A Texas nurse was recently fired for sharing information about a patient on an anti-vaxxer Facebook page — and by stating that she hopes she could bring the illness back home to infect her own 13-year-old child.
She wrote about a young boy who came into her care with a case of measles so severe that it "scared" her, but she told other members in her group that it still didn't change her stance on being opposed to vaccinations.
Texas Children's Hospital in Houston terminated the nurse's position after learning of the posts she made to the "Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children-Texas" Facebook page.
Her comments were screenshot by a concerned parent online who couldn't believe that a healthcare professional would consider, even if it was a "flex claim" for the internet, getting her own child sick with a disease like measles.
In her post, she detailed how scary it was to see measles up close and personal, and that for her and many other doctors and hospital staff workers, it was their first time seeing the illness in person.
"I think it’s easy for us nonvaxxers to make assumptions but most of us have never and will never see one of theses diseases. [F]or the first time in my career I saw measles this week. Actually most of my coworkers and the ER docs saw measles for the first time as well. And honestly, it was rough. The kid was super sick. Sick enough to be admitted to the ICU and he looked miserable."
The nurse went on to say that the child had traveled to a region where "measles is very common" and stated that she thought they may have contracted the illness while overseas.
What prompted the concerned parent to eventually share the nurse's screencapped post with the Texas Children's Hospital's Facebook page was her claim that she thought about swabbing the measles infected patient's mouth to give to her own child.
Measles symptoms are not pretty: we're talking a red rash, watery eyes, a runny nose, and a super high fever. The red rash in many cases has been known to appear all over the individual's body including their face, eyelids, and torso.
About five percent of all measles cases results in pneumonia, and if the illness isn't treated quickly enough, it could lead to the patient's brain swelling, causing lifelong damage to the individual.
The measles vaccine was made available to the public in the US in 1963. In the 10 years leading up to the vaccine, nearly 500 people died from the disease annually, with many others suffering from the illness and sustaining permanent side effects despite surviving after contracting the virus.
After seeing the woman's post on its Facebook page, the Texas Children's Hospital responded, saying that they were made aware of the nurse's behavior and online activity:
"Thank you for your post. We are aware of this situation and have started a thorough investigation.We take these matters very seriously. The views of this employee do not represent that of the organization."
The hospital also released a statement after it made its decision to fire the nurse for releasing private patient information online — not as a result of her anti-vaccination stance.
"We were made aware that one of our nurses posted protected health information regarding a patient on social media. We take these matters very seriously as the privacy and well-being of our patients is always a top priority. After an internal investigation, this individual is no longer with the organization."
In 2018, the U.S. has had over 100 measles cases so far, and in parts of Europe measles cases jumped from a record low, about 5,000 cases, to over 20,000 in just a year.
Experts attribute the growth in measles contractions partially to the rise in anti-vaccination groups. In 2017, a community comprised of predominantly Somali immigrants who were heavily canvassed by anti-vaccination groups experienced a measles outbreak.
Following concerns from those who may have come into contact with the child who was diagnosed with measles, the hospital released a statement to Houston ABC station KTRK urging them to be vaccinated and consult with the hospital for clinical recommendations.
"A patient treated at Texas Children's Hospital West Campus tested positive for measles. This is a highly-contagious, vaccine-preventable infection. We know vaccination is the best protection against measles. Our Infection Control and Prevention team immediately identified other children who may have come in contact with this patient to assess their risk and provide clinical recommendations. We have contacted all of those families."
The hospital went on to say that the nurse did have a favorable track record with her local licensing board, however, they did not provide details on the status of her own vaccinations. The hospital did vocalize that they strongly encouraged all employees to get their vaccines. (h/t abcnewsgo)