Ever since Andrew Wakefield and his cohorts published an article in The Lancet that warned of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine being linked to autism and bowel obstructions, the anti-vaccine movement has been gaining ground.
Even though the article was later proven false, the medical journal published a retraction, and Wakefield lost his credentials to practice medicine, people are still flocking to the movement. Nearly 10% of Americans are skeptical about the safety of vaccines despite many of them receiving the vaccines when they were younger.
Not to mention they are examples of the vaccine working.
Environmental signs seem to point to a new epidemic for a disease that had a vaccine until this movement gained ground. Researchers believe that Lyme disease cases may reach record levels in the United States and all over the world within the next few years.
Lyme disease is a serious condition that not many people think about simply because they are never exposed to it. It is only present in areas where ticks, specifically deer ticks, come in contact with rodents, usually field mice, that carry the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.
Humans can contract Lyme disease if a tick, which has previously bitten a contaminated mouse, bites them.
The parts of the United States where this is common are predominantly isolated to forested areas in the northern states. However, recent data shows that this area is expanding. Similarly, affected areas in Europe and parts of Asia are expanding as well.
This expansion means that more people will be exposed to the disease, many of whom do not know they are susceptible or how to identify the symptoms. Researchers, like Rick Ostfeld, read the tell-tale signs of an impending Lyme disease epidemic in the abundance of acorns strewn about the forest floor.
The acorns act as a plentiful food source for the mice. The increased mouse population creates improved opportunities for young ticks to become exposed to the infected blood of the mice. And thus an epidemic begins.
Typically, when conditions are right for an epidemic, scientists go into overdrive finding and producing a vaccine or other treatments. There was a vaccine for Lyme disease at the turn of the 21st century, but the anti-vaccination movement helped put a stop to it.
Unverified reports of the vaccine causing arthritis caused many to opt out of the vaccine and sales fell. No study was ever produced that showed a correlation between the vaccine and instances of arthritis against a control group. But, with no one buying, the pharmaceutical company pulled it from the shelves just four years after the FDA approved it.
In a brilliant twist of fate, the vaccine is still readily available to certain individuals in the U.S.—our pets. Dogs have always been particularly susceptible to Lyme disease because of their chosen location for walking and playing. Therefore, a veterinary vaccine for Lyme disease is still widely distributed in affected areas.