In 1998, there were only 100 cases of measles reported in the entire nation. That figure is, as any parent could have told you, equal to the number of cases every school in America suffered through every year. In fact, just in 1989 - 1991, 56,000 cases were reported to the center for Disease Control (CDC), peaking at 28,000 cases in 1990. In fact, in 1941, 894,134 cases were reported. Even the introduction of the vaccine in 1963 the average number of cases for the next three decades ran at over 500,000 a year.
Officials at the CDC credit an increase in the awareness in parents for the need to obtain not only the one vaccination that has been the usual course between the ages of 12 - 15 months but to also insure that their children receive a second vaccination before the start of school. It is this second dose, recommended by the CDC since about 5% of all children do not become immune to measles with the first dose but nearly 100% are if the full course is followed.
This disease, that is characterized by fever, cough, watery eyes and the blotchy red rash we all remember, also often led to ear infections or encephalitis, a complication that led to brain swelling, deafness and even death.
In the rest of the world, however, the news is far from good. In fact, it is estimated that at least 80% of the reported cases in America were "internationally imported", in other words, the disease was either acquired in other nations or by coming in contact with individuals living or traveling in other nations.
Now, what I find of greatest interest in all of the reporting about this, admittedly, grand news is that the part that your federal government played in this success. Not only has the Center for Disease Control been the clearinghouse for all of the statistical information but it has also been instrumental in providing guidance to researchers in areas like the geography of the disease, the economics of the afflicted and where the vaccinations and education was most sorely needed.
Another federal office that is being ignored is the NIH, the National Institute for Health. This department provides billions in research grants for both the development of improved vaccines but also funds to accumulate statistics concerning the effectiveness of the measures to control the disease.
Naturally, both the CDC and the NIH are constantly forced to fight for every dollar that they can wrest from this miserly and miserable Congress. Inasmuch as Congress has the best health insurance that the taxpayer can afford, members have little interest in providing these two ultra valuable offices with the funds they deserve.
Also, in a nation obsessed with personal wealth at any cost, prying any money out of their greedy little paws can be nearly impossible. This even though America budgets only $15 billion for health related research in 1998 while spending $638 billion on gambling, $95 billion on alcohol and $50 billion on cigarettes. Even though a poll by the non-profit advocacy group Research!America showed that two-thirds of Americans want to double the funds budgeted for pure medical research, Clinton has only proposed a 2.1% increase for 2000 and Congress doesn't appear to feel it necessary to offer any increase, whatsoever.
Nevertheless, even faced with the horrors of a Republican Congress, America may soon be able to include measles on the list of deadly childhood diseases nearly or completely eradicated within our borders of smallpox, polio and diphtheria.
Want to know how to help increase the amount of money that the federal government budgets for pure research, the kind that Corporate America has no intention of funding? Here are two great sites to start with. First, there is Research!America. The other place to look for ways to help is at Funding First. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
If you honestly feel that your future health is in good hands with only the pharmaceutical industry providing the research into cures or comfort for tomorrow's diseases then continue to demand that you be allowed to live in this nation without the onus of paying taxes. If, however, you are like me and know and believe that Corporate America has absolutely no interest in your health short of whatever they can profit from, then you realize that the pure science that your tax dollars fund provides everyone with knowledge that may contribute to the breakthrough for cures that the drug industry would have never discovered. It is that pure science that has made available most of the greatest inventions of this century but which only came from the inquisitive and probing minds that the drug industry shuns. As it is always, it is your choice which scenario you desire; industry sponsored research that brings you cures for baldness and sexual dysfunction or tax dollar research who's uses cannot be determined immediately and which may not prove profitable instantly but which may be the foundation for unknowable benefits to all mankind. Your choice!
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