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    Health

    Woman dies from measles in America. Take a bow, anti-vaxxers

    3 July 2015

    This article from Slate reports that a woman in Washington State has died from measles – the first death from the virus in the US for 12 years. Normally I assume that any stance taken by that uber-smug liberal website will be wrong – but this time they’re bang on.

    Phil Plait writes that the victim probably contracted measles when she visited a health facility – someone later identified as having measles was there at the same time. The woman who died was apparently taking medications that damaged her immune system: she died of pneumonia caused by the measles infection.

    Then some killer facts:

    Vaccination rates in that area of Washington are lower than they should be …

    [The death] comes right after a huge and awful backlash against a new California law [making it harder for parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children] by the anti-vax crowd, including actor Jim Carrey, who tweeted a series of foolish and blatantly incorrect statements about vaccines. He brought up the zombie ideas of mercury poisoning (a non-issue) and conspiratorial Big Pharma nonsense.

    Let me be very, very clear: Anti-vax rhetoric like that makes people scared to get vaccinated. Rates drop, herd immunity drops, outbreaks occur, and people get sick. Some die. This is a direct, step-by-step chain.

    Take a bow, anti-vaxxers. You are not directly responsible for this woman’s death, but your pseudoscientific scaremongering – much of it resembling the bogus claims of homeopathy – helps makes such deaths possible.

    Incidentally, History Today has just published an article about the eradication of smallpox, the last stores of which will be destroyed this year. There were plenty of anti-vaxxers around in those days – as late as 1889, there were over 100 anti-vaccination societies in Britain. In an era when people knew next to nothing about medical science, perhaps we can make excuses for them. But not for Jim Carrey and the lunatics who support him today.