Measles respiratory tract and spreads throughout the body, most

Measles is a contagious, serious disease
caused by the rubeola virus, which is passed in the air and through direct
contact. The virus infects the respiratory tract and spreads throughout the
body, most commonly affecting children under the age of five.  As reported by The World Health Organization (WHO), measles usually begins with a high fever, cough, and eventually
erupts into a severe rash.  Deaths
associated with measles result from serious complications such as blindness,
diarrhea, encephalitis, and pneumonia.

The disease remains one of the primary causes
of death among children globally, even with a safe and effective vaccine, also known as the MMR vaccine.  Global deaths from measles have decreased by
84% between 2000 and 2016 following massive vaccination efforts.  Medical experts recommend that 92-95%
of children are vaccinated to maintain herd immunity, where enough people are
vaccinated in order to make the spread highly unlikely. As
reported by the WHO, major epidemics have occurred every
two years before the introduction of the MMR vaccine. Although vaccination
continues to be the most effective preventative measure, epidemics are still
occurring.  One of these outbreaks followed a massive decrease in
MMR vaccination as a result of false information about the MMR vaccine.  Thus, this major outbreak can be
attributed to this false scientific information, specifically by research fraud
and social media involvement.

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The study conducted by Andrew Wakefield was the
first to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. After the
paper was published in 1998, there was a significant decrease in children being
vaccinated for measles world-wide.  The study claimed that the MMR vaccine had
caused autism in children who were already exhibiting pre-existing symptoms of
autism.  The study also left out data
that did not prove the MMR-autism link.  New diseases are a regular
occurrence in science, so it is natural that parents of children with shyness
and anxiety were looking for answers.
Since parents decide whether their
children should be vaccinated, they often look to external sources for direction
and advice. This includes family physicians and healthcare
professionals. 

Healthcare professionals assume that the
public will make the right choices if they are given the necessary information.   This however, can backfire.  A young mother who has never seen a case of
measles and is uneducated on herd immunity, may have read about a five year old
child who supposedly developed autism after MMR.  With this information, it is likely that the
parent would not vaccinate their child.  The
Wakefield paper can be used as a lesson, where necessary healthcare information
needs to be accepted on the account that it is valid, and that a study
conclusion cannot always be taken at face value.  Thus, it is evident that fraud in the
research methods of this study was a leading contributor to this global measles
epidemic.

In a society largely driven by the news
media, the way scientific information is portrayed shapes public anxiety.  In the case of the MMR vaccine, the media was
highly involved in the propagation of the false vaccination information. As
noted by The Society for Applied Microbiology, a press
conference by the Royal Free Hospital in London advocated against MMR two
days before the Wakefield paper was published. 
By the time it was released, the anti-MMR message had already been
distributed in a video news release
and in major newspapers such as The Daily Mail. In addition, a study published by Pediatrics found that 95% of parents were likely
to report social media networks as their source of information for their vaccination
decision. 

The
media fuels health scares in order to market effective banner headlines. The
media was able to propagate MMR vaccination anxiety and fuel a society already
aware of this health issue.  The research
fraud conducted in the Wakefield paper created this public anxiety, and the
media fueled it. Social media had a large impact on the speed and degree
to which the false MMR to this measles outbreak.

The History of Vaccines  looked at the history of measles
and how it has affected research and public health.  No reputable study has ever confirmed
the link between MMR and autism. 
However, the influence of this false information was profound, and had
it not occurred, the risk of a measles outbreak would have been slim to none.  Vaccination is the most effective
preventative measure for measles and many other infectious diseases,
contributing to herd immunity.  As
reported by the CDC, vaccinations are the single factor
contributing to the decline in outbreaks diphtheria and rubella.   Vaccinations have decreased the spread of
these diseases, and could have protected many against measles had it not been
for this false information.

To prevent
future impacts, peer review processes should be strengthened.  Researchers must lay out all raw data and be aware
of the implications of misinterpretation. 
Furthermore, committees should be trained
to analyze the validity of the scientific information that is given to the public.
The importance of vaccinations during an outbreak should be portrayed
through popular articles, which present reputable studies in a way that parents
can understand.  Private insurance
companies can offer financial incentives for vaccinations such as MMR.  Since it is difficult to change the minds of
those affected by the vaccine scare, children who are not vaccinated should not
be accepted into schools and daycare programs.   Although many would argue that their children
have the right to education, part of education is maintaining a safe
environment, which includes vaccines.  This
could prompt parents to ensure their children have received the MMR vaccine as
a safety measure.

The contribution
of false science information in the MMR outbreak should be taken as a lesson. The impact it had on society has greatly affected the
way people perceive a wide range of diseases. As quoted by the Scientific American, “the ability to
prove something false continues to be a hallmark of science. But scientists
need to improve the way they do their research and how they disseminate
evidence.”