Whooping cough is dangerous

Over the past few weeks, I’ve discussed numerous outbreaks of whooping cough, or Bordetella pertussis (or just pertussis) throughout the US, Canada, England and Australia. For those individuals who think that whooping cough has either disappeared or is not dangerous, well, it’s time to disabuse anyone of that particular notion.

2012 (the year, not the silly Mayan Calendar) pertussis outbreaks

These are just the more notable outbreaks. According to the CDC, there were over 27,000 whooping cough cases in the US in 2010 (and that number is going to be small compared to 2012’s numbers). And, worldwide, there are 30-50 million cases of pertussis and about 300,000 deaths per year. It is not a disease to be treated lightly.

Risks from whooping cough (all stats are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Of infants younger than 1 year of age who get pertussis, more than half must be hospitalized. The younger the infant, the more likely treatment in the hospital will be needed. Of those infants who are hospitalized with pertussis about:

  • 1 in 5 get pneumonia (lung infection)
  • 1 in 100 will have convulsions (violent, uncontrolled shaking)
  • Half will have apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
  • 1 in 300 will have encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
  • 1 in 100 will die

Teens and adults can also get complications from pertussis, though they are usually less serious than in children, especially if they had been vaccinated. Usually, complications in this age group are often caused by the cough itself. In one study, less than 5% of teens and adults with pertussis were hospitalized. Pneumonia (lung infection) was diagnosed in 2% of those patients. The most common complications in another study of adults with pertussis were:

  • Weight loss (33%)
  • Loss of bladder control (28%)
  • Passing out (6%)
  • Rib fractures from severe coughing (4%)

So if anyone thinks this is an innocuous disease, well they’d be wrong. It’s not without serious consequences, up to and including death.

It makes you wonder why there isn’t something we could do about this disease. You’d think that science would be able to prevent it. Oh wait, there is a way, and it’s called a vaccine. The DTaP vaccine (for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) is the way to prevent whooping cough (and diphtheria and tetanus, both dangerous in their own right). 

The vaccine is over 85% effective in preventing a serious infectious disease. Since the introduction of the vaccine, diphtheria and tetanus cases have dropped by 99%. And whooping cough has dropped by 92%. And even then, people don’t want to vaccinate their kids. But why?

Antivaccine lunatics think that vaccines are harmful

  • All medical procedures, whether taking an over-the-counter pain reliever or having surgery to remove a tumor, has some amount of risk or side-effects. For the DTaP vaccine, there are some side effects, mostly minor, and even those may not be a result of the vaccine itself. 
  • An extremely large study, with over 13,000 patients, it can find even small effects, “found no evidence for an increased risk for neurologic, hematologic, allergic events, or new onset of chronic illnesses among adolescents vaccinated with Tdap.”
  • In a Korean clinical trial, published in a high impact peer-reviewed journal, found that “No serious adverse effects were noted, and most adverse effects resolved without treatment. The immunogenicity against each antigen was high in patients who were interchangeably vaccinated for DTaP.”

There are a lot more, but those are the most recent, and pretty much shut the door on the old “vaccines cause XYZ” myth. 

So what can we can conclude here. First, there are more outbreaks of whooping cough because fewer people are getting vaccinated or updating vaccinations. Second, whooping cough can be dangerous to adults and children. Third, DTaP vaccine prevent whooping cough. Fourth, aside from a very few and minor side effects, there is nothing dangerous about the vaccine.

Conclusion: vaccines save lives.

Whooping cough: outbreak in Kansas updated

The recent outbreak in Kansas of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) has grown with an additional 21 cases of the disease being reported in Johnson County, Kansas, during the past week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the disease to 111. The Johnson County health department has issued a warning (pdf) about the outbreak, requesting that children and adults get the vaccine and to be aware of symptoms. To prevent the spread of the disease, the health department is requesting that people who are being treated for the disease with antibiotics stay home for 5 days, and those we are refusing to be treated, stay home for 3 weeks. Continue reading “Whooping cough: outbreak in Kansas updated”

Where Switzerland did not endorse homeopathy

Pseudoscience believers are always looking for something, anything, that supports their point of view of the universe. Whether it’s vaccine denialists, or global warming denialists, or evolution denialists…well, any kind of denialist, they all need some piece of evidence to prove that they are not denying scientific evidence. So when you don’t have science, go for whatever comes next.

