Over the past year or so, there have been several outbreaks of whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis), including one that reached epidemic levels in Washington state, which has been considered one of the worst pertussis outbreaks in the USA during the past several decades. The disease lead to 18 infant deaths from whooping cough during 2012.
The original DTP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) became available in the USA in 1948 and was critical to dropping the number of cases of whooping cough from 260,000 in 1934 to less than a few thousand per year in the 1990′s. The original vaccine contained what was called “whole-cell” pertussis, which includes all of the antigens of the pertussis bacterium, partially because it wasn’t understood (and to some extent still not fully understood) which antigens on the bacteria actually induce the proper immune response to have the body destroy a pertussis infection.
(more…) «Comparing effectiveness of two types…»
A recent article published in a leading psychiatry journal, JAMA Psychiatry, has shown that pregnant mothers’ exposure to the influenza (flu) was associated with a nearly 4X increase in risk to their child eventually developing bipolar disorder in adulthood. These findings add to mounting evidence of possible shared underlying causes and illness processes with schizophrenia, which some studies have also linked to prenatal exposure to influenza. Bipolar disorder, historically called manic depressive disorder, is a mood disorder where the sufferer can experience episodes of a frenzied state known as mania (or hypomania), typically alternating with episodes of depression. It can be treated with medications and psychotherapy (especially cognitive therapy), but more difficult cases require the individual to be voluntarily or involuntarily institutionalized until the mood changes can be reduced or eliminated.
A recent report indicated that US state legislatures are beginning to pass laws that make it more difficult for parents to obtain so-called personal exemptions to vaccinations before children attend public schools. According to the author, Tara Haelle, “Each US state sets its own vaccination policies, and most will not generally allow children to attend public school unless they have been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough); hepatitis B; the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium; measles, mumps and rubella; polio; and varicella (chicken pox).” In general, most states require that students meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention schedule (pdf) for children between 0 and 6 years old, which is set by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
All states allow legitimate medical exemptions from the immunization schedule before a child enters school, because of certain medical conditions that might make vaccinations problematic for young children. Some of these medical issues are: allergies to some of the components in the vaccines, immunocompromised conditions, family history of seizures, and other issues outlined in the General Recommendations on Immunization of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. These medical exemptions are extremely rare, but are very important. A licensed medical doctor is the only one that should provide this exemption.
(more…) «Updated: make religious vaccine exemptions…»
A baby died in Florida from whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) last week. According to the report, “officials said the family chose not to vaccinate their child. Some parents are choosing not to fully vaccinate their children because they worry there is a link between the vaccinations and autism.” Of course, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.
Let’s place the blame for this death right where it belongs, right at the feet of Mr. Andy Wakefield, the de-licensed physician, who caused the drop in MMR vaccine uptake through his fraudulent claim that MMR caused autism. Wakefield is a horrible excuse for a human being, and probably should take responsibility for this and many other deaths that resulted from his fraudulent and retracted study claiming that vaccines cause autism.
We have a moral responsibility for the health of our children and this has to dominate any other belief systems we hold. Even worse, by not vaccinating children, we are putting other people’s children at risk, as well as our own. If another child dies of measles, or whooping cough, or meningitis, and was infected by our own, non-vaccinated child, are we partly responsible?
And they should start by ignoring Wakefield’s lies. Because vaccines would have saved this baby’s life.
- Retraction–Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 2010 Feb 6;375(9713):445. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4. PubMed PMID: 20137807.
- Carrillo-Marquez M, White L. Current controversies in childhood vaccination. S D Med. 2013;Spec no:46-51. Review. PubMed PMID: 23444591.
For those of you who track these things, this past week is World Immunization Week, an annual awareness campaign for immunizations worldwide sponsored by the World Health Organization. As part of of their efforts to increase awareness of the need to vaccinate worldwide, they put together an online question and answer session last week in an attempt to debunk some of the myths surrounding vaccinations. In other words, some of the greatest minds in worldwide healthcare issues, including infectious diseases and vaccinations, answered and debunked some of the craziest myths about vaccines across the world.
