Ring Around the Rosie - April 14, 2019
State Representative David Perryman
Ring around the rosie, Pockets full of posies; Atischoo, atischoo, We all fall down. For generations, this simple rhyme has been heard on playgrounds across the country. In reality, it is a grim reminder of disease and death of the great European plagues that resulted from poor hygiene, widespread unsanitary conditions and concentrated populations of people that were overrun with disease carrying rodents and vermin.
Over the past hundred years, great strides have been made in the reduction of these causal factors. Concurrently, medical research has generated thousands of vaccines that have allowed millions of people, young and old, to avoid the often deadly and debilitating effects of disease.
Many of those diseases have been effectively eliminated particularly in the United States where childhood vaccination is the choice of most parents. From a global perspective, the results are promising has not yet been achieved. For instance, according to the World Health Organization, the 1988 adoption of a Resolution by the 41st World Health Assembly called for the worldwide eradication of polio. Groups like Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognized that the 350,000 cases reported in 125 countries in 1988 was unacceptable. The focus and resources provided by those groups and others have reduced the worldwide incidence of new polio cases to only 33 in 2018.
The miracle of vaccination does not end with polio. However, eradication of polio and many other diseases requires attention, focus and most importantly vaccination. When experts speak in terms of eradication, they understand that as long as a single child remains infected, anywhere in the world, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. This is particularly true in an increasingly mobile society.
Currently, the United States is facing a nationwide measles epidemic. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus may remain airborne for up to 2 hours in a room after the person with measles has left an indoor area. While measles is generally viewed as a childhood disease, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health it can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children and adults over 20. The disease can also cause serious problems in pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. According to the Center for Disease Control, measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
In today’s edition of the Oklahoman, readers were informed that there had been 465 confirmed cases of measles in 19 states. As of today, that number had increased to 555 cases in 20 states. Those 90 additional confirmed cases represent an increase of nearly 20% during the time required for news to be printed. That is the classic definition of an “epidemic.”
Measles vaccines are readily available. Each year in other parts of the world, measles kills 90,000 people and is the leading cause of death of children under age 5. It can happen here if we let our guard down. Those who refuse to immunize place not only their children at risk but also the children of their friends and neighbors and women who are infected during their first trimester of pregnancy have up to a 90% chance of delivering an infant with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
Questions or comments, please call or write 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.org.