Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.
But something else happened.
Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.
“So it’s really been a mystery — why do children stop dying at such high rates from all these different infections following introduction of the measles vaccine,” says Michael Mina, a postdoc in biology at Princeton University and a medical student at Emory University.
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Using computer models, they found that the number of measles cases in these countries predicted the number of deaths from other infections two to three years later.
“We found measles predisposes children to all other infectious diseases for up to a few years,” Mina says.
And the virus seems to do it in a sneaky way.
Like many viruses, measles is known to suppress the immune system for a few weeks after an infection. But previous studies in monkeys have suggested that measles takes this suppression to a whole new level: It erases immune protection to other diseases, Mina says.
VACCINATE. YOUR. DAMN. KIDS.