The virus known as Measles
There are many viruses today that at one time were a deadly disease, however because of advances in technology and vaccinations, we no longer give them a second thought. Prior to the discovery of a vaccination, the United States reported a total of over 50,000 cases of measles outbreaks each year with 450-500 cases resulting in death. (NCIRD) Since the disbursement of an effective vaccination, the measles has been almost eradicated in the United States; however it is still abundant in other countries around the world. (The college of physicians of Philadelphia) Is this something we think of when we are traveling? Is it possible for people to visit or immigrate to the United States carrying the disease with them?
The measles virus can be dated as far back as 900 CE however many scientists believe it has always been with us. (David) The measles was frequently mistaken for smallpox and at the time it was believed that they were the same disease with varying but similar signs and symptoms. In 900ac Rhazes, an Arab physician, described measles in his medical notes differentiating smallpox and measles as two separate diseases, but were still thought to originate from the same cause. Since measles is an illness affecting mainly children over six months old, it was believed to be a “poison” passed to the child from the mother. Once a child developed the disease, he was believed to be rid of the “poison”. (Axton) The next known record of measles was in 1544, in “The Boke of Chyldren” a book written by Thomas Phaer. Phaer states that the two diseases were by one cause but passed not by the mother to the child, but from one infected person to another. (Jr) With this new understanding of the disease it became common practice for parents of an effected child to hang a red curtain in the house to warn others of the presence of the illness. Parents commonly brought their children to these houses to expose them to the illness much like the “pox parties” associated with the chicken pox virus. It wasn’t until 1657 that the first official epidemic was recorded by John Hull in Boston, Massachusetts. Although the disease ran rampant very few deaths from the disease were recorded with this outbreak. (Axton) Finally, in 1670, English doctor Thomas Sydenham described in detail his sons’ encounter of the measles, successfully distinguishing a clear difference in the measles and small pox. (Axton) Over the next century, measles epidemics began to appear all over the world and the number of deaths due to the disease increased significantly. (The college of physicians of Philadelphia) In 1757, Scottish physician Francis home attempted to transmit the virus from host children to healthy children verifying the theory of the disease originating from an infectious agent residing within the blood stream. A true understanding of the measles virus came in 1846 when Peter Ludwig Panum was sent to the Faeroe Isles to investigate the outbreak of seventeen isolated islands. In his investigation Panum was able to track the virus from village to village isolating it back to a seaman from Copenhagen who appeared to be the source of the illness. Panum’s investigation developed a detailed timeline establishing an incubation period, contagious period, possible transmission method, and that people who had acquired the disease as a child seemed to be immune. (Axton) In 1954, Dr. Thomas Peebles was the first to isolate the measles virus furthering the ability to test and study the virus in its pure form. The isolation of the virus, along with the advances in growth and attenuation understanding made by Dr. Hektoen in 1910, paved the way for the development of an effective vaccine against the measles virus, made by lab director John Enders in 1963. (The college of physicians of Philadelphia) Measles is the term for the disease caused by the Rubeola virus. In the genus Morbilivirus it is part of the larger classification Paramyxoviridae...
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