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  1. Opinion

Daniel Ruth: With measles in Pinellas, Hillsborough may be next. Stupid knows no bounds

The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for children and adults. The virus is highly contagious. [Associated Press]
Published Sep. 5, 2018

If it can happen over there, it can happen here. After all, stupid knows no boundaries.

In recent days, Pinellas County health officials have been alarmed over the discovery of four new cases of measles, raising the total number of infections to seven.

This is, of course, nuts. And yes, certainly troublesome.

There was a time not all that long ago when the eradication of measles marked one of this country's great public health triumphs.

Through the wonders of modern medicine and the work of dedicated scientists, the disease was all but completely wiped out in this country thanks to young children receiving vaccinations. Poof! Gone! One less thing to worry about when it came to the health and well-being of children.

But in recent years, largely due to the echo chamber of social media, a growing sub-culture of, well, morons, have allowed themselves to be conned into believing vaccinations in general and measles vaccinations in particular are an evil plot on part of the health care industry to harm children.

There is a school of addled thought that argues vaccinating children can cause autism. Many of these same people probably also believe climate change is merely a passing fad.

This insane canard has repeatedly been debunked by the scientific community in study after study. And yet, ignorance persists.

The recent outbreak of measles in Pinellas were the first cases of the disease that county health officials have seen in 20 years. None of the measles patients had ever been vaccinated.

Measles is an intensely, highly contagious illness, which, depending on the severity of the outbreak, can cause a multitude of health problems, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death.

And because of the potential for contagion, there is no way to precisely determine if any of the Pinellas patients may have had contact with, say, someone who lives in Hillsborough County whose parents might have been naive enough not to have their children vaccinated.

Not taking advantage of a vaccination that will protect against measles based on misinformed, easily refuted science is not only grotesquely irresponsible parenting, it is, for all practical purposes, child abuse.

Tampa Bay may well physically separate Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, but it can't prevent the spread of idiocy.

Duval and Miami-Dade counties also have reported measles cases, including two out-of-state travelers who came to Florida while infected.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported at least 124 cases of measles across 22 states so far this year — all largely avoidable if ignorance were not a rash.

It's disconcerting that otherwise normal, reasonably intelligent people would rather believe some dubious junk science they read on the internet, or through word of mouth, claiming vaccinating their children will give them autism, as opposed to the conclusions of reputable scientists attesting to the efficacy of vaccines based on decades of intellectually honest research.

Aside from a horse-whipping in the public square for those parents who have been conned into believing a vaccine to protect their children from measles is harmful, what else can be done to force some clueless parents to simply do the right thing?

Who knows? But perhaps an anti-vaccination parent should be required to sit next to their rash-ridden child and try explain to the kiddo that they are so sick because mommy and daddy decided to take the word of a disgraced and defrocked loopy former doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who first came up with the debunked vaccine/autism gibberish.

Or perhaps they could explain they are so ill because they believed in anti-vaxxers like those noted medical experts Jenny McCarthy, or Donald Trump, or Charlie Sheen, rather than an actual doctor.

Perhaps the real epidemic here is gullibility.

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