Article Review: "The Return of Measles" by Seth Mnookin
This short article, which first appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine in 2013, did not foretell the recent Disneyland measles outbreak, but anyone reading it could have seen something like this coming, sadly.
What makes measles most frightening, according to author Seth Mnookin, is that, while it is not as fatal as Ebola or HIV/AIDS, it is the most infectious microbe in the world, with a transmission rate of approximately 90 percent.
The author then describes the reaction of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on discovering two unrelated case of measles who’d visited area hospitals. Both patients had been travelling from abroad. It was necessary to follow up and find all people they might have been in contact with to keep the disease from spreading.
Mnookin mentions that during the school year prior to the article being written, 1200 kids entered kindergarten in Massachusetts deliberately unvaccinated, some because of their parents’ religious or philosophical objections, but many because of the parents’ reliance long-discredited or fraudulent research.
The author cites the case of one deliberately unvaccinated 17-year-old who became infected while abroad. He lived in a community with many other unvaccinated people and quickly infected others. Fifty-eight other people ended up being infected before the outbreak was contained.
And such outbreaks are not without cost, monetary as well as emotional.
All this is worth remembering the next time parents who don’t vaccinate their children tell you they’re making a purely personal choice. This is, of course, technically true, in the same sense that driving after having a few beers is a personal choice. (p. 201 The Best Science and Nature Writing)
In the few pages given to the topic, Mnookin manages to convey his points clearly and unabashedly. If it leans just a little toward the polemic, it does to without being insulting. A longer article might give a broader outlook, but this gives the essential information. Unfortunately, those who need to see it most, those who are deliberating about whether to vaccinate their children (those who have already decided not to vaccinate won’t read it), will probably never see it.
Title: “The Return of Measles”
Published in: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014
First Published: Boston Globe Magazine Sept. 29, 2013
Author: Seth Mnookin
©2015 Denise Longrie
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