Cancer prevention–supplements

Potential causes for cancer are numerous. Infections. Radon gas. Cigarette smoking. Sun exposure. Obesity. With over 200 types of cancer, each with a different pathophysiology, there may be an equal (and probably greater) number of causes. Although many causes can be easily eliminated, such as stopping smoking, testing your house for radon, getting an HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus infections, and wearing sunblock to reduce the risk of melanomas, the sheer complexity and number of types of cancer means that there is probably not going to be any simple panacea to preventing (or even curing) cancer. In fact, some hereditary cancers, such as those individuals who carry genes that are implicated in breast and ovarian cancers, may not be preventable at all. Continue reading “Cancer prevention–supplements”

Whooping cough: new outbreak in Kansas

The Johnson County (Kansas) Department of Health and Environment has reported 70 confirmed or possible cases of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) in 2012. Johnson County, an affluent suburb of Kansas City, officials have warned parents to protect their children from the disease and are asking that all confirmed or suspected cases be reported immediately.  The health department is offering the DTaP vaccine, regardless of insurance, to pregnant women, women with infants under the age of one year and those over the age of 18 who care for or have close contact with children less than six years old.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable and often violent coughing spasms that can make it difficult for the infected to breathe. It can cause permanent disability in infants.  Because infants do not get their first vaccination until 2 months, and may not be completely immune until the third dose, usually given at around six months old.  Until that point, an adult with lapsed pertussis immunity or an nonimmunized individual may pass the disease to the infant.  Infants need to get the vaccine.  And adults too.

Remember, vaccines save lives.

via Pertussis outbreak reported in Kansas | Vaccine News Daily.

Pay your bills in 2012–Mayans did not predict the end

Not that any reasonable person actually thought that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world in 2012, but a lot of people think it’s going to happen.  This incredibly silly myth arose because the Mayan calendar was based on 13 separate 144,000 day intervals (called baktuns), and the last day of that 13th baktun is December 21, 2012, so, of course, the pseudoscience, myth-loving crowd thought that the Mayans predicted the end of the world.  Of course, this fails on so many levels, including that it’s impossible to predict the future and that it’s a silly assumption that the Mayan calendar can’t repeat itself. Continue reading “Pay your bills in 2012–Mayans did not predict the end”

Infections causes 16% of cancers–what?

Ed Yong, a scientist and contributor to Discover Magazine, wrote an blog post, What does it mean to say that something causes 16% of cancers?, discussing a news report that stated that 16% of cancers around the world were caused by infections.  Here are some excerpts:

A few days ago, news reports claimed that 16 per cent of cancers around the world were caused by infections. This isn’t an especially new or controversial statement, as there’s clear evidence that some viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause cancer (think HPV, which we now have a vaccine against). It’s not inaccurate either. The paper that triggered the reports did indeed conclude that “of the 12.7 million new cancer cases that occurred in 2008, the population attributable fraction (PAF) for infectious agents was 16·1%”.

But for me, the reports aggravated an old itch. I used to work at a cancer charity. We used to get frequent requests we got for such numbers (e.g. how many cancers are caused by tobacco?). However, whenever such reports actually came out, we got a lot confused questions and comments. The problem is that many (most?) people have no idea what it actually means to say that X% of cancers are caused by something, where those numbers come from, or how they should be used. Continue reading “Infections causes 16% of cancers–what?”

Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 5

As discussed before, Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature undertook a last-ditch attempt to push evolution- and climate change-denialism into the Oklahoma educational system.  The two original anti-science bills, HB 1551 and SB 1742, died in committee in March, 2012.  Republican Oklahoma Senator Steve Russell then attempted to amend HB 2341, a bill originally intended to extend by two years a deadline for local school districts to meet standards for media, equipment and textbooks, to add language from HB 1551.  The amendment “encouraged” teachers to present “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of controversial” topics such as biological evolution and global warming.   Continue reading “Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 5”

Pseudoscience and the desperate anti-vaccine intrigue

Rooting out pseudoscience out in the world is a full time job for literally hundreds of people, but many of the writers out there tend to focus on a few things. This blog, for example, mostly focuses on creationism, the anti-vaccine lunacy, and rarely, global warming. Creationism, for example, has a long tradition of pseudoscience, so the arguments debunking creationism is well known, and the creationists more or less rely upon the age old fallacies, which convince the True Believers™ but make real scientists chuckle. It has really evolved (pun intended) to a static argument but there is no scientific controversy, it’s just evolution denialists on one side and real science on the other. If this were a real debate, it would be over and the creationists would be crawling back home in tears. Continue reading “Pseudoscience and the desperate anti-vaccine intrigue”

Whooping cough: New Mexico records first infant death since 2005

Sadly, whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) has killed an infant in San Miguel County, New Mexico.  According to the New Mexico Department of Public Health said that it was the first time that an infant in the state has died from pertussis since 2005. The infant was two months old, and had been given the first of three doses of the DTaP vaccine, which immunizes children against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.  The vaccine doesn’t induce a sufficient immune response until the third dose, which is given at around 6 months, so infants are at risk from being infected by the bacteria. The only way the infant could have contracted whooping cough was from another infected person, like an adult (whose immunity has lapsed) or an unvaccinated child.

In the same report, the state’s Department of Health say that New Mexico experienced more whooping cough cases in 2011 than any time since the 1980’s.  They also state that they have confirmed 110 cases of the disease s0 far in 2012, ahead of the rate in 2011.  Of those 110, 13 have been in infants, and of those eight required hospitalization.

This case is very sad, because the parents were responsible, and got their child vaccinated.  But someone else, who was not immune or a child whose parents refused to vaccinate them, passed this dangerous infection on to the dead child.  

Vaccines save lives.  Literally.

via New Mexico records first infant pertussis death since 2005 | Vaccine News Daily.

Washington allocates money for whooping cough outbreak

As discussed previously, the state of Washington is experience a relatively large outbreak of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), with 1,132 cases of whooping cough so far in 2012, which the state reports as over 10 times higher than what was reported in 2011.  The epidemic has caused the hospitalization of 20 children under the age of one.  Washington Governor Christine Gregoire released cash from an emergency fund last week to be spent on efforts to contain the epidemic. Gregoire has made $90,000 available to strengthen the public awareness campaign about the need to vaccinate against the highly infectious disease that is also known as pertussis. The state’s Department of Health projects that it will spend approximately $200,000 on the campaign. The state has also sought and received approval to use federal funds to purchase 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccines that will be available for the uninsured.

Continue reading “Washington allocates money for whooping cough outbreak”

Americans believe in debunked myths–shocking news

According to a Reuters poll, nearly 15 percent of the earth’s population believe that the world will end during their lifetime, while another 10 percent think the Mayan calendar proves that the world will end in 2012.  The end of the Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, on December 21, 2012 prompted a whole field of pseudoscience about the apocalyptic end of the word, sometimes spurred on by some of the junk programs on the History Channel.

What’s worse than all of this is that 22% of Americans believe in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime (the highest rate along with Turkey).  This compares to obviously better science educations in France, where only 6% believe in this silliness, in Belgium, only 7% believe, and the United Kingdom, only 8%. The poll also indicated that individuals with lower education or household income levels, as well as those under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in an apocalyptic end of the world.  Maybe the History Channel has a broader reach than originally thought. Continue reading “Americans believe in debunked myths–shocking news”

Idaho infant dies from whooping cough

A nine week old Idaho girl died Friday of complications from whooping cough according to Reuters.  She was being treated for the disease at a hospital in Pocatello, Idaho; however, her situation worsened, and she was flown to the University of Utah medical center for further treatment as her condition worsened.

There appears to be a significant outbreak of whooping cough in the Northwest US since the beginning of the year.  Washington state has had 1132 cases so far this year, a pace running far ahead of last year, when the state had 961 cases for the whole year.  Montana has had nearly 100 cases in 2012, while Idaho has had 31 cases.

According to Emily Simnit, a spokeswoman with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, “when you have something as tragic as the death of an infant, it underscores the fact that there are really nasty, severe illnesses that vaccines can prevent.”

The whooping cough immunization is a component of the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine, which is typically given at the age of 2 months.  So the infant probably was not immunized against the disease, and probably got it from an unvaccinated individual, or possibly from someone with lapsed immunity.  It could have even been a sibling or another adult.  However, there is no indication that the parents were opposed to vaccinating the infant, so this is probably just horrible luck, though the prevalence of the disease in those areas increased the chances of any infant contracting whooping cough.

Idaho and Washington are two of about 20 states that allow for philosophical exemptions to vaccinations.  Because of the drop in vaccination rates, herd immunity, where enough people are vaccinated that the disease has little possibility of being transmitted from an infected person to an susceptible one, has probably developed some cracks that allow the diseases to start spreading more quickly.

There are few legitimate reasons to refuse to get vaccinated.  There should be medical reasons for not being vaccinated.  However, refusing to get children vaccinated because of unscientific, unproven, and ridiculous reasons should stop.  Children shouldn’t die of diseases that can be eliminated.  One preventable death is unacceptable and unconscionable.  

via H5N1: US: Idaho infant dies from whooping cough amid regional outbreak