This is the fourth in a series of reports about actual consequences from not vaccinating against infectious diseases. The reports are all based on verifiable reports from health agencies and/or articles published in high impact peer-reviewed journals.
Bacterial meningitis is a usually severe inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. For example, in the United States, about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year between 2003–2007.
There are several pathogens that can cause bacterial meningitis including Haemophilus influenzae (most often caused by type b, often called Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B Streptococcus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Neisseria meningitides. Depending on the pathogen, bacterial meningitis is highly contagious, especially among groups that are in enclosed areas such as schools, college dormitories and other such situations. There are other types of meningitis, viral, fungal, parasitic and non-infectious, but they are significantly different than bacterial meningitis, about which is the focus of this article.
(more…) «Consequences of not vaccinating–Report 4,…»
A large outbreak (or epidemic) of measles has hit over 700 people in Wales over the past few weeks according to NHS Wales. And since there are 6000 children who are unvaccinated against measles in this area, the outbreak will continue to increase in size, since measles is a highly contagious disease. This type of epidemic should not be happening in a modern, advanced country like the UK.
Well, who or what is to blame for ? Well, according to a UK newspaper, The Telegraph, “what actually caused the drop in vaccination uptake which led to Swansea was the autism scare, started and repeatedly stoked by Wakefield, abetted (it must be admitted) by the media.” Yes, that Mr. Andy Wakefield whose fraudulent paper alleging a connection between MMR and autism which was retracted by the Lancet, is at fault here.
(more…) «Andrew Wakefield–you sir are a…»
Over 5.2 billion people died in the 20th Century. Although the 20th Century ended a mere 13 years ago, from a statistics standpoint, we know we will probably die of different diseases (and other less natural causes) than our forebears. The causes of death evolve over time as medicine improves, science ameliorates risk, lifestyles change, environments shift, and politics reshape our world. British data journalist David McCandless (of Information is Beautiful) created this fascinating infographic based on a project, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, a U.K. charity devoted to human health, called Death in the 20th Century, which shows us, graphically, the leading causes of mortality from 1900 to 2000, worldwide.
Some of the numbers are shocking. Humanity is the cause of nearly 1 billion (or just short of 20%) of the deaths in the 20th Century. These numbers include war, murders, religious intolerance, suicide, and other deadly crimes that humans perpetrate against one another. Maybe the 21st Century will knock that number down, though I doubt any of us are optimistic given the way this century has started.
But the most interest information is in the Infectious Disease section. Nearly 1.7 billion people have died from infectious diseases. Some of the more interesting numbers are:
- Diphtheria–0.76 million deaths
- Hepatitis B–12.7 million deaths
- Measles–96.7 million deaths
- Meningitis-21.9 million deaths
- Polio–0.13 million deaths
- Smallpox–400 million deaths (yes, 400 million)
- Tetanus–37.1 million deaths
- Whooping cough–38.1 million deaths
In the 21st Century, the numbers of deaths from these diseases will probably be in the few thousand worldwide. Why? Because of vaccines. Not better sanitation. Not better health care facilities. But because of vaccines.
And in the 21st Century, as more vaccines are developed and brought to market, many of these infectious diseases will be less of a problem.
Vaccines saves lives. Literally hundreds of millions of lives.
The myth of vaccines causing autism is based upon the fraudulent claims of Mr. Andy Wakefield, which caused the original article making said claims to be retracted by The Lancet. Despite this fraud, Wakefield’s acolytes, minions, and disciples in the vaccine denialist world continue to make the claim that vaccines cause autism. But there are over 250 studies that show that vaccines do not cause autism. And there is a boatload of evidence that the MMR vaccine, specifically mentioned in Wakefield’s original study, does not cause autism.
But one of the enduring myths of the vaccine denialist crowd is that it’s not just MMR vaccine that causes autism, but it’s the number of vaccines of all types that are given to children in a short period of time (pdf). Even though the best scientific evidence supports the hypothesis that vaccines do not cause autism, approximately one-third of parents continue to express concern that vaccines may cause autism, and nearly 1 in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations because they believe it is safer than following CDC vaccine schedule.
