Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks

The Council on Foreign Relations addresses a wide range of topics, and if you explore the website you will discover that they have a section for interactive publications. Among these publications is an interactive map that plots global outbreaks (since 200Smilie: 8) of various diseases that can be prevented by affordable, readily available, and effective vaccines. This includes such diseases as measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, rubella, and others. The map can be found here:

You can explore the map itself by clicking on the tab on the far left that says “map”, and then select the disease(s), the year(s), and the geographical location that you wish to view. Spend a few minutes exploring it, because it is really fascinating. The main point that I want to bring to your attention is summarized by the following two maps (click on them to enlarge).

First, a map of what the disease landscape looked like in North America in 2008.

2008 North America

Second, a map of what has been reported since 2008.

2008 - 2013 North America

In the entirety of the United States during 2008, we experienced a small outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in South Dakota. Not bad, given that this illness used to affect over 200,000 people each year (estimate from chart below).

Since 2008, however, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of occurrences of preventable diseases like whooping cough. If you play with the interactive map, you will see a steady increase in the reported outbreaks of all listed diseases as you look at each successive year. Unfortunately, these outbreaks are directly related to the recent trend favoring vaccine refusal. If you study the world map, you will note that we are a long way from eradicating these diseases worldwide. With the frequency of international travel, it is an easy thing for any of these diseases to be reintroduced to the U.S., which is why it is so important to protect as much of the population as is feasibly possible with vaccinations. There will always be people who are unable to receive a vaccine for one reason or another, but they can still be protected by herd immunity (diagram below).

I have written about vaccinations and the controversy surrounding them in the past, because I think it is important to promote awareness of the issue. A lot of people have strong opinions about vaccinations, but not all of these are informed opinions. Unfortunately, sometimes those opinions have a lot of influence with an uninformed public, and that is when they become dangerous. Take the time to become informed, and do not be afraid to share that information with others. It is absolutely possible to eradicate many of these diseases, not only in this country, but around the world. Such an undertaking would require a concerted effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of planning. I would not believe anyone who claims that it will be easy, but I assure you it is possible. The thing is, it first requires that we are all on the same page.

Thanks for reading!

Category(s): Science Stuff

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