Measles in my backyard

by Ginger on May 14, 2010

in Mom Thoughts

So, I had this other blog post all planned out. On my way to work, I was crafting it in my head (what, I’ve got to do something with my commute), and I was all excited. You know how it is when you get an idea for a post and it just comes together seamlessly? I was pumped. And then I got to work. And I opened my email. And this was the headline of the top message:

Confirmed Measles Case

And there went my nice lovely pre-planned post. Because that email was from my pediatricians office, informing all the patients that there was a confirmed case of measles that came through their office. A 6 year old girl who had not been vaccinated is now in the hospital. Her younger sibling is showing symptoms of the disease. They attend two small private schools that are now being contacted by the public health office to see if they can track down any other people who may have come in contact with these children. However, they can’t, of course, find out if the family came in contact with people at the park, or in the mall, or at the grocery store, etc.

They believe these kids were infected by contact with an unimmunized traveler from the Philippines. According to the email we were sent measles is circulating in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, and there is a large outbreak in the Philippines. So the disease came to San Diego by way of the Philippines, but now it’s something we have to contend with here. I’m not sure how they account for and track this traveler either–I’ll be watching the news over the next few days to see how that part plays out too.

We’ve had the discussion before about vaccinating, and ya’ll know I’m in favor. And part of that is because I believe in community responsibility. These kids are sick, in my backyard–this came from MY pediatrician, and they live in MY community. And because their parents didn’t vaccinate, and because they had contact with travelers from a country where measles is a more widespread problem, this is something that is now affecting others. My kid isn’t old enough for the MMR–so now another parent’s choice is putting my kid at higher risk.

Do I think Jackson is in danger? Most likely not. He doesn’t go to daycare, we weren’t in the pediatrician’s when that family came through, and our interaction with other families in our community is (sadly) very limited. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be a little more paranoid for the next few weeks whenever someone coughs or sneezes around my kid (measles is spread through respiration). That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to watch him a little more closely or be a little more wary when we’re out and folks want to see him. I don’t want to be a paranoid mom–I’m not good at it and it wrecks my nerves–and I’m more than a little pissed that now I have to be.

Lisa May 14, 2010 at 10:27 am

You know, I’d thought about studying delayed vaccination schedules a bit, to see if there are any benefits. Like if kids are getting multiples vaccs at once, are they all using the same preservative, and might it be worth spreading them out in case of allergic reactions and stuff. But, this reminds me that vaccine schedules are there for a reason. Do I really want to put off protecting my kid?

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I can sort of see a delayed schedule, but for us personally we just decided to go along with the standard schedule. Partially because I knew that the area we’re in has a growing population of anti-vax families and…well here we are. I think it’s worth researching, and talking with your pediatrician when you find one, because you need to be comfortable with what you’re doing (or not doing), but…yeah, here’s a situation that exemplifies some of the issues that are raised.

Elizabeth May 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm

And this is exactly why I think it is absurd that my sisters in law are choosing not to vaccinate their kids. You can bet my last dollar that my future kids will not meet their cousins until we get a chance to get all the vaccinations. Yeah.

I’m sure everything will be fine, but I feel so terrible for the kids who got measles. That’s not fair for them at all.

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I know, it just makes me insane. This girl is in the hospital because her parents made a (in my opinion) reckless and dangerous choice. And one that’s putting our entire community at risk. It’s not fair to her, her sibling, or any of us who now have to worry about this.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks May 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

Stories like this really make my blood boil. And it always comes back to a question along the lines of, what makes that family more entitled than others in the community that they don’t have to vaccinate and can therefore become a threat to the community as a result. Glad to hear you’re staying level-headed as it relates to your own family.

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I’m with you. When I saw that email this morning, I about flipped out. Again, not because I think Jackson is in a huge amount of danger, but because COME ON people.

Perpetua May 14, 2010 at 11:49 am

Oh god, that’s just awful. I’m really sorry. It is good that your ped’s office is proactive about contacting people, but sometimes I wish that the anti-vax people had to use their own clinic. And grocery store. And gas pumps.

Okay, not really. But I’m pretty much on the same page as you when it comes to community responsibility. Moreover, wouldn’t it make sense to vax your kids if you know for sure they’ll have contact with high risk populations?

