For several years now, misinformed celebrity endorsements and non-scientifically-supported opinions from certain "anti-vaccination" groups have sparked a debate over whether vaccines administered during childhood are increasing the incidences of autism. What they may actually be increasing, however, is the frequency of certain diseases that the U.S.—largely through vaccination—had all but eradicated.

Because of all publicity that the "anti-vaxxers" have generated (and not because of confirmed scientific findings), some parents have opted to not to vaccinate their children for diseases like measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus, diptheria and whooping cough. Unfortunately, the anti-vaccine movement may now be responsible for an increase in cases of whooping cough and measles.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that, while still evident in other countries, was thought to have been wiped out in the U.S. That is, until the last several years and the rise of the anti-vaxxers. Cases of measles have increased from a national low of 37 in 2004 up to a high of 220 in 2011. Already in 2014, there have been reports of at least 106 cases, including outbreaks in New York and California. This disease can spread quickly and can easily travel into the U.S. from other countries.

According to the CDC, measles is caused by a virus and starts with a fever. Shortly after the fever sets in, the virus causes a runny nose and red eyes. Once the victim breaks out in a rash of tiny red spots, it’s clear he has contracted measles. It usually starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles is very dangerous for children and those with weakened immune systems, sometimes leading to pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.

Fortunately, measles is very easily prevented with two rounds of the MMR vaccine. To keep measles and certain other diseases from becoming prevalent once again, children need to be vaccinated. Talk to your doctor. Credible sources will tell you that vaccines do not cause autism.

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