Whooping cough–effectiveness of pertussis vaccines

This year has been a bad one for whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis) throughout the world. There have been large outbreaks of pertussis in the United States, England and Australia in 2012. There have been some hypotheses as to why it has been happening. For example, there is some speculation that a subtype (or genotype) of pertussis was responsible for the Australian outbreak, but the evidence is complicated and equivocal. I think there is some evidence that the epidemic in Washington state results from the much lower vaccination rates in the area as a result of the anti-vaccination lunacy. 

But the story may be much more complicated, and may need a more open discussion amongst those responsible for protecting us from these infectious diseases. These pertussis outbreaks may be a result of the reduced performance of the pertussis vaccine currently being used. The problem with an open discussion regarding the current vaccine is that the vaccine denialists will make an absolute claim that the pertussis vaccine does not work (of course, a complete fabrication, typical of the anti-vaxxers), instead of the more accurate position that the pertussis vaccine might not have the high level of effectiveness that was originally thought. Ironically, the current vaccine, the acellular pertussis version, replaced the older and more effective whole pertussis vaccine because critics believed the older version had too many side effects. Continue reading “Whooping cough–effectiveness of pertussis vaccines”

Chicken vaccine viruses recombine in wild, anti-vaccine conspiracies abound

For the past five years, there have been large outbreaks of infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) in chickens in Australia. ILT is a highly contagious herpesvirus, and one of a group that includes herpes and chickenpox. The chickens become very ill with red and swollen eyes, along with sneezing, coughing and gasping, while occasionally producing a bloody nasal discharge. Mortality is quite high, and surviving chickens produce fewer eggs, which, of course, is very bad for chicken farmers.

The diseases are usually prevented by a vaccine against ILT. Many vaccines against viruses, including the ILT version, contain live attenuated viruses (LAV), which are viruses that have reduced virulence, though still alive, so that the immune system recognizes it to develop an immune response. Attenuation takes an infectious agent and alters it so that it becomes harmless or less virulent. Continue reading “Chicken vaccine viruses recombine in wild, anti-vaccine conspiracies abound”

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”

More science denialism from Meryl Dorey

It’s clear that Meryl Dorey, founder of the Australian Vaccine Network, is the very symbol of vaccine denialism, using all sorts of pseudoscientific stupidity to support her unsupportable beliefs. Those beliefs have lead to the various whooping cough, measles, and other infectious disease outbreaks in Australia, Canada, the US, and the UK. Admittedly, she’s not the primary cause of this type of denialism (we can blame Mr. Andy Wakefield for his fraudulent research that lead to Dorey’s particular brand of denialism).

It gets worse. Or funny.  Maybe both.  Continue reading “More science denialism from Meryl Dorey”

Anti-vaccine lunatics need a dictionary

The junk science and outright lies that can be found on the internet is enough to make one wonder if it’s even possible to cut through this noise to present what is actually scientifically and medically sound. Every day, there’s new internet meme that makes some outrageous, and barely rational, claim. If you produce expensive urine, it will prevent cancers. Or experiments on monkeys prove that vaccines cause autism. Or Mayans, who couldn’t even predict that Spanish Conquistadors were going to invade, supposedly predicted the end of the world in 2012. Seriously, why do people listen? Maybe that’s why a lot of bloggers take the time to debunk this stupidity, in the hope that someone researching some pseudoscientific claim, finds a few skeptical blogs that use snark, science, and logic to discredit them. Some blogs use all three! Continue reading “Anti-vaccine lunatics need a dictionary”

Supporting a fellow blogger who is being attacked by a homeopath

I follow some Australian skeptics’ blogs, mainly because of Meryl Dorey, the lunatic who runs the Anti-Vaccination movement in Australia.  One of the better ones is Dan’s Journal of Skepticism, run by Dan Buzzard.  He writes on a lot of issues with regards to pseudoscience, mostly in medicine.  Earlier this year, he wrote about how a homeopath, Francine Scrayen, treated her “patient”,  Penelope Dingle, who was suffering from rectal cancer, with homeopathic potions and lotions.  

In the report on Ms. Dingle’s death, the Coroner for Perth (Australia) reported the following:  

In my view the deceased’s rectal cancer was present and causing bleeding and other symptoms from at least 31 October 2001.  During the period 31 October 2001 until at least the end of November 2002, the deceased regularly described the symptoms of her rectal cancer to a homeopath, Francine Scrayen.  It was not until November 2002 that Mrs Scrayen and the deceased discussed the possibility of reporting her rectal bleeding to a medical practitioner and it was not until 5 December 2002 that she first reported those problems to a doctor.

I accept that Mrs Scrayen  believed that the deceased had suffered from haemorrhoids years earlier and the bleeding and pain was “an old symptom coming back”, but a competent health professional would have been alarmed by the developing symptoms and would have strongly advised that appropriate medical investigations be conducted without delay.

Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional. I accept that Mrs Scrayen had minimal understanding of relevant health issues, unfortunately that did not prevent her from treating the deceased as a patient.

This case has highlighted the importance of patients suffering from cancer making  informed, sound decisions in relation to their treatment.  In this case the deceased paid a terrible price for poor decision making. 

Unfortunately the deceased was surrounded by misinformation and poor science.  Although her treating surgeon and mainstream general practitioner provided clear and reliable information, she received mixed messages from a number of different sources which caused her to initially delay necessary surgery and ultimately decide not to have surgery until it was too late.

Continue reading “Supporting a fellow blogger who is being attacked by a homeopath”

Ken Ham is clueless about evolution–shocking news

We are all apes.

Last week, I wrote an article about the growing whooping cough epidemic in Australia, which, of course, brought the absolute nutjobbery out of the woodwork in the form of Meryl Dorey, who is the leading mouthpiece for the anti-vaccination lunacy in Australia. She is no different than any other pseudoscience propagandist, such as the ones found in the anti-evolution crowd, global warming and HIV/AIDS denialists,  and sasquatch/alien abduction/Loch Ness Monster/crop circle idiots. That’s right, there is no difference between creationism, sasquatch and homeopathy–no science, and a lot of beliefs based on…nothing. Continue reading “Ken Ham is clueless about evolution–shocking news”

Australia sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases

According to the Vaccine News Daily, Australian sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases. In 2011, Australia has seen about 38,000 cases of  whooping cough, despite a relatively high level of vaccination. As a comparison, California, which has about 15 million more people than Australia (37 million and 22 million people, respectively) had only 3,000 cases of whooping cough in 2011.  Some of the difference may be related to improved diagnostic procedures, but they have also been implemented in California. Continue reading “Australia sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases”