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Odds catch up with unvaccinated Disneyland visitors
Measles was virtually eliminated in the United States 15 years ago, but inspired by now-discredited research linking vaccinations and autism and promoted by misguided celebrities, many parents are choosing not to have their children vaccinated.
While many of those parents can afford to have their children immunized, other parents, those living in other countries, may not have the opportunity to obtain the shots.
Those factors came together at Disneyland last month, creating a measles outbreak that has grown to 87 cases, including 73 in California and others in Nebraska as well as Arizona, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Mexico.
Most of the infected patients were not vaccinated, and health officials have urged people to get the measles shot.
The anti-vaccination movement has eroded the U.S. victory over measles, leading a record number of infections last year, 644 cases in 27 states.
Yes, there are risks associated with the MMR vaccine -- measles, mumps and rubella -- recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even if you accept that it isn't linked to autism.
According to a 2009 study from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, the most common adverse reactions include pain or swelling at the injection site, joint pain and stiffness, occurring in 14 of 100 patients.
Beyond that, four may have high fever, four may be irritable, one may have swelling of the salivary glands and five may have a non-infectious faint red rash.
In extremely rare cases, a child may develop encephalitis, and 26 in a million may develop thrombocytopenia -- a low blood platelet count.
Nothing to be taken lightly, of course, but compare the risks to actually coming down with the measles:
Most kids who get measles develop fever, cough, runny nose, red, painful eyes and rash, or any combination of the above.
Fifteen in 100 may develop serious symptoms, nine in 100 may get pneumonia, five may have measles croup and one in a 100 may have fever-induced convulsions.
Two in 1,000 children may develop encephalitis, three in a thousand may develop thrombocytopenia, and one in 100,000 may get subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, which causes progressive brain damage nearly always resulting in death.
No, there is not a guarantee that getting vaccinated will keep a child from developing measles or any other targeted disease, nor is there any guarantee the shot won't result in complications.
But the odds are better for children who get the recommended immunizations than for those who don't -- and for those around them.