Health

A Child Died of the Flu After His Mom Consulted an Anti-Vax Facebook Group

Group members suggested skin-to-skin contact and elderberries instead of Tamiflu.
February 7, 2020, 4:29pm
toddler in pajamas sick day
Photo by Jill Lehmann Photography via Getty Images

As of January 25, 68 children had reportedly died from the from this season’s flu, according to the Center for Disease Control. Now, a 4-year-old boy from Pueblo, Colorado was the latest child to succumb to the flu between 2019-2020—after his mother consulted with an anti-vax Facebook group about how to treat her three children, all of whom were infected with the flu. Members suggested treatments ranging from skin contact, vitamins, boiled thyme, and chopping up cucumbers and potatoes to place on the sick child’s skin in order to “balance the hot and cold.”

According to a report from NBC News, mother Geneva Montoya had been active in Stop Mandatory Vaccinations—an anti-vax Facebook group with just over 139,000 members as of February—since 2017, and had posted about not getting her children vaccinated for the flu previously.

In since-deleted posts, Montoya said none of her children had gotten a flu shot this year, either, according to NBC News. She described taking two of her four children to the doctor after they displayed flu-like symptoms, and asked the group what she should do to break her children’s fevers using “natural ways.”

“The doctor prescribed tamaflu [sic] I did not pick it up I am scared and freaking out [sic],” Montoya wrote to the Facebook group’s other members. “You’re better off taking Vitamin D and C, Elderberry, Zinc, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables,” one member responded. “When my grandson was diagnosed with Flu [sic] we were all so worried but honestly, it’s been like a bad cold,” another wrote. “We’re pleased to see him improving so quickly.”

Fellow anti-vaxxers have since disputed the idea that Montoya didn’t give her son the prescribed Tamiflu, based on an interview with CBS Denver, when she told reporters the family “did what we had to do. We called the doctors. We called the hospital. We gave them the medicine we were instructed to give. We did everything.” Her husband Najee Jackson, Sr. told local news outlet KDVR: “The negative comments — keep to yourself because at the end of the day, what’s important is that each one of these parents goes home and kisses their kids.” The couple’s 10-month-old child, also infected with the flu, is reportedly improving.

Anti-vax sentiment has already given rise to the reemergence of diseases like measles, and strengthened the false belief in a link between vaccines and autism that persists today, despite the fact that the only study linking the two was retracted a decade ago. According to a report by the New York Times, vaccine-related misinformation spreads primarily via the internet and thrives on social media networks like Instagram and Facebook, the latter of which has done a notoriously bad job keeping up with its pledge to police that kind of content.

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