In 1988, beloved British author Roald Dahl wrote some of his most poignant, instructive words. In an open letter, the writer known for his children’s books pierced with dark humour, urged parents to vaccinate their children against measles following the death of his eldest daughters to the same disease.
Olivia Dahl died of measles encephalitis, aged just seven years old. The author went on to dedicate two of his books to her, James and the Giant Peach, and the BFG; “For Olivia: 20th April 1955 — 17th November 1962.” ::::
Determined that no other child should die from the disease, a complication of measles where the brain swells leading to convulsions, Dahl wrote an open letter more than 25 years after her death.
The letter, which the Encephalitis Society in the UK uses in its awareness campaigns, has been widely shared in recent days following the fresh outbreak of measles in the United States.
Dahl, who wrote classics including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, penned the letter in 1988, two years before his death, pleading with parents not to deny their children vaccinations “out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear.” In the letter Dahl writes:
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy, ” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it. It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk :: Read the full letter on Roald Dahl’s official website.
An update from the California Department of Public Health has confirmed there are at least 109 cases of measles, 91 of which are in California, up from 78 cases reported in January.
Health officials believe an international traveler brought measles to Disneyland, where the current outbreak started, and it has reignited the debate over measles vaccination. Two doses of the measles vaccine, known as MMR, are 99 percent affective in preventing illness.
image source: ap