With an Autoimmune Disease, Fear of a Measles Outbreak Is Real

With an Autoimmune Disease, Fear of a Measles Outbreak Is Real

Few things scare me. I mean, truly frighten me to my core. While I flee from bees and scream at spiders, I have been both stung and bitten. Scary movies, no matter how asinine, freak me out. Being alone in the dark invokes vivid imagination. Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers. These frivolous fears do not change the way I live my life.

Then there are those that do. Among them is a predator unlike any other. Invisible yet virulent. My immune system is a perfect host for this beast to invade. I am indeed scared.

The beast is measles.

As the number of outbreaks increases, so do my fears. Measles is a highly contagious virus. It is one of the most communicable diseases and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, saliva, or by touching an infected area. Additionally, measles is airborne, and one can catch the virus through respiratory droplets. Moreover, the virus can thrive up to two hours without its host.

We’ve gone from eradicating measles to another outbreak. This sounds more fiction thrill than factual fright. I vacillate between fear and anger as the numbers climb. I grew up in an era when there was little to no debate. You vaccinate.

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In a world of preventive medicine, count me in. Prevention saves lives. I do not have the luxury of speculating about potential links. I have an autoimmune disease and am on immunosuppressant chemotherapy. My immunity lacks the ability to fight. I must do whatever it takes to protect myself.

I take issue with the right to opt out of a vaccine. I did not opt into a weak immunity. What about my right to safety? Where do your rights end and mine begin? The line is blurry for some. Not for me. There is no gray area. I see a risk. I see a threat. I refuse to take a gamble on my already-precarious health.

Imagine me on a flight seated next to your child. Now imagine your child without an immune system. Next, imagine I had a highly contagious virus for which there exists a vaccine. My refusal to vaccinate could cause irrevocable harm to your child’s health. Would you want me to do what I could to protect your child?

Would you want me to vaccinate?

I am that child. I deserve the right to live.

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.
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Jennifer Powell is a health writer and weekly columnist on Multiple Sclerosis. Jennifer imparts her hopeful optimism into real-life challenges facing the MS community. Prior to writing her column, Jennifer freelanced for several online periodicals including WebMD. When not writing, Jennifer enjoys volunteering with animal rescue, traveling and spending time with her Golden Retriever.

20 comments

  1. Mary Cadd says:

    I loved the way you articulate this issue. With MS, I am terrified every day. When I do go to the store, I’m the one that cleans my cart handles with antibiotics wipes because it’s one small thing I can do for myself. Thanks

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to reply. I am right there with you and it’s great you’re taking preventative steps. Nothing is too small to protect ourselves.

      Kindly,
      Jenn

  2. Rhonda Danielson says:

    As a PPMSer using Ocrevus I share your concern. My answer to where one persons’ rights end and another persons’ rights begin is simple. The end of the nose. My MEDICAL rights to not vaccinate ends at the end of MY nose. I do not have the right to endanger anyone else’s health or life by my choices. If I am stupid enough or uncaring enough to not get properly vaccinated for a communicable disease, or get my child vaccinated for that disease, then I should be sued by every individual and/or their families that I infect. Please believe me when I say that both the state department of health in all 50 states plus the federal department of health knows exactly who has been vaccinated and for what and who hasn’t. If you are one of those people who are medically capable of getting vaccinated and choose not to, then you should be paying all the medical bills and/or funeral expenses for every person you have infected for the rest of their lives as the medical fallout from your poor decision has life long consequences for the person you infect.

    This is the same concept as yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater. The First Amendment gives you the right to yell “fire!” and the courts will, and have, upheld that right, but they have also said that if you choose to be that reckless and people get hurt, then you can be sued and if you lose the suit you are responsible for all damages awarded by the courts.

    Jennifer, while a lawsuit after the fact is cold comfort for someone like you and I, especially if we stand a good chance of not surviving the initial infection, it is a good way of scaring a few more people into getting themselves or their children vaccinated. Especially if several infected people file suit and win.

    The best route is if each state, or better yet the feds, passed the same law California did. In California vaccination is mandatory, unless you have a documented medical reason why you can’t get vaccinated. No more religious exemptions, no more “I don’t agree with it” exemptions, no more “it might give my child autism” exemptions.

