This is one party you don’t want to be invited to.
In response to the recent measles outbreak south of the border, some families in the U.S. are beginning to host something called “measles parties“. These are parties where unvaccinated, healthy children are brought to a home to mingle (er, “party”) with someone who has the virus. The goal is to get all the kids infected while they’re still young, so that they build an immunity nice and early in life.
This strange trend really took off during an outbreak of the rubella virus in the 60s (before a vaccine was available) and then carried onto chicken pox, as both viruses are known to be killed more efficiently by a younger immune system.
But that doesn’t mean the same logic applies to the measles virus. In fact, while these parties might be backed with good intentions, they could be putting children in potentially life-threatening situations.
“[Measles] is one of the most infectious viruses on the planet,” said Dr. Joan Robinson, chair of the Infectious Diseases and Immunization committee with the Children’s Pediatric Society of Canada.
“It doesn’t make sense to intentionally expose children to it,” she added, citing the availability of a measles vaccine.
Here’s why: The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 10 per cent of children who become infected with the measles virus end up with an ear infection that can result in permanent hearing loss. One out of every 20 children with measles will also get pneumonia (the most common cause of death from the virus in young children). One out of every 1,000 children who get measles will also develop encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain that could lead to seizures, or even leave the child mentally retarded.
And if that wasn’t scary enough, for every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it. Under no circumstance are those risks justifiable.
And for the parents out there who feel uneasy about giving their kids the measles vaccine, Dr. Robinson said the treatment has received “tremendous study” and described it as “remarkably safe.”
The rare side-effects that have been reported (red arm, temporary measles-like rash) don’t even compare to coming down with the virus itself.
Besides, parties are meant to be fun. So let’s keep them that way.