New measles myth from vaccine denier Sherri Tenpenny – not a disease

Yes, you read that right, a new measles myth from the anti-vaccine religion is hitting the interwebs – they’re trying to claim it’s not a disease. Now, there’s a small element of fact in their claim, but the anti-vaxxers are using it to create confusion about the disease.

Of course, you know they wouldn’t bring you scientific facts. They just employ fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to fight the scientific consensus and settled science of vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Now, let’s get into it.

Sherri Tenpenny’s measles myth 

If you don’t know who Sherri Tenpenny is, she is an American lunatic physician with precisely zero backgrounds in vaccines. And she has zero publications in peer-reviewed journals about vaccines. But she loves pontificating on vaccines.

And because Tenpenny is both a physician and a radical anti-vaxxer, she is a popular choice by the vaccine deniers as their argument from false authority. Tenpenny is like the other false authority, Tetyana Obukhanych, who is also popular with the anti-vaxxers. They need these false authorities because they don’t have any legitimate, robust, published, peer-reviewed evidence that supports even one of their claims.

Because of this lack of evidence, the anti-vaxxers love to use misdirection and pseudoscience in a ridiculous attempt to confuse people to join their anti-vaccine cult. Despite the utter lack of evidence that vaccines are linked to anything, except for preventing diseases, the anti-vaxxers try to use strawmen to make some think that there’s an issue about vaccines.

And here’s the American Loon’s, I mean Tenpenny’s, new measles myth:

measles myth

Before we start out, we need to point out that Tenpenny is a germ theory denier, that is, someone who believes that viruses, bacteria, and parasites are not the causative agents of infectious disease (see Note 1). Like evolution deniers and climate change deniers, germ theory deniers reject mountains of evidence without ever presenting scientific evidence that supports their denialism

Tenpenny’s measles myth is trying to distinguish between the measles virus and the measles disease. To be fair, this is part of the germ theory – one can contract HIV but, with medical treatment, may not contract the disease, AIDS. However, an HIV/AIDS denier will claim that HIV and AIDS are unrelated.

As a real virus scientist wrote in a private Facebook post:

Viral infection does not equal disease because viruses are complex . With medication you can stop HIV infection becoming a disease, HPV can clear naturally without disease. However viral associated diseases are by definition caused by the virus, hence no viral infection no AIDS, no measles, no chickenpox, and (overwhelmingly) no cervical cancer

Tenpenny is claiming that a measles virus infection is a harmless disease that “come and go in a week to ten days.” But the measles “disease” is something that “comes and stays.” 

measles myth
This is the measles virus. It also causes the infection and the disease.

Where she got this ridiculous measles myth is beyond me because it is not supported by anything in science. The measles virus causes the disease, but there are not two levels of the disease – one temporary and one chronic. 

But measles (the disease) cannot exist without measles (the virus) – she’s trying to make a semantic point that doesn’t exist. She’s trying to use scientific terminology to fake everyone – that’s like one of the basic signs of pseudoscience.

But then she goes full lunatic by stating that the measles vaccine causes the measles disease by preventing the lifetime immunity from the measles infection. WTF? That’s not how this works – the measles disease is ALWAYS caused by the measles virus. And vaccines prevent the infection by the measles virus by training the immune system to destroy the measles virus before it becomes pathogenic and infectious.

Obviously, Tenpenny’s germ theory denialism has meant she has forgotten or ignored the actual training and education she received. 

measles myth
This won’t prevent measles.

However, there’s a hidden, more sinister, message. She is implying that the children who do not develop the “disease,” but only get the “infection,” are somehow superior to other children. Maybe its diet. Maybe its genetics. Maybe its vitamin A supplements (see Note 2). 

The scientific facts are clear – measles has significant complications. According to the CDC, some of the many measles complications are:

    • About 30% of measles cases develop one or more complications.
    • Pneumonia, which is the complication that is most often the cause of death in young children.
    • Ear infections occur in about 1 in 10 measles cases and permanent loss of hearing can result.
    • Diarrhea is reported in about 8% of cases.
    • As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia.
    • About 1 child in every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, deafness, and other long-term neurological deficits.
    • For every 1,000 children who get measles, 1 or 2 will die from it.
    • Measles also can make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage, give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.
    • About 1:609 to 1:1367 children who have contracted a measles infection will develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a rare chronic, progressive encephalitis that affects primarily children and young adults, caused by a persistent infection of the measles virusThe disease starts with measles infection, gradually progressing with psychological and neurological deterioration, which can include personality changes, seizures, and coma. It is nearly 100% fatal. It is incurable. And it only happens as a result of measles.

Summary

And the science is clear – anyone who gets a measles infection is at risk of ALL of these complications. A non-GMO, purely organic, gluten-free diet is not going to prevent these complications. Superior genetics is not going to prevent it. Your favorite pseudoscience is not going to prevent it.

Despite Tenpenny’s measles myth FUD, once the measles virus enters the body and begins to replicate, it becomes the measles disease. 

There is a way to prevent that disease, and it is the measles vaccine. Sure, a “natural” measles infection will also confer immunity and prevent the disease in the future. Unfortunately, one has to get the disease first, and then be at risk for all of those complications, to get that natural immunity.

That’s one of those basic points of immunology that just seems to go over the head of your basic anti-vaxxer. Vaccines confer immunity without contracting the disease – it’s a miracle of modern science (that’s not passive-aggressive snark, that’s a fact).

Notes

  1. Just because someone will make the comment, the germ theory of disease is not some random guess or idea. It is a scientific theory, in which the factual observation that infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms and can be explained by the growth and replication of these microorganisms in the host cause the disease, Like other scientific theories, anthropogenic climate change, evolution, and gravity, it is supported by mountains of published data. Furthermore, because a scientific theory not only explains phenomena like infectious diseases, it predicts what might happen if a host animal, like humans, encounters a new microorganism. 
  2. There is no scientific evidence that vitamin A supplementation can prevent measles infection. Such a claim lacks biological plausibility. However, there is some evidence that vitamin A supplementation can prevent death from measles in places where malnutrition (and low vitamin A intake) is a known problem. The measles vaccine is the only and best method to prevent measles. 



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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!