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Does the Recent Outbreak of Measles Mean that Enlightened Americans Should Cancel Travel Plans, and Thus Avoid Exposure to the Malady in Crowds?

     When a traveler with measles paid a visit recently to Disneyland in southern California, he/she not only set off a rather small epidemic of the disease in the United States, but caused a great many Americans to cancel their vacation plans.  In particular, some of our frightened fellow citizens felt that they ran a particular risk by going onto a crowded cruise ship, or into a bus with forty other persons in it, or on any number of other travel activities requiring that multiple persons interact together. 
     After all, measles is the most infectious of diseases; a person with measles can transmit the illness to a person entering a room where the infected carrier had passed as late as an hour before.  So should Americans cease going on vacation trips; cease placing themselves among the crowds that are often encountered at airports, on planes or cruise ships, at theaters, on tours, at heavily-trafficked historical sites?
     In a well-researched article appearing recently in The New York Times, an experienced journalist, Nicholas Bakalar, uttered a resounding No to those fears.  Because his conclusions are so vitally important to all of us, I have shamelessly made use of his examples, reasoning and research in this blog.
     The vaccine used to thwart measles is the most effective medication in the world of medicine.  Because of its widespread use in the United States, it has virtually eliminated measles as a illness affecting Americans.  The number of U.S. measles cases in recent years has been astonishingly low.  Virtually the only people contracting measles, according to Balakar, have been the rare recipients of defective vaccines or persons already with illnesses that will not tolerate the use of the anti-measles vaccine.  If you are afraid to travel, he says, because of your fear of contracting measles, you need only take the vaccine and you will almost certainly be protected.
     Measles, he writes, is an almost completely preventable disease. Of the 34 persons who contracted measles at Disneyland in California, 28 were people who—or one reason or another—were unvaccinated.  Some of them had believed the totally discredited theory that the anti-measles vaccine caused children to be autistic.  Others were persons suffering from various forms of cancer who cannot be given the vaccine, and those persons are relatively few. 
     Moreover, says Balakar, if readers of this column were born prior to 1957, they have probably contracted measles as children and are therefore completely immune to it today.  Once you are immune, you are immune forever.
     So should we continue to travel today, risking exposure to measles?  Absolutely, says every enlightened commentator on the subject.
Photo credit: Morgan/Flickr