstly a vaccinated population does not stop the spread of measles, in fact, a recently vaccinated individual can spread the disease themselves through what is known as shedding. Though heavily downplayed and in many cases and resources such as Wikipedia will tell you its just an ‘anti-vax’ myth, it does occur and is an issue which undoubtedly will be heavily underreported.
The second major concern with herd immunity within a highly vaccinated population is immunity waning, the MMR for example does not provide immunity for life, hence the booster. While many are fairly vigilant at vaccinating their children until they become young adults, they more often than not dont keep up with their vaccinations into adulthood and thus their immunity wanes. The problem with this is that so many believe themselves to be immune, while in reality they are not and thus are more likely to spend tome around immune compromised individuals even when infectious diseases are circulating in their area. Whereas an unvaccinated indiviual is likely to be far more cautious around such people when infectious diseases which they are not immune to from previous exposure are circulating.
Finally, there is the issue of relying on a third-party to uphold the health of a society, this, in my opinion, is probably the greatest danger we as a society are facing and it doesn’t just apply exclusively to vaccines, but to every aspect of our health.
With almost half of all adults here in the UK now on prescription drugs and over in the states this figure is even higher with people taking more drugs than ever before according to recent surveys we are a nation reliant on the intervention of a third-party in order to allegedly remain healthy. This is an issue of epidemic proportions and is only set to get worse over the next decade. Now also consider that the majority of these populations are also reliant on Vaccination to protect themselves from contagious diseases and you can see we have a major problem. What happens when these third-parties can no longer produce the required pharmaceuticals and vaccines required to keep those dependant on them dosed up? Whether it be due to a Wartime situation, a catastrophic event or the actions of a nefarious Government, the fact is our bodies health is being maintained by a third-party we have no control over.
This is not to say there is no genuine use case for pharmaceuticals, of course there is, but do we really believe that humans are so flawed by design that they require more than half of them to have pharmacological intervention in order to survive, are we really so poorly designed? I think not.
If Vaccines are no longer available, what do we have – we have a vulnerable population who have had little to no exposure to the wild strain of any infectious diseases, many of which are at ages more likely to have complications from many of the diseases. We’d have an entire population without immunity, where is the herd now?
The herd immunity would only exist in those that chose not to vaccinate and who had contracted the wild strain of these infectious diseases. True herd immunity should never be reliant on a third-party which we have no control over. This is a very dangerous position to place ourselves in.