There’s a measles outbreak in Israel — and it’s spreading to the U.S.
There are now over 679 confirmed cases in Israel as of October 14 — with the majority in Jerusalem, and the majority of the patients under 9 years of age. Measles is considered one of the world’s most highly contagious diseases, and Israel’s ministry of health is having a hard time isolating and containing it.
What makes this mom-of-an-infant — one who is still too young to receive the vaccine — infuriated is that this outbreak could have been prevented: The highly effective measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine has been around since 1971.
According to Israeli news site Mako, 30,000 Israelis have been exposed to the disease. (And to put that in perspective, according to the CDC, measles is so contagious that if a person has it, 90 percent of people who are close to that person who are not already immune will get it, too.) To make matters worse, there also seems to be a shortage of emergency vaccines, which can be administered up to 6 days after exposure to the disease.
Now, six cases have been confirmed in Brooklyn, contracted from a patient who entered the country from Israel. An additional 11 cases in Rockland County, also traced to Israel, have been confirmed as well. “The patients in Williamsburg range in age from 11 months to 4 years old and are all members of the Orthodox Jewish community,” according to CBS New York. Both outbreaks can be traced back to Israel.
According to Walla! News, while officials are reluctant to pinpoint one community or religious sect or as responsible for the recent outbreak in Israel, they do attribute the spread of the disease to a refusal to vaccinate.
While some outbreaks of the disease are happening in haredi community, the reasons people aren’t vaccinating are not just religious. A health official said that, in recent years, she’s noticing a new phenomenon of highly educated, secular parents who do not vaccinate their kids. “Today on social media, it’s enough that a mom will spread a wrong idea like the fact that it’s better to get sick ‘in the natural way’ and the phenomenon spreads like fire,” the official noted.
Facebook appears to be popular place for vaccine “truthers” — a place where anti-vaxxers of all stripes meet and spread misinformation about vaccination, and offer each other support. Anti-vaccine groups on Facebooks have hundreds of thousands of members. On Facebook videos and articles in support of vaccines, you can find commenters from such groups, calling vaccines “unnatural,” comparing vaccinators to sheep, and insisting the vaccine causes autism and cancer — even though when science has so far refuted both claims.
Tal Rachel Horowitz, an Israeli mother of a 2-month-old, recently ran across this phenomenon when she published an angry Facebook post on October 15. Her infant daughter had been exposed to the disease while they were waiting at a local health center where a measles patient was apparently present. Horowitz had received a call from Israel’s health ministry telling her get the baby the emergency vaccine. (The first dose of the MMR vaccine is usually given at 12 months).
Horowitz, enraged at anti-vaxxers, wrote “People will get sick because of you. Babies will die because of you.”
While most of the responses she got to her viral post were positive, some were not. Some said she was a liar and a cheater, said her baby was made up for an agenda. I can’t help but be reminded of Alex Jones, who attacked the parents of Noah Posner, a 6-year-old Jewish victim of Sandy Hook shooting, saying the attack was fake.
Horowitz did manage to get the emergency shot, but there was a real moment in which she, rightfully so, feared for her infant’s life.
So how do keep our kids safe? First of all, we make sure to vaccinate them, and that their vaccines are complete (that they have gotten both doses of the MMR vaccine, which is typically administered around 12 months and again between 4 to 6 years).
Also, mama, it’s also worth checking whether you are fully vaccinated. In London, for example, the disease, which is usually more common among children has been recently contracted by adults. Many of these adults were born in the 1990s — when Andrew Wakefield’s now-refuted study linking vaccines to autism came out. Not only will you be protecting yourself, you friends, and your family, you’ll be extending the favor to the community at large.