Lesson #292: Measles

I’m off to the beach with some friends for the long weekend, so won’t likely post again until Tuesday.

I, like pretty much every other infant in North America and Western Europe, was vaccinated against measles when I was very young. Until today, I knew literally nothing about it except that I was immunized when I was very young.

Today, I learned that measles is one of the most contagious diseases in the world. People who have not been immunized and are exposed to the disease, which is literally spread just through breathing (and sneezing and coughing, but serio*…just breathing is enough to spread it!), will almost always contract it. There are an estimated 20 million cases of measles every year and it kills about 187,000** people every year, of whom more than half are Indian.***

2011 saw a significant upswing in measles cases in the US. The average number of cases is 60/year, but there were 222 (an incidence rate of 0.7/million) reported cases in 2011, of which 112 were associated with 17 different outbreaks. Of the 222 cases, 200 were linked to foreign importation — meaning they contracted the disease either while abroad or from foreigners who brought it with them while visiting. 86% of the patients were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.****

*This is the Polish word for “seriously” and both The Swede and I found it incredibly useful and started using it regularly. Especially in arguments because it sounds much nicer to say “SERIO?” than “ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?!?” (Don’t worry, our arguments were about footie, so no one went to bed angry.)

**The CDC page gives the number of deaths as 200,000 and 174,000 in two separate paragraphs on the same page, so I took the mean of the two.

***More information on measles here

****More statistical information here

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