I am not sure if I ever had measles. I know I had gerbils. And a hamster once. But I don’t recall ever having measles.
Of course, measles aren’t small furry animals or some popular Hasbro toy that is in short supply around the holidays. The Measles are not a Korean Pop boy band or an annoying TV sitcom family. Measles are not a breakfast cereal or small colored candies that fizz in your mouth.
Measles are not something you possess, even though you can have them. And there is no such thing as a single measle. When you have the measles, you have them all. And when they leave you can never have them again.
As we know, measles is a highly contagious viral disease that gives children a blotchy red rash and a bad fever and a runny nose for a week or so and then leaves to find another place to stay. Kind of like really loud house guests who have overstayed their welcome.
It is not easy to make a highly contagious disease which causes spots and diarrhea sound enticing. But if you didn’t know that measles is a disease, it could easily be mistaken for a viral cultural event on social media. Because like the disease it represents, the name is pretty catchy.
I guess the creative team at disease control deserves some credit.
Measles have been around for centuries. The virus is thought to have originated in cows. How it migrated to humans I don’t really want to know, but fortunately a measles vaccine was developed just around the time another viral phenomenon was infecting the country: McDonalds hamburgers.
When I was born there was yet to be an effective vaccine for measles. So even though I have no memory of ever contracting measles, the statistical wisdom seems to be that I did, along with millions of other kids. Therefore, I must be immune.
I can’t say that fact gives me a lot of comfort, but I do remember many other kids in my grade staying home with measles, as well as other funny sounding illnesses like mumps and chickenpox, so I could very well have taken the Measles Challenge and not even known it.
At the time, it was just something kids contracted and nobody thought too much about it. Except the very small percentage of poor victims who faced complications. Or died. Their families thought a lot about it.
My kids have all been vaccinated against measles. And mumps. And chicken pox. And diphtheria and polio and tetanus and whooping cough and several other nasty diseases. When they were young they endured the painful pinch of sharp needles injecting mysterious vaccines with ominous acronyms like MMRV and DTaP and HPV at my insistence.
Had I given them the choice between something called the measles and a pointy needle full of MMR, I am sure they would have chosen measles. It just sounds better.
Let’s face it, unless they contain an oral dose of whiskey, shots are not pleasant.
But I made that decision for my kids because regardless of their intrusive and distasteful administration, vaccines are effective. So much so that the CDC declared the measles eradicated in 2000 thanks to an army of health officials and pediatricians all across the country who systematically made young kids like mine afraid of the doctor’s office.
Not so fast.
If you listen to the news you know that the measles are breaking out again, like a bad case of acne. It seems The Measles are all the rage again. Quite literally. But not because vaccines are ineffective, but because not everyone chooses to subject their kids to sharp needles with viral concoctions that are designed to artificially stimulate the human immune system.
Or as famed immunologist Dr. William Shakespeare put it: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question.
As long as people have the right information, I really don’t care what they decide. And I respect their decision, particularly as it relates to the measles.
As someone who survived the disease easily as a rite of passage, I say let the body take care of it naturally. The risk of a bad outcome is still relatively low.
As someone who immunized his children and watched them grow up to be healthy adults without fear of traditional diseases, I say shove those bad boy sharps deep in the arm and inject away.
As long as we remember that we are making the decision for our children, not for ourselves.
And with that, it is time to enjoy a couple other viral cultural events infecting the nation. The last episode of Game of Measles is soon to air and Measles: Endgame is still in the theaters at fever pitch.
Spoiler alert: some characters face bad outcomes.