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Louise's 9-month-old son was diagnosed with measles. Then the verbal abuse started.

In late June, Brisbane mother-of-two Louise and her family returned home from a holiday in Singapore.

For the first few days back home everything was normal, but after about five days, her 9-month-old son developed a fever.

“Unfortunately the very first day of symptoms was also his very first day starting at daycare,” Louise told Mamamia.

The trailer for SBS’ Dateline: America’s Measles Comeback . Post continues below video.

Video by SBS

“So we got a phone call from daycare late that afternoon to say since lunch time he started to seem a little bit off and they checked his temperature which was a 38.5.”

Louise picked him up from daycare and took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with a chest infection and put on antibiotics. After three days there had been no improvement, so they took him back to the doctor who advised his chest was clear, but that he had a cold.

Then two days later, her son developed a rash.

“We took him to the doctors and they were still a little bit unsure what it could’ve been so they sent us to emergency at the children’s hospital. It was at that point that they did the testing and it was the following day that he was diagnosed with measles,” Louise explained.

sbs dateline measles
Image: Supplied.

After the diagnosis, the entire family was put into quarantine. Queensland Health was in contact throughout the week, and drew up an alert that stated where her son had been while infectious.

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While it was completely anonymous, the public alert - which did not specify the age of the child - sparked a barrage of negative comments as people assumed her family was anti-vax.

Immunisation against measles is recommended as part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule, but children do not receive the vaccine until 12 months of age. Another dose is given at 18 months.

"Because [the alert] only said 'child', it could've been a child from any age, they immediately just assumed that we were anti-vaxxers and there were some really horrible comments made.

"The worst was probably 'I hope the child dies then the anti-vaxxer parents will learn a lesson'. There were also a lot of comments that were people not realising what measles is, how severe it is. A lot of comments were like 'It's just a mild illness, I don't know what the big deal is, we all got measles back in the day and we all lived,' so there was a lot of confusion and people not understanding."

Louise said that although her family had not been identified, she still found the comments very upsetting to read.

sbs dateline measles
Image: Supplied.

She and her husband had their immunity for measles tested, and their oldest son was tested for the infection. They were all in the clear. Her son's daycare excluded any child under the age of 18 months for a week and a half and thankfully, there were no other cases of measles from the centre.

While fighting the infection her son was "really miserable", went off his food and lost a lot of weight.

"It took him a little while to get back to his happy self," she said.

"It also just really rocked his immune system. Since the measles he has had pretty much an endless cold. He's had gastro, he's had conjunctivitis, school sores - everything that's been going around, he's picked up because his immune system has been so low. He is definitely on the mend and there is no signs of long-term issues from the measles, so that's good. It definitely took a toll on his health."

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sbs dateline measles
Image: Supplied.

Louise wanted to share a few key takeaways from her family's experience with measles and the negative, unnecessary judgement they received.

"One is the importance of vaccinations and to understand why we get vaccinated and the importance of it, that these diseases aren't mild little colds or anything, they are serious illnesses. People die from the measles. It is something that is really important to get vaccinated against.

"For adults, check with your doctor to check if you need booster shots. And also, don't judge on social media. It's a bit unnecessary... It was really hard to get all those judgments, being called a bad parent and everything when before we travelled we did take all the precautions. That was really hard and frustrating I suppose."

Louise will appear on SBS Dateline's documentary Dateline: America’s Measles Comeback, about the on-going anti-vaccination debate around a measles outbreak in New York, which has become the ground zero for anti-vax movement.

Measles is highly contagious, and although preventable with immunisation, its numbers are increasing as vaccination rates decrease. The World Health Organisation reported cases of measles almost quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019.

Singapore, where Louise's family travelled in June, had previously eliminated measles, but in July Channel Asia News reported there had been 116 measles cases so far in 2019. Singapore's parliament put this down to "declining vaccination coverage in many countries", which has a domino effect on Singapore as a travel hub.

In Australia, the Department of Health's current year-to-date number of measles infections (155) have well and truly surpassed the 2018 full year total (105).

America’s Measles Comeback airs on Dateline on Tuesday, September 3 at 9.30pm on SBS. It will also be available on SBS On Demand.

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