THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Measles spreads through Wales years after autism scare

A measles outbreak in southwest Wales infected 1,219 people between November and early July approximately 15 years after a debunked claim that the vaccine caused autism spread through the media.

There were only 105 measles cases in all of Wales in 2011. The outbreak is partly the result of a 1998 study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield that suggested the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine might cause autism. A local newspaper in southwest Wales heavily covered the fears, causing resistance to continue even after the autism connection was disproved, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Measles is a respiratory condition that causes rash, cough and fever. In rare cases, measles can lead to pneumonia and deafness. Approximately one out of 1,000 cases results in death.

"Despite the fact that it's one of the greatest health measures ever invented by man or woman, there seems to still be a small residue of humanity that objects to the very idea of immunization," Dai Lloyd, a doctor in Wales, said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "If you go around the cemetery you can see the historical evidence of childhood slaughter from pre-immunization days."

After nearly eliminating the disease, cases are up in France, the U.S. and England. In 1997, the MMR vaccination rate among two-year-olds in England was approximately 92 percent. The vaccination rate dropped to 80 percent in 2004 following the release of the Wakefield study.

Wakefield rejects the idea that he caused the Welsh outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reports.