A measles outbreak is spreading across a Washington county known for choosing not to vaccinate its children, and health officials have declared a public health emergency.
The wife of White House communications director Bill Shine claimed Wednesday that the measles, now in an outbreak in New York and Washington states, “keep you healthy” and “fight cancer.”
The comments from Darla Shine came in a string of anti-vaccination tweets lamenting her own children’s vaccinations and touting her immunity to the contagious disease.
“The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer,” Shine said on Twitter.
She continued, referencing the measles vaccine known as MMR: “I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew – Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”
Shine, a former TV producer, launched into the claims after an apparent CNN report on the measles outbreak, which she called “fake” and “hysteria.”
The measles outbreaks in New York and Washington sent public health officials scrambling to contain a disease eliminated in the United States nearly 20 years ago.
One Washington county’s outbreak infected 50-plus people with the airborne disease, which leaves a red spotted rash inside the mouth that spreads over the body.
Anti-vaccination adherents like Shine have become a global health threat, the World Health Organization said this month. And the number of unvaccinated children at two years of age is on the rise, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The anti-vaccination movement’s rise stems partly from a discredited belief that vaccines are tied to autism. No ingredients in vaccines cause autism, the CDC says.
Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, a New York University School of Medicine professor, told CNN in response to Shine’s comments that measles can prove deadly but that its threat has been underestimated in recent decades because of the effectiveness of vaccines.
“Her kids, by not being exposed to (measles), they’re actually safer,” she said, despite the fact that those who’ve had the disease are immune. “We don’t necessarily need that immunity because we’ve had the vaccine.”
As for claims that measles fight cancer, Shine pointed to a 2014 CNN story in which a “highly concentrated, lab-engineered measles virus similar to the measles vaccine” was used to treat a cancer patient, a concept called virotherapy.
But that specialized measles strain does not apply here, Nampiaparampil told the network: “We’re not infecting people with the virus to try to fight cancer.”
Shine’s husband, Bill, is a former Fox News executive who joined the White House last year amid accusations that he helped cover up sexual harassment at the network.
Contributing: Ashley May, USA TODAY
Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner
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