History is filled with deadly diseases and epidemics that cost millions of lives. Some of these diseases remain today, while others have been completely eliminated. Medical science has advanced far enough that these now-extinct diseases stood no chance against modern technology.
However, even scientists and historians make mistakes. The following three diseases were, until very recently, considered plights of a bygone era; but now we find that these diseases remain and in some cases in vast numbers.
The measles has been a well controlled disease for decades, thanks to vaccines to prevent the onset. However, in the 1990s, there was a belief that the measles vaccine can cause autism in children. As a result, many parents refused to vaccinate their children from this potentially deadly disease. This is even after modern studies definitively disproved this theory, giving irrefutable evidence that there is no link between autism and measles vaccines. In fact, the doctor who made the study linking the two lost his medical license.
Because a very small proportion of children have had a measles vaccine, the disease is now very easily spread. This is due to the fact that the disease is contagious two days before any symptoms are seen, while the incubation period for measles is two weeks. In 2008, a 7-year-old boy caught measles in Switzerland while on vacation. When he returned to his home in San Diego, the symptoms were not present, and the child then went on to infect 11 other children at his elementary school; another 41 students were quarantined while one young student was hospitalized.
This has been in the news recently, especially in regards to California. A staggering 7 infants have died in 2010 from whooping cough with another 2,700 cases reported this year. The bacterial disease, which causes severe coughing (hence the name), only infects children under 11 or 12-years old.
There was even a booster shot made available in 2006, but not many parents took advantage of this. Whooping cough is difficult to detect, since it mimics a simple cough or sore throat. Because they are unaware of their plight, many adolescents spread the disease to their classmates and peers.
Like the whooping cough, the mumps have been in the news recently, with an outbreak in the Eastern US. 1500 people were infected with the mumps in New York and New Jersey, as an outbreak occurred in a summer camp; those who attended the camp then spread the disease at their respective neighborhoods.
The mumps, which causes swelling in the salivary glands, has a vaccine as well; however, unlike the vaccine for the measles, which has an effectiveness of 99 percent, the vaccine for the mumps is only 90 percent effective. Symptoms of the mumps include a fever or a headache, sore throat or swelling around the jaw or temples. The disease may even cause sterility or deafness.