Monday, October 28, 2013

I called it - first measles death in the ongoing outbreak in the Dutch Bible belt

I was at university when a reactor in the Chernobyl atomic power plant burst, causing the largest radiation contamination before Fukushima. I recall that for years, milk in Europe would have the Becquerel printed on them. What I remember most about April 1986 is the face of my Physics professor, when he announced that he would not teach for the rest of the semester, since he was the main radiation safety advisor to his party. There was just quiet resignation, not a hint of triumph or satisfaction about having been right all along about the dangers of this particular type of power plant.

Without wanting to sound overly dramatic, I have an idea how he feels. Today, the Dutch Health Ministry RIVM announced the death of a 17 year old young woman from measles complications. She had not been vaccinated against measles, like most in the current (and previous) outbreak(s) in the Dutch Bible belt. I called it. I did not want to be right. However, measles in the developed world have a mortality rate of 1 reported death per 1000 reported cases. Last week, the reported cases in the Netherlands reached 2016 of which 121 had been treated in the hospital, 61 with pneumonia and 1 with encephalitis. It was just a matter of time. And while the death of one young woman, as tragic as it may be, cannot be compared to the death and devastation that Chernobyl caused, it would have been totally preventable. Bitter.

Get your MMRs.