Inside One Mother's Measles Nightmare

Uriah Krueger had received his first dose of the measles vaccine but was still too young for the second booster

Photo: Kellie Krueger

When Kellie Krueger’s 3-year-old son started coughing and became feverish in January, she thought he had a cold.

“We took him to the doctor for that at first,” says Krueger, 31, of Huntington Beach, California. “She diagnosed him with croup because that’s all he was showing at the time.”

But the following night, Uriah started getting a rash on his face that had spread to the rest of his body by the time he woke up Thursday morning, Jan. 15.

“We brought him back to the doctor and she took one look at him and said, ‘I can’t treat him here. You have to go to the hospital,’ ” says Krueger.

She and her husband Andrew, 31, quickly took him to a local hospital, where he was immediately placed in an isolation unit and put on intravenous saline since he hadn’t eaten anything for about two-and-a-half days.

The diagnosis? Measles.

“It was a bit confusing and surprising at first,” Kellie tells PEOPLE. “It was like, ‘What? My kid can’t get the measles. He got his shot. We came to find out that that’s not always true.”

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends infants receive their first measles vaccination at 12 months old and a booster between ages 4 and 6. If your child has both vaccines, they should be 97% protected against measles, but if they had only the first, like Uriah, they’re only 93% protected.

“He was one of the unlucky ones,” says Kellie, who is director of children’s ministry at a local church.

Next they tried to figure out where he could have caught the disease. So far this year, 121 people have been diagnosed with measles, 85 percent of them linked to a December outbreak at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in December. The majority were not vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Doctors and specialists told them that they think Uriah caught it at a New Year’s Eve party for kids at the Discovery Cube Science Center in Santa Ana, California.

“The specialists were pretty sure that a kid got it from Disneyland and then came to the science museum and that’s where Uriah got it,” says Kellie.

“Measles has a 10-day incubation period before you see symptoms and if you count back from when his symptoms started it’s right around that date,” she says.

Surprisingly, Kellie is not mad that her child may have caught measles because some parents are deciding not to vaccinate their kids, but the CDC says responsible parents should indeed vaccinate their kids.

“The MMR vaccine is proven to be very safe and effective,” Sharon Hoskins, a CDC spokesperson, tells PEOPLE.

The Kruegers had to notify Uriah’s preschool of his diagnosis, which sent out a letter to all of the families of the school. Lucky for them, he had only been to two places while he was contagious – school and church, where he attended a small service with very few kids.

After a three day, two-night hospital stay, Uriah was able to go home.

“He was extremely tired for about a week or two after he got out of the hospital,” says Kellie. “He was sleeping 13, 14 hours a night plus a two to three hour nap during the day. He was just kinda clingy.”

Now, though, he’s “fully recovered, normal, happy, fine,” she says. “He hated the whole experience and I couldn’t blame him. It’s pretty traumatic for a little kid.”

For the latest on the measles outbreak, pick up this week’s PEOPLE


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