Maine’s top news source misleads the state on “dangerous” measles

“I’ve taken care of people — even children who have died — with measles,” Dora Mills, vice-president for clinical affairs at University of New England and former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Bangor Daily News, Maine’s leading news source. “I don’t know of anyone who has seen measles firsthand and is against the vaccine.

“At very best, it’s one of the most miserable diseases for anyone to endure for one or two weeks. But for many, it can be much more dangerous.”

Most miserable to endure? What Mills was claiming, and what the Bangor Daily News and its reporter, Seth Koenig, accepted at face value, is revisionist history. Measles was not dreaded when it was a common childhood disease, as it was until the late 1960s. It was seen as a mild disease, welcomed by families because it conferred children with lifetime immunity. To appreciate how the public viewed measles, watch this 1969 episode of The Brady Bunch on YouTube entitled “Is there a doctor in the house?”

No one was worried. Not the mother, who reported that the kids had “a great big smile” because there would be “no school for a few days.” Not the dad, who said “Peter’s got the measles” with a smile. Not the pediatricians. Not the kids, who had a ball at home, getting comic books and being catered to by their parents with treats like milk shakes.

Pay attention to the dialog in one scene where the upbeat kids, playing Monopoly in bed, say:

Greg: Boy, this is the life, isn’t it?

Marcia: Yeah, If you have to get sick, you sure can’t beat the measles.

Peter: That’s right

Jan: No medicine

Greg: Inside or out, like shots I mean

Jan: Don’t even mention shots, yehh!

This is how the broad public perceived measles and this is also how the scientific community viewed measles. As described in 2004 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases by authors at the CDC and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, “measles was considered an inevitable rite of passage. Exposure was often actively sought for children in early school years.”

 

Our rating

Two bandaids, for inaccurately hyping the measles disease.

vaccineB2 vaccineB2

Comments

  1. I agree as I come from that generation. I breezed through measles – my mother always harping on me to take my cod liver oil (she was a nurse) yet my cousin has a friend who is deaf from measles. I don’t consider it completely benign. I watched that Brady bunch episode when I was a kid. My question – do you think they down played measles in shows because there was nothing you could do? Or is the surge in fear completely generated by Pharma advertisment? OR – could it be a little bit of both.

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    • Lawrence Solomon says:

      A vaccine for measles existed in 1969, when that Brady Bunch show aired, and the show itself refers to the vaccine. The disease was downplayed simply because it was almost always benign in children.

      Public health agencies as well as Pharma stand to gain from the surge in fear, albeit in different ways.

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      • Christine says:

        I don’t think the episode ever refers to the measles vaccine. They referred to not having to take anything or get a shot of medicine, alluding to the fact that there is really nothing to do for the measles except rest and hydration. Although we know now that Vitamin A is very important during measles and is the most important factor in avoiding complications. (Endorsed protocol by WHO, look it up). And notice how the kids weren’t dosed with anything to bring their fevers down, they were allowed to ride it out.

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      • Lawrence Solomon says:

        You may be right. The word “vaccine” wasn’t specifically used. But would kids have talked about “shots of medicine”? The Brady kid distinguished between medicine taken internally or externally (“inside or out, like shots I mean.”) Then, “shots, yehh!”

        In 1969, when this episode was filmed, vaccinations for measles had become common in schools. It strikes me as highly unlikely that they weren’t talking about vaccines.

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  2. Excellent perspective check. Considering Varicella has been added to the schedule, one could reasonably predict that the same will be said of chicken pox in the not-too-distant future.

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  3. man zer belanger says:

    People need to wake up. It is now a BAD thing because of the vaccine-induced sickness due to measles shedding from those that get vaccines. Remove the vaccines and people will revert to the normal “wild” measles. And they will live happily ever after. Sue Mills is a DO and she doesn’t know this ? She is just following the party line with Big Pharma.

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  4. Laraine Abbey, MS, CNS, RN emeritus says:

    There’s more than the Brady’s. Watch the rest:

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  5. In 1967, the CDC stated:

    “For centuries the measles virus has maintained a remarkably stable ecological relationship with man. The clinical disease is a characteristic syndrome of notable constancy and only moderate severity. Complications are infrequent, and, with adequate medical care, fatality is rare.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1919891/pdf/pubhealthreporig00027-0069.pdf

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Trackbacks

  1. […] measles was material for sit-coms, as seen in a 1969 Brady Bunch episode that I referred to in a recent post. A reader, Laraine Abbey, sent in a YouTube compilation that shows two other humorous examples from […]

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