The New Epidemic

credit: The Mad Scientist Confectioner’s Club

Are Anti-Vaccination supporters putting us at risk of another epidemic disease? Vaccination has come under attack the past few years with the claims of it causing autism and hospitalizing illnesses, convincing people — parents especially — that these vaccines are dangerous and can threaten your health; despite the CDC results claiming otherwise. What these people fail to realize is the effect it has on those around them.

There is a theory that encompasses this idea, something I like to refer to as the “Umbrella Theory,” where if the number of vaccinated people reach a certain threshold, then the chance the anti-vaxxer will give someone a disease is infinitesimal. The vaccinated shield the non-vaccinated from prevented-diseases, so the unprotected do not run the risk of contracting the disease. However, if the number of non-vaccinated reaches critical mass, they exponentially increase the risk of an outbreak.

We are dangerously close to this critical mass and beginning to see breakouts of diseases that we previously had control over thanks to vaccines. The recent outbreak of measles in New York is a perfect example. Measles was claimed to be eliminated from the United States in the year 2000, with a range of 50–200 of cases being documented every year with one exception in 2014. There were over 600 cases in the US alone, and 19 of those cases were in New York City, the most densely populated city in the US. Almost every single one of these cases were unvaccinated people.

Now these diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, and chicken pox don’t seem life threatening or dangerous, we hear them brought up in kids shows more than we see people catching them. And to some extent, that assumption is correct, thanks to modern medicine being able to help cope with it so well. You would think that it wouldn’t be that huge of a deal if a few thousand US citizens were to contract these diseases every year. Well the number of infected would be a bit more than you’d expect. Before the development of the vaccination process for Measles in 1967, there were an average of 530,000 cases per year. Not to mention, 440 of those were deaths. Deaths by measles. How terrible would it be to die by something that is almost completely preventable? These numbers are not even adjusted for the massive amount of population growth we have had in the past 50 years; from 151 million to 308 million in the past 60 years. Considering significantly more people are living in tightly compacted apartments, traveling on subways, buses, and planes, the rate of spread of these diseases would be astronomical. The number of those infected by measles alone would be in the millions. To put it short, if not for vaccines, these diseases would cripple us.

Now it’s true the mortality rate for these diseases is very low, Measles being at a less than a tenth percent at its peak, nowhere near an “epidemic;” but the mentality of those who refuse to take them put everyone else at risk. If some new, highly infectious deadly disease were to pop up in the future, ravaging third world countries and underdeveloped locations, would we be able to maintain ourselves? With the number of people opting out of vaccines now, it could run us at a great risk of an epidemic.

If not for the vaccine, the United States would not be the United States. We likely would have lost the revolutionary war to smallpox, had far too many cases of Measles, Mumps, and numerous other diseases to be able to sustain our economy. You would have to great your neighbor with rubber gloves and a gas mask to risk not being in contact with whatever he/she has. We would not be able to grow our cities to the lengths we have because people would not be able to live that close together for the fear of dying to disease.

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