In 1989. From about an hour in a Lincoln, Nebraska dorm room of the soon-to-be-sick friend who had already left for the Summer. I would be contagious for two weeks during which I went home for Summer break and attended my brother’s high school graduation including hugs down a receiving line. It was Mother’s task to inform the town and send out the alerts as a community medical professional.
I HAD been vaccinated. Before 1971. It was an outbreak that affected somewhat rare cases like mine but more commonly the inner city kids and minority children nationally who were not vaccinated. The news about risk then was about the kids and areas without access to minimum healthcare.
Today we face another challenge and changes this from being about poverty and access. The choice parents have taken and some doctors support, to not vaccinate for reasons that are serious, connected to effects such as autism.
I am not an expert in this debate, I am curious and only linked by having had the disease as a young adult. Here is a good summary of the history.
As a ‘rich’ country, we are a society that has lived with so much progress. We have not had to live amidst suffering. We have had access to healthcare (largely) including vaccinations that prevent suffering and disease. Even the poor parts of our cities that are affected by health issues due to lack of access, we largely live separate from and ignore.
The infectious diseases of third world and emerging economies are a key reason why many of those regions remain third, or emerging. We hear but we don’t realize what it means to live without fear of getting a disease that has no cure, that could result in death. What it means to those who see Polio every day, and wish for the day it will finally be eradicated.
There will still be the poor communities that face risk during this measles outbreak, as they did in 1989. But there are also a new group of ‘rich’ kids facing risks. I am curious about what this means for the future of society, their future. In 2006, the response to the 1989 outbreak meant a national immunization program. Even amidst the possible link to autism which was first documented by a doctor in 1998. He was later stripped of his medical license. Concerns continued and certain substances were to be removed from the vaccination. All of this is progress. We should challenge and question. We also should weight the risks.
I was really sick. I remember how bad my abdominal muscles hurt from coughing. I wondered when I would not be on the couch coughing laying down. I wondered what people do without a mother that is a nurse. I never thought I wouldn’t be ok and get better. I didn’t realize the risk of this illness either, not to me or society. I also got the flu that Summer, one of two times in my life. I expect my immunity was affected.
A silver lining, we went to Spain to visit our exchange student that same year. The ’freshman 15’ I put on the two years previously were readily shed during that ill Spring. I could enjoy my CocaCola swimsuit and the beaches of Alicante with a bit more confidence.