(more…) «Risk of autism is NOT…»
Although I rarely state it on these pages, I am an atheist. As a scientist, I’ve examined the evidence for a god (any god), and found it lacking. I think religion, especially in the USA, can be dangerous. Religious fundamentalism is behind the attack on teaching of real science, such as evolution and global warming. Although some may argue that trying to block the teaching of evolution, in favor of creationism, is innocuous (though absolutely unconstitutional), most would argue that since evolution is the basis of all biology (and therefore, medicine), it is harmful.
It’s when fundamentalist religion gets involved in medicine, whether it’s therapeutic abortions, vaccines, or stem-cell research, that it’s clear that religion becomes dangerous to human lives. I just want to focus on one tiny corner of the medical world, where religious beliefs block good medicine–HPV vaccinations.
For those of you may be unfamiliar with the HPV vaccine, it prevents infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine, known as Gardasil or Cervarix in the USA, specifically blocks HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18; HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers. Cervical cancer, which afflicts 12,000 additional women and causes over 4,000 deaths annually in the USA, is considered the “preventable gynecologic cancer” because of the HPV vaccines.
(more…) «Religion vs Gardasil»
I get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.
Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:
I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil. As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical. I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-Gardasil.
(more…) «I get an email about…»
Despite the fact that over 95% of kindergarteners in the United States are properly vaccinated against whooping cough(Bordetella pertussis) with the DTaP vaccine, there are persistent reports that the rates of whooping cough have risen during the past few years. Several outbreaks, along with an outright epidemic in Washington state, seemed to indicate that the vaccine’s effectiveness is waning faster than expected.
A recently published study in Pediatrics evaluates reports of increased rates of pertussis in the six years after receipt of the fifth (of five) DTaP doses. These reports suggest that waning of immunity to pertussis from DTaP is occurring before the recommended booster age of 11 to 12 years. The researchers tracked more than 400,000 Minnesota and Oregon children using immunization records and state health department whooping cough data. All of those children were born between 1998 and 2003 and received the recommended series of five DTaP shots, the final one usually given at 4-6 years old.
(more…) «Waning whooping cough immunity after…»
According to the CDC, this year’s flu season is pretty serious in the USA. Current data, shows that about 4.6% of patient visits to health care providers are for influenza like illnesses (ILI). Thirty states and New York City are now reporting high ILI activity; an increase from 24 states last week. Additionally, 10 states are reporting moderate levels of ILI activity. Forty-eight states reported widespread geographic influenza activity for the week of January 6-12, 2013. This increased from 47 states in the previous week.
Although there has been a slight drop-off in ILI visits over the past couple of weeks since the peak in early January, the CDC continues to identify this season as a “moderately severe” one, and supplies in some areas have tight supplies of the flu vaccine.
(more…) «Tamiflu-does it work»
Yesterday, I wrote about the CDC reports regarding pediatric deaths from the flu. Those were just numbers, but there are real kids and real parents of those kids who constitute those numbers.
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) reported about the death of an elementary school child from the flu. The child was healthy, so it wasn’t that the flu increased some risk factor because of an underlying disease.
According to Maine’s CDC Director, Dr. Sheila Pinette, pediatric flu deaths are not common in the state. She stated that flu can be fatal in people who are elderly or have a compromised health status, but this elementary school child was believed to be healthy. Dr. Pinette wants everyone to get vaccinated against the flu, unless the vaccine is medically contraindicated (which is very very rare). According to the MPBN article, “that’s an expansion from previous CDC recommendations that focused on the young, the elderly, and health care workers.”
(more…) «A child dies from the…»
If you have any reluctance about having your children receive their annual flu vaccination, look at the chart below:
Children die from the flu virus–282 innocent children died from the flu in 2009-10, 122 in 2010-11, 34 in 2011-12. So far this flu season, 6 children have died. The number varies from highs during pandemic years, such as in 2009-10, and lower in non-pandemic years.
The CDC predicts that 2012-13 could be serious, and the current flu vaccine protects against 3 subtypes of the seasonal flu in North America:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like
- A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like
There are no valid excuses for avoiding a flu vaccination. Just in case you believe the myths about the flu vaccine, they’re not true. The vaccine does not itself cause the flu. The vaccine is safe for pregnant women. And most of the other myths have been solidly debunked.
