Four-Year-Old Child Dead After Mom Takes Flu-Curing Tips From Anti-Vaxx Facebook Group
Four-year-old Najee Jackson Jr. of Colorado died this week from the flu. A child's death is tragic under any circumstances, but in this case it is especially heartbreaking because it probably could have been prevented had the child's mother not been taking bad advice from "Stop Mandatory Vaccination," a 139,000-member Facebook group known for spreading misinformation about health care.
Before Jackson Jr. was even formally diagnosed, the whole family had been showing symptoms — for which their doctor prescribed Tamiflu, an antiviral commonly prescribed to flu patients. His mother, Geneva Montoya, told the anti-vaxx group about this, noting, "my 4year old had a febrile seizure at only temp of 102. The doc prescribed tamaflu I did not pick it up" Previous posts in the group by Montoya also showed that as far back as 2017, she had been refusing to give her family the flu shot.
Montoya also solicited advice for "all natural" flu treatments, according to a report from NBC:
None of the 45 comments on the mother's Facebook post suggested medical attention. The child was eventually hospitalized and died four days later, according to a GoFundMe started on his behalf by his family.
The mother also wrote that the "natural cures" she was treating all four of her children with — including peppermint oil, Vitamin C and lavender — were not working and asked the group for more advice. The advice that came in the comments included breastmilk, thyme and elderberry, none of which are medically recommended treatments for the flu.
"Perfect, I'll try that," the mother responded.
Facebook is one of the few social media sites left where anti-vaxxers can peddle their bullshit. While, following the lead of Pinterest and YouTube, Facebook has stopped promoting anti-vaxx content and includes disclaimers for all anti-vaxx content, they have not eliminated the groups themselves — which, really, is where most of the damage happens. Alas, outside of RICO laws, you can't exactly ban people from talking to each other.
Although screenshots of Montoya's posts have gone viral, the family — who are still dealing with their 10-month-old son's flu diagnosis — say they haven't been paying much attention to the criticism:
"I don't look at none of it," Jackson said, referring to the online criticism.
The grieving parents say what they've been through is hard enough and they don't have time for online judgement.
"The negative comments — keep (them) to yourself because at the end of the day," Jackson said. "What's important is that each one of these parents goes home and kisses their kids."
Part of what is so confounding and heartbreaking about this case and cases like it is that these parents undoubtedly thought they were doing the "right" thing for their children. The fallacy that natural cures are always better is an appealing one for sure, but when it comes down to it, when it comes down to children and their health, it's also an irresponsible one. People are right to be enraged and horrified and hopefully the attention this case gets will make more parents more skeptical of this kind of bullshit. But still, these are parents who just lost a child and are dealing with another sick child, so hopefully that criticism can remain constructive rather than cruel.
And though flu season is almost over — if you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, there's still time to do it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse