HOUSTON, Texas -- A Texas Children's Hospital nurse was fired after posting about a toddler, who tested positive for measles, on an anti-vaccine Facebook page.
The hospital sent the following statement regarding the incident:
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.
Over the weekend, the nurse working at the hospital's West Campus posted about the child's condition on a Facebook page titled "Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children - Texas." That page appears to have since been taken down.
UT McGovern Medical School's Assistant Director of Humanities and Ethics says although moral objections exist, medical professionals opposed to vaccines probably shouldn't treat children.
"The beauty of healthcare, there is so many different routes that professionals can take," said professor Rebecca Lunstroth. "If you don't believe in vaccines, you probably shouldn't go into pediatrics and you would be warned of that, that this is the standard and if you don't believe in the standard, you should probably go into another practice."
Dr. David Persse, the director of the City of Houston Health Department, says the baby boy diagnosed with measles remains in the hospital. Dr. Persse said the baby was too young to get the measles vaccine, but the rest of his family is immunized.
"My understanding is the child is sick with a capital S, keep your prayers for them, they are in the best place they could be, but yes, this is a real situation for this family," Persse said.
The story first developed Monday, when screen shots of the nurse's comments surfaced on the internet.
In screenshots viewed by Eyewitness News, the nurse stated, ".. for 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...By no means have I changed my vax stance, and I never will. But I just wanted to share my experience and how much worse it was than I expected."
The postings included some comments by other group members, and at one point, the nurse commented, "I'm not kidding that I thought about swabbing his mouth and bringing it home to my 13 (year old)."
The screenshots were shared by a concerned parent on the Texas Children's Hospital Facebook page, and the hospital immediately responded that it is conducting an investigation.
On Monday afternoon, the hospital issued a full statement to Eyewitness News:
"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.
We work closely with public health entities to continuously monitor highly-contagious diseases in our local, national and international communities. 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.
We are also aware that one of our nurses posted information on social media and we take these matters very seriously. A thorough investigation is underway.
Texas Children's Hospital's highest priority is the health and safety of those we serve. We will continue to keep our patients, their families, our staff and the community at-large informed to the fullest extent possible, while also respecting the privacy rights of our patients."
Health officials say measles is largely preventable with vaccines, and is very rare in the United States, though numbers have ticked up in recent years.
Over the last 10 years, the Houston Health Department averaged about 0.5 reported cases of measles per year.
Across Texas, only one measles case was reported in 2016. This year, an outbreak of measles sickened six related individuals in Ellis County. A seventh case was recently confirmed in Collin County, and this could make Texas case number eight in 2018.
"Measles is such a concern, because one, it's preventable. We have a vaccination that can prevent it," said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of the Harris County Health System. "And two, it's so easily transmittable to someone else."
County officials initially thought they would be investigating the measles case, but the toddler in question lives in Houston, so the investigation is being conducted by the City of Houston Health Department.
"Vaccines save lives," said Dr. Shah.
The hospital says it strongly encourages all staff to obtain the recommended vaccines, and those who do not may be limited in the scope of treating patients. The hospital says it cannot comment on whether the nurse in question has had her vaccines.
Eyewitness News reached out to the nurse. During a visit to her home, her mother told us through the door that the family has no comment. The Texas Board of Nursing says the nurse in question is currently in good standing with its licensing board.
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