Measles in the Mail

Here’s an article I missed the first time, and thanks to Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice for catching it. Apparently some of the anti-vaxers are crazier than I thought.

Prosecutor to parents: Mailing chickenpox illegal

Parents fearful of vaccinations are being warned by a federal prosecutor that making a deal with a stranger who promises to mail them lollipops licked by children with chickenpox isn’t just a bad idea, it’s against the law.

Jerry Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said he was spurred by reports this week by KPHO-TV in Phoenix and WSMV-TV in Nashville about people turning to Facebook to find lollipops, spit or other items from children who have chickenpox.

Chicken pox isn’t the extreme case, although ordering kid spit is pretty daft. Isaac Thomsen, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, points out that none of this has any real chance of giving your child chicken pox. But the article goes on:

Thomsen, the Vanderbilt physician, said he was even more concerned by a person in the KPHO report seeking items tainted with measles to avoid a school-required vaccination. Measles has a significant mortality rate, causes more complications and is very infectious compared with chickenpox, he said.

Ordering measles by mail in the hopes of giving your child a resistance to measles is truly weapons grade stupidity.

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  • UrsaMinor

    It’s very Darwinian. If enough people who think that way deliberately expose their children to lethal diseases, there will be fewer people who think that way in the next generation, because the trait has a low fitness value (whether it is genetic or cultural in origin).

    I feel sorry for the kids, though, and especially sorry for the ones who will suffer from the severe, lifelong disabilities that the measles virus can cause.

    One must wonder what causes parents to look at the situation and say, “I have a choice between exposing my child to a disease that historically has up to a 30% mortality rate, or to a vaccine against that disease that has up to a 0.001% mortality rate. I think I’ll go with the option that has the highest risk of killing my child.”

    • FO

      Herd immunity.
      It’s very Darwinian for the WHOLE POPULATION.

      And no, natural selection ain’t nice.

    • trj

      You often hear anti-vaxers claim the various vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t really dangerous, more like inconveniences, often combined with an oblivious statement like “Well, I had chickenpox/mumps/measles as a kid, and it wasn’t that bad”.

      Which just shows they don’t know shit about what they’re talking about.

      • UrsaMinor

        I had chickenpox as a kid, and it *was* that bad.

        I just find it bitterly amusing that the only reason that these idiots can possibly hold the position that these diseases aren’t bad news and therefore vaccinations aren’t necessary is because they haven’t seen any cases of them firsthand, because the last couple of generations who grew up with these diseases knew how bad they were, and saw the worth of vaccines, and got themselves and their kids vaccinated.

        • FO

          Not unlike anti-science people complaining about evil scientists on computers connected to the internet…

        • trj

          Agreed, it’s deeply ironic that part of the reason they think those diseases aren’t a big deal is because they’re much less prevalent due to vaccines.

          Thanks to their efforts we’re now again seeing children in the Western world suffer and die from trivially preventable diseases.

  • Gary Hill

    As well as a potentially debilitating or fatal insult to their own children this is also an insult to the thousands of people all around the world who have bothered to get a science-based education and then to work in a field of research to make things better for human beings. By for example, reducing disease incidence.

  • vasaroti

    What gets me is the conspiracy theory reasons they give for refusing to vaccinate. I’ve had this argument before, as so many of us have. I generally ask them if they know the difference between ethyl- and methylmercury. If they’re in my age group, I ask them what harm they suffered from the polio vaccine.

  • Noelle

    Last I checked, varicella was passed via the respiratory system. That means you need a kid with the pox to cough on you. If’n you want to pass something orally, look into polio. (OMG. Please don’t really do this. Old-timey infectious diseases like polio making a come-back scares the hell out of me. Even measles. My God, measles. I’m not old enough to remember measles and my generation are doctors now. We wouldn’t know it if it were right in front of us.)

    This isn’t necessarily a religious I’m-afraid-of-science thing. There are lots of liberal, non-religious crazies who believe this stuff. They read celebrity nonsense books, or search Google and click on the nuttiest links. If you check out the stats on which states have the most parents opting out of vaccines, it’s not the Bible Belt. It’s your socially responsible granola crunchy states with the highest number of parents doing this. Washington, Vermont, Oregon were highest for exemptions. Best at getting the kiddos their shots? Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, South Dakota. Kinda the opposite of our preconceived notions of where the smart and reasonable people are. You go, Mississippi! Shame on you, Vermont :(

    like sources on stats?
    user-friendly article:

    way more numbers than you know what to do with:

    • UrsaMinor

      Oh, believe me, you’d know measles if you saw a classic case. The spots are pretty diagnostic. That’s one that I dodged as a kid until the vaccine came along, fortunately, although I got nailed by mumps and chickenpox.

      Chickenpox was nightmarish to go through, but it was a lighthearted romp compared to the Hong Kong flu in ’68. People who don’t get their influenza shots these days must really be into unnecessary pain and suffering.

      • Noelle

        I’d know to go grab the 50-something doc in the office to have him look at the kid with the rash I’ve never seen in person, but those guys are gonna start retiring in the next decade or 2.

        I’ve seen chicken pox, so I know what that looks like.

