I have an op-ed essay in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The title is “Measles not worth the risk. Prevention from diseases outweighs MMR side effects.”

Obviously I’m “outing” myself, but all in a good public health and scientific cause.

Please note that I have never worked with the vaccine industry, nor have I ever received even one cent from any pharmaceutical company.

Comments are welcome, but be civilized.  Also: Be patient.  The spam filter tends to be agonizingly slow.

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54 Responses to “Thoughts of Measles Survivor”  

  1. 1 Matthew Carey

    Thank you. Thank you for this and for all your efforts.

    I am the parent of a child with autism. I appreciate very much what you have done here on your blog and in this piece for the AJC.

  2. 2 Jennifer

    Thanks for this op-ed. I’ve never commented before, but I’ve been reading all your blog pieces. I thought you were a woman! Maybe it is the civilized tone that you always adopt ;) Keep up the good work, and keep you chin up.

  3. 3 Jennifer

    Oh, I forgot to mention - I’m a measles survivor myself. I wasn’t hospitalized, but I was very very sick. I remember being nursed in the livingroom - my mother didn’t want to leave me alone upstairs. And I remember lying there and my mother hovering over my feverish body and muttering voice and asking if I was have hallucinations. I was only about 6 at the time, and I thought - “hallucinations - yes, that’s what I’m having. There’s a word for this strange thing.”

    Thanks goodness my kids never had to go through that.

  4. 4 Lisa Randall

    I don’t usually comment with my name, but since you’ve set the precedent…

    Brilliant article, Dr. K. Thank you for speaking up. It’s time we worried more about the health of unvaccinated-by-choice children than about the preferences of their parents.


    While I think you are a decent writer, I think your story is one sided and is promoting an agenda by playing on emotions. If you are really telling the truth I challenge you to provide medical records that can verify your story. I am sure there will be a million insults, and a billion “reasons” why you are not backing your story up with 100% proof.

  6. 6 EpiWonk

    Forced Anarchy,

    I truly wish I could oblige you, but this happened in a hospital in a relatively small city in 1959. Of course the medical records were discarded long ago. Both my parents have passed away. I do have eight siblings who can vouch for my story, but I doubt that you’d believe any of them.

    In any event, in the context of the Internet, your argument is absurd. Can you back up with “100% proof” that you’re human and not a spamming program?

  7. 7 Kev

    Thank you from another autism parent for taking the risk. It truly is appreciated.

  8. 8 Catherina

    Thanks John,

    I am not sure I agree with the incidence of SSPE you put. Could you have a look over Bellini et al who found in an analysis of SSPE cases after the 1989-91 epidemic in the US much higher numbers:


    I don’t know how your German is, but Stephan Arenz, a German epidemiologist, puts the SSPE incidence in children contracting measles under one year of age as high as 1 in 2′000.
    S Arenz Kinderärztl Praxis 77:29-31 (2006)



  9. 9 EpiWonk


    I’m sure you’re correct. I knew the SSPE numbers were generally higher, but in order to be consistent, I only used rates from the two Canadian reviews. This is one of the problems with writing a short op-ed article — as opposed to a scientific paper (or blog post). I plan on writing a post in the future expanding on this issue.

    Thanks for pointing this out,

  10. 10 stavros

    Forced Anarchy said: “I think your story is one sided and is promoting an agenda by playing on emotions

    This easily blows the fuse on the irony sensor!

    If it is one approach the anti-vaccination lunatics are overusing it is the emotive testimonials from mothers of autistic children! But then again they have no science to back up their claims so they have to resort to political and media-based propaganda…

  11. 11 Meg Fisher, MD

    Thank you for a well written and well thought out piece. I am a pediatric infectious disease physician who survived measles when I was in grade school. I was practicing in Philadelphia during the 1990s epidemic and I watched several children with measles complicated by staphylococcal lung superinfection suffer tremendously. I couldn’t agree more with you and I appreciate your writing and the paper publishing the piece.

