Cost of a measles infection

I’m listening to Medical School for Everyone, Grand Rounds Cases. There are some interesting points regarding what happens when you have an illness that is hard to diagnose. If you go to Specialist X you will probably be diagnosed with a disease within that specialist’s area, regardless of the disease that you might actually have. If the specialists truly are stumped then they fall back on the all-purpose “It is all in your head” and send you to the psychiatrist who gives you pills that you’ll eventually stop taking because they aren’t helpful.

One lecture concerns an unvaccinated American child who contracts measles while on a trip to France. He comes into contact with about 110 other people while contagious. One of them (his unvaccinated brother) falls ill. The rest are hunted down by public health officials who check vaccine status, administer boosters and other prophylactics. The lecturer says that the cost to the local public health agency was over $300,000 and that didn’t count a couple of weeks of hospitalization in a room with negative air pressure for the two children who actually became ill.

5 thoughts on “Cost of a measles infection

  1. @paddy Ditto. Our family of 4 kids all had measles at the same time, missed a week of school, no big deal, no “public health” freak out. We were all vaccinated with the required schedule at the time, but it had many fewer shots than today. Today’s schedule includes shots for maladies such as Rotavirus, which causes diarrhea (added at the recommendation of an advisory panel which included the owner of the Rotavirus vaccine patent, who soon afterwards sold the patent for $182M).

  2. Paddy, measles isn’t always the relatively benign illness you remember from your childhood, and it’s often much worse for adults. There’s a reason we vaccinate for it. Here are some highlights from Wikipedia:

    Complications occur in about 30% and may include diarrhea, blindness, inflammation of the brain, and pneumonia among others.

    Measles affects about 20 million people a year, primarily in the developing areas of Africa and Asia. It causes the most vaccine-preventable deaths of any disease. It resulted in about 96,000 deaths in 2013, down from 545,000 deaths in 1990.

    Most of those who are infected and who die are less than five years old.

    Complications with measles are relatively common, ranging from mild complications such as diarrhea to serious complications such as pneumonia (either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia), bronchitis (either direct viral bronchitis or secondary bacterial bronchitis), otitis media, acute brain inflammation (and very rarely SSPE—subacute sclerosing panencephalitis), and corneal ulceration (leading to corneal scarring).

    Complications are usually more severe in adults who catch the virus.

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