Facts, not Fantasy

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Just the Vax: Source of CA Measles Outbreak

A post from Just the Vax.  The key take away is that the entire measles outbreak could have been prevented if not for one irresponsible quack!  First he lies about it not mattering (it does!), then he dismisses legitimate health practices.  The guy is a world class denialist pushing a dangerous agenda...

Ho! How did I miss this?

A poster asked in the comment section of our blog, whether the index patient in the San Diego measles outbreak had been a patient of "Dr. Bob" Sears. I recalled that Bob had been asked that directly on his board:

San Diego meales outbreak by San Diego mommy - posted on 3/26/2009

Someone told my that the child who started the San Diego measles outbreak last year was one of Dr Bob's unvaccinated patients. Is that true? That is so sad for the families affected by the outbreak, especially for the babies that were too young to be protected by the vaccine.
and Bob had answered in his usual flippant and evasive manner:

Ya, she wanted the MMR, but I wouldn't give it to by Dr. Bob - posted on 3/27/2009

So, it's totally my fault that the outbreak happened.

No, seriously, I do know who the family is and have interacted with them. I'll leave it at that, since it doesn't actually matter if they were actually my patient or not.

Seth Mnookin, the author of the soon to be released "The Panic Virus" pointed me to an Orange County Register piece that is much more candid than Dr. Bob:

An unvaccinated 7-year-old boy traveled to Switzerland and unknowingly contracted the virus. Almost 100 children (including babies who were too young for the MMR vaccine) were quarantined or hospitalized after they were exposed at the pediatrician’s office, Whole Foods or day care. In all, 11 children caught the measles. As it turns out, the boy who spread measles is a patient of Dr. Bob Sears
(my bold)

Dr. Bob himself downplays the severity of the situation in his 2008 blog by saying:

The recent measles outbreak (if you can call it that) in San Diego last month,
(my bold)

Fact check for Dr. Bob:
A recent study by researchers on the role of vaccine refusal in this outbreak was staggering: 839 people were exposed, 11 additional measles cases were reported (all in unvaccinated children); one infant, too young to be vaccinated, had to be hospitalized. At a time when the state of California is in devastating financial straits, it cost San Diego serious health care dollars: $10,376 per case, for a total of $124,517 (and the hospitalized infant's bill was nearly $15,000). Forty-eight children too young to be vaccinated were quarantined for several weeks, meaning parents had to miss work and wages at an average cost of $775 per child.

In his blog, Dr. Bob claims:

Fortunately, all cases passed without complications, as is usually the case with measles.

Lost in the depth of his own board is the reality check by Wilbert Mason, MD

Minimization of the effects of measles by Wilbert Mason MD - posted on 4/3/2008

As a pediatric infectious disease physician I feel I must comment on statements made in your March 27th commentary on the New York Times article. First, you infer that the cases in San Diego did not constitute an outbreak ("...if you can call it that..."). This is a highly contagious infection that spreads by small droplets that remain suspended in a closed room for over an hour. Indeed, 4 of the cases acquired the infection just by being in the pediatrician’s office at the same time as the first case. Three of these were infants and one of them had to be admitted to the hospital for dehydration. 
Elsewhere you have observed that “all of the cases of measles passed without complications, as is usually the case with measles”. Let me share with you our experience with measles at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles during the measles epidemic in 1990. We diagnosed 440 cases between January 1st and June 30th. Of these cases 195 (44%) had to be admitted for one or more complications of measles. We documented the complications in all 440 cases and they included 63% with ear infections, 45% with diarrhea, 39% with dehydration, 36% with pneumonia, 19% with croup, and about 3% with other bacterial infections. Three children died all of pneumonia. Measles is not a trivial infection as you inferred. We would not be having a debate about vaccines at all if people realized the tremendous costs in suffering and human life we incurred before vaccines became available. To adequately protect a population against measles >90% of the population must be effectively immunized against the disease. If individuals defer vaccines as you suggest we will rapidly fall below that level putting large numbers of infants and children at risk of an outbreak if measles is introduced into the community. This is a free country but we should all feel some responsibility to our fellow citizens and their children.

Thank you Dr. Mason, that says it all, really, about the irresponsible behaviour of Dr. Bob Sears (and the patients' parents who believe him).

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