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Measles Outbreak

Disneyland Measles Outbreak: Why One Mom Recommends Vaccination

Image: Whooping Cough Vaccinations Administered In Los Angeles

A school nurse prepares a vaccine against whooping cough before giving it to students at Mark Twain Middle School August 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images file

An outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland has doctors reminding their patients to get vaccinated against measles—but it’s also reignited defiance among people who question whether the move is necessary.

Doctors are clear: the measles vaccine works especially well, it’s safe, and everyone should get it. People who are not vaccinated are at high risk if they come into contact with people who have measles—it has a 90 percent transmission rate, and it can be deadly.

And while measles is rare and unlikely to affect most Americans, it’s important to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, doctors say: babies too young to have been vaccinated yet, and people who for various reason cannot be vaccinated.

Fiona Stone knows. Her three kids couldn’t be vaccinated for years, and they were nerve-racking years for her.

“We definitely avoided certain places...places where children congregate a lot."

“My middle child has an autoimmune condition, so when he was very young, he couldn't have any vaccines, because his immune system was so compromised from the medications he was on,” Stone told NBC News.

Mother: My Children Can't Get a Measles Vaccination 1:59

“He was on steroid therapy. He was on chemotherapy and putting those antibodies in his body would've been devastating to his body.”

That meant watching out for situations like the current measles outbreak.

“We definitely avoided certain places...places where children congregate a lot,” Stone said.

“We may not have gone to playgrounds. We may not have gone to a restaurant that really focuses on children...Chuck E. Cheese or something like that. And we were very conscious about not touching banisters going down stairs and yeah...you just have to think neurotically in those situations.”

Stone, who lives with her three children near Santa Barbara, California, didn’t vaccinate her other two children because the measles vaccine contains what’s known as live virus. It’s a weakened version of the measles virus that causes a harmless infection in healthy children. But it would have been devastating for Cameron, who is now 11.

“My other two children then couldn't have the vaccine, because it's a live vaccine and you expel it from your body, so it would've been around the house and he would've been exposed to it,” Stone said. “So we had to make a decision not to vaccinate our other children while our other child was undergoing serious medical treatment.”

Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through the air or on contaminated surfaces. Of every 1,000 people who get measles, one to two die from pneumonia, encephalitis or other complications.

Public health experts rely on what’s called herd immunity to keep infections like measles under control. If most people in a community are vaccinated, it’s harder for an infection to take hold and spread. But California is a state with many pockets of people who, because of personal beliefs or other reasons, have not been vaccinated.

California state health officials say that’s how the Disneyland outbreak has taken hold and spread to more than half a dozen states and Mexico.

“So my personal feeling is that for the betterment of everyone, is to have your child vaccinated.”

“A family vacation to an amusement park—or a trip to the grocery store, a football game or school—should not result in children becoming sickened by an almost 100 percent preventable disease,” said Dr. Errol Alden, executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We are fortunate to have an incredibly effective tool that can prevent our children from suffering. That is so rare in medicine.”

The Academy and other groups are urging people to get their kids vaccinated—not only for their own sakes, but to protect people like Stone’s children.

Stone’s children are now vaccinated, but she’s still nervous.

“We have a situation at our children's school at the moment where there's an outbreak of chicken pox, because those children haven't been vaccinated and it is concerning, because even if your child is vaccinated, there's still a small chance they could contract it,” Stone said.

“So my personal feeling is that for the betterment of everyone, is to have your child vaccinated.”