Antivax: new evidence shows (again) no link to autism

By Phil Plait | September 3, 2008 11:03 pm

Oh, another blow — among a flurry of them — to people who think vaccines are linked with autism.

Some people were claiming that measles vaccines were linked to incidence of autism. The claim was that the (killed weakened) measles viruses in the vaccines were getting into the childrens’ bowels. The intestines would then react to the virus, lowering vitamin and other nutrient absorption, which in turn could give rise to development disorders including autism. Measle virus RNA was found in the bowels of children with autism, and there was speculation of a link, though tenuous. The media, of course, ran with this story.

However, a new study shows that the measles virus RNA found in the children with autism (who also had gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances) has nothing to do with the onset of autism spectrum disorder:

The temporal order of onset of GI episodes and autism relative to timing of MMR [Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine] administration was examined. We found no differences between case and control groups in the presence of MV [measles virus] RNA in ileum and cecum. Results were consistent across the three laboratory sites. GI symptom and autism onset were unrelated to MMR timing.

In other words, the vaccines had nothing to do with the autism. As the researchers say themselves, "This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure."

So this is yet another piece of evidence that autism is not caused by vaccines. This, of course, won’t stop the antivaxxers in their campaign to bring back measles, pertussis, and other horrors that have been kept under control by vaccines for decades. Their antiscientific views are having a real effect, as we’ve already seen, with outbreaks popping up around the country. But as I have seen in the comments of my previous posts on this topic, they are immune to logic. Against that, they are well inoculated.

Tip o’ the syringe to, yes, my mom for telling me about this study. Pretty cool.

Comments (81)

  1. madge

    ATTENTION ALL BRITS!
    Tonight is Big Bang Night on BBC4 to celebrate the switching on of LHC on Wednesday Sep 10th next week. They are showing a couple of documentaries on the experiment ( with Dr Brian Cox) and a look at Einstein and his theory. On wednesday BBC Radio 4 is going to dedicate it’s whole day’s schedule to the LHC with live reports from Cern, documentaries and interviews and even a specially written episode of Torchwood! :)

  2. Jose

    I can’t open the link to the old thread. Is that just me?

  3. madge

    Back on topic. Good post. we need all the ammunition we can get to counter the anyti-vaxxer’s dangerous dumbosity.

  4. Autumn

    As a father, I have a great stake in the immunity of my herd, and any sort of anti-vax crapoganda has a good chance of affecting me personally.
    I live in north-central Florida, and my boys are all now in school.
    The frightening thing is that there was a minor (how do we define minor) outbreak of measles in Alachua, Fl, a couple of years ago.
    Every one of the infected kids was the child of a Hare Krishna, no-modern-medicine, idiot.
    Do I care if a bunch of idiots die?
    I’m secure enough in my own morality to say no. It is not my job to be a parent to every adult too stupid to take responsibility for their own lives.
    The thing is, these kids got sick. They got really sick. Having no health plan, what did the parents (or the acting parents, as the insane cult may have it) do with the sick children?
    That’s right, the children infected with measles went to the ER.
    Who else might just be in an emergency room?
    People with compromised immune systems
    Children with incomplete vaccinations (often due to anti-vaxer’s bullstuff)
    Pregnant women with little parasites inside them who are not immune
    And…
    Infants who had not recieved their vaccinations yet.

    The entire community was endangered because of a few pony-tailed morons who don’t even know that beef tastes good.

  5. yeah, but…Thimerisol….autism…big pharama, and evil.

    just kidding. I wanted to step into the shoes of the ignorant for a second. Now I think I actually need my childhood vaccines AGAIN.

  6. Forgot to mention, as a result of all this anti-vax hogwash, there was a mumps outbreak in BC, with 200 cases reported so far…..many of which were in children who HAD the vaccines, but enough parents bought into the hype and didn’t vaccinate, causing herd immunity to break down, infecting the kids of responsible parents.

    Another …..victory? for the anti-vax movement?

  7. I put the anti-vaxers into the same boat as the anti-genitically modified food mob. Unreasonable, ignorant, scared luddites. We’ve just got to keep bringing them to task over their claims. Keep it up Phil.

    The previous anti-vaxer thread has indeed gone. Pity, lots of good stuff there.

  8. Nathan Myers

    Because vilifying the ignorant has always been so effective. We might as well abolish schools, and just round the kids up and sneer at them.

  9. Hey Nathan, did you know that one of the main components of blood is plasma? It isn’t an ionized gas either.
    Calling someone ignorant isn’t vilification and neither is calling them to task. Although a good snark is good for the soul sometimes.

  10. Oops, forgot the :-) in the previous post in case anybody thinks I was being snarky.

  11. I stand by my statement: antivaxxers are ignorant. Also dangerous. Often (at least the ones who are often in the press) manipulative.

    Being rude is preferable to being wrong. Or being so willing to placate the ignorant that they gain an air of legitamacy.

  12. Lawrence

    There are a few additional studies in progress, looking at this from different angles due to publish over the next year or so. I would expect to see similar, if not identical results – no link between vaccines and autism.

    It probably won’t change any of the hard-liners’ minds, but it may help those who were sitting on the fence make the right decision for their children.

  13. It’s not just ignorance… it’s about money. The anti-vax people desperately want to establish a link between vaccines and autism so they can sue someone and get some free money. That’s my model for why this farcical anti-vaccine push continues.

  14. a simon

    No, money is just not motivation enough for that mental contortionism they are engaging in. Only paranoia, delusion combined with moral panic is powerful enough to account for their behaiour

  15. a simon

    damn typos behavior behavior behavior behavior

  16. RL

    Its not money and its not paranoid delusion. Its fear for their childs safety and not knowing why their kid has autism or how autism happens. I don’t agree with them, but it seems that 99% of the anti-vaccination folks (when it comes to autism-vaccines) are acting with genuine concern for their childs safety. While not the only thing behind the anti-vaccination movement, finding a real cause for autism is the only thing that will change parents minds and make a real difference. Name calling and snarky comments won’t have any effect. They just make people dig their heels in.

  17. And now I saw an article (wish I had a link) that claims a link has been established between vaccines (TB I think), and later development of diabetes and obesity. Anybody else seen this? Over/under on how quick antivaxxers glom onto this?

  18. Timothy Winship

    Ummm, measles vaccine is , in fact, a live but attenuated virus.

  19. While not the only thing behind the anti-vaccination movement, finding a real cause for autism is the only thing that will change parents minds and make a real difference. Name calling and snarky comments won’t have any effect. They just make people dig their heels in

    Unfortunately, when logic, reason and evidence aren’t enough, that only leaves violence and ridicule. I choose ridicule.

    These people have already dug their heels in. They’re actually diverting funds away from real autism research to pay for yet-another-attempt to prove their discredited claims. We don’t blow sunshine up the rear-ends of flat-earthers, nor should we for anti-vaxers.

    There’s more to the anti-vax folks than just the autism-woo. There’s people who believe it’s mind control, people who believe it’s a US or UN attempt to take over the world, people who believe it’s all a big experiment on humans, people who believe all sorts of weird things about vaccination. In some parts of the world, anti-vax beliefs are truly killing people… But the way is led by the “wah, my kid has autism and I want to blame the government/drug companies for making me get him vaccinated” folks.

    I know a few educated, otherwise intelligent, but die-hard anti-vaxxers. More than I’m proud to admit, I’m afraid. None of them have autistic children.

  20. Ashley Moore

    Thank you, but I prefer to get my medical advice from the gut feelings of ex-Playboy centrefolds. Hmmph.

  21. kitty

    What really saddens me is that the antivax people are diverting attention from research that really needs to be done. Autism is a serious crisis. We don’t need more studies showing that there is no link… we need to figure out so many more things about autism, and I’m sure funding is limited. The focus needs to shift, but the antivax groups won’t let it.

    Also think of the fund spent dealing with outbreaks! I know when the school where I teach in Vermont was hit with an outbreak of what’s known as “whooping cough” the children’s hospital bills were HUGE. The state had to get involved, and it was a giant and I’m sure expensive mess, for a little outbreak of 5 children.

    Money that could be spent so much more wisely in the fight against autism.

  22. Lawrence

    Well, Autism is the new “disease” of the month. If you look at the diseases with the highest death rates (like Cancer) & the per-capita dollars spent finding new treatments & cures vs. the money spent on Autism research, the statistics are completely skewed in favor of Autism (and other low mortality, but high profile diseases/afflictions).

    Seems like if you can get enough celebrities to take pity on you, you too can get millions of dollars in research.

    I’m not saying this is all bad – but there are a finite amount of resources available (people, labs, etc) and over-concentrating in one area over another is going to result in cuts somewhere.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it is just like us, as a society, to grab on to the latest craze & demand instant results. Of course, we all know science and medicine don’t work like that – it takes time and careful consideration. Rushing to judgment only creates larger and more complex problems down the road.

  23. Monkey

    Sorry, I love the anti-vax myth-busting and tak personal interest in it, but until the headlines of a series of major papers run “Vaccnations Safe: Anti-Vax Ideology Threatens Childhood Health Globally” the public will still believe the hype. I do enjoy reading this though – lets get on the horn to the news outlets and start asking them to recognize this issue. Letters may sway one renegade journalist to pop it somewhre on the paper, starting a snowball of sorts. Perhaps. We can try.

    Im dealing with this in my senior biology class this year – front and centre, head on. Vaccinations, what they are, what they are not, and the myths behind them.

    peace,
    gotta go to work.

  24. First off: Thanks, Phil, for doing whatever you did to make the full post appear again in Google Reader! You rock!

    Now, then. My supervisor at work is firmly in the anti-vaccination crowd, for both humans and animals. It’s really annoying because she’ll go on about it in the office we share, but if I speak up about it she basically makes fun of me for my position and says that vaccines are harmful, period. I’ve given up trying to explain to her that no they’re not, there’s absolutely NO scientifically valid correlation between vaccines and autism (and whatever else she thinks they create), as she just doesn’t listen.

  25. Dagger

    Education alone is not an all inclusive way of saying people should accept logic, reason and evidence specifically of science. Education becomes specific to ones chosen field the longer your involved in learning. To say someone trained in, as an example, business administration, should know anything about how science works, is foolish. Why would they? Why should they? Saying someone is educated is an unfortunate “catch all” phrase that we assume should mean they have intelligence to at least understand basic scientific concepts. We are wrong and that assumption is part of our problem in getting these people to understand why their choices are indeed foolish.

    No, the direct problem is that most people have absolutely no concept of the rigors involved in scientific experimentation and as we all know, our species has a tendancy to fear and distrust the unknown. You can present a mountain of scientific evidence that vaccinations have no link to anything except giving you a chance for survival against a given disease, but you might as well be speaking a foreign language because these people do not understand what your saying. Your asking them to blindly trust you. Most people are not willing to do that.

    You want the anti-vaxers claims to disappear? Then show them how science works. Show them a basic rudementary science experiment and show them how the process works. Show them exactly what scientific method means. Show them how rigorous the requirements are when conducting an experiment.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but my general high school education in science was shoddy to say the least. Granted, that was many years ago, but still, science education was definitely lacking. I don’t ever remember learning and then putting into practise, scientific method. Yeah we did experiments and disected frogs and such, but we never really learned how science worked. It wasn’t until many years later that I actually learned the proper way of understanding scientific method and that was only because I took an actual science course at my local college.

    So then there are only two ways to defeat the anti-vaxers. Those ways are to mandate vaccinations based on every single registered birth in the country (which requires a huge infrastructure to ensure no child goes unvaccinated) and/or to educate the non scientific, non trusting parents of those children so they understand basic science.

    Pointing fingers and calling people morons does nothing, except perhaps to bring you to their level, where they will beat you with experience every time.

  26. Lawrence:

    It probably won’t change any of the hard-liners’ minds, but it may help those who were sitting on the fence make the right decision for their children.

    The problem with the “on the fence” people is you have to go beyond the “there is no link”. You have to get past “what’s the harm in not vaccinating?” Tell them the stories about the recent outbreaks of measles and other “cured” diseases in areas with high non-vaccinated populations, and what are the long-term ramifications. As Monkey says, until the media does stories other than sidebar “study shows no link between vaccines and autism” filler-type articles, and shows the actual harmful effects, not much will change.
    That said, I also feel that some people go overboard in the other “keep the children germ free” direction. (My kids’ school supply lists this year included packs of antibacterial wipes.) We didn’t have our children vaccinated for chicken pox, which is rather mild if gotten as a child. Guess what? Our neighbor’s son got it, and gave it to our kids. Net effect? Several days of itchy rash. (Of course, we had to get a written statement from the pediatrician to the school testifying that they had already had chicken pox, and therefore didn’t need the vaccination.) On the other hand, our neighbor also caught it from her son, as she never had it as a kid, nor was she vaccinated. She spent several days in the hospital, quite sick.
    But, MMR and the like? All our kids are up-to-date on those. (And we would have eventually gotten our kids vaccinated against chicken pox if they didn’t get it “naturally”, because as I said, it is severe if gotten as an adult.)

  27. Daffy

    Serious question (and I don’t know the answer): is autism really on the rise, or are they simply applying that diagnosis to am ever larger group of kids who used to be regarded as behavior problems?

    You know, like “ADD” and such. As a kid, I had all symptoms of what is now called ADD…but I was referred to then as a “daydreamer.”

    I am not saying autism does not exist—of course it does—but is it really on the rise?

  28. JoAnn

    White House memo exposes Rove knew of problems with anthrax vaccine
    Allen McDuffee
    Published: Thursday August 7, 2008

    Rove said Gulf War Syndrome, vaccine political stumbling block

    The Department of Defense continued its controversial mandatory anthrax vaccinations program despite high ranking Bush administration officials acknowledging there were problems with the vaccine within months of the Bush administration being in office—well before the attacks of 9/11 and the October 2001 anthrax letters.

    A 2001 memorandum from former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to then-Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz indicates that the White House knew of problems relating to the Gulf War Syndrome and the military’s controversial anthrax vaccine.

    Obtained by RAW STORY earlier this year from a senior military official and exposed in today’s New York Daily News, “I do think we need to examine the issues of both Gulf War Syndrome and the Anthrax vaccine and how they can be dealt with,” Rove wrote. “They are political problems for us.”

    Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the military official who leaked the memo said, “It didn’t bother me that Rove referred to it as a political problem at the time because it meant that it would be properly dealt with, finally. The political problem became a problem to me when they dropped the ball and allowed the program to continue. It was politics that motivated them to investigate and it was politics that motivated them to allow the program to continue. Now the political nature bothers me.”

    more at:
    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Memo_shows_White_House_kn

    The “Patriot Act” gave the vaccine makers immunity from selling a defective product. The parents of children with autism just want the ability to give their children one vaccine at a time instead of overloading their childrens systems with numerous antigens. Shouldn’t there be testing for mitochondrial disorders before vaccination?

  29. Gary Ansorge

    TB vaccine? Well, then, how to explain MY diabetes, since there was no TB vaccine when I grew up.
    Oh, wait, IT’S A GENETIC THING: or just possibly because of long term infection exhausting the immune function, said infection being periodontal disease, which has been noted in the medical lit. as contributing to cardiac disorders. We need a vaccine against tooth decay and periodontal disease.

    On the other hand, nature doesn’t much care if we develop degenerative diseases at age 60, because by then we’ve had children and finished raising them,,,so there’s no great advantage to being genetically immune to diabetes,,,a disorder that appears to correlate with excess availability of food, especially simple sugars,,,

    Autism:number of cases: one or two/1000 in the population: most cases have a genetic link. Some may be precipitated by teratogens, but exactly what kind, we don’t know,,,yet,,,

    The death/disability ratio of the diseases we vaccinate against are at least a hundred times higher than any known side effects of the vaccines. The problem here is that people (in general) have lived for so many generation w/o those diseases they have no way of appreciating how much better off they are today or understanding the odds. All people see is the pain they experience today, when a child develops autism or some other developmental disorder. In the old days, they could have blamed the devil,,,now they blame those nasty people who make money off keeping people healthy. Go figure,,,

    I have a lovely friend, IQ in the top one percent, who is slightly woo-wooish. She believes her body is telling her that our food supply is somehow wrong but when I ask her to perform a simple double blind test, ie, eat food w/o knowing if it’s organically grown or factory produced, she declines, saying she trusts her body to know what’s right.

    BAck in the ’90s, a simple double blind was done between bottled water and city (tap)water in California, between several popular brands of high end bottled water and the city water of San Francisco, Marin and Oakland,,,

    ,,,Oakland won,,,

    Here in Georgia, the water has a high iron content, leaving brown stains in any container in which it sits, as with my dogs water bowls. Hemochromotosis is a disorder where we have too much iron in our system. The symptoms include diabetes and metabolic syndrome but these are often overlooked by medical practitioners and hemochromotosis is rarely tested for because doctors can only pay attention to that which they see on a regular basis. As a case in point, in 1948, I was admitted to hospital with recurring fever(105 degrees) and chills. The doctors in Sacramento, Calif. had no idea what it was, even deciding it was psychological in origin,,,two years later, after moving to Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, an ARAMCO doctor from India recognized the disorder and during my next attack, tested for malaria. Malaria parasites can ONLY be seen in the blood during an active attack, which the American doctors didn’t know,,,Dr. Ghabra saved my life.

    The point is, NO ONE CAN KNOW EVERYTHING. I can’t fault the American Drs.. for their ignorance, even though they damn near killed me by their lack of treatment.

    What we know today is that immunization is the second greatest advance in human healthfulness and longevity, right behind sanitation. What we need to explain are the odds of death and disability due to those diseases and compare them to the cost of ANY potential side effects. LAy it out in a pie chart. Visual representation, even including films of kids in an iron lung might help drive home the point, or films of children afflicted with cerebral disorders from measles. THEN maybe those so against Vaccination will get the point,,,

    GAry 7

  30. >>Pointing fingers and calling people morons does nothing, except perhaps to bring you to their level, where they will beat you with experience every time.<<

    Every anti-vax person I know has at least an undergraduate degree in physics, math or engineering. They understand how science works…

    … and still they believe that vaccinations are some bizarre conspiracy, even in light of the evidence.

    If there's a better response to them than "Dammit, that's just stupid", believe me, I'd love to learn it.

  31. Dagger

    @Evolving Squid,

    Well, in your case, I guess your somewhat justified and you need method one to work to overcome it. Manditory vaccinations.

    I’m curious though. With those individuals you referenced, being educated specifically in sciences, what are their excuses when presented with scientific evidence? And how do they justify them?

  32. Kudos to moms who send along interesting articles.

    I don’t know if I’m willing to label all anti-vaxxers as ignorant. Most people around seem to suffer from a lack of good knowledge and critical thinking. They are no more or less “ignorant” than the next person. This is just the topic that they happen to be wrong on, and it’s a big one.

    What does piss me off is the percentage of them who speak about it so loudly and change their claims as the science chases them off. Those that refuse to let go of a belief once it has been disproven are the truly ignorant ones. The rest of the anti-vaccine folks are their prey, and need to look around at all the evidence before making such an important decision, instead of being bullied by fear.