    • Anita says:

      So do people with MS have a greater chance to get measles? I am 60 and I believe I was vaccinated at an early age. Mom has since passed so can’t ask her. I have never had measles, mumps, chicken pox. Is it wise to get another shot?

      • Brenda says:

        Anita, If you ask your family doctor about it they can send you to get bloodwork done to make sure you are immune.

      • Daniel Karner says:

        It is unwise to get another shot if you don’t need one. Your doctor should be able to do a blood test to see if you produce antibodies to the measels virus. If yours does, then you should be fine even if you are taking a disease-modifying therapy.

      • Michele says:

        I received the MMR vaccination as a child (in 1968). I could not get my hands on my vaccination records, which I needed to go back to school. My doctor did a blood test and for whatever reason I do not have an immunity to measles (the other two took). I have met several people who have had the same issue. Even if people with MS have received the vaccination, they may want to make sure of their immunity. Knowledge is power!

  3. Marsha says:

    These are all questions that cannot be taken lightly as immune suppression agents expand to be the “standard of care” for many. They are alleviating inflammation, and increasing risk of infection (viral, bacterial, fungal) in the AMR age.

  4. Linda says:

    As a child in the early 1940s, I had several of the childhood diseases. I have never been revaccinated except for smallpox and diptheria/tetanus. I have also not forgotten the experience of measles when I was too young to know why I was in a dark room, separated from my family. When I was a school child,I had a mild case of chickenpox, but my sister and infant brother had more severe cases than I. I cannot fathom those who refuse to protect their children (and the rest of us) from the diseases that led to yellow signs of quarantine on front doors, closure of parks, pools, and playgrounds, and lifelong disability for some. In my childhood it wasn’t unusual for a classmate to be faced with lifelong disability or death from diseases that we can now prevent through vaccination.

  5. Joan Bondira says:

    If someone got you sick because they didn’t vaccinate, could they be charged with reckless endangerment? If you died, how about involuntary manslaughter? If that happened even once, I bet it would make people think about it. The problem would be how to prove it, I’d think.

  6. Jumpy Trader says:

    My son had got his first MMR shot and about a hour or two later he had a Golf ball size lump on his hip.
    I then realized he had a very strong immune system and how stupid it was to be giving kids 3 combined virus vaccines at one time, at such a young age. The lump took over 2 years to go away and then left a dent in his hip that he still has at age 37.
    We immediately took him back to the doctor and he said we will separate the next round.
    So he had the next shots separated but un-known to us the damage was done!
    Growing up there were slight issues I wrote off to long legs and lack of coordination. Then his grades dropped from honor roll to actually shutting down and refusing to do his home work. The Doctors Tried to tell us he had Attention Deposit issues and wanted to put him on Ritalin but we refused.
    After a couple of years he seemed to grow out of it but his grades did not recover back to Honor roll.
    Now we know that it was all Pre MS symptoms.
    There is no doubt in our minds that the MMR shot caused his immune system to be over reactive and also causing sinus allergy and ear problems that were treated with too many Antibiotics.
    Then Came MS !
    Also my son has been given 4 of the current MS chemotherapys and has had bad reactions to all of them.
    Besides the 3 vaccines combined at one time there is the issue of what preservative was used in the vaccine. Was it Thimerosal ? We do not know! But MY dad, (My sons Grandfather) was diagnosed with multiple micro strokes caused by a encephalitis reaction to the Flu shot with Thimerosal in it.
    That caused dementia with in several weeks after.
    (Thimerosal is 47% mercury by weight and was used in many vaccines as a preservative) The industry is AGAIN TRYING TO GET IT APPROVED TO USE IT!
    Our Daughter was not vaccinated with DPT or MMR and she has no MS.
    The sooner the Drug and Medical industry finds how to block the cause of MS instead of killing the Immune system, MS patients will all be better off.
    Sorry we have the right to protect our Family and choose not to vaccinate under the current methods!

    • Jennifer Powell says:

      I am profoundly sorry for your son’s experience. You have certainly been through a nightmare.

      It is important to emphasize what you suggested, that we just do not know. Without empirical evidence to prove direct cause and effect, we are left with assumptions.This is dangerous ground. I empathize with your frustration and I am sorry for all your son has had to endure.The fact remains that those of us with compromised immunities can potentially be harmed by measles. Those without vaccinations are more likley to host this disease. My immune system cannot fight a severe case of Measles. I do not want to die.

