While the idea of chickenpox and measles parties now seems ridiculous to most people, in the pre-vaccine era, it might not have been so strange. Since getting these diseases was inevitable, it might make some sense to try and control when your kids got sick. Did did pediatricians actually encourage parents to have measles parties?
Did Pediatricians Ever Encourage Parents to Have Measles Parties?
Some folks think they have evidence that they did!
Wait, did they really have measles?
These kids had German measles – better known as rubella. Of course, that is not the same thing as measles or rubeola.
Measles vs Rubella
Why do we worry about rubella? Unlike measles, it’s not because it can make kids very sick, but rather because if a pregnant woman gets rubella, then it can be devastating for their baby.
That’s why some folks tried to get rubella when they were kids, well before they reached the age when they could become pregnant.
How did that strategy work out?
Many articles advocating for rubella parties (German measles) appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Of course, those rubella parties didn’t prevent the rubella epidemics that came in 1964-65 and caused 12.5 million rubella virus infections and “resulted in 11,250 therapeutic or spontaneous abortions, 2,100 neonatal deaths, and 20,000 infants born with congenital rubella syndrome.”
For one thing, the Governor of Kentucky recently came out as having said he took his kids to one…
What’s the Evidence for Measles Parties?
But measles parties?
That can’t still be a thing, can it?
Until recently, I would have said, “no way!”
I mean, realistically, in most years, there were so few cases that it would have made it hard to find someone to intentionally expose your kid to.
That’s changed recently though.
“In Facebook group discussions, local activists have asked about holding “measles parties” to expose unvaccinated children to others infected with the virus so they can contract the disease and acquire immunity.”
Despite measles outbreak, anti-vaccine activists in Minnesota refuse to back down
As outbreaks get bigger, especially since they are typically concentrated among clusters of unvaccinated children and adults in small communities, the possibility of measles parties become more possible.
They might even be likely when you have anti-vaccine folks encouraging folks to have them!
What about evidence of measles parties in Brooklyn?
The health department, in their press conference, does mention reports of measles parties. And that they think some people may be using the exposures so that their intentionally sick kids will later test positive when titer tests are done.
I hope they aren’t, but who knows…
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people claiming that they would like to intentionally expose their kids to measles. Hopefully they are just folks trying to get attention and wouldn’t really do that to their kids.
Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary. There is no good reason to intentionally expose your kids to a potentially life-threatening disease.
Of course, with the emergency order in Brooklyn, the focus is now shifting.
So what do we now about the Brooklyn measles outbreak?
the outbreak began in October 2018 and was started by a traveler returning from Israel, where there is a large outbreak
as of early April, there have been 285 cases (we rarely see that many cases in an entire year, even when combining all of the cases in the whole country!)
most cases are in the Orthodox Jewish community, even though this is not a religious issue, except that this community has been targeted by an antivaccine group
429 cases have been in children
85 have been infants
only 24 have been fully vaccinated
the youngest case was an infant who was only 4 weeks old!
21 people have been hospitalized
5 have been admitted to the ICU!
What else do we know?
Although the outbreak is in its 7th month, which is very long for a measles outbreak in the post-vaccine era, there have been over 200 new cases in just the past few months!
So at a time when cases should have already stopped (most outbreaks only last a few months), or at least be decreasing, the Brooklyn outbreak continues to grow!
There is no sign of it stopping either, with new reports of more than 20 to 40 cases each week.
And that’s what brought on the April 9 declaration of an emergency order.
“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that any person who lives, works or resides within the 11205, 11206, 11221 and/or 11237 zip codes and who has not received the MMR vaccine within forty eight (48) hours of this Order being signed by me shall be vaccinated against measles unless such person can demonstrate immunity to the disease or document to the satisfaction of the Department that he or she should be medically exempt from this requirement. “
ORDER OF THE COMMISSIONER to All persons who reside, work or attend school in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York and to the parents and/or guardians of any child who resides, works or attends school in the neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York
Does this mean that they will be forcing everyone in Williamsburg to get vaccinated? And arresting those that don’t?
“I want to do the common sense point. We are trying to get people vaccinated. Our goal is not to find anyone. Our goal is not to shut down schools. Our goal is to get people vaccinated.”
Mayor Bill De Blasio
It should be clear that they are just trying to end the outbreak.
“People in violation of the order will be identified through identification of exposures. Disease detectives will check for immunization status or immunity when tracing the contacts of a person who has developed the illness. “
Oxiris Barbot, M.D. Commissioner of Health
And no one will be forced to get a vaccine. You might be fined if you insist on not getting vaccinated and you have been exposed to someone with measles, but you still won’t be forced to get the vaccine.
Why did it come to this?
Couldn’t they just quarantine folks who are exposed?
Well, they have been trying that…
And it hasn’t been working.
In addition to schools continuing to let in unvaccinated students, the health department is concerned that people in the community might actually be having measles parties!
“So we have not used a public health emergency to mandate vaccine in recent history. The circumstance of the combination of a large anti-vax movement in combination with a large outbreak has not happened in the way that it has happened right now.”
Dr. Herminia Palacio, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services
The case count jumped again on May 24, to 535 cases.
“The Health Department announced today that the number of measles cases has grown to 390, including two pregnant women diagnosed with the infection, one diagnosed in mid-April… Twelve individuals have received summonses for being non-compliant with the Emergency Order since the City began issuing summonses last week. “
If you are upset that this is happening in Brooklyn, the outbreaks and the response to the outbreaks, just remember that it is the anti-vaccine groups working in the community are to blame.