Our View: Research the facts about measles

Published 5:32 pm Friday, May 17, 2019

The line between facts and fake information continues to blur, well beyond a point anyone could have imagined in the pre-internet age. Anyone with a computer, some free time and the technological capacity of a third grader can start a “news website” or Facebook page now and mislead the public rather easily.

It’s amazing what people will believe if something says “news,” even if the source is clearly fake or if the owner does little or no actual reporting. That’s how misinformation gets shared and how rumors start.

We say this because a cyber-war of sorts continues to be waged online about the measles outbreak, which has now affected 839 people around the country, including several cases in Georgia. The once-eradicated disease has made a comeback in 2019 because of the anti-vaccination movement and a belief by many that the vaccine can lead to autism.

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The movement is possible, in part, because many mistrust pharmaceutical companies and the media in general. A quick look at social media reflects both of these beliefs, which have in part led to a downtick in vaccinations around the country.

Now, it’s certainly a good thing for people to dig deeper into decisions, ask questions and seek answers about any product, and doubly so when it’s a medical decision. However, there are so many places to get information now that the struggle has become trying to find one accurate spot to find real information, not something politically motivated or biased because of a financial kickback.

In searching the internet today, you can spend just as much time looking for an answer to a question as you can researching the site the answer comes from to ensure it’s a credible source.

Unfortunately, whenever a legitimate source does put out information that is later disproven, it only adds to the mistrust. A good example occurred in Alabama recently.

Last week, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced a presumptive case of measles, which understandably caused alarm. Days after the announcement, tests for that presumptive case came back negative, meaning Alabama still hasn’t had a measles case.

That news didn’t go over well online, and it gave people in the anti-vax movement a louder voice and a case to point to. The ADPH put the information out quickly, which was the right decision, given the ongoing public health crisis.

However, many people are now blaming the ADPH and the media for sounding a false alarm, which only fuels the anti-vaccination movement. Some outlets did not report the case as “presumptive” and many ran with it as a confirmed case, which reflects poorly on everyone in the industry.

Unfortunately, the measles vaccination debate is just like any other on social media right now. If you want to find an argument one way or the other about the safety or dangers of vaccines, there are millions of website results that will back up your argument, regardless of those site’s knowledge or research on the subject.

Newspapers, television stations and other media outlets continue to fight that battle, not only when it comes to vaccinations, but involving all information. It’s not a battle ending any time soon, at least not in a world where many people care more about finding anything to back their own personal belief rather than the actual facts.

However, we do hope readers will research the actual facts on measles, a disease that was declared eradicated in 2000 but is now affecting hundreds of people in our country.

A MMR shot prevents the disease from spreading and stops you and your family from getting sick. Research shows that side effects from the shot are rare, and if you’re interested in reading them, the Center for Disease Control has all the information you could ever want on its website. There is even dedicated information on the rumored link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Measles continues to spread, and medical experts say that a vaccination keeps children safe and disease free.

We fear that measles may move from eradicated to a regular infection if people continue to avoid vaccinating their children.