First, a bit of background on homeopathy. It’s water. Yes, water has some very special properties, it’s necessary for the human body to work well, without we die. So homeopaths think that if you dilute out substances in water (a level of dilution so high that not one single molecule of the substance remains), the water retains a memory of it. And that memory supposedly cures things, or does something medical. Since water cannot retain memory of anything, the details after that become irrelevant, because their basic premise is about as much of an impossibility that one can find in science. If water had some method of retaining memory, then it would mean that ever single principle of physics and chemistry would be wiped off the face of science textbooks forever. Continue reading “Where Switzerland did not endorse homeopathy”

Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism

Generally, you know when a group is trying very hard to find support for their fringe beliefs when they have to find an insignificant court ruling in a small city in Italy. It’s like confirmation bias taken to the highest level of fallaciousness, trying to find that one irrelevant item that supports their pseudoscientific beliefs. In this case, it was a court in Rimini, Italy, a small city on the northern Adriatic coast. The court ruled that an anonymous child was diagnosed with autism about a year after receiving the MMR vaccine, which is a very safe vaccine that prevents mumps, measles and rubella, all diseases that are harmful to children. Continue reading “Vaccine denialists getting even more desperate to find link to autism”

American attitudes about global warming

In most industrialized countries, global warming is considered to be a fact supported by not only personal observations, but also because of the scientific evidence. In fact, there is an overwhelming level of scientific consensus on this matter, including nearly every scientific organization in the United States. But the American mindset is quite different than the rest of the world. The reasons are many: conflating political debate with scientific debate, poorly understood economic trade-offs, badly written articles in online encyclopedias, reliance on confirmation bias, and just plain ignorance. Continue reading “American attitudes about global warming”

Creationism dies–at least in Missouri

After the disaster of Tennessee’s science-denying Monkey Bill being signed into law, there has been relatively (and possibly temporary) good news in Oklahoma and Alabama, who did not vote on the anti-science legislation prior to the adjournment of their state legislatures. Of course, they could bring it up again in 2013, but a win is a win.

Yesterday, the Missouri legislature also adjourned, and two antievolution bills died in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education before getting a hearing. House Bill 1227 would have permitted teachers “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.” House Bill 1227 would have required “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design,” both in public elementary and secondary schools and in “any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education” in the state. 

Again, to be absolutely clear on the point, there are no “scientific weaknesses” in the fact of evolution. There is some ongoing debate about the mechanisms of evolution, but the basic principle of change in a population of organisms over time by the mechanisms of natural selection and genetic drift is sound and fully accepted by a huge majority (about 99.6%) of scientists. And intelligent design is not science, it is creationism with different clothing. It is pseudoscience.

A win, hopefully permanent, for science education.

via Antievolution legislation dies in Missouri | NCSE.

Good news for science education in Alabama

Earlier this year, the Republican dominated Alabama legislature tried to enact a bill, House Bill 133, that would have established a scheme to allow high school credit for creationism. HB 133 would have authorized  “local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students.” The purpose of the bill was to teach creation “science” as equivalent to evolution. The bill died in the legislature, since it did not come to a floor vote before the legislature adjourned on May 16, 2012. Continue reading “Good news for science education in Alabama”

Pseudoskepticism from Australian vaccine denialists

As I discussed a few days ago, Meryl Dorey, the anti-vaccination crackpot, used her vaccine denialist Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) to set up the Real Australian Sceptics in a laughable and amateur attempt to co-opt the word “skepticism” by starting a website that is pure, unadulterated pseudoskepticism. In case you’re wondering, a pseudoskeptic (using the term as defined) refers to those who declare themselves merely “skeptical” of a concept, but in reality would not be convinced by any evidence that might be presented. Global warming “skeptics” are in fact pseudoskeptics who deny the evidence for global warming. Vaccine skeptics are really just pseudoskeptics who deny all of the evidence that shows vaccine’s benefits far exceed the small risks. And that there are no risks of vaccines causing autism. Continue reading “Pseudoskepticism from Australian vaccine denialists”

Whooping cough: outbreak in Montana spreads (update)

The Missoula (Montana) City-County Health Department is reporting a recent outbreak of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) in Missoula County and adjacent Ravilli County. The health officials have reported seven confirmed cases of pertussis in Missoula County and 50 in Ravilli county. The health department officials are calling this one of the worst outbreaks for the disease since the introduction of pertussis vaccines in the 1940’s. This outbreak follows a similar one in Flathead County. Continue reading “Whooping cough: outbreak in Montana spreads (update)”

Maryland proposes new vaccine requirements for students

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Maryland is proposing revised vaccination regulations that would require incoming kindergartners to receive a chicken pox booster vaccination (varicella vaccine). It is also requiring seventh graders to get a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, (DTaP vaccine). In addition, Maryland also wants to include a vaccine against Meningococcus, a bacterium that causes meningitismeningococcemiasepticemia, and rarely carditisseptic arthritis, or pneumonia. The state also wants to increase the requirement for the number of MMR vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.

If the proposed changes go into effect, Maryland would be aligned with standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. To this date, 36 states have adopted such standards. The new guidelines, if adopted, would to into effect in 2014.

According to David Bundy, an assistant professor of pediatrics and childhood adolescence at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center,

The recommendations for these immunizations are not new nationally, this is just updating the state’s requirement to reflect the existing recommendations. It just makes us all look like we’re in alignment with what we’re doing, and it tightens the safety net at schools for kids who may be missing vaccines.

I’m sure the anti-vaccine crowd will be complaining soon.

via Maryland proposes additional pertussis, chicken pox booster requirement | Vaccine News Daily.