26 August 2008

Viral

July 18, a brief little AP article popped up in the New York Times (Pakistan: Polio Found in Baby):
An 8-month-old Pakistani girl has tested positive for polio in an area where militants have opposed vaccination, a World Health Organization official said. The infant, identified as Tanzila, is from Ali Gram in the Swat Valley, where Islamic fundamentalists have beaten polio vaccination teams and the last confirmed case of polio was in 2003, said Dr. Khalid Nawaz of the World Health Organization. Threats to health workers and fighting between government security forces and militants have disrupted vaccinations, he said.
Tragic. Polio is a grainy black-and-white photograph in a grade school textbook, of a room full of children in iron lungs, with a caption to the effect of, "THERE NOW, BUT FOR SCIENCE AND ACTION THEREUPON." It isn't something that's supposed to be happening to 8-month-old Pakistani girls in the twenty-first century. Yet here we are.

And here, it seems, we'll continue to be. At least Pakistan has violence. What's our excuse?

Earlier in July, Orac had reported that measles were, after fourteen years, once again endemic to the United Kingdom. Now this week comes a report that measles cases in the United States are the highest they've been in more than a decade. And the blame rests squarely with pseudoscience.

Growing up, whereas polio was the stuff of history, measles were the stuff of pretend. Old cartoon characters caught measles. Kids in stories would paint little red dots on their faces and claim measles so they could stay home from school. Hell, that's all I knew about the symptoms of measles--little red dots--and I wasn't even sure about that. I guess there was fever? Did it make you cough and sneeze? Did the little red dots itch? We didn't know, because we never caught it. Measles were the perfect imaginary ailment: a real-life contagious disease that anyone could catch. . . but no one ever caught it.

I have vaccination to thank for that.

But now, antivaccinationist cults are undermining one of the greatest advances in preventative medicine since soap.

Of the 131 cases of measles reported by the CDC in the United States in the first seven months of this year, 122 were unvaccinated or had unknown vaccination status. The high incidence of the unvaccinated is disturbing enough. But what really enrages me is the fact that at least nine cases were vaccinated against measles. Vaccination rates in those communities are low enough not only to permit sizable outbreaks, but low enough for the virus to overcome herd immunity.

Public health is truly a public matter. We are in this together. Those who fail to vaccinate aren't just putting themselves and theirs at risk; they're putting us and ours at risk.

Pseudoscience is a scourge wherever it's found, but seldom are its ill effects so immediate and obvious as in the realm of public health.

Vaccines are safe and effective. Anyone who says differently is either grievously misinformed or an Avatar of Woe. The antivax mouthpieces have no excuse; it won't be long before Jenny McCarthy and David Kirby have real blood on their hands.

Speaking thereof, the Huffington Post saw fit to publish the AP's measles article in the same section ("Living," ironically) where they give Kirby and other pseudoscientists a soapbox. If that's some attempt to make amends, it's far too little, too late.

I'm incensed.

*sigh*

My (soon to be) sister-in-law and her husband had a baby recently. They'll be getting him fully vaccinated. At least there's that.

5 comments:

Tonya C. said...

Wow....you must be living under a ROCK!! First of all, it would be nice to see the CDC print the CORRECT numbers when dealing with an issue. According to the CDC, no one has died from the measles, however, many have been injured for a LIFETIME from vaccines! Your status at such a prestigious school is very impressive. Maybe you will take that opportunity to actually find out the truth of what is REALLY going with our children! I pray to GOD that autism, PDD-NOS, Aspergers, diabetes, or some other horrific disability doesn't afflict someone that you love... wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!!

Aaron Golas said...

Tonya C.:
It's true, none of the 131 measles cases resulted in death, though 15 were bad enough to be hospitalized. But death from measles is a very real risk. Furthermore, were you aware that, in some instances, the fever resulting from measles can get so high as to cause permanent brain damage and disability?

Meanwhile, where's the evidence that vaccines have caused injury as you claim?

Dr. Paul G. King said...

Vaccination Realities Re: MMR

You speak of the MMR vaccine as if
it is without of harm.

However, nothing could be further
from the truth.

Consider the following information
take from VAERS where a measles
vaccine was linked to an adverse
event:

>
>Year "Guestimated"
>Vacci- Event Total
> nated Category Count Count
>
>2002 Death 8 [ 80]
> Life Threat- 41 [ 410]
> ening
> Permanent Dis- 41 [ 410]
> ability
> Hospitalized 143 [ 1,430]
> Hospitalized, 1 [ 10]
> Prolonged
> Emergency 1,502 [15,020]
> Room
> Not Serious 2,490 -----
>2003 Death 5 [ 50]
> Life Threat- 30 [ 300]
> ening
> Permanent 36 [ 360]
> Disability
> Hospitalized 143 [ 1,430]
> Hospitalized, 6 [ 60]
> Prolonged
> Emergency 1,545 [15,450]
> Room
> Not Serious 3,482 -----
>2004 Death 5 [ 50]
> Life Threat- 43 [ 430]
> ening
> Permanent 30 [ 300]
> Disability
> Hospitalized 132 [ 1,320]
> Hospitalized, 6 [ 60]
> Prolonged
> Emergency 1,483 [14,830]
> Room
> Not Serious 3,358 -----
>2005 Death 6 [ 60]
> Life Threat- 35 [ 350]
> ening
> Permanent 17 [ 170]
> Disability
> Hospitalized 122 [ 1,220]
> Hospitalized, 6 [ 60]
> Prolonged
> Emergency 1,347 [13,470]
> Room
> Not Serious 3,021 -----
>2006 Death 8 [ 80]
> Life Threat- 42 [ 420]
> ening
> Permanent 30 [ 300]
> Disability
> Hospitalized 165 [ 1,650]
> Hospitalized, 8 [ 80]
> Prolonged
> Emergency 1,443 [14,430]
> Room
> Not Serious 3,001 -----
>
>Based on this data, taken from VAERS, measles
>is a fatal disease (>= "60" deaths a year, on
>average), and hundreds of hospitalizations
>each year (>= 1200) in children given the MMR
>vaccine) (from >8 million MMR vaccinations
>annually) -- but no one counts these, few know
>about the reported numbers, and fewer know
>that the reported numbers are gross under-
>estimates of the actual number of occurrences.
>
>Based on these findings, the risk of dying
>after MMR is on the order of 1 in 133,000 and
>the risk of hospitalization is on the order of
>1 on 66,000.
>
>In that same period, the CDC's disease monitoring
>programs reported 2 deaths from measles:
>
>Table 1. Measles Data 2002-2006
>
>Year Measles N (%) of Cases
> with unassigned Measles
> Cases source Deaths
>2002 44 8 (18) 0
>2003 56 11 (20) 2
>2004 37 4 (15) 0
>2005 66 9 (14) 0
>2006 55 3 ( 5.4) 0
>Avg. 51.6 7 (13.5) ----
>
>in a total of 258 cases or 1 in 129
>cases.
>
>Considering ONLY estimated deaths, even
>if the guestimate is low by a factor of
>10, MMR seems to reduce overall deaths
>based on the number of children infected
>with MMR.
>
>However, this information should be given
>to each parent and guardian and he/she/or
>they should weigh all the risks, including
>the risk of their child's or children's
>being exposed to measles (on the order of
><1 in a million) and then decide if giving
>the MMR vaccine is appropriate.
>
>Hopefully, this crude analysis will help
>all to understand that the risk of being
>exposed to measles is quite low while the
>adverse reaction risks to MMR are higher
>and the risk of death from contracting a
>case of measles following a <1 in a million
>exposure is less than 1 in 100.
>
>I too would like to have the details
>concerning each of the 131 cases -
>especially, how many of the "vaccination
>status unknown" were children too young
to be flly vaccinated and the exact ddtails
>of the ages and vaccination status of the
>9 who were vaccinated.
>
>Moreover, I would also like to know:
> "How many of those who were hospitalized
> were given high-dose vitamin A and suppor-
> tive vitamin C, lysine, and ... supplemen-
> tation to ameliorate the symptoms and
> reduce the risk of permanent harm?"
>
>Hopefully, this information will be helpful
>to all and put the measles/MMR discussion
>into a crudely better perspective from the
>viewpoint of death risk.
>
>For a more detailed discussion of measles and
>the MMR vaccinations, you can visit the
>CoMeD website:
> http://www.mercury- freedrugs. org
>and read the article:
> "A Review of: 'As Diseases Make Comeback,
> Why Aren't All Kids Vaccinated?' Popular
> Mechanics Magazine on-line. Reynolds GH.
> (30 July 2008; 30 pages)"
>
>

Hopefully, this information may be helpful
to post.
************ ********* ********* ********* ****
*The information provided in this email *
*and any attachment thereto is just that *
* -- information. *
* *
*It is not medical advice and it does not *
*require any specific action or actions. *
* *
*While the information is thought to be *
*accurate, no representation is made as *
*to the accuracy of the information posted*
*other than it is my best understanding of*
*the facts on the date that this email and*
*any attachments thereto are posted. *
* *
*Everyone should verify the accuracy of *
*the information provided for themselves *
*before acting on it. *
************ ********* ********* ********* ****

Regards,

Dr. King
http://www.dr- king.com

Aaron Golas said...

Dr. King:
Even if the VAERS database weren't incredibly unreliable, your comparison is completely bogus. The reason exposure to measles is so low in the United States is thanks to--TA DA!--the MMR vaccine! You stop vaccinating, guess what, measles cases are going to keep rising.

Reginald Selkirk said...

Oh look, yet another study shows no link between the measles vaccine and autism.