South African trained paediatric oncologist Dr Rob Corbett has sadly seen first hand what measles can do to children with low immunity and worries about the children under his care when measles is circulating in the community.
‘The effect of measles on people who are immune compromised is truly horrible,’ he says. ‘Like children receiving cancer treatment, people who are severely malnourished are very vulnerable and I have seen numerous children die [in South Africa] because of the virus.’
In otherwise well children, measles doesn’t invade the body organs but in immune-compromised children the virus gains access to the lungs and they often die from progressive pneumonia or it can attack the brain.
Dr Corbett, who is Clinical Director of Paediatric Oncology for the South Island Child Cancer Service says measles is an incredibly serious illness, which is under recognised in New Zealand.
‘People in developing countries have a very different perspective on it. I do a lot of work in the Pacific Islands and we don’t see any reluctance there to protect children from diseases that you can be immunised against. Here, there is some sort of misplaced belief that immunisation is harmful, when it has done so much good for the world’s children.’
This case study was originally published in Protecting Children with Cancer from Measles.