Facts, not Fantasy

Saturday, May 28, 2011

BBC News: Measles in the UK

IVAN3MAN sent me this link about measles in the UK.  The thing to note here is that the UK is not some third world country here, but one of the more modern nations on earth.  Yet people are needlessly suffering due to the lies of one person.  Some basic facts for you before I present the article (emphasis mine):

Measles cases in Europe

Jan-April 2011
  • France - 7321*
  • Spain - 657
  • Switzerland - 390
  • UK - 345
  • Germany - 276*
*Jan-March figure / Source: EUvac

Measles Q&A

  • How safe is it to take children to mainland Europe who have had two doses of the MMR vaccine?
It gives 99% protection against the measles virus.
  • What if they have had only one dose of MMR?
One dose is better than none, but two doses is better than one. If you are concerned about travelling to an outbreak area you can bring forward the second MMR dose. Speak to your GP about it.
  • What if my children are not vaccinated at all?
The advice is to go to your GP and arrange for them to be immunised as soon as possible before you travel. Measles is a dangerous viral illness which can be fatal.
BBC Health - Measle


  • It is a highly infectious viral illness
  • It causes a fever, coughing and distinctive red-brown spots on the skin
  • Measles is contracted by breathing in tiny droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • Possible complications include pneumonia, ear and eye infections and croup
  • Serious complications include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), which can be fatal
  • Measles in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature labour or a baby with low birth weight
  • The most effective way of preventing measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • There is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism

Measles outbreak prompts plea to vaccinate children

Parents in England and Wales are being urged to have their children vaccinated after a tenfold rise in measles cases in the first four months of the year.

The Health Protection Agency reported 334 cases compared with 33 in the similar period last year.
The outbreak is thought to be linked to an epidemic in France, where 7,000 cases have been reported since January - more than in the whole of 2010.

The HPA says it is "crucial" that those at risk are fully immunised.

It says the latest cases are mainly among unvaccinated people under 25 years old and are centred on "small clusters in universities, schools or families or associated with travel abroad".

Worst-hit are London and the South East, with 104 and 102 confirmed cases respectively in the first quarter of this year.

Recently the Health Protection Agency sent out letters to some primary schools and further education colleges in London warning of the risks of taking children who are not fully immunised to mainland Europe.

'Potentially dangerous'

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the Health Protection Agency, warned parents and young adults of the importance of immunisation.

"Although MMR coverage has improved over the last few years, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Science Daily: Errors in Protein Structure Sparked Evolution of Biological Complexity

A common refrain from theists about evolution and why they don't believe it is because they can't accept that humans are the end product of "chance" (i.e. following just laws of biology, physics, chemistry, etc. without any guidance).  The idea that we're all some sort of cosmic mistake seems to insult their sense of worth or importance.  So I read this article with a certain sense of amusement.

Errors in Protein Structure Sparked Evolution of Biological Complexity

ScienceDaily (May 21, 2011) — Over four billion years of evolution, plants and animals grew far more complex than their single-celled ancestors. But a new comparison of proteins shared across species finds that complex organisms, including humans, have accumulated structural weaknesses that may have actually launched the long journey from microbe to man.

The study, published in Nature, suggests that the random introduction of errors into proteins, rather than traditional natural selection, may have boosted the evolution of biological complexity. Flaws in the "packing" of proteins that make them more unstable in water could have promoted protein interactions and intracellular teamwork, expanding the possibilities of life.

"Everybody wants to say that evolution is equivalent to natural selection and that things that are sophisticated and complex have been absolutely selected for," said study co-author Ariel Fernández, PhD, a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago and senior researcher at the Mathematics Institute of Argentina (IAM) in Buenos Aires. "What we are claiming here is that inefficient selection creates a niche or an opportunity to evolve complexity."

"This is a novel bridge between protein chemistry and evolutionary biology," said co-author Michael Lynch, PhD, professor of biology at Indiana University. "I hope that it causes us to pause and think about how evolution operates in new ways that we haven't thought about before."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just the Vax: Still no independent confirmation of Wakefield's claims

Sometimes people will not accept being wrong.  No matter how often they are told they are wrong, or how poorly they came up with their information.  It's well known that Wakefield not only lied and fabricated his data, but he also had a serious conflict of interest.  Yet people insist on saying that he was somehow right.  So a lot of people are spending a great deal of effort to continue to prove him wrong.  And a lot of other misguided folks think he was somehow right despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary...