  33. The embedded link in the article works for me.

  34. Well, in your case, I guess your somewhat justified and you need method one to work to overcome it. Manditory vaccinations.

    I’m curious though. With those individuals you referenced, being educated specifically in sciences, what are their excuses when presented with scientific evidence? And how do they justify them?

    These people I’m thinking of oppose mandatory vaccinations – although not all of them. Right now, some oppose mandatory MMR because “it causes autism”. Others oppose the distribution of Gardasil because they don’t believe it’s tested/safe or believe that college age girls should get it first, or nobody should get it. Mercifully, nobody I know thinks Gardasil turns girls into nymphomaniacs.

    When presented with evidence that is clear and overwhelming, the most common response is something like “Interesting, I didn’t know this. Oh well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” You can almost hear their minds slamming shut like a vault door. It’s really weird.

  35. We can see the article but not the comments. It is the comments for the other anti-vaxer article we can no longer see.

  36. Quiet Desperation

    Every anti-vax person I know has at least an undergraduate degree in physics, math or engineering. They understand how science works…

    @Squid: I work in an environment with engineers and scientists with many advanced degrees, and have had to put out several Apollo Hoax fires over the years. Thank you BA and clavius.org.

    And this is a company that worked on Apollo hardware way back when.

    University degrees are, alas, not a vaccine against Teh Stoopid.

  37. A. Friend

    Great article and results. Though the portion that you quote shows one of the problems with communicating with the public. If we want the public to understand it and pay attention, we should write in plain English.

  38. I work in an environment with engineers and scientists with many advanced degrees, and have had to put out several Apollo Hoax fires over the years.

    I get the “mars will appear bigger than the moon” email every year from a guy who was a senior engineer on the Canada Arm project for the shuttle. I’ve given up trying to explain it to him.

  39. You get antivaxxers with science degrees in the same way that you get 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“the govt blew up the towers”) with civil engineering degrees.

  40. Tom Marking

    Why is there no mention from BA that his home state has vaccination exemptions for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons?

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot 909shot dot com forwardslash state-site forwardslash Colorado.htm

    .
    .
    .
    Current as of 2006
    Quick Fact:
    Exemption is obtained by “submitting to the student’s school a statement of exemption signed by one parent or guardian or the emancipated student or student eighteen years of age or older that the parent, guardian, or student is an adherent to a religious belief whose teachings are opposed to immunizations or that they have a personal belief that is opposed to immunizations.
    .
    .
    .

    The bottom line is according to current state law in Colorado if a parent wants to skip vaccinations for their children but still enroll them in public schools (thus putting in danger all the other students) then they can do so for just about any reason they choose to put down. If vaccinations are so necessary then why isn’t the BA leading any effort to reverse this state law? Where is the petition? Where is the contact information for the Colorado state legislature so that Coloradans can get this law changed?

    Bitching about the problem is one thing. Actually doing something about it takes a lot more effort.

  41. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    Probably because repealing a vaccine exemption law would be, at best, questionable as far as Constitutionality goes. Vaccination is a medical procedure, and as such, cannot be forced upon anyone. To do so would amount to battery. Furthermore, at least as far as medical concerns go, there needs to be some exemption language, as there will be people who, due to other medical conditions, cannot receive vaccines without significant risk.

    While we should strive to educate people about the benefits and risks associated with getting vaccinated and not getting vaccinated, people must still have the choice to pursue the medical options they want.

  42. The mars thing really irks me, and I get it from more than the engineer guy. Every august I offer to show people (if Mars is visible…) the view through my telescope. Every august the believers say something like “well, there’s more to it than just what you see in the telescope”. When cornered on that, they change the subject quickly.

    It’s just like the anti-vax folks.

    There are some bright spots for the mars thing though. A few years ago I had the telescope out in my front yard (was convenient for Mars) and some folks came by to chat about it and have a look – I guess not many people ever get around to looking at a planet through a scope… that’s a shame if you ask me. There’s nothing like the look on the face of a person who sees Saturn’s rings for the first time with their own eyes. Anyway, a few asked if I could see Sedna or Quaor and I got to talk to them about how they’re small and far away and my little 8″ Celestron just didn’t have what it takes to pull those objects out of the light pollution of the city and how telescopes work etc.

    I’ve been fortunate not to meet any “ufo” people.

  43. Tom:

    There are valid medical reasons not to get some vaccinations. MMR (at least when I was a kid) was contraindicated for children allergic to eggs, chicken, or chicken feathers. Consequently, I’ve never had an MMR shot… although I have had measles, mumps, and rubella.

    It is my understanding that the egg allergy thing is no longer an issue and you can request a newer MMR vaccine that doesn’t have the issue. However, I would conjecture that, like any medication, any vaccine is probably contraindicated for some people.

