CA Health Officials: Please Don't Have "Measles Parties"

Christine Rousselle
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Posted: Feb 09, 2015 5:20 PM
CA Health Officials: Please Don't Have "Measles Parties"

File this one under "headdesk": California health officials are warning parents that having a "measles party" is a bad idea. A "measles party" consists of an infected child taking on the role of typhoid Mary (Measles Melissa, perhaps?) and infecting other unvaccinated children with the disease so they develop immunity the old-fashioned way: by suffering through an illness that has the potential to make their brains swell and render them deaf, brain damaged, or dead.

I wish I were joking.

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

Back in the days before the chicken pox vaccine was developed, it was fairly common for parents to intentionally expose their children to the disease in order to develop an immunity against it. (Full disclosure: My mother tried this with me, but I never wound up actually getting the chicken pox.) While the chicken pox is a relatively common childhood illness, its symptoms are more pronounced in teens and adults. Thus, there was an incentive to catching chicken pox as a child to develop an immunity. Now that we're out of the dark ages of the early 1990s and have a relatively painless vaccine against the illness (which, full disclosure: I received), there's no reason for anyone to actually contract chicken pox and deal with the risks of scarring, infections, pneumonia or death that accompany the virus. While these risks are rare, they still exist. Roughly 100 people per year die of the chicken pox, plus the virus can reactivate later on in life as the shingles. This doesn't sound like a fun time.

Point blank, bringing your child to a "measles party" should be considered a form of child abuse. It is absolutely stupid to expose your child to this disease. Author Roald Dahl wrote a heart-wrenching account of his daughter's death from the measles. I'd hate for that to happen to any children today, especially since we have the technology to prevent people from getting the illness.