DOCTORS have warned parents that deliberately exposing children to measles in ‘chickenpox-style parties’ is ‘irresponsible and dangerous’, as cases of the highly infectious disease surge.
Doing so could put your tot at risk of serious illness and even death, experts told Sun Health.
It comes after Brits were warned to avoid public transport and busy areas if they have measles symptoms, with health officials scrambling to contain cases.
Concern over the illness has risen across Europe too, where cases have seen an “alarming” 4,300 per cent rise and nine children have died as a result.
In the past, some parents threw “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose their unvaccinated child to another with chickenpox, with the idea of getting the illness over with so kids would gain immunity.
The practice is strongly advised against by health professionals.
Measles parties were reportedly popular in the 50s and 60s before the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was rolled out.
Measles parties are irresponsible and dangerous.”
Dr David Elliman
Now vaccine-hesitant parents have recently contacted a Buckinghamshire-based charity about exposing children to measles this way, the i reported.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant to Patient.info, told Sun Health: “It is never, ever a good idea to expose your child deliberately to measles.
“Measles is not a minor illness – at best, your child is likely to be really poorly for about five days, and off school for up to two weeks.
“What’s more, up to 1 in 5 children with measles will get complications.”
About one in 16 children will get pneumonia from the illness and one in 12 develop ear infections, the GP said.
“Even worse, one in 1000-2000 will get inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal. And there’s a rare form of brain inflammation which can develop years after the infection, which is usually deadly.”
Gemma Larkman-Jones, from Brixton, South London, shared how her little boy Samuel passed away aged six from a rare and slow-progressing form of brain inflammation called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) that sufferers years after they were first infected with measles.
Gemma believes Samuel wouldn’t have died if he’d received the MMR vaccine.
MMR jabs are the safest option
Speaking to Sun Health, Dr David Elliman, a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, called measles parties “irresponsible and dangerous”.
Aside from running the risk of getting the complications like fits and encephalitis, he warned that children “may pass on the infection to those who are more likely to suffer the complications such as young babies, adults and those whose immune system is impaired”.
Prof Beate Kampmann, Professor of Paediatric Infection & Immunity, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: “Measles is not a harmless infectious disease – therefore to subject children to a deliberate risk of infection is careless when we have a safe and effective vaccine available.
“If you want to protect your child and your community, get the vaccine, and once everyone is safe – that would be a reason to party!”
Both experts stressed that getting the MMR jab was by far the safest option.
It “contains the toned down virus and so the risk of complications is much less”, Dr Elliman said.
“In addition, the virus from the vaccine is not spread to other people.”
To keep measles at bay, 95 per cent of children must be vaccinated.
But recent NHS data shows only 84.5 per cent of children in England had received the second MMR dose by their fifth birthday.
Coverage in London is particularly low, at just 73 per cent, with Hackney in east London at 56.3 per cent, followed by Camden in north London at 63.6 per cent.
Urgent, “concerted action” is needed to tackle the virus to stop its spread, according to health specialists and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Is my child eligible for a catch-up vaccine?
A campaign has been launched to encourage parents to get the MMR jab for their children.
Kids are offered their first dose aged one and their second at three years at four months, just before they start school.
However, if they, or any one else, has missed any jabs, they can catch up at any time through their GP surgery.
Head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)Professor Dame Jenny Harries said that “concerted action” is needed to tackle the virus as cases continue to spiral.
She suggested people need more information to feel confident about deciding to vaccinate their kids.
She added: “What we are seeing at the moment with measles is that people have forgotten what a serious illness it is.
“We have had very high vaccination rates, especially for young families, but they are low at the moment.”
The main symptoms of measles
MEASLES is highly contagious and can cause serious problems in some people.
The infection usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.
The first signs include:
- A high temperature
- A runny or blocked nose
- A cough
- Red, sore, watery eyes
Small white spots may then appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later.
A rash tends to come next. This usually starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body.
The spots are sometimes raised and join together to form blotchy patches. They are not normally itchy.
The rash looks brown or red or white skin. It may be harder to see on darker skin.
Complications are rare, but measles can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, blindness, seizures, and sometimes death.