Anti-vaxxers’ adult son gets measles; has message for the world

Mar 7, 2019, 1:18 PM | Updated: 1:19 pm
measles anti-vaxxer adult child...
Three years ago, Joshua Nerius, a 30-year-old software product manager in Chicago, developed a high fever and a rash. Doctors prescribed antibiotics, but Nerius just got sicker and sicker. He had the measles - and learned, a little too late, that his parents had not vaccinated him.

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN

(CNN) — The vaccination debate just got a new advocate: the adult child of anti-vaxxer parents who contracted measles as an adult.

Three years ago, Joshua Nerius, a 30-year-old software product manager in Chicago, developed a high fever and a rash. Doctors prescribed antibiotics, but Nerius just got sicker and sicker.

Joshua went to the emergency room, where a doctor said it looked a lot like the measles. Had he been vaccinated as a child?

Nerius texted the question to his mother. She sent back a thumbs-down emoji.

His next stop was an isolation room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Nerius became so weak that at one point, he couldn’t walk without assistance. He lost 25 pounds. It took months to fully recover.

“I felt horrible,” he said. “It took a serious toll.”

He thinks about the current measles outbreak, which started in Washington state, where dozens of children have suffered because their parents chose not to vaccinate them.

He knows that their suffering — and his own three years ago — could have been avoided.

“It makes me so angry. My parents thought they were doing the right thing. They were persuaded by the anti-vaxxers,” he said.

Measles kills

Nerius is something of a unicorn: a living adult who experienced measles recently and can describe what it feels like.

It’s easy to forget how sick people get from measles or how it killed 400 to 500 people in the United States each year before the vaccine came into use in 1963, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Measles is out of sight and out of mind, so we think it’s no big deal, as Bill Shine’s wife has said,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Offit was referring to comments last month by Darla Shine, wife of the White House communications chief, who tweeted that she wished her children had had measles like she did as a girl.

“Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy,” she wrote.

Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks Shine might change her mind if she’d seen the children he cared for in 1991 during a measles outbreak in Philadelphia.

“They were absolutely miserable,” he remembers. “And occasionally, they were dead.”

Nine children died in that outbreak, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Offit can’t understand why Shine and other anti-vaxxers would prefer dead children over vaccinated children.

“When Darla Shine talks about how great it was that she had measles as a child, what she forgets to mention is that she gets to tell her story because she’s alive. The ones who died — we don’t hear from them,” he said.

A near miss

Nerius remembers the scariest part of his bout with measles.


Josh Nerius contracted measles in May 2016 at a graduation ceremony.

He contracted the disease in May 2016, at his sister’s graduation from the Northern Illinois University College of Business. The Illinois Department of Health later determined that a guest who had traveled to the graduation from outside the United States had the measles, which is highly contagious.

“I didn’t interact with anyone at that graduation besides my own family, so it was literally just me walking by someone,” he said.

He says the scariest part is that the day after his sister’s graduation, before he knew that he’d been infected, he attended a technology convention in Las Vegas with thousands of other people.

“I was shaking hands with hundreds of people a day. I wasn’t contagious yet, but it’s sobering to think if the timing had been just slightly different, how many people I could have infected,” he said.

Nerius doesn’t blame his parents for not vaccinating him. He says they were believers in alternative medicine, and in the 1980s, there was no Internet where they could double-check what they were being told by anti-vaxxers.

But today’s parents have no excuse, he says. They can go to the American Academy of Pediatrics or a multitude of other sites to learn that vaccines are safe and keep children healthy.

“The science on this has been settled. It’s been solved. When I look at where we are today, with people who are willfully deciding to ignore the facts, it really frustrates me,” Nerius said. “I just don’t understand the mindset of people who want to spread fear.”

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories


WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19:  The U.S. Capitol is shown as a looming government shutdown threatens ...
Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly, CNN

Defense bill likely to include end to military Covid vaccine mandate, source says

A massive bill setting defense policy is likely to end the military Covid vaccine mandate, a source familiar with the negotiations tells CNN.
2 days ago
A burrow is among the items an adopted desert tortoise needs. Photo by Utah Division of Wildlife Re...
Mia Alberti, Lianne Kolirin and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Jonathan the tortoise, world’s oldest land animal, celebrates his 190th birthday

The South Atlantic island of St. Helena is celebrating the birthday of the world's oldest living land animal -- a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan, who is turning 190.
4 days ago
The US Food and Drug Administration said it is closely working with drug manufacturers to assess a ...
Carma Hassan, CNN

Children’s painkillers in high demand as respiratory illnesses rise

The US Food and Drug Administration said it is closely working with drug manufacturers to assess the situation.
4 days ago
President John F. Kennedy signs the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Cente...
Curt Gresseth

Is forcing the homeless into treatment the answer?

NYC Mayor Eric Adams has announced a program that involuntarily treats homeless people in "psychiatric crisis." A BYU psychologist weighs the New York approach against the ethics of patient autonomy.
5 days ago
Super agers have been identified by researchers as men and women over age 80 that have the cognitiv...
Curt Gresseth

SuperAgers — who are they, are you one, and can you become one?

SuperAgers are men and women older than 80 with the mental faculties of people decades younger.
6 days ago
Gov. Cox mental health...
Mark Jackson

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water released this week

Utah’s Coordinated Action Plan for Water was released Wednesday by Gov. Spencer Cox and state agencies.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Anti-vaxxers’ adult son gets measles; has message for the world