Friday, March 25, 2011

Measles Outbreak in New South Wales, Australia

Australia generally has a much better situation, regarding popular views of vaccination, than the U.S. Over there, the primary anti-vaccine group, the Australian Vaccination Network, is openly called an anti-vaccine organization by the mainstream media. Their non-profit status was revoked last year and they have been sanctioned by the Australian Health Care Complaints Commission. Furthermore, they have been caught breaching copyright law on several counts. There are no major celebrities endorsing antivaccine nonsense.

With all of that going for Oz, you'd think things would be fine. Not so.

The New South Wales Health Department issued an alert that, in the last four weeks, there have been 29 confirmed cases of measles in the Australian state. Seven of the cases have been directly connected to individuals traveling overseas who were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. Of the remaining 22 cases, 11 are connected to previously identified patients and the rest of the infections have, as yet, an unknown source.

Although vaccination rates for NSW have generally been high, comparable to the national average, the state is also home to the aforementioned Anti-Vaccine Network Australian Vaccination Network. The region in which the AVN is headquartered is notorious for its love of alt-med and rejection of real medicine. Vaccination rates in the region are below the norm, so much so that they had a pertussis outbreak several years ago that resulted in the tragic death of 4-month-old Dana Elizabeth McCaffery.

There are some people who make light of outbreaks like this and think that it is not something to worry about. But the outbreaks in Australia, Minnesota and Boston illustrate how important it is to ensure you and your children are vaccinated. Some may just view these cases as numbers, but there are actual people there. Children are suffering from a preventable disease. The financial burden, particularly on low-income families, is not insignificant, even without hospitalization. As I mentioned before, the cost to hospitalize one measles patient in MN could pay for enough vaccine to immunize anywhere from 89-245 individuals.

I apologize for harping on vaccination and measles outbreaks lately, but frankly, it infuriates me that these are happening when they don't need to. If everyone did what is their moral, public responsibility and got vaccinated against the measles, we could eliminate that vaccine from the total list. Yet wide-spread, willful ignorance guarantees that we will continue to need it for quite some time.

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