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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.


Original Article

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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Soonerdad3 wrote on April 21, 2015, 1:32 PM

I think people that chose not to vaccinate have the right to make that choice, but at the same time they should realize that their decision has the potential to affect many more people around them.

MegL wrote on April 21, 2015, 1:34 PM

Do you have a link to the article please? I would like to post a link to your article and it would be helpful to those that may read my share to be able to find the article quickly from a link instead of having to search for it. Thanks.

xstitcher wrote on April 21, 2015, 2:18 PM

Interesting. My mother and I just watched an episode of Law & Order: SVU that dealt with this subject. A teenage boy spread it around at a "party" and his mother had not vaccinated him as a child and there was a big hullabaloo about the parent's right not to vaccinate and all. I for one think it's pretty selfish not to vaccinate a child. Not only should your own child be protected from illness, but everyone around them.

msiduri wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:06 PM

Well, this is the point: That choice does affect others. No one can (or should) force anyone to vaccinate their children. The more people who are not vaccinated, the more likely an outbreak is to spread. The more people infected, the more likely a serious complication of measles (happily—an extremely rare occurrence, but it does happen) will appear. I'd hoped people who refuse to vaccinate weigh these consequences against their reasons for refusal.

msiduri wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:09 PM

MegL the link is : I'll put it in the review as well, if you think it helpful.

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:20 PM

You are absolutely right, most of the communicable diseases were eradicated through herd vaccination techniques. This requires a certain percentage of the population in any one given area to keep the virus away.

msiduri wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:22 PM

If I had a child, I would vaccinate him or her without hesitation unless presented with some overwhelming reason not to do so (immune system problem, etc.) However, I understand there are those who have religious and philosophical objections, even if I disagree with them. I don't think that holding anyone down and jabbing a needle in their arm is the way to do it. Better to make information available in a way that doesn't insult anyone's intelligence or create an "us and them" mentality. Um.... just my humble opinion.

msiduri wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:37 PM

Yes. And not everyone can be vaccinated. Not having children myself, I forget the cutoff age for measles for little ones, but I know, for example, infants are too young to be vaccinated. There's a vulnerable population right there. If one child brings it into a daycare, with a 90% transmission rate, one of the little is bound to get it, perhaps pass it on to an older sibling, an so it goes.

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 21, 2015, 4:43 PM

I believe I read that it is 6 months for measles.

iwrite28 wrote on April 21, 2015, 11:05 PM

This was a very well written article and you have done a great review.

MegL wrote on April 21, 2015, 11:40 PM


msiduri wrote on April 21, 2015, 11:48 PM

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and found the review worthy. emoticon :smile:

Telynor wrote on April 22, 2015, 3:47 AM

I recently read that in Australia, certain benefits will be cut to parents who don't vaccinate their kids. Kudos to the Australians for putting their foot down and saying enough of this nonsense!

msiduri wrote on April 22, 2015, 7:56 AM

Interesting. In light of the cost of handling the infection spread by voluntarily unvaccinated people, this makes sense. But with large communities of—for example Amish—who don't vaccinate and who don't necessarily get government benefits, that might not work here so well.

CalmGemini wrote on April 22, 2015, 8:56 AM

Actually,the MMR vaccine is to be taken for prevention against Mumps and Rubella also, which are serious than measles.Some people think autism is a side effect of this vaccine.This has been disproved.While parents may have opinions about giving their children the vaccination ,it is a pity that they are against the vaccination because they believe the false propaganda by some people regarding the side effects of the vaccine.

msiduri wrote on April 22, 2015, 9:17 AM

All very true. I think the danger is with measles (and the sad part) is that in 2000, it is spread to rapidly. While there are people who cannot be vaccinated, this is the exception to the rule and to simple not get one's children vaccinated because of fear based on some unfounded study puts everyone at risk.

Telynor wrote on April 22, 2015, 11:19 PM

I think it is an excellent way of making certain that people get vaccinated. The credit that is being yanked is similiar to the deductions for each child, or the EIC credit we have here in the States. I suspect that the Amish would buckle under once the facts rolled in -- I've heard that they do use doctors and modern medicine.

msiduri wrote on April 23, 2015, 9:42 AM

You may very well be right.