By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We have a tendency to be spoiled by our country’s health care system. A good example of this is the current measles outbreaks that have occurred. We call them an outbreak when the numbers rise above 5 infected individuals or so.

The reason for this is relatively straightforward. We do not see measles very often because we have a vaccine to prevent it.

Third world countries cannot say the same thing. There are many areas of the world where children have not received appropriate doses of the measles vaccine.

The latest year we have figures for was 2021. That year there were 128,000 worldwide deaths from measles. The mortality rate for measles is somewhere in the vicinity of 1 in every 1,000 cases to 1 in every 3,000 cases.

Of course when you have outbreaks of 5 individuals there is not going to be much mortality. The same is not true in other countries of the world.

Severe measles usually affects the respiratory tract. It frequently causes pneumonia. Most of the deaths that occur are due to respiratory problems.

Treatment consists of oxygen and IV fluids. Respirators are needed for severe cases. We take those things for granted in our country. 

However, third world countries have trouble even getting the vaccine. They do not have the medical facilities to treat the children who develop pneumonia.

Thus a child who might get better with oxygen and IV fluids may die. A child who needs a respirator to survive is unlikely to get one.

In the U.S. we have parents who do not believe in the measles vaccine. However, it is likely that if their child developed measles, they would expect modern medicine to cure them.

A few weeks ago, I had a statement after my column that measles ranked in the top ten killers of children in the 1930s. A significant portion of that was related to our inability to treat complications the way we do now.

So we have general acceptance of the medical treatments that have been developed over the years. However, we have individuals who do not accept the vaccine. It is also an advance in medical treatment over that same period. 

You really cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want modern medicine for your children, it includes both prevention and treatment. Deciding to accept only treatment and not prevention is ultimately going to cost some children their lives unnecessarily. Yes we are indeed spoiled.