Get a flu vaccination for your kids. Because Vaccines Save Lives.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012-2013 Influenza Season Week 49 ending December 8, 2012.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Final estimates for 2009–10 Seasonal Influenza and Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccination Coverage – United States, August 2009 through May, 2010.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)–United States, 2012-13 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Aug 17;61(32):613-8. PubMed PMID: 22895385.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Misconceptions about Seasonal Influenza and Influenza Vaccines.
Meryl Dorey, Australia’s infamous vaccine denialist and anti-science promoter, and her Australian anti-Vaccine Network (AVN) has been ordered to change its misleading name or be shut down. The New South Wales (an Australian state) Office of Fair Trading left an order at the home of AVN president Meryl Dorey yesterday with a letter of action, “labeling the network’s name misleading and a detriment to the community.”
(more…) «Meryl Dorey is ordered to…»
In the real world of science-based medicine, the link between autism and vaccines (particularly, the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella) has been thoroughly debunked, quashed, and discredited. In the delusional world of the vaccine denialists, the link between autism and vaccines is based on Mr. Andy Wakefield‘s paper alleging a connection between MMR and autism that has been retracted by the Lancet medical journal.
Then why is there even a debate about this manufactroversy (a manufactured or invented controversy)? Well, researchers actually examined this false controversy in a recently published article, by Graham Dixon and Christopher Clarke of Cornell University, in Health Education Research. They investigated how the news media and journalists try to “falsely balance” their reporting about the debunked link between vaccines and autism. The journalists create this false balance, “despite a strong medical and scientific consensus backed by rigorous epidemiological studies indicating no link between autism and vaccines.” Dixon and Clarke also state that “research suggests that journalists in the United Kingdom and United States often report this controversy by presenting claims both for and against a link in a relatively ‘balanced’ fashion. In some cases, so-called ‘falsely balanced’ reporting fails to mention which claim is supported by a scientific consensus.” An overwhelming scientific consensus, by the way.
(more…) «False balanced reporting in popular…»
The Montana Department of Health has reported (pdf) that as of November 15, 2012, a whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) outbreak has reached over 500 cases since the beginning of the year, compared to only 129 cases during the same time period in 2011. As of November 15, 33 cases of pertussis were found in infants of less than one year of age. Of these, four have been hospitalized. Because Montana is has a small population (about 1 million people), the overall incidence rate year to date is 50.5 pertussis cases per 100,000 Montana residents.
This past spring, there was a pertussis outbreak in several Montana counties, but it seemed to abate during the summer. The Department of Health is reporting that Flathead county, a northern county that borders Canada, is currently struggling to contain an outbreak in five school districts. “Since the beginning of October, we have 35 cases,” said Community Health Services Director for Flathead County Jody White. “Usually we won’t even see 35 in a year, so it is definitely unusual to have this many.”
The state of West Virginia (WV) has one of the toughest child vaccination regulations in the United States, not allowing any religious exemptions to vaccinations required before attending school. Only Mississippi has regulations this strict for allowable exemptions. Of course, as I have written, religious exemptions have been abused by vaccine deniers by creating “fake” religions so that parents’ antivaccination beliefs will be recognized by the state. In fact, only medical exemptions are accepted by the state (pdf), and their standards on who can meet the medical exemption are quite tough.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) appear to be an increasing medical issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ASD is diagnosed in approximately 1 in 88 children, and are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASD refers to a broad range of symptoms, from mild social awkwardness to mental retardation, repetitive behaviors and an inability to communicate. The CDC states that diagnosing ASD can be difficult, because there are no medical tests, such as a genetic or blood test, that can provide a definitive diagnosis. Physicians make a diagnosis through observation of a child’s behavior and development.
Medical science agrees that the increase in diagnosis is not only a result of better diagnostic standards, but also because there appears to be more children who are actually developing autism. Unfortunately, science has not uncovered the cause. Genetics are a critical factor, for example, since it has been shown that if one twin has autism there is a high likelihood that the other twin will also develop ASD. But are there other factors?