Dr Manny's Notes

Dr. Manny: ‘Measles parties’ are dangerous and irresponsible

A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015.

A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015.  (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson )

California health officials are warning parents against so-called “measles parties,” being thrown by parents in an effort to intentionally expose their children to the disease.

The idea is nothing new. Measles parties were popular in the 1950s and 60s before the MMR vaccine was developed for measles, mumps and rubella. In the 1980s and early 90s, some parents even followed suit when it came to chickenpox. See, these parents believe that infected children will build up immunity to these viruses and not catch them unexpectedly later in life.

But the California Department of Public Health released a statement Monday strongly recommending “against the intentional exposure of children to measles as it unnecessarily places the exposed children at potentially grave risk and could contribute to further spread of the outbreak.”

I think there’s nothing more silly or dangerous to consider when it comes to protecting your children from this disease than attending one of these “measles parties.”

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I’ve never actually seen one, nor do I know of any going on in my community, but there are certainly anecdotal reports that some parents have intentionally exposed their children to measles in an effort to spur natural immunity. These parties are incredibly dangerous, both for the children and for our communities – and personally, I think they should be outlawed.

With the current outbreak we’ve seen spreading throughout the country, children who contract measles become vectors of the disease putting others in danger. There are now 121 confirmed cases of the disease throughout 17 states stemming from a group of unvaccinated individuals visiting Disneyland parks in California, according to federal health officials.

Parents have to realize that we live in a global community and that something like these “parties” could make the outbreak even worse. If an infected person walks into an emergency room where there are maybe a dozen people who have no immunity to measles, the risk is 90 percent that those people will come down with the disease, which can be deadly for children under the age of five – who can suffer from severe rash, pneumonia and brain swelling.

Measles is a highly contagious disease which can linger in the air for up to two hours after exposure and infected people may be contagious for four days before and after exhibiting symptoms like high fever, runny nose, rash, cough and pink eye.

So please, consider vaccination as the only proper way to keep the community safe and your children healthy.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.