Still no independent confirmation of Wakefield's claims

One of the things that anti-vaccines groups desperately want to have, is the scientific support for their claims. A lot of parents know that rigorous studies, peer reviewed, published in scientific journals and indexed on Pubmed are the standard in discussions about medical care. Therefore, the anti-vaccine brigade are trying to maintain that, really, countless scientific studies across the globe have shown that vaccines are bad for you.

The anti-vaccine, pro-any-conspiracy theory website Whale.to (the citation of which automatically invokes Skopie's Law), provides a neat shopping list that staunch supporters of the long debunked “MMR causes inflammation of the gut which somehow causes autism and Andrew Wakefield is really a hero” notion can use to spam evidence based discussions, as recently seen on the Shot of Prevention blog where Marsha McClelland of the “We the People United for Vaccine Education Misinformation” Yahoo group copied and pasted in support for Andrew Wakefield.

Don't Panic!

When you are more paranoid than this android then you need to take it down a notch.

No seriously, do not panic. These guys are quacks and tools who are spreading a lunatic mistrust in medicine solely to encourage the sale of their own snake oil. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just the Vax: Infant Mortality and Vaccines

Sadly, most people can't tell the difference between good science, and bad science.  So when a study shows up that seems to support an idea that has been debunked already, alarm bells should go off.  Catherina at Just the Vax has found one such article and tears it apart.

Sadly, the debunking of this study will not travel anywhere near as fast as the lies this article spreads.  This sort of irresponsible reporting will further lead to many preventable deaths by people who are not armed with a good background in science.  After all, this paper could be used to support the Stork Theory of human reproduction after all!

Infant mortality and vaccines

Oh goodness, here I wanted to go to bed early and then I stumbled over this latest "peer reviewed" paper in a journal "indexed by the National Library of Medicine" (see the anti-vaccine faction gloating at those fantastic quality indicators) and "proving" with an correlation co-efficient of 0.992 and a p of 0.0009 (so "sciencey") that:

Nations requiring the most vaccines tend to have the worst infant mortality rates

Authors of this little gem, in the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, with the impressive impact factor of 1.307 and a proud ranking of 58th of 77 in the area of Toxicology (yes, that would put them into the bottom quarter) are Think Twice's own Neil Z. Miller and Medical Veritas' Gary S. Goldman. I wonder why Miller and Goldman didn't publish their paper in Medical Veritas (here is the link to the journal, please don't go blind), seeing that item 7 in their mission is: "Create a movement to address the adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related injuries afflicting children and adults". I guess that is because parents have clued in that "peer review" and being indexed on PubMed is a quality measure (although very obviously no guarantee for quality).

In any case - Miller and Goldman took a list of countries and looked at the number of vaccines they schedule for infants and they also looked at infant mortality. And then they correlated one with the other, a fail safe way to find causal relationships: Storks deliver babies p=0.008.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vaccine Times: South Korean Autism Study

Quite often people will use the argument that autism rates have increased dramatically as a result of vaccines.  The proposed mechanism for this increase has been bandied about, and the anti-vax pro-disease contingent can't get their act together on this.  The insistence that Thimerosal was supposed to be the cause, yet rates have continued to climb, even though vaccines have been free of Thimerosal for a decade is of no matter (or the really embarrassing fact that MMR vaccines never contained Thimerosal to start with!).  So this study on autism itself was interesting.

South Korean Autism Study: did autism rates triple overnight?

One of the points that anti-vaccine proponents keep bringing up is how autism prevalence has been going up over the past few decades. They notice how autism diagnoses have gone up and correlate that with an expanded vaccine schedule, then finally make the leap to imply it was the vaccines that caused autism. When we say that an expanded definition and expanded surveillance is what has in big part resulted in the increase, they laugh it off. That is not possible, they say; the increase must be a real increase of actual cases.

Recently, a new study came out of South Korea. It was a 5 year study that looked at all children in a South Korean community, not just high risk kids, or those that went to the doctor. They found an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) prevalence rate of 2.6%. By comparison the current rate is estimated to be 1/110 or 0.9%. By looking at all children, vs. just those in the high risk groups, as has been the practice generally, the prevalence rate almost tripled.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Measels Outbreak in the USA

So, is it only third world countries that have outbreaks of diseases that are easy to prevent?  Apparently not!  Or is the United States getting dragged into the third world status by abject denial of reality and science?  Maybe that is really what the anti-vaxers want?