      My thoughts are with you.

      Kindly,
      Jen

      • Michelle says:

        Every thing we put into our bodies can cause a reaction. Food and drinks (food and dye alergies), EVERY SINGLE medication (including antibiotics and OTC meds) EVERY herb (some herbs you can’t take together or with certain meds. some herbs can cause spontaneous abortions in pregnant women, etc) Unfortunately, you cannot tell how these things will affect you until you take it and every person is different. It is horrible that your son has had so many problems but we can’t ban vaccines based off a small percentage of the population’s reactions when they have proven a benefit for the rest of people. These viruses/diseases cause injury. They even kill. You don’t hear people who own guns saying ban the guns because they have killed some people. No they say there is a problem because of individuals. Eradicated viruses are becoming a problem again because of misinformed individuals. Those people should not be allowed to put other in danger anymore than violent people should be allowed guns. Same thing they will eventually kill someone. I wish you the best.

    • Michele says:

      I understand your concern. However, when I was diagnosed I was told the average age for diagnosis is 35. I was 35 when I was diagnosed. Once you have MS, you cannot be vaccinated for measles because it is a live virus.

  7. Deborah says:

    I also have PPMS. I was on CellCept for 10 years, switched to Ocrevus infusions for a year and a half and it just did not work for me so now I am on methotrexate (though I would have preferred to go back on the CellCept because I had no adverse reactions to it, but my insurance would not cover it). All of these immunosuppressive drugs combined with my already damaged immune system have me pretty concerned about the measles outbreak. Of course I was vaccinated as a child because my parents cared about me and were smart, but I am wondering now if I should go in for a booster shot. I’m going to call my neurologist tomorrow. If one of these irresponsible anti-VAX people infects me with the measles and causes me to become ill and possibly die I am going to haunt them for the rest of eternity.

  8. Marie Ann says:

    I understand where you are coming from but even for me who just completed a stem cell transplant 1 year ago, I am not concerned. I was told by my immunotherapist that he believes vaccines cause autoimmune disorders. And warned to stay away from anyone vaccinated with a live virus vaccine which includes the MMR & Chicken Pox (not a disease that should be vaccinated). These vaccines “shed” which means you can catch the virus, not wild, but none the less the virus itself. Shedding can happen for up to 2 weeks, so essentially we are walking amongst recently vaccinated people at a mass now due to scare mongering. Another thing to think of is that the largest outbreaks of both Mumps or Measles recently have occurred on war ships out to sea or colleges. These are the most highly vaccinated populations in our nation if not the entire world. Which screams “the vaccine doesn’t work”. You will have to search for the articles because they hide it from mainstream news sources but the evidence is out there. So is the fact that the vaccine injury courts VAERS have paid out 5 Billion in vaccine damage/death when only 1% even make it in front of the court & only 10% of adverse reactions even get taken seriously or reported. Let those numbers sink in. Childhood cancer & auto immune disease has increased 50% since the year 2000. These vaccines are the only medicine out there that is a one size fits all whether a premie or a 15 year old, same dose. These vaccines are also the only drug to never complete a double blind placebo testing before being given, or tested the schedule as a whole as in whether these are even safe to give together.

  9. Mary Thibodeau says:

    Question: I have MS and I have had the measles vaccination. Does the vaccination protect me from getting the measles, even though I have MS?
    Just wondering. Thanks.

  10. Barbara M. says:

    One of my cousins was born deaf (in the early 1950s). Just recently one of her siblings told me it was because their mother was exposed to/had measles while she was pregnant. How many other of these situations have occurred I don’t know. I have been waiting for this problem to be discussed in the media but have not heard it yet. So here it is…
    {I do not have MS but am an observer — a caretaker.}

  11. Michele says:

    I am so sorry for what you have gone through. I understand your concern. However, when I was diagnosed I was told the average age for diagnosis is 35. I was 35 when I was diagnosed. Once you have MS, you cannot be vaccinated for measles because it is a live virus. I understand everyone has an opinion and a choice. I am just sorry that my measles vaccination did not take. I, like many others with MS, am terrified.

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