Sunday, February 01, 2015

Hospitals need to lead the discussion on measles.



First there was Ebola

In 2014 it was Ebola getting international attention, starting in May.  For most hospitals, however, it wasn't until October that there were press conferences to acknowledge that Ebola is a killer.  When hospitals used the word Ebola in a written communication, they quickly stated, sometimes in all capital letters, that "There is no one with Ebola at our hospital." This was followed by a subliminal message: "If you or someone you know has a fever and diarrhea, please go to another hospital!"

In fact, other hospitals, large tertiary facilities, were identified, for each state, as places that were willing and presumably able and ready to at least evaluate people who have symptoms.

One person was identified, at a small rural hospital in South Carolina, as not only having fever and diarrhea, but also has having recently visited Houston, Texas. That made the news.  Houston is about 260 miles from Dallas, the infamous epicenter of Ebola.

Now Ebola appears to be mostly under control in Africa and in the U.S.

Enter Measles

But a disease that is home grown is now spreading across America and featured on the national news but rarely in hospital communication with the public. That disease is measles.  Most parents have dutifully seen to it that their children have been vaccinated for measles and other childhood diseases.

But there will always be well-meaning parents who love their own children so much that they do not want to take a chance that the vaccination will have, as they have heard from sources they believe to be reliable, unintended side effects, particularly autism.  Other parents either cannot afford the trip to the doctor or the vaccination -- or just don't get around to getting their children vaccinated without any thought of side effects.

Hopefully, some of these parents will recognize that their failure to vaccinate their own children may lead to serious and very real consequences, including death, in other children and adults.

Who can best communicate with parents? Primary care physicians supported by infectious disease specialists and local hospitals can provide parents with opportunities for discussion among those who question medical science.

Scientists question themselves and work to find answers to their own questions and those of physicians as well as parents. Evidence needs to be provided in a setting of rational inquiry rather than in a setting of fear and suspicion.

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