Rumored revival of measles parties

Rumors of parents hosting “measles parties” in California are spreading across the country.

Health officials haven’t received any reports of such parties taking place, but they have received a number of calls from parents asking about the benefits of “natural immunity” (immunity gained from contracting a disease), according to the Los Angeles Times.

In response to the rumors, California health officials have issued warnings against intentionally exposing unvaccinated children to the measles.

“Any parents who are considering this, they should have a look at a child who’s really sick with measles, and I think they’d change their minds,” Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis told the LA Times.

Health officials suspect the idea of measles parties may have grown out of the “pox parties,” where parents intentionally exposed their children to the chickenpox. Those were popular in the ‘80s, before the chickenpox vaccine was available.

Measles parties make little sense, Dr. Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, told the Times.

“The difference is we have a measles vaccine today, which is incredibly safe and highly effective,” Reingold told the Times. “It just doesn’t make sense to say I’d rather have my kids get the measles than the measles vaccine.”

All this as the number of measles cases in the U.S. continues to climb.

As of Feb. 6, 121 people from 17 states have contracted the measles this year. Most of those cases are part of a large outbreak linked to Disneyland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the world we live in.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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