        The new pneumococcal vaccine that’s out for kids now is wonderful. That and the rotavirus vaccine for babies. I haven’t had to hospitalize a kid with either since we started using them. And as a resident I saw a lot of those kids as inpatients. It’s absolutely crazy and negligent to want to chance an illness that lands your kid in the hospital when it’s easily avoidable. Spending a week or 3 in the hospital exposes you to all kinds of nastier illnesses than the one you went in with

        • UrsaMinor

          Ah, yes. Can you say “nosocomial infection”, boys and girls?

        • Custador

          Funnily enough, I’ve been pondering writing a post on vaccine conspiracists (and why they’re such total idiots), but I want to be quite involved about it and don’t have time at the moment. Watch this space, though.

          Ursa is speaking truth about the flu, though. I had both seasonal flu and swine flu in 2009, and I’ve never missed a flu shot since. People who sniffle and say they have “flu” make me angry – When I had flu, I got to day three and genuinely worried that I might die. By the time I got to day five, I genuinely worried that I might not.

          • UrsaMinor

            Just so. You reach a certain point of fever, hallucinations, bone-crushing joint pain, and constant vomiting, and death seems like a pretty good alternative.

          • Tyrrlin

            Yeah, the actual influenza virus is nothing to take lightly. I hate when people say, “I was at home yesterday with the flu” when they probably were vomiting from food poisoning.

            Last time I had the *acutal* flu, I had a 103+ fever for several days, body/headaches to the point I thought I had meningitis, couldn’t keep food or water down, and couldn’t stand up for more than a minute or two at a time… for almost a week. It took about a month to recover to almost “normal” activity. The kicker was the Army docs kept sending me back to work… with a 103 fever. Idiots.

          • k.holdom0790

            Wow. Sounds like I’ve never really had the flu. Is that bad?

            • Custador

              It’s horrendous. I’ve had several patients who’ve died from it.

            • k.holdom0790

              Ah gods. I’m guessing they weren’t all old or children then. It seems to be a common idea that they are the only age group truly vulnerable to the flu.

            • UrsaMinor

              It is that bad. All those people who stay home for a day or two because they have the sniffles and call it the flu? They don’t have influenza. Some strains hit you harder than others, but believe me, being infected by even the milder ones is not a trivial experience.

              I’m a survivor of an influenza pandemic that killed over 30,000 people in the United States alone. I have a proper dread of the disease, and I will never miss a flu vaccination.

            • k.holdom0790

              I guess I never really had the fear of flu beat into me… I’ve never had a flu shot.

              Is it the flu if you’re really weak, your skin hurts, fever and cough? I had something like that come on pretty suddenly in a movie theatre last year. Didn’t fear for my life, but it was pretty gone for about five days.

            • UrsaMinor

              Those symptoms are pretty vague. Influenza typically involves high fever for several days (39 to 40 degrees, sometimes hitting 41 in extreme cases), severe joint and muscle aches, and vomiting. Weakness and general malaise are also common symptoms. The acute phase might clear up after 3 to 5 days if you’re lucky, but normality doesn’t return for two weeks to a month.

              But I’m not a doctor, and even if I were, it would be impossible to diagnose what you had long-distance and very much after the fact.

            • Michael

              I think the misconception comes from the fact that you can get “flu-like symptoms” from practically anything. But if you get the actual flu they are typically quite severe.

              In fact, even people who say they “just” had a cold probably did not, as symptoms from the common cold typically last the better part of a week at least.

          • Brian M

            It’s been done very well at blogsite “Respectful Insolence”, where the good doctor Orac has been battling the Woo for years…in exhasutive detail.

  • Sabrina

    Mum had measles as a kid (and mumps, and rubella, and chicken pox, and…), and you better be damned sure she had us vaccinated. Nothing like nearly going blind to make sure your kids don’t get the disease. Whatever. Thin the herd out a bit. Just don’t send the damn unvaxed kids into school or the sick ones. Mum came down with scarlet fever two years ago because a parent sent their sick kid into school and didn’t care. I thought that disease was gone. You wouldn’t think I lived in the US.

    • Nelly

      I had all three as a kid, the measles were by far the worst as far as feeling like I was going to die. The chickenpox was a very close second…..
      I had both my kids vaccinated and even helped a indigent neighbor by taking her son to get his vacs too.

      • Nelly

        BTW, I just went thru a small bought with shingles. My doc said that even tho I’m not 60 (quite yet)….. he’s setting me up for the vaccine.

    • Stupid Idea

      I had scarlett fever as a kid (about 20 yrs ago) and it scared my mom to death. She was convinced I was going to be blind. She, too, couldn’t believe it still existed in the US.

      • Noelle

        Scarlet fever is strep with a rash and fever. It’s still around. There’s no vaccine.

  • RickRay1

    I wonder how many of these people are devout xians? (99%) ???????

    • Noelle

      Nope. Read my earlier comment.

      • Noelle

        just realized I commented a lot. Check out the one with the frowny on Vermont. It’s the crazy liberal socially responsible free trade better than regular people states with the most non-vaccinators. Not exactly correllating with religion.

  • joe

    Fearful people are crazy people.

  • Malvond

    I was so sure that you’d all have already referenced South Park!! We happened to have just re-watched this episode the other day when I heard about this story. Just when South Park seems exaggerated…it’s not.