  12. 12 Linda

    Thanks for a great article, because many parents today have never seen a child with measles they assume their child will not get it. Since 91% of the 131 children who got measles this year were not vaccinated, it is clear that they were left vulnerable to this disease. Those children more than likely would have preferred to have gotten the vaccine rather than the illness, but unfortuately they didn’t have the choice. Their parents chose not to protect them from this vaccine preventable disease. As a parent, I cannot understand letting your child get sick when there is a way to keep them healthy. I had chicken pox as a young adult and it was absolutely horrible, still have a few scars. I was so glad when the varicella vaccine came out so I could spare my son the pain and suffering.

    Thanks again for a very important contribution!

  13. 13 B. Martin, MD

    It does not (or, at least, should not) matter if you had worked for a vaccine manufacturer or a pharma company. The fact of the matter is that vaccinations reduce forgotten morbidity and mortality. Receiving money from industry doesn’t make the preceding statement false.

  14. 14 EpiWonk


    I agree completely. I just get so darn tired of the “pharma shill” comments — I was trying to ward them off insofar as possible.

    By the way, folks, for a nice state-by-state break down of measles cases so far this year, see Barbara’s blog at http://bmartinmd.com/2008/08/cdc-updates-biggest-us-measles.html.
    She also has a discussion of time trends in MMR coverage at http://bmartinmd.com/2008/09/most-us-parents-remain-sane-va.html.

  15. 15 colin

    Great article - though rather short for my liking!

    On a related note, I’d love it if you could do a longer article dealing with the spurious
    arguments used by the antivaxers to undermine all the epidemiological studies that continue
    to show link between autism and mmr!

  16. 16 bumblebrain

    Thank you so much for adding a personal story to the statistics. I am too young to have had measles but my dad described being hospitalized while having polio to me so I have always considered vaccinations important. Orac of Respectful Insolence pointed out your article and I wanted to drop by to offer my support. I particularly appreciate your call to action from federal officials on this important public health issue.

    I’m not sure I understand why someone would accuse you of making up details about having the measles. There are children in the world right now (and not in impoverished nations) who are experiencing this disease. Do people think they are lying, or just pretending to be sick?

  17. 17 anjou

    I wish the vaccines had been available when I was a child– I an totally deaf in one ear because of German measles….. I was lucky in that it did not ruin the other ear…

  18. 18 colin

    “to show link between autism and mmr!”

    should read “to show no link between autism and mmr!”

  19. 19 alyric

    Could be wrong and since I’m generally clueless about such things, probably am dead wrong, but I thought ‘forced anarchy’ was spoofing anti-vaxxers.

    However, thought I’d drop by and offer Epiwonk my thanks for a great article and none of this Dr Kiely stuff; once an Epiwonk, always an Epiwonk.

  20. 20 BB

    Another measles survivor here, 107 fever, the pediatrician did not think I would make it. I was 7.
    Fortunately, no sequelae.
    Today, I’m a cancer researcher with 0 tolerance for the anti-vaccination crowd.

    Thank you.

  21. 21 Tsu Dho Nimh

    Yeah, she survived a mild childhood disease, but my older sister’s measles was anything but mild. We all had them when I was in 2nd grade (57 or 58?), but she was really sick. She missed a lot of school and our grandmother moved in for the day-to-day nursing care so my parents (mom was a teacher) could go to work.

    Because of the photophobia, she had to be in a dimly lit room, which was annoying because she wanted to read or be read to. She had convulsions, she vomited, she hallucinated, and in was close to hospitalization, but there were children sicker than she was in the tiny hospital. If she was still breathing and taking adequate fluids she wasn’t sick enough to qualify for admission.

  22. 22 Betty M

    Here via Orac. I had measles as a child in the early 70s and luckily emerged unscathed. Unfortunately I now live in a part of the UK where measles is making a big comeback thanks to the Wakefield paper. I am still shocked by the otherwise sane people withholding the mmr from their kids.

  23. 23 Eric

    I had all three diseases now covered by the MMR - measles, mumps and rubella. None were any fun (mumps was the worst, but
    I was still pretty much bedridden for a week and a half with the measles).

    People forget about the long, lingering childhood illnesses, the complications and the deaths.
    The new parents don’t know, not having had them and hearing mostly the falsehoods and scaremongering
    from the antivax crowd.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  24. 24 ChocolateLab

    Unfortunately, Forced Anarchy is not spoofing. She is dead serious. She frequents
    the Mothering.com discussion boards, which are rampantly anti-vax.
    If you really want to make your blood pressure rise, go check it out.

