It’s time to give Measles the boot.

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Football-player on the  football ground

It can be gone. It’s up to us. Let’s finally give it the boot.

Measles hovers at the threshold of our home; let’s join together and give it a collective shove.

While much less common than in the past, the Measles virus still pops up here and there in our country, causing disease that puts about 25% of those who get infected into the hospital. It can cause a devastating brain infection for one in a thousand, but the primary way it inflicts its damage is by actively suppressing our immune system. The virus stuns, or inactivates, our white blood cells such that they become unable to protect the body. As a result, one becomes vulnerable to a variety of bacterial infections.

The most common cause of death from Measles is bacterial pneumonia. Meanwhile, it is one of the most transmissible viruses known. In other words, it is extremely, extremely contagious– possibly the most contagious germ there is.

Worldwide, Measles is a big problem. Did you know that as recently as 2000, Measles was the number one cause of vaccine preventable deaths, and the fifth leading cause of deaths overall, in children less than five years old? That makes me pause. That’s a lot of children who die.

And the thing is, no one needs to die from Measles. No one. The Measles vaccine is arguably the most effective vaccine modern medicine has to offer, and what’s more, it confers lifelong immunity. In other words, the vaccine protects you, completely and forever.

When I think about Measles, I hope for the day when it is just a memory, a disease that once was and is no longer. This vision is not far-fetched or out of reach.  In fact, The World Health Organization believes the Measles virus can be eradicated from the Earth. The virus has no animal reservoirs, which means that if it is not in humans causing disease, it has no place to hide. If humans are vaccinated, it has nowhere to go.

It can be gone, it is up to us. Vaccinate yourself, vaccinate your kids; let’s take that next step and be free of this disease. Let’s finally give Measles the boot.

Gratitude and the Yin of Medicine

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Vaccine.

Vaccine.

What does gratitude and a poke in the arm have in common? A lot.

Gratitude. What a beautiful word; to be grateful is to be thankful for today, to appreciate the people in your life and what you have, in the here and now. It is the awareness that what we have today is a very precious gift. Gratitude is in the behavioral science news a lot these days. Research has shown that being grateful improves ones health in diverse ways. Appreciating and giving thanks regularly has been shown to help one feel more satisfied with life, be happier, boost the immune system and even to reduce the chance of having a heart attack. In other words, giving thanks for what you have today strengthens your health in the present while also promoting a healthier future.

So how does this relate to getting a shot? Vaccination, in my opinion, is the “gratitude” of modern medicine. Receiving a vaccine preserves life as it is, while at the same time quietly setting the stage for a healthy future. Vaccinations have saved more lives than any other development in modern medicine, easily surpassing lives saved from antibiotics, cancer treatments, and even sanitation. Vaccination is the “yin” of medicine, quietly preserving a healthy state of being, rather than fighting disease when one is on the brink of death.

Having a grateful heart means making an effort to notice that “normal” is a gift, and is not to be taken for granted. It is not a fancy party or a vacation to the tropics; rather, it is getting out of bed in the morning, a cup of coffee, and your family. Gratitude is not glamorous.

Likewise, getting vaccinated does not grab headlines, and is not the flashy part of medicine. Sorry, no laser surgery or MRI guided stereotactic gamma knife operation at the Mayo Clinic. Nope, getting a shot is bread and butter prevention of a disease so you can live your life another day. Vaccines are truly the unsung hero of medicine, quietly doing the daily work of maintaining the status quo, of appreciating human health untouched by disease.

Next time you get that shot, maybe pause and reflect upon what that vaccine is quietly doing for you, now and in the future. A disease has not happened, and you have the opportunity to experience life to its fullest, now.