    And that’s precisely why everyone else should be vaccinated…

  44. Thanny

    Just in case anyone is confused on the issue, there is no autism epidemic. The number of kids with autism hasn’t increased, but the number of diagnoses has.

    The claim that autism rates are going up is a big part of the anti-science argument, and it’s worth pointing out the falsity of said claim.

  45. Evolving Squid:

    There’s nothing like the look on the face of a person who sees Saturn’s rings for the first time with their own eyes

    That is, unless, as it happened to me several years ago, when I took my scope (a smallish 4″ reflector) to a birthday party for my sister-in-law’s boyfriend’s 8-year-old son, and you happen to be at edge-on view. It did, however, allow me to give a brief (how long is an 8-year-old boy’s attention span at a birthday party?) explanation of why you couldn’t see the rings.

    (Okay, a quick check reveals it was more than “several” years ago. It was 1995 or ’96. Tempus fugit.)

  46. Tom Marking

    “Probably because repealing a vaccine exemption law would be, at best, questionable as far as Constitutionality goes. Vaccination is a medical procedure, and as such, cannot be forced upon anyone. To do so would amount to battery.”

    Read the history of Mary Mallon (a.k.a. Typhoid Mary). She was forcibly quarantined against her will for several years. That didn’t seem to be a violation of the constitution.

  47. Lawrence

    Times change. If that happened today (a Typhoid Mary situation), I’m sure the ACLU would immediately file a lawsuit against the “imprisonment”/quarantine.

  48. Tom Marking

    Lawrence: “Well, Autism is the new “disease” of the month. If you look at the diseases with the highest death rates (like Cancer) & the per-capita dollars spent finding new treatments & cures vs. the money spent on Autism research, the statistics are completely skewed in favor of Autism”

    I love it how people who spread totally absurd disinformation never back up any of their supposed “facts”.

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot cancer dot gov forwardslash cancertopics forwardslash factsheet forwardslash NCI forwardslash research-funding

    “The National Cancer Institute (NCI), a component of the National Institutes of Health, is the Nation’s principal agency for cancer research. As a Federal Government research agency, the Institute receives its funds from the U.S. Congress. These funds support research at the Institute’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland and in laboratories and
    medical centers throughout the United States…The NCI’s total budget for Fiscal Year 2005 was $4.83 billion.”

    ****************************************************************************

    hyperttexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot autismspeaks dot org forwardslash whatisit forwardslash facts.php

    “Total 2007 NIH budget: $29 billion
    Of this, $80 million goes directly to autism research. This represents 0.28% of total NIH funding.”

    Cancer research: $4.83 billion
    Autism research: $80 million

    Cancer research funding is 60 times greater than Autism research funding.

  49. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    “Read the history of Mary Mallon (a.k.a. Typhoid Mary). She was forcibly quarantined against her will for several years. That didn’t seem to be a violation of the constitution.”

    Quarantine is not being forced to undergo a medical procedure or to ingest/be injected with a medicinal substance. Furthermore, it was confirmed that she had the disease and was putting the population at large at risk. That is a far cry from people that do not currently have the disease and are therefore not spreading it to other people. When someone does contract a contagious disease today, they are typically quarantined in some measure, depending on the nature of the contagion. Children with chickenpox are denied entry from school. People who work at hospitals are not allowed into the building(s) for at least a week, and then only after passing an examination to determine whether or not they are contagious.

    Quarantining is a public health issue. Quarantining is not a medical procedure.

  50. Tom Marking

    “Just in case anyone is confused on the issue, there is no autism epidemic. The number of kids with autism hasn’t increased, but the number of diagnoses has. The claim that autism rates are going up is a big part of the anti-science argument, and it’s worth pointing out the falsity of said claim.”

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot ucdmc dot ucdavis dot edu forwardslash news forwardslash mindepi_study.html

    “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 17, 2002
    M.I.N.D. INSTITUTE STUDY CONFIRMS AUTISM INCREASE

    (SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The unprecedented increase in autism in California is real and cannot be explained away by artificial factors, such as misclassification and criteria changes, according to the results of a large statewide epidemiological study.

    “Speculation about the increase in autism in California has led some to try to explain it away as a statistical issue or with other factors that artificially inflated the numbers,” said UC Davis pediatric epidemiologist Robert S. Byrd, who is the principal investigator on the study. “Instead, we found that autism is on the rise in the state and we still do not know why. The results of this study are, without a doubt, sobering.”

    Key findings of the study are that:
    • The observed increase in autism cases cannot be explained by a loosening in the criteria used to make the diagnosis.
    • Some children reported with mental retardation and not autism did meet criteria for autism, but this misclassification does not appear to have changed over time.
    • Because more than 90 percent of the children in the survey are native born, major migration of children into California does not contribute to the increase.
    • A diagnosis of mental retardation associated with autism had declined significantly between the two age groups.
    • The percentage of parent-reported regression (loss of developmental milestones) does not differ between two age groups.
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation and vomiting, in the first 15 months are more commonly reported by parents in the younger group.

