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Measles Infections Present Greater Risks with a Fatal Neurological Complication


With heartfelt care, Erica Finkelstein-Parker meticulously planned her daughter’s 8th birthday celebration. Knowing Emmalee’s love for airplanes, Finkelstein-Parker themed the party “Flying High with Emmalee” and assembled nearly two dozen vibrantly colored goody bags for her daughter’s friends—ensuring that each child in her class would feel included.

However, months later, these treat bags remained untouched in Finkelstein-Parker’s bedroom, serving as poignant reminders of a birthday celebration that never came to fruition. Instead, Emmalee, who developed a rare complication of measles years after infection, spent her 8th birthday under hospice care at her family’s residence. Adopted from an orphanage in India at the age of 2 ½, Emmalee’s parents were unaware that she had been exposed to measles prior to their adoption.

Reflecting on this heart-wrenching experience, Finkelstein-Parker of Littlestown, Pennsylvania, expressed, “There are some experiences that no parent should ever have to endure. I had to make the painful call to the birthday venue, explaining that we were cancelling the party because our daughter was nearing the end of her life.” Emmalee passed away on January 2, 2011.

“People often perceive these diseases as belonging to the past, but they’re still very much present,” stated Finkelstein-Parker. “Measles is a cunning virus. It may appear to have left your body, but it can linger in your nervous system.”

The significant resurgence of measles globally, attributed to declines in immunization rates due to the pandemic and increasing vaccine hesitancy among parents, heightens the risk of severe complications and fatalities, explained Dr. James Cherry, a professor of pediatrics and infectious disease expert at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Over the past two months, doctors in the United States have identified numerous measles cases linked to unvaccinated travelers who arrived at international airports, subsequently exposing others at hospitals and day care facilities. State health departments have reported measles cases in California, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, Maryland, and Minnesota. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a cautionary alert to healthcare providers, urging them to remain vigilant for additional cases.

“One infected traveler is all it takes to ignite an outbreak,” emphasized Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “These outbreaks often originate from individuals disembarking airplanes.”

Measles is exceptionally contagious, to the extent that a single case constitutes an outbreak. On average, each measles patient spreads the virus to 12 to 18 individuals who lack immunity from vaccines or prior infection. In contrast, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that each Covid-19 patient typically infects around two others. “Measles is significantly more contagious than Covid-19 or influenza,” stated Offit.

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