“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.”
Two bandaids, for inaccurately hyping the measles disease.