    “While this study does not identify the cause of autism, it does verify that autism has not been over-reported in the California Regional Center System and that some children diagnosed with mental retardation are, in fact, autistic,” Byrd said.

    Byrd and his research team earlier this year enrolled 684 California children who received services from one of the California Regional Centers to participate in the study. They systematically gathered information for children in two age groups — 7 to 9 years of age and 17 to 19 years of age — from families of 375 children with a diagnosis of full syndrome autism and 309 children with a diagnosis of mental retardation without full syndrome autism.

    Byrd, a pediatrician with UC Davis Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues, conducted the study for the M.I.N.D. Institute at UC Davis to help explain reasons behind significant increases in the number of autistic children entering the state’s 21 regional centers. A 1999 report by the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which operates the centers, found a 273 percent increase in autism cases between 1987 and 1998. The report was the catalyst for the state Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis to direct DDS and the M.I.N.D. Institute to identify factors responsible for the increase, funding the effort with a $1 million appropriation.

    Autism is a complex and severe developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the environment. Those affected may avoid making eye contact and lack the ability to read faces for signs of emotion or other cues. Children typically do not engage in social play or games with their peers. Unusual behaviors such as rocking, hand-flapping or even self-injurious behavior may be present in some cases.”

  51. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    One factor not accounted for (at least in your summary) regarding the increased number of autism cases in CA is the potential for increased awareness of the disease and, consequently, increased diagnosis. With increased awareness, people are more likely to seek out specialized medical attention for their children who display symptoms of the disease. What may have passed under the radar before is consequently picked up more frequently.

    I’m not saying that that is definitely what has happened in CA, but it is a factor that must be considered.

  52. Tom Marking

    Todd: “One factor not accounted for (at least in your summary) regarding the increased number of autism cases in CA is the potential for increased awareness of the disease and, consequently, increased diagnosis. With increased awareness, people are more likely to seek out specialized medical attention for their children who display symptoms of the disease. What may have passed under the radar before is consequently picked up more frequently.”

    Show me your study which demonstrates this conclusion, please. BTW, a 5-year old kid who can’t talk and runs around flapping his hands is not likely to “pass under the radar”. Put that kid in a kindergarten class and the teacher is going to notice his behavior for sure. This has always been true so even if the kid’s parents ignored the symptoms of autism by school age it will be obvious.

  53. Will. M

    Anti-vaxers, conspiracy theorists, fundamentalists of all stripes, seem to have a switch in their heads which shuts off any percieved threat to a dearly held belief. I still wonder at die-hards in both of the two main political parties here in the U.S. who will consistently vote against their own interests repeatedly, all reasoning and persuasion and cajoling falling on deaf ears. I don’t understand the current support of Senator McCain, for example. In spite of all efforts to point out his voting record, his support for the war, his topsy-turvy view of taxation, and on ad infinitum, those die-hards in the party remain committed to him.

    I have a suspicion that admitting error is a fundamentally incapable act for far too many of us here in the U.S. Perhaps it is the decades of exposure to an attitude which encourages people in a dispute to go running to their lawyers, trusting that litigation will solve their problems, without the necessary preliminary of attempting to solve the problem in a civil discussion with their adversary. Or it could be the praise we heap upon kids for any little activity which can be turned into a superlative, whether or not such is merited.

    This failure to accept and admit to a mistake seems at the heart of much of the stubborn and irrational positions many folks cling to, and may have evolved as a response to our insular and parochial attitudes about ourselves as a nation, which is also a part of our larger vision of ourselves as the alpha dogs on the planet – a view which isn’t shared by the rest of the world’s folks in increasingly larger numbers. This might explain why we so often resort to our military to solve problems for us when our short attention spans tire of diplomacy. Perhaps it is a residual hangover from the historic era of Manifest Destiny, which physically grew our country from the East Coast across the continent and then out into the Pacific, and finally, via our economic power, as a powerful influence on the rest of the world. At any rate, too often we reject even the notion of error on our parts, and stubbornly cling to our error, reason be damned.

    I don’t think reason alone will curtail the anti-vaxers; penalties for not vaccinating are probably the only thing that might have an effect on these folks. But, given the way we continue to abuse the laws governing how we drive on our roads, proudly collecting speeding tickets in spite of the continuing rise in the cost of fuel, I don’t hold out much hope for penalties for non-vaccinators. Perhaps allowing them to self-destruct is the only way to deal with the problem.

  54. Tom Marking

    “Times change. If that happened today (a Typhoid Mary situation), I’m sure the ACLU would immediately file a lawsuit against the “imprisonment”/quarantine.”