Anyway, here is a news report from CBS News on the measles outbreak in the US.  It's a public health shame/crime that this is happening.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vaccine Times: Playing with excel data

Recently I reposted the What do anti-vaxers want article from Vaccine Times.  Well, he has a follow up on that.  I think this plays well into the famous Mark Twain quote about "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" when dealing with data.  That is not to say that data is inherently wrong.  It's more about how people will torture it to come up with a preconceived notion as opposed to letting that actual data lead you to a discovery about the behaviour of reality.  I think Leart does a great job on this post.

Vaccines and auto deaths: a.k.a I can play with Excel too

My recent post, What do the anti-vaxers want, generated a lot of commentary from the anti-vax crowd, much more that I had expected to be honest. I do not intend to go over that commentary here. What I intend to do is to analyse a study that was linked to by one of the anti-vax enthusiasts. This study has been making the rounds lately in the anti-vax crowd (hello Mike “The Health Danger” Adams) because it purports to show a relationship between vaccine doses received and Infant Mortality Rates (IMR). The study in question has been published here, and David Gorski has done a thorough review of it over at Science-Based Medicine blog. I will not repeat what he wrote.

What I intend to do here is to show how easily numbers can be manipulated to show a trend which can then be touted as proof of a relationship. We always say that correlation does not equal causation, yet that is hard for some people to grasp without an example. This study provided the perfect example to illustrate the concept. So without further ado, let us show why this study does not really show anything in connection with vaccines.

What does the study say?
You can read the full thing yourself, but in a nutshell the authors looked at IMR in the U.S. and noticed that for the year 2009 it ranked 34th. They then took the IMRs for the other 33 countries that did better than the U.S. Then they counted the vaccine doses recommended for each country (they used a funny way of counting DTaP as 3 doses each time, but we’ll let that slide for the sake of our exercise). Then they plotted, in a graph, the number of vaccine doses vs. the IMR rate for each country. The results were SHOCKING:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vaccine Times: Vaccine Preventable Suffering in Chad

Chad is a country that is ravaged by many problems.  Some are just simply beyond our control.  However, vaccines are one thing that we can do something about.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing great work in this area, but we need more.

Vaccine-preventable diseases wreaking havoc in Chad

Tragic news are coming out of Chad; vaccine-preventable diseases are taking many lives and causing immense pain and suffering. Since the beginning of the year outbreaks of meningitis, measles, polio and cholera have been recorded. Here’s a recap of the various outbreaks that have befallen the people of Chad.

Since the beginning of the year, 4,960 meningitis cases have been reported, and  227 people have died. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) is lending a helping hand and has set up temporary centers to take care of the meningitis patients. MSF has been distributing antibiotic drugs to local health centers so that people can easily access medication, and has launched a vaccination campaign to halt the outbreak. By April 6, 2011, over 607,000 people had already been vaccinated; another 103,000 people to be reached before the end of last month. I have been unable to find more current information on the situation.

A measles outbreak has also afflicted the people of Chad. As April 24, 2011, a total of 3,438 cases of measles have been reported out of which 30 have died. 23 districts out of the country’s 61 districts had reported measles cases and out of these, 16 districts were experiencing an epidemic of the disease.

Friday, May 13, 2011

15 answers for creationists

In the past few days there has been a new drive by Creation Ministries International in conjunction with Traditional Values Coalition called “Question Evolution” with the focus of restarting the whole Creationist vs. Evolution debate.
The idea is that recent religious conservatism has increased the chance that creationists can achieve something lasting to spread their superstition in our schools. To help with this they have constructed a leaflet with 15 questions meant to stump the “evolutionist”.

Evolution Does Not Work This Way! Goodnight!!!

Before we start, an important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as an evolutionist. There are scientists who believe in the scientific approach who understand evolution takes place and various mechanisms for it. The opposition are not scientists but people who are attempting to disguise religion under the guise of science to push their faith. They do not want to debate science, but want to squeeze their faith into the biology class rooms where it can be taught as a scientific fact.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vaccine Times: Age of Autism considers reliable only the sources that agree with them

To drive home the point of how deluded the Age of Autism folks are, it's easy to compare them to conspiracy theorists.  And not the garden variety ones, but the worst of deniers of reality.  I think Vaccines Times actually cuts them a lot of slack, but I would say that the anti-vax pro-disease movement is only slightly less crazy than a flat earther or geocentric believer.

