As reports of measles outbreaks continue to emerge from all over the world, one lawmaker in Texas doesn’t seem to see a problem, not in the US at least, because the US has antibiotics…
Texas state Representative Bill Zedler – an outspoken anti-vaxxer and member of the House Public Health Committee, who’s also worked in the health-care industry – recently told reporters, in the US, people aren’t dying of measles because they have antibiotics.
Being the expert he is though, Zedler should really know measles can’t be treated with antibiotics because measles is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Sure, if a child develops a bacterial infection while they have measles, such as an ear infection or pneumonia, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, but this doesn’t cure measles.
In fact, there’s no specific treatment for measles. The only reason the number of deaths from measles has reduced since the 1960s, when Zedler was young, is because of vaccinations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), before the development of the vaccine in 1963, there were three to four million cases of measles in the US every year, including around 500 deaths. Thanks to the vaccination, measles was declared eliminated from the US in 2000.
Zedler, however, doesn’t seem to see a link between the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement and the rise in measles cases we’re currently seeing around the world.
He told the Texas Observer:
They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in third-world countries they’re dying of measles. Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they’re not dying in America. This is not the Soviet Union, you know.
Texas alone has so far had eight confirmed cases of measles this year, while in 2017, cases of mumps reached a 20-year high – both diseases can be prevented with the MMR vaccination.
Despite this, Zedler – along with other anti-vaxxer lawmakers – want to make it easier for parents to opt out of giving their children vaccinations, and have even filed a bill in order to try to push this law forward.
Public health officials have said the law would make it extremely difficult to identify and stop the outbreak of certain diseases, especially among schoolchildren.
Peter Hotez, a leading vaccine scientist and dean for the National School for Tropical Medicine at Baylor Medical School, said:
This is the modus operandi for anti-vaxxers in Texas: to promote exemptions, obfuscate and minimize transparency. To do this in the middle of a measles outbreak in Texas is especially unconscionable.
In Texas, the number of children with exemptions from vaccinations – known as ‘conscience exemptions’ – has shockingly risen from around 2,300 in 2003, to roughly 53,000 in 2017.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.