Thursday, April 3, 2014
A Call out to the "Invicible" Young Adults--What You Don't Know About Childhood Diseases Could Prevent You From Having Any Children
One thing we’ve all heard during the discussion of the affordable care act is that young people don’t worry a lot about their health. It’s therefore likely that few young adults ever think about whether or not they received adequate vaccination.
Perhaps if they better understood the consequences, they would do so. What you've heard is true many childhood diseases are much more serious for adults than for children. For a general overview look here. Here’s some information about chickenpox.
Outbreaks of Mumps are being reported all over the country. This week there are 116 cases in and near Ohio State University in Columbus. Fordham University in New York reported 11 in late February. Just today, the NYC Board of Health reported 21 cases of Measels and Rubella (German Measels) isn't likely to be far behind. These numbers may seem small—until you appreciate that Mumps used to be a very common childhood disease in the United States but is now very rare because of a highly effective vaccine. Unfortunately, many parents have chosen not to vaccinate their child against Mumps because of concerns about the MMR vaccine—that now turn out to be the result of fraudulent scientific data. This piece put out by the Center for American Progress explains how states responding to political pressure from parents have been remarkably lax in enforcing mandatory vaccination laws for school children. At this point, almost anyone with a concern to claim an exemption.
So back to Mumps. Few had heard of it, and no one knew what should really be the main attention grabber. It can impair fertility—even to the extent of causing sterility. There hasn't been a lot of research done recently and permanent sterility is rare- probably no more than 10%. But why chance it when it can be prevented?
And that’s not the worst of it. Measels and Rubella carry even greater risks for young adults. A case of Rubella early in pregnancy caries with a 20% chance of serious birth defects. The risk of permanent hearing loss after measels is highest in children under 5 and adults over 20.
The good news on the public health front is that it’s never too late to be vaccinated. And preventive vaccination (even for childhood diseases) is covered under the Affordable Act. Young adults would be wise to look into their own vaccination status. If pediatric records aren’t available, a blood test can measure antibodies that show the presence (or absence) of vaccination against many serious childhood diseases that are coming back to infect young adults. But if vaccination laws continue to be lax, long after the reason for so many people's misgivings has turned out to be a fraud, we will not be able to get ahead of what should to everyone be a very frightening trend