Age of Autism considers reliable only the sources that agree with them

Between the Obama ‘Birthers’, climate change deniers, and those who insist that Osama bin Laden’s reported death was staged, conspiracy theories and denialism have been ubiquitous in the news lately. Science journalist and author Chris Mooney has only been one of many to recently discuss the psychology of denialism at length.

Mooney’s latest article on the topic begins with an appropriate quote by  Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, who observed:
A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vaccine Times: What do Anti-vaxers Want?

I have no love for the anti-vax movement.  As a matter of fact, I consider their actions downright criminal, and I would prefer to see them all prosecuted for manslaughter every time someone dies from a vaccine preventable disease.  Vaccine Times has some commentary that should be read about what the anti-vax pro-disease movement actually wants.  I also address this a little at Facts, not Fantasy:
  • Pro-disease anti-vaxers want vaccines that are 100% safe. This is never going to happen, as all medicines carry some risk. However, the relative risk of injury from vaccines is significantly lower than the risk of injury from getting the disease naturally. For more information, see the CDC website.
  • This is so important, I'll say it again: The only people that insist vaccines are (or should be) 100% safe are the anti-vax pro-disease advocates.

What do the anti-vaxers want?

This entry will be a little different from the usual posts you’re accustomed to read here at  The Vaccine Times. Generally I try to stay clear of opinion pieces and stick to facts. However, I feel the need to make an exception this time to express what I believe is the strategy, and ultimate goals, of the anti-vaccine movement. It is not necessarily the case that each and every anti-vax proponent holds these goals, but I think they apply fairly well to the movement as a whole.

So, what do anti-vaxers want? They want to reduce, if not completely eliminate, the vaccines recommended for use today. That is what the slogan “too many, too soon” is all about. Not only that, but they also want, or do not have a problem with, the vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) coming back. That is what “the VPDs were disappearing before vaccines were used” is all about. But, you didn’t need me to tell you that, you knew this already. What I mean to express here is what I perceive to be the anti-vax strategy for achieving this end result.

And try not to let the comments by people on that page get you down too much. Remember, they have been lied to. Repeatedly...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Epiphenomenon: Herd Immunity

I generally don't post things on this blog page that delve into my own personal philosophy.  And that is not the intent of this post either (hence why I changed the title from how it was published).  The reason I bring this up is because of a very relevant item in this article.  I will only quote the relevant part on an article talking about outbreaks of vaccine preventable disease in the Netherlands:
Vaccination was a little lower in areas with a lot of Orthodox Protestants - 93.6%, compared with 96.9% elsewhere. That's a small difference, but it only takes a small drop in vaccination rates to decrease 'herd' immunity to the point where an epidemic can break out.

I think that about says it all.  I expect that we will see more outbreaks in the US because of the anti-vax pro-disease movement more than anything else.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A Photon in the Darkness: Anti-viral nonsense

One of the most awful things to watch is a distraught parent get taken advantage of because they don't have a good grounding in actual science.  Now we heard about that scumbag of an individual calling himself a doctor in Maryland, so I thought it would be appropriate to pass along more information about the sort of scams these people pull on parents.

Anti-viral nonsense

There are some “alt-med” treatments for autism that are like the zombies in B-grade horror movies. You think they’re dead, but as soon as you turn your back, they’re up and shambling around, searching for…..well, they’re usually looking for money, so they don’t fit the zombie analogy that well.

Chelation, secretin and HBOT have all been shown to be no more than profit centers for “alternative” practitioners, but my contacts in the “biomed” world tell me that they are still being prescribed (and inflicted) on autistic children. Apparently, it’s going to take more than decapitation or a stake through the heart to put these undead therapies in the ground for good.
Which brings me to the undead therapy that has - I would have thought - the best reason to be dead, buried and resting in peace: acyclovir/valacyclovir.

For the past few years, I had been living in blissful ignorance of the ongoing use of acyclovir and valacyclovir in the “treatment” of autism. Sure, they were “hot stuff” a few years ago, back when some misguided practitioners were using them to treat “chronic measles infection”. But I thought that people had wised up and realised that these anti-viral drugs have absolutely no effect on measles and - in plain fact - can’t have any effect on the measles virus.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when a worn-out mom asked me if I thought that acyclovir would be as effective as valacyclovir for the treatment of chronic measles.

My initial thought was that they would be equally ineffective, but I managed to keep that thought from being voiced. Instead I asked, “Are you sure that your doctor is using valacyclovir for measles?” The answer was chilling - the undead zombie of “valacyclovir for chronic measles” had risen from its restless grave.

