By Barbara Leonhard | Featured Contributor
Back in 1958, the year I almost died from the measles, my parents—unlike the parents of today—did not have to face the choice of vaccination, because there was no vaccine in existence (it wasn’t introduced until several years later, in 1963).
Therefore, it was important for me to share my experience with this condition because of the great controversy that currently exists over vaccines in general, and particularly the measles vaccine. Far too many children are not getting vaccinated against measles and other diseases owing to perceived risks, so now measles has returned as a virulent threat worldwide.
The Vaccine Controversy
One major argument against the measles vaccine is the fear of autism. This all started when a 1998 paper published by Andrew Wakefield claimed this apparent association, but all subsequent studies—which have been properly designed—have all proven otherwise. It was later discovered that the original Wakefield article was based on faulty research; as a result, Wakefield was discredited, lost his medical license—and in 2010—the medical journal retracted the article he wrote. Still, the fear Wakefield instigated continues to persuade people to avoid vaccines even today.
As a result of this controversy over the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, the number of cases of measles has markedly risen over time and continues to rise. Being a highly contagious disease, it has been shown that, in the event of an outbreak, 90% of those who are not vaccinated will get measles, and that 1 out of every 100 children who get measles will likely die from the illness or its complications—including encephalitis and pneumonia.
For a Healthy Future
As I recall my personal story about measles encephalitis, I can’t help but realize how measles can be abated with a simple vaccine. Unvaccinated people who contract measles can spread the disease to people who have compromised immune systems. Even though encephalitis may be rare, we don’t want to risk the future health and well-being of others by putting them at risk for measles and possibly encephalitis. It is not fun. Let me tell you.
However, don’t think about me. My recovery was rare, a miracle. Think about the sweet boy I described earlier who didn’t survive measles encephalitis as a whole person. The neurological damage to his brain completely debilitated him, requiring round the clock physical therapy and care. His body remained a cage.
And I think at this time with the fear of the COVID-19, we all need to see that if we subdue our fears and make good choices, our immune systems are better off. We can remain healthy with positive thinking and actions, such as washing the hands frequently, self-isolating, using effective respiratory hygiene, seeking medical help early if we have symptoms, and following other measures found on the World Health Organization website or the CDC, including being vaccinated once a vaccine is developed.
May you remain safe and healthy.
May you be protected from the deadly viruses I described.
May you recognize that you have the power to heal yourself in all ways.
May you, too, know that you can call back your power, your spirit, from a dark place.
Barbara Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver. Her podcast Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul explores universal themes such as Grief, Kindness, and Presence. She taught writing for many years at the University of Missouri and is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing. She is also a regular contributor to Free Verse Revolution and Go Dog Go Café.
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