Measles has reared its spotty red head in Palatine, Illinois for the second time in the last month at a KinderCare Learning Center. Five infants under the age of 1 were infected. Under the age of 1 — these tiny humans who can’t walk yet are too young to be vaccinated effectively, even if their parents are planning on vaccinating them according to the recommended schedule.
Luckily, they still have a shot at protecting their kid; if their baby is 6 months or younger, a doctor can give he or she an injection of human normal immunoglobulin, which will temporarily increase the number of antibodies in their system, providing immediate (yet temporary) protection against measles. If their baby is between 6 months and 12 months old, he or she can get a dose of the MMR vaccine earlier than the routine age of 13 months, given within 3 days exposure to the virus. He or she will still need the MMR shot at 13 months and again at five years old. (I’m no doctor, but I’ve asked doctors and nurses about protection for newborns and infants. This is the information they have told me.)
With most of my generation vaccinated against measles, this whole anti-vaccination movement creates an awareness problem; we’ve never seen measles in action and, therefore, underestimate its seriousness. A parent doesn’t know that their child has been exposed to the measles until it’s too late. Most people don’t know how contagious the virus really is; the virus is spread through the air and stays around for about two hours after its sneezed or coughed into a stranger’s face. I don’t think most people will know their kid has measles until the rash appears, as many of the early symptoms look exactly like the flu. It gets worse — measles is contagious before the rash appears. If there is any reason to quarantine your kid from the outside world, this is it.
And this is why places like Disneyland are such a huge problem — right up there with airplanes — or any place where a large group of people gather. One anti-vaccine mega-church in Texas — Eagle Mountain International — experienced such an outbreak in 2013 and offered free vaccinations as a result. Measles is much scarier when it’s actually happening, isn’t it? (Anyone want to throw down some money on making t-shirts that say, “Disneyland: I survived the outbreak. Vaccinate.”)
Measles is not without a list of potential complications. One of the most common is a bacterial ear infection. As a kid, I got a few of those every winter, and they were bad. One time my ear wax changed colors; it looked like little gray pieces of chicken. One time my ear was so impacted with wax my doctor had to reach into the ear canal and fish out the wax with a little hoop. It felt like a alien probing around my skull. Now, I have permanent scaring on both of my ear drums. Ear infections are bad enough on their own. Throw measles into the mix? Fuck that. Pneumonia is common as well, and Encephalitis is another awesome complication. For every 1 in 1,000 people it causes inflammation in the brain leading to vomiting, convulsions, and, although rare, coma or death. If you’re pregnant, take special care to avoid measles because it can cause pregnancy loss, pre-term labor or low birth weight. Measles does not make happy and healthy newborn babies.
If you know anyone who refuses to vaccinate, tell them this: It is not just about your kid(s); it’s about everyone and their kid(s). Those parents had their choice of protecting their infant from measles taken away from them when you and your loony band of anti-vaxxers decided that junk-science was more accurate and truthful than real science and decades of research. Please talk to your pediatrician about the MMR vaccine. Measles should be taken seriously and anyone who says it’s a “benign childhood illness” is an idiot. Do most kids die from it? No, but there can be complications.