  25. 25 Judi

    As a mum to a wonderfully mischevious autistic son, I thank you for the wonderful article. I always wonder about those people who believe that this is such a mild disease. My grandmother, born in 1921, never understood those parents who would rather their children have measles…she watched 2 of her siblings get very sick and another child on the street died as a result of the measles (don’t know what year it was).

    I luckily survived all 3 of the diseases…my brother had the mumps and was hospitalized for encephalitis. I was little, but I remember my mother being very scared that he wouldn’t come home. Thanks to the wonderful medical staff, he did.

  26. 26 William the Coroner

    My common response when folks ask me if they should do something foolish is “I don’t need the work”. It is applicable to so many questions, “Should I buy a motorcycle?” and “Ever thought about skydiving?” being two. There are diseases that are vaccine-preventable that can lead to sudden, unexpected death. Nisseria menengitis is one that I’m personally acquainted with. Nice article.

  27. 27 Ms. Clark

    Thank you, very much for the article, Dr. Epi-Wonk. I appreciate what you wrote, and I especially appreciate what you wrote about the parents who have nothing better do do that indulge their hobby of trying to undermine (my, your, our) public health:

    “Meanwhile, the modern anti-vaccination movement, which has become a hobby of upper-middle-class activists and Hollywood celebrities with no time to learn the basic tenets of epidemiologic methods (or even of the scientific process), has used pseudoscience and misinformation to gain far too much influence on our public discourse on child health.”

  28. 28 TheProbe

    Putting a human face on this issue is sooooo important, especially to counteract the tear-jerkers that are paraded by the pro-infectious disease merchants of disability and death. Hopefully, more people will come forward.


    ChocolateLab Oct 10th, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Unfortunately, Forced Anarchy is not spoofing. She is dead serious. She frequents the Mothering.com discussion boards, which are rampantly anti-vax. If you really want to make your blood pressure rise, go check it out.

    Sounds like a target rich environment. My kind of place….

  29. 29 TheProbe

    I visited mothering.com and survived. It is a cesspool of anti-vax moronicity. Unfortunately, something is interfering with Darwin. Must be herd immunity.

    These idiots need to be culled.

  30. 30 Tom Hail

    Excellent article Doctor. I am spreading it to all my Hollywood friends. :-) And my other friends as well. Keep up the good work!

  31. 31 Kathryn

    I know this story focuses on measles, but I have a family story about polio, another vaccine-preventable disease. My mother grew up in the days of the polio epidemics, and was lucky to survive without severe disability. Others in her small town were not so lucky.

    However, after age 50 or so, she developed post-polio syndrome with untreatable neurogenic pain and muscle weakness.

    My maternal uncle had chicken pox as a young adult and got blisters under his eyelids. I was lucky; I got it in 4th grade and recovered with only one scar after three weeks of flu-like symptoms and itching.

    If I had kids, you betcha they’d be immunized.

  32. 32 sophia8

    Thanks from another measles survivor here. I caught it when I was four months old, and was hospitalised. My mother told me she was terrified for me - as a child, she’d had a baby sister who died from measles.
    Yes, people are complacent because they have no first-hand knowledge of the dreadful damage these diseases can do. I always ask anti-vaxxers “So if measles, mumps and so on are all just harmless little infections, why the **** did anybody ever think that vaccines for them needed to be developed in the first place?” I’ve yet to hear back from any of them on that.

  33. 33 Liz Ditz

    Thank you for speaking out. Those born after the introduction of measles vaccine (1963) have no idea how horrible it was to be ill with this disease.

    I had all three diseases — measles, mumps, rubella in early childhood. I don’t clearly remember measles, but do remember having the mumps, in particular being so ill that I could not get out of bed to get to the toilet.

    ps: Like alyric, you’ll always be EpiWonk to me.

  34. 34 María Luján

    Hi Epiwonk
    I am a severe case of measles survivor. Have a very bad case of measles at 11.5 months of age. The fever was so high I was put on ice- first at home later at the hospital. Also I was giving so many antibiotics that they affected my teeth enamel- the doctor suspected a begining of meningitis. My parents were afraid of me dying because of my general status.

  35. 35 The Perky Skeptic

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this article, and for “outing” yourself in a mainstream media outlet. The more stories the public hears about the horrors of these infectious diseases, the better. Antivaccinationists make my blood boil– they’re the chief reason I left many online motherhood communities back when I first had my son, because I couldn’t stand their ranting.

    My wonderful, amazing, AWESOME child is autistic, by the way, but he got it from me, NOT the shots. ;)

  36. 36 EpiWonk

    Perky Skeptic,

    Thank YOU for your blog post about my op-ed article!

  37. 37 Samantha

    I’ll add my thanks to that of the others. I was born outside of the US and at seven years of age I knew that a bad case of mumps might mean that my male cousins would never be able to have biological children. My children (autistic and typical) have no clue what mumps is and will hopefully only ever find out in a history book or med school.

  38. 38 Ren

    Thank you for enlightening readers with your op-ed piece. Unfortunately, for far too many people, vaccinating has become a matter of ideology rather than just common sense, like religion, politics, or even cheering for a football team. Their side can do no wrong, and what they believe is the Truth (with a capital “T”). Perhaps because of my age and relative inexperience, I have not figured out yet how to change the mind of an ideologue. I fear that only a higher power can do that.

    Nonetheless, thank you. This will, at the very least, serve as ammo in my fight to bring reason to some very unreasonable folks.

  39. 39 Science Mom

    I’m glad to see that your op-ed piece was picked up and was well-written. I am looking forward to your future installments on measles which are so sorely needed.

  40. 40 Uncle Dave

    “Meanwhile, the modern anti-vaccination movement, which has become a hobby of upper-middle-class activists and Hollywood celebrities with no time to learn the basic tenets of epidemiologic methods (or even of the scientific process), has used pseudoscience and misinformation to gain far too much influence on our public discourse on child health.”

    Well put.

  41. 41 storkdok

    Thank you for your op-ed piece! I hope you can expand on it one day. I, too, am an “EpiWonk” fan, can’t think of you with any other name!

    I happened to see a lot of infectious diseases as a medical student on a rotation to Papua New Guinea in the Highlands at a small clinic/hospital that served as regional hospital. We were unable to save several patients with measles and chickenpox pneumonias and encephalitis. There were other preventable infectious diseases as well that we saw. These diseases are real and out there and will make a comeback if we don’t refute the inaccuracies of the very loud and unfortunately quite effective anti-vaccine voices.

    Thank you for “outing” yourself for such an important cause!

  42. 42 Sridharaya

    Hi, I can?t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please :)

  43. 43 Govindaya

    Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Wednesday. This is a great story. Thanks!

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  45. 45 IBS%9

    Hello Guru, what entice you to post an article. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

  46. 46 digestinol

    Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Sunday. This is a great story. Thanks!

  47. 47 Mali

    commenting usually isnt my thing, but ive spent an hour on the site, so thanks for the info

  48. 48 The Master SEO

    Can you guide me for the RSS section please

  49. 49 larry

    Any thoughts on the recent article on msnbc:


  50. 50 Jake

    I am sure that by now you will have completed this essay but with my experience in the medical field, I am certain that you found that for sure is measles not worth the risk and that the prevention from diseases definitely outweighs some of the side effects.

  51. 51 Ian Random

    Unfortunately, the herd immunity is insulating them from their stupidity. Someday one of the anti-vaccine enclaves will reach the magic ratio and someone will get really sick. This could come in the form of innocent traveler going through one of these neighborhoods.

  52. 52 Pointer Men's Basketball

    You you should edit the page subject title Thoughts of Measles Survivor at Epi Wonk to more generic for your blog post you write. I loved the post nevertheless.

  53. 53 April

    Wow. This post is so awesome that I need to lie down for awhile before I can write something rational.

    But I will, I will…

    Way to blend science with personal experience. I was just saying tonight to my partner (also a medical researcher) that I wish there were more media images of the days when infectious diseases were not so well under control just to remind the public of how far we’ve come… and the wolf at the door.

    I will write much more, but in the meantime, thank you for all your work.


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