“Measles,” according to the CDC, “is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person… If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch [an] infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected.”
“Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
This terrifying transmission rate has snowballed into a dire situation that has caused Germany to consider fining families who refuse to vaccinate their children.
“Measles typically begins with high fever, cough, runny nose (coryza), and red, watery eyes,” writes the CDC.
After a couple of days, “Tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth,” followed by the breakout of a rash, which travels from the infected individual’s head all the way down to their feet — often accompanied by a high fever.
“After a few days, the fever subsides and the rash fades.”
Hasn’t the measles vaccine been around for more than 50 years?
The first measles vaccine was released in 1963 and this life-changing
“In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available,” the CDC shares, “nearly all [American] children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age.”
Millions of Americans were infected each year and hundreds died from the disease. Tens of thousands required hospital care and some suffered painful side effects, like encephalitis (swelling of the brain) as a result of their measles infection.
After decades of hard work and near universal immunization, scientists in the US declared victory over measles in the year 2000.
While doctors were winning the battle with measles in the United States in the late twentieth century, European physicians were following along at a respectable rate.
An ally to measles has been gaining power recently, though: Ignorance.
Measles has returned to the United States and was never completely eliminated from Europe because some individuals began to believe rumors that immunizations were potentially harming the development of their children. There was no reputable science behind these beliefs, but many people began choosing to raise their children without vaccinations.
As a result of these misleading rumors, in the US, there were 667 reported cases of measles in 2014, which remains the highest number of cases since declaring victory in the year 2000.
In Germany, they experience their own massive outbreak in 2015 when there were 2,466 cases of measles in the country, a 700% increase from the previous year’s total (443). Sadly, the 2015 breakout also included the death of an 18-month-old child.
Time for action.
German health minister, Hermann Gröhe was very upset with the death of the child: “The irrational fearmongering of some vaccination opponents is irresponsible,” he told The Guardian. “Anyone who refuses their child protection endangers not only their own child but others as well.”
Leaders in Germany’s parliament began calling for the mandatory vaccination of infants. Finally, this year, a bill calling for action on measles was introduced in Germany’s lower house of parliament.
Part of the bill calls for fining parents up to €2,500 ($2,800) if they “fail to seek medical advice on vaccinating their children.”
“Under the plan,’ according to the BBC, “the children of parents who fail to seek vaccination advice could be expelled from their daycare
There are some lingering questions about enforcing this law, but the bill is headed to the upper chamber of Germany’s parliament. “The law,” writes the BBC, “is expected to be adopted next month.”
Is it ethical for a government to force its citizens to seek medical care? Is it ethical to deny children proven medical care, exposing others to risks? These are tough questions that Germany is hoping to address with this forthcoming law.