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:18 pm

One of the things that is really annoying about it too–my ped’s office has a “car-visit” policy. If, when you call to make the appointment they feel like your kid might be contagious, they request that you don’t bring your child in the office and instead the doctor will come out to you. And this family didn’t do that. So they all around fail.
And honestly, you know that if they have a 6 year old they haven’t vaccinated, they don’t believe there’s a risk of contact with the high risk population. Or they believe that in the bodies natural ability to fight off those diseases better than a vaccine. Or some such.

Perpetua May 14, 2010 at 5:46 pm

A car visit! That is so awesome. How I wish our ped would do that.

Alexis May 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I try very hard not to judge what other families choose to do, but as an (almost)epidemiologist I have NO tolerance for people who choose not to vaccinate. See, this is what happens. It is all very well and good to selfishly rely on herd immunity because you fell prey to one really bad research paper’s propaganda, but if enough people do that, then we are all at risk for getting diseases that are otherwise unheard of in the country. As for me, I was/am counting the days until that MMR so then I could be done with ensuring that my kids don’t get sick with something that is (almost) entirely preventable.

On a personal note, so sorry this has hit so close to home. It is scary being a parent and crap like this only makes it that much scarier!

Ginger May 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Most other things are so much live and let live–whatever you do with your family, whatever works. But the problem with not vaccinating, as this shows, is it’s NOT live and let live. Your choice can harm MY child. Your decision can put other people in harm’s way.
I’m sure Jackson will be fine, but it does reinforce my decision to get him the MMR on schedule. Because this isn’t just a theoretical situation for my community anymore, you know?

Brooke May 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I think that everyone wants to vaccinate their children. But people have a problem with some of the preservatives that are in the vaccinations. I understand your frustrations, but I would hope that maybe you could see outside of that a little bit to truly understand what the concern is (and saying it’s just bad science isn’t fair either). There ARE reactions to vaccinations. It’s a cost-benefit analysis, and I don’t think it’s fair to pointedly blame the parents for being reckless when they were making what seemed at the time to be a choice to protect their children. Why don’t we scream just as loudly about making our vaccines better, safer?

We have spaced vaccinations. But I am glad you posted this because our family is coming back from the Philippines and I might bump up Kellen’s MMR before they come even though I’m pretty sure they are vaccinated.

Ginger May 15, 2010 at 10:14 am

I do understand the concerns around vaccines. I did my research before Jackson was born, and I pay attention to what new information comes out. And you’re right that I don’t know the situation with this family–they could have already immuno-compromised kids, or allergies to the preservatives, or other reasons to not vaccinate that I’m not privy to. We all make a cost-benefit decision that is, hopefully, based on the best information you have access to at the time.
But on the day that measles shows up in my community because of not vaccinating, whatever the reason, I’m allowed to be upset about that. I’m not saying these parents weren’t thinking of their children, but what I am saying is that if you make a decision to not vaccinate, you’re relying on the rest of the community to do it. You are, you’re relying on the rest of the community to provide your child’s protection. You have a responsibility to be even more diligent and informed then, because you’re not bearing your part of the community risk AND you’re adding risk to the rest of us.
At the bare minimum, it’s your responsibility to know the symptoms of the diseases you’re not vaccinating for, and to be forthright and cautious when dealing with any sickness that bears any of the hallmarks of those diseases. If you’re going to ask the community to keep you safe, it’s only fair that you do a little bit to return the favor. These parents didn’t do that.

Brooke May 15, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I wasn’t referring to your post as much as the comments (like saying there is “NO tolerance” for people who choose not to vaccinate).

I agree that it is upsetting when it shows up in your backyard.

Alexis May 17, 2010 at 7:48 am

As the “no tolerance” commenter, I do want to say that I agree with your points. Some people can not vaccinate, that is tough situation to be in and those parents do the best they can. I also realize that our healthcare/medical system fails us time and time again in this country. We can, and should, be building better vaccines and doing better for our children. Expanded/delayed vaccine schedules are a great way to do that and can be an effective way to mitigate the risk while still getting the same long term benefits. I guess my feeling is just that the odds of having a bad reaction are much smaller than the odds of having long term health consequences from contracting a preventable disease. For me, gambling on the vaccinations is the responsible choice and we should be talking about delayed/ altered vaccine schedules a lot more and hopefully having sick kids a lot less. Of course, that is just my conclusion and that need only impact what I do with my kids.

This is one of those horrible tricky decisions that parents have to make and often, it can feel like there are no right answers.

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