A 25-year-old man has become the first person with measles to die in the Swansea outbreak as health authorities in Wales try to bring the highly infectious disease under control.
The article goes on to caution that while the individual has measles at the time of death, it’s not known yet whether it was the cause of death; that is yet to be determined. It wouldn’t seem surprising if it were, though, considering the growing number of confirmed measles cases just during the last year:
Of the 808 cases reported in the Swansea crisis [where many are between the ages of 10-18], 70 are in Powys, where one in four teenagers did not have two MMR jabs as infants. The overall number of cases rose by 43 between Tuesday and Thursday, indicating just how fast the epidemic is still growing.
Of the outbreaks reported last year, about 25% were children aged 10-15, which is coincident with Andrew Wakefield’s now-debunked “study” linking vaccinations with autism. Phil Plait from the blog Bad Astronomy cautions, though, that not all of the blame should directly on Wakefield. He both had – and has – plenty of help. There’s the Lancet, which (supposedly) peer reviewed and published the study, politicians who wouldn’t give clear answers on whether they vaccinated their own kids thereby stoking public concerns, and groups that continue to spread misinformation about the harms of immunization regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just think of the people on this side of the pond who decide that their kid doesn’t need to be vaccinated either for religious reasons or because they think it simply can’t happen to them.
There were outbreaks in north-west England, Sussex and among Travellers. As the cohort of children who were not given the MMR vaccine because of the scare caused by Andrew Wakefield’s now-discredited theory about autism grow older, the chances of further large outbreaks increase. There were nearly 400 cases in last year’s outbreak in Sussex and there have been 635 laboratory confirmed cases on Merseyside since February last year.
Situations like this and the one in South Korea are real-life examples of why parents need to immunize their children as soon as possible. In the case of Korea, it’s largely a matter of access (which is another equally significant issue). In places like the UK and the US it remains, in part, a result of fear, helped along by personal anecdotes that suggest the CDC isn’t telling everyone the whole story, or that it’s being done on purpose because they’re in cahoots with “big pharma”. Whatever the reason, these diseases are coming back, and there is absolutely no reason they should be. We have the technology to stop them, but lack the persuasive power to convince everyone that they need them.