    You’re confusing forced medical procedures with the requirements for public school enrollment.

    hyperttexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot nvic dot org forwardslash state-site forwardslash state-exemptions.htm
    (I hate mangling URLs this way but a URL in standard format is subject to moderation on this board and I don’t trust moderation)

    Only 2 states have Medical Only exemptions: Mississippi and West Virginia. So if you attempt to enroll your kid in the public school system in these states and you don’t have a certificate from an M.D. stating why vaccination is impossible, then guess what, your kid doesn’t get into school. Now, I would assume that the BA would prefer the laws in these two states to the law in his home state of Colorado which accepts medical, religious, and philosophical exemptions from vaccination. But I could be wrong since I’ve never heard a single comment on the issue from him.

    BTW, the ACLU has yet to shoot down the medical-only exemptions in these two states so they are constitutional as of now.

  55. Todd W.

    @Tom Marking

    “Show me your study which demonstrates this conclusion, please.”

    A study that demonstrates that increased awareness should be a factor that is considered? Perhaps you missed the last line of that post, where I said, “I’m not saying that that is definitely what has happened in CA, but it is a factor that must be considered.”

    Maybe you are referring to my statement that “With increased awareness, people are more likely to seek out specialized medical attention for their children who display symptoms of the disease.” That is my speculation, though from a logical standpoint, if you don’t know what signs to look for or what questions to ask, you probably won’t end up going down a path that leads to a certain diagnosis. If you start to pick up some knowledge about some of the signs and start to learn about which questions to ask, you may realize that your family pediatrician or the school or what-have-you might not be making the correct diagnosis. But, if you don’t know that, you may just accept the diagnosis of “mental retardation” (or some other non-autism diagnosis) and leave it at that.

    As for “passing under the radar”, of course the behavior will be noticed, but what I mean is that the teachers and others, if they are not educated about the signs and symptoms of autism, may simply assume that the child has mental retardation and/or behavior issues, rather than concluding “autism”. It was not all that long ago that the average person was likely to know very little about the disease. Education and outreach have increased over the years, as has media coverage. So, again, what may have “passed under the radar” in the past (by being viewed as mental retardation or something else) could now be receiving a proper diagnosis.

  56. I’ve been holding off on talking about this, but I’m embarrassed to say I almost didn’t vaccinate my child when she was a baby. Almost. When you’re a new parent, the antivaxers do quite a number on your emotional state. Even when my mom came out, and I was able to get a few hours of sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

    Then she and I talked about an incident from my childhood. I had almost forgot about her cousin and family. There were 6 kids (5 are left), all living in rural Pennsylvania. Once when we went to visit them, all of the kids had pertussis. All of them. It was horrible. Back then, if you didn’t have the money to see a doctor, you didn’t get vaccinated. Simply put, they didn’t.

    And once I remembered what that was like, my baby got on the vaccination schedule.

    I’m convinced that if more antivaxers could see what some of these diseases do to children, they’d reconsider. Or maybe that’s too much to hope for.

  57. Dagger

    @ Evolving Squid

    Gardasil. That is the poster child for how not to market a vaccine. What a horrible job they did/continue to do/ with that. All the literature available when it first came out made it sound like your daughters were being used as guinea pigs to test out this new drug. A stigma it has yet to overcome. I have two daughters, both getting to the age of sexual activity, so I had some serious concerns with it as well. The vast majority of fiends and relatives I spoke with, the ones who dutifully get their kids all current required vacinations, were of the same mind. I actually had to go to my GP to find out exactly what was going on and even she didn’t know! Now that’s just sad to the state of pathetic. Strangely though, none of my friends or I thought that it was promoting sexual activity in young girls like a lot of articles I read about it.

    @ the Todd and Tom

    Good argument. Question. Does California require every single report of autism by general practitioners to be reported to DDS or M.I.N.D? If so, has that always been the case?

    @spyderkl

    Nice to hear someone actually in that position of having to decide, when pressured from outside influences, but your luckier than most. You had information available to you direct from family. Most don’t have that. Some do, but still chose to ignore it. Luckily for your child, you made the correct choice.

    Unfortunately I don’t think your idea of showing antivaxers the results of not vaccinating will have much effect. For years in highschool, they showed us pictures of blackened lungs from smoking. Didn’t really have that much effect. People seem to develop the “it won’t happen to me” syndrome at an early age. But at the very least, it could be part of a sponsered education program to try to reach people who still don’t understand the science of it. However, manditory vaccinations would be the easiest and least costly route to take.

  58. Dave Hall

    Evolving Squid Says:
    >>Pointing fingers and calling people morons does nothing, except perhaps to bring you to their level, where they will beat you with experience every time.<<

    Experienced Morons?

    Every anti-vax person I know has at least an undergraduate degree in physics, math or engineering.

    Sorry to hear that. I thought the problem was just ignorance based. Of all the anti-vaxers I know nine out of ten have no college education. All have high school diplomas or, at