An Australian mum whose 11-month-old baby was rushed to hospital after contracting measles has spoken out after enduring "horrible" backlash from other parents.
Louise Snowling, from Brisbane, said her son Flynn caught the life-threatening disease during a trip overseas. She said he hadn't been immunised yet because he was too young to receive the injections.
After Flynn broke out in a rash that covered his whole body, developed a dangerously high fever and was unable to eat or drink, Louise rushed him to hospital where doctors discovered he had caught measles. As a result, Flynn was immediately placed into isolation.
To prevent the disease from spreading, Queensland Health issued a public alert — which sparked an avalanche of awful abuse as people speculated Flynn had caught the disease because he was from an "anti-vax family".
"Some of the worst comments were awful. One said, 'We hope the child dies, that way the anti-vaxxer parents will learn their lesson'," Louise told news.com.au.
While little Flynn wasn't identified online, the alert explained a child had been infected while overseas on holiday but didn't state his age — an omission Louise believes could have prevented the bashing the family received.
"It was very frustrating and upsetting. A part of me wished that the alert had said infant not child. People may have then realised he was too young, but I also understand that the alert is purely to let people who may have been in contact with my son to be on the lookout for symptoms," Louise added, explaining many people were "simply unaware" of the correct immunisation schedule for babies.
Measles injections are administered between six to 12 months of age according to NSW Health.
But many of the cruel comments were from people who thought babies were vaccinated against measles at six weeks old, the devastated mum said.
Worldwide, cases of measles have almost quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019, the World Health Organisation reported in April.
Cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease — which can kill or cause blindness, hearing loss and brain damage — are rising rapidly due to the growing number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their babies over fears the vaccines do more harm than good.
There is no scientific evidence to support these beliefs.
Australia is on track for is worst measles rate in five years, the SMH reported earlier this year — but the United States had an even more alarming number, jumping by almost 20 per cent.
Louise has shared her story as part of an SBS documentary into the huge rise in measles numbers.
Dateline: America's Measles Comeback airs tonight and focuses on the ongoing anti-vaccination debate around measles in New York, which has become the ground zero for the anti-vax movement.
But while vaccines have become their own worst enemies — being so effective many people cannot remember what having measles looks like — Louise's story is evidence the reality of infection is very real.
She stresses in the doco that it is why "herd immunity" is so important, as it protects "vulnerable" people like the young and the elderly.
"I never want to see one of my kids go through that again," she says on the show. "He was really unwell. It was hard to watch."