Before I go any further, it might be useful to explain what acyclovir and valacyclovir are, how they work and what their side-effects are.

I also recommend that you visit What's The Harm.   Tim Farley does a great job in showing that not being grounded in reality and good science can result in a lot of misery.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Evolution in a picture

I really have nothing to add to this.  It's a great explanation in more ways than one.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Despicalbe Human Being gets Just Rewards (Oh, and FISH)

Today a despicable human being who claimed the title of "Doctor" lost his privileges to that because of his abuses and rejection of reality.  Yet this is the sort of person that so many people end up going to because the aren't satisfied with the current state of knowledge (or lack thereof) when dealing with autism.  Sadly, I am afraid this will not serve as a lesson to the quacks that behave like this excuse for a medical practitioner, nor will it warn off frustrated and tired parents from similar pro-disease wackjobs.  I think Dr. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy summed it up quite well:
I do so love to report these wins for reality, as rare as they are: the very vocal antivax advocate Mark Geier has had his medical license revoked in Maryland. Why?

The Maryland State Board of Physicians reviewed nine cases of autistic children seen by Geier, of which he treated seven. Of those nine, the Board found he misdiagnosed six of them. He (mis)diagnosed them with "precocious puberty", a medical condition where kids have extremely early onset of puberty. Why would he do such a thing? Well, this condition can be treated with Lupron, a drug which lowers testosterone (it’s used to chemically castrate adult men). Geier happens to think Lupron can also help autism — despite there being no evidence at all that’s the case — which makes his diagnosis very suspect. It implies strongly that he used the precocious puberty diagnosis as an excuse to prescribe the drug.

By the way, Lupron costs $5000 – $6000 a month to administer. The side effects can be severe as well, including seizures, and it’s known that autistic children are prone to seizures. That’s why the Board wrote that Geier’s treatment "exposed the children to needless risk of harm, " (pp 12 – 13). As far as his medical expertise, the Board also wrote that Geier’s "assessment and treatment of autistic children as described herein, however, far exceeds his qualifications and expertise" (p. 13). That dry assessment does nothing to convey the horror I felt reading the Board’s document, though. In several cases, he didn’t even diagnose the children in person

For more information, feel free to go to sites like Harpocrates Speaks, Seth Mnookin, and Orac.  These folks really get into the details.

Oh, did I mention FISH in the title?  My good friend IVAN3MAN sent me a link from the BBC that caught my interest, and I figured that I would share this one as well. It's an interesting article about how we betray our fishy origins every time one of us is conceived and gestates.  And we still bear the marks after we are born, yet never think about it.  Here is a quick excerpt from the article:

Anatomical clues to human evolution from fish

By Dr Michael Mosley

It may seem strange that humans have evolved from fish, but the evidence can be found not just in fossils but also within our own bodies.

Your face is your most expressive feature; it tells the world what you are feeling, who you are and where you come from. Although no two faces are exactly the same, they share a number of common characteristics; a couple of eyes, a nose, a mouth and a philtrum.

The philtrum is the groove on your top lip that lies just beneath your nose. You see it every day in the mirror so you probably never think about it.

It has no obvious function. Instead it is an accident of our origins, a clue to our fishy past and how our faces first formed.

Your face is formed in the womb in the first couple of months of life, from when you were the size of a grain of rice to when you were the size of a kidney bean.
The video (above) of a growing human face shows how this process happens. It has been created from high quality scans of human embryos at early stages of development, provided by universities and hospitals.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Popular Mechanics: Bill Nye the Science Guy

Science and reality doesn't care or even register about what you believe. Evolution will continue to be a fact, and it is inescapable. Just try denying evolution next time you go to the hospital! I wish teachers had more integrity and resources, and parents weren't allowed to spread Weapon Grade Stupid on their children...  So I really enjoyed reading what Bill Nye had to say on the subject.  I think a couple of key highlights are worth posting here.  I know it's a short article, so just posting these two questions/answers pretty much gets 1/3 of the article, but I encourage you to visit it and read more.


In a recent survey of 926 public high school biology teachers across the nation, only 28 percent of teachers taught evolution as a well-supported fundamental idea of science. Meanwhile, 13 percent openly supported "intelligent design" in the classroom, and 60 percent fell somewhere in-between. This majority presented evolution cautiously—by including non-scientific viewpoints, by limiting discussion to genetics, or by saying that students only needed to learn the material to pass exams.

What do you think about this?

Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society: It's horrible. Science is the key to our future, and if you don't believe in science, then you're holding everybody back. And it's fine if you as an adult want to run around pretending or claiming that you don't believe in evolution, but if we educate a generation of people who don't believe in science, that's a recipe for disaster. We talk about the Internet. That comes from science. Weather forecasting. That comes from science. The main idea in all of biology is evolution. To not teach it to our young people is wrong.

Should teachers be mandated to teach evolution as fact?

What other fundamental theory in all of biology is there? Intelligent design, as the judge in Dover, Penn., said, is "breathtaking inanity." It was so stupid it took his breath away. I agree with him. It's great to teach in history class, though. People believed the earth was the center of the universe. People believed the earth was flat. It was reasonable at the time, but we don't learn about those ideas in science class.

Read more: Evolution in Science Education – Bill Nye on Evolution in Science Education - Popular Mechanics

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wired: What Vaccine Refusal Really Costs: Measles in Arizona

Remember how I said that one canard the anti-vax pro-disease nutters pull out is that diseases like measles only affects third world countries?  Well, it could almost be argued that Arizona is attempting to be a third world country, along with the rest of the US healthcare system, but it isn't quite there yet.  So it is so sad to see these sort of things happening.  Furthermore, the comments section is run over by the ill informed and plain deluded proclaiming that vaccines are dangerous...  Looks like the fight must go on.  Remember:
  • Being born is a terminal condition.
  • No one who is responsible or in reality is suggestion that a vaccine is 100% safe.  Nothing in life is.  However, a vaccine is demonstrably and measurably better than getting the disease it prevents.
  • People have forgotten what it was like to live under the fear of Polio and smallpox.  I for one do not want that fear brought back, yet the actions of anti-vax pro-disease nutters seems to be enabling that.
Anyway, here is an article from Wired, so you know it has a lot of exposure, and the comments section will make your head hurt.  Feel free to join in on the fight (and it IS a fight for public welfare and health).

What Vaccine Refusal Really Costs: Measles in Arizona

Every once in a while, there’s news of a measles outbreak. On the surface, they don’t involve large numbers of cases — there’s one in Minneapolis right now that has racked up 21 cases so far — and so people seem to wonder why these outbreaks are such a big deal.

Here’s one reason why: Measles transmission within the US stopped in 2000 because of vaccination. Outbreaks here start with an importation from somewhere else where the disease still flourishes — but they gain a foothold because lack of vaccination, primarily from vaccine refusal, lets the disease get past what should be an impregnable barrier of herd immunity to attack those who are too young to be vaccinated or whose immunity has faded.

Here’s another reason: Stopping the measles virus before it can cause serious disease — and by “serious,” I mean deafness, pneumonia, encephalitis and miscarriage — is incredibly costly and labor-intensive. An account published overnight in the Journal of Infectious Diseases gives a glimpse at just how costly. To stop a 14-person outbreak that began with one unvaccinated tourist visiting a US emergency room, the Arizona Department of Health had to track down and interview 8,321 people; seven Tucson hospitals had to furlough staff members for a combined 15,120 work-hours; and two hospitals where patients were admitted spent $799,136 to contain the disease.

Here’s how the outbreak unfolded:

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Just the Vax: Death by Measels

Now, sometimes I hear things from the anti-vax pro-disease nutters that just makes me wonder if they live on the same planet.  Some examples are:  "Measles isn't really deadly."  "People who die of measles are in third world countries."  And equally ridiculous non-sense.  So here is an entry from the "Just the Vax" website:

Death by measles

I just found the news that a young man died of measles in Germany this Spring. Germany has had more than 390 measles cases since the beginning of the year, mainly in the Southern most federal states (Bundesländer) of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

In March 2011, a 26 year old man, undergoing treatment for a non life threatening tumour contracted measles and died. While in hospital, he infected at least one further patient as well as several unvaccinated medical staff, including doctors. Dr. Martin Terhardt of the Professional Association of Pediatricians (Berufsverband der Kinder- und Jugendärzte (BVKJ)) states the obvious:

"It is unacceptable that unvaccinated personnel exists in hospitals. When unvaccinated doctors or nurses have access to intensive care, it becomes very dangerous, both for the personnel themselves and for the patients. Patients who are being treated in intensive care are often immuno-compromised - an additional infection therefore has to be avoided at all cost. Doctors and other medical care personnel must have adequate protection through immunization. The fact that a patient with measles could cause an outbreak amongst medical personnel is absurd."