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Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria


Angelina at five, just before onset of SSPE

This article has been substantially updated, please go there. There is also another article about a separate measles/SSPE case in Italy.

One of the memes of the vaccine denialists is that childhood diseases, like measles or whooping cough, are not dangerous. In fact, some parents have set up “pox parties” to deliberately expose their children to these diseases, because anti-vaccine lunatics believe (with all evidence against their beliefs, typical of any science denialist) that natural immunity is better than a vaccine induced immunity. Not only is that an Appeal to Nature fallacy, but it shows ignorance on how immunity occurs.

Already this year, two children have died in the United States as a result of whooping cough. And there’s probably more, because of under-reporting.

Read More »Measles complications–consequences of the anti-vaccine hysteria


Alternative medicine according to Mark Crislip, MD


I find interesting stuff in the most unusual places. I have an iPhone App called ID Compendium: A Persiflager’s Guide (Infectious Disease Compendium: A Persiflager’s Guide – iPhone, Infectious Disease Compendium: A Persiflager’s Guide – iPad), a great medical tool for finding different infectious diseases and the medications useful for treating it. The App was written by Mark Crislip, MD, one of the top 10 healthcare skeptics (in the true sense of the word, none of that quack-based pseudoskepticism), and it’s been very useful to me. It’s a really nice app (and for $5.99, there’s no way to go wrong here), and it’s practical, unless you’re a hypochondriac.

I was scanning through the Drugs section, and I saw an entry for “Alternative Medicine.” What? Dr. Crislip went to the dark side? Did he actually think homeopathy worked? Was he a mole for alternative medicine crowd? But, that section had a nicely worded (note: It’s an R-rated section, maybe PG-13) commentary on complementary and alternative medicine (aka CAM). I’m not sure the letter was actually sent to the Annals of Medicine, but from reading his blog, I wouldn’t bet against it.Read More »Alternative medicine according to Mark Crislip, MD


Measles outbreak in Ireland


Preventable childhood disease epidemics keep breaking out throughout the world. Whooping cough has spread throughout the USA, and measles cases have risen dramatically in the UK. Now 17 new cases of measles have been reported during the last week in Southern Ireland bringing the total number of confirmed cases in West Cork to 42. Physicians in that part of Ireland are urging parents to vaccinate their children 

According to Dr. Fiona Ryan, a consultant in public health medicine, “At the moment, the best way to ensure safety is to ensure that babies are not exposed to older children who may not be vaccinated and who are incubating the disease. Some cases have unvaccinated brothers and sisters, so they are very likely to become infected. Unfortunately the symptoms are very non-specific before they get the rash.”Read More »Measles outbreak in Ireland


Evolution vs. creationism scorecard: 2012


Since the beginning of 2012, Republicans throughout the country tried to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by pushing religion into public schools. They lumped evolution denialism and global warming denialism into the broad terminology of “scientific controversy” (in case you’re reading, there are no scientific controversies over these theories, just political ones). And those Republicans tried their best to give the children in those states the worst science education ever. Evolution is the foundation of biology, that field of science that is the basis of our health, of medicine, of agriculture, of our environment, and of every living thing on the planet.

 So far, in 2012, there have been several attempts by Republican controlled state legislatures to force religion into public schools. It’s been a mixed bag, with several close wins for the science side, and a notable loss.Read More »Evolution vs. creationism scorecard: 2012


Private school scholarships–gateway to creationism


You have to hand it to the antievolution folks. They don’t give up and they try every method possible to get their evolution denialism into the educational system despite every constitutional argument going against them. They tried to use intelligent design to force creationism into public schools, but lost in Federal court, costing the schools district over $1 million in legal fees. The have tried to push creationism in several states, succeeding in Tennessee, failing to do so in others. They keep trying, mostly failing.Read More »Private school scholarships–gateway to creationism


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.Read More »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.Read More »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.Read More »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.Read More »American attitudes about global warming