Before the Vaccine: My Memory of Measles

My 88-year-old father still blames the Ringling Bros. for giving me the measles 50-some years ago. And the current Disneyland-linked outbreak bought back memories of that miserable time.

I was four and still a thumb-sucker. After trying everything to help me break the habit, including painting some vile stuff on my fingers called “Don’t!” my parents promised a circus outing if I kept fingers out of my mouth for two weeks.

It was the carrot I needed. In two Sundays, no longer a thumb-sucker, I buckled up my Mary Janes and headed for the circus. I still remember the terrifying “freak show” that flanked the entrance to the big top and the sequined aerialists who swung overhead gripping ropes only with their teeth.

About a week after The Greatest Show on Earth, I was flat on my back with the measles.

This was in the 1950s, at least six years before a measles vaccine appeared. In suburban New York, where I grew up, getting the measles was considered a childhood rite of passage. Some mothers even held measles (and chicken pox and mumps) parties, so a sick child could infect the neighbor kids – a controlled contagion that wouldn’t ruin Christmas or summer vacations.

In my young mind, every kid got measles, survived and moved on. I couldn’t know that each year before the vaccine became available in 1963, an estimated 400 to 500 people died of measles in the U.S., 48,000 were hospitalized and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain), according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Worldwide, the disease still kills 164,000 each year.

That explains the panicked look on my father’s face when he’d return from work each night to see his active 4-year-old lying stick-still in bed, shivering under blue, wool blankets.

I was a mess. A 104-degree fever made blinking painful, and I whimpered without moving as my mother sponged me with rubbing alcohol to bring down my temperature, which is what mothers did back then.

When the fever finally disappeared, the spots arrived covering my body so densely it looked like a sunburn. They itched so much, that my parents covered my hands (including my newly un-sucked thumbs) with socks to cushion the scratching.

So measles is nothing to sneeze at – a common way of spreading the disease – and the 50-plus cases in six states linked to the Disneyland outbreak are cause for concern.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases known, so anyone not protected can get the disease, according to the CDC, which is urging people to get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is 97 percent effective against measles and provides life-long immunity.

“People who get measles put others at risk who cannot get vaccinated because they are too young or they have specific health conditions,” the CDC said in response to my questions.

The anti-vaccination movement has been criticized for spurring outbreaks like the measles one in Disneyland. Andrew Wakefield’s controversial 1998 study, which suggested a link between vaccines and autism, helped fuel the backlash against immunizations. The study was retracted in 2010.

The CDC recommends that all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Children can receive the second dose earlier, though it must be at least 28 days after the first dose.

I can’t speak to the vaccination debate. But I can bear witness to measles. And I wouldn’t wish the disease on anyone.


Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

I remember having the chicken pox. Wouldn't wish it on any one.

Vinu, you are the problem. Not part of any solution.

Immunize your children and yourselves. Listen to you doctors and healthcare providers.

A antivaxxer, such as vinu, are the public health hazards.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Isoli P.
Isoli P4 years ago

Thanks for article

Philip Mcnabb
Past Member 4 years ago

Interesting article....

Jason Adams
Past Member 4 years ago

All children need to be vaccinated.

Marlon Yates
Marlon Yates4 years ago

Thank for the article.

Magdalena J.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you!

Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

Vinu A......medical student???? I DID read the posts and links from Occams L.....Do you think anyone will actually take you seriously now?
Stop before you do damage to any unsuspecting members

Vinu Arumugham
Vinu Arumugham4 years ago

Even pharmaceutical companies are surprised that excipients are unregulated ... June 24, A1 The Joint IPEC-PQG GMP Guide.pdf

Slide 6:

“How is excipient
manufacture regulated?
• To the surprise of many the
manufacture and supply of excipients
is unregulated by any agency
• European legislation puts the onus on
the user, the MA holder to ensure that
starting materials are of a ‘suitable’

Even the gas you pump into your car is better regulated than the vaccines/excipients pumped into our babies ...

Occams Laser
Occams Laser4 years ago

Mary B -

Really, the best way to learn about Vinu A's numerous fabrications and distortions is to read this thread:

Many of the falsehoods that he has posted here have already been exposed in that thread, and Vinu A has not contested any of these revelations.

He simply makes things up, and when a lie is exposed, he simply moves on to another claim. It's really quite sad; one day, his children will discover how dishonest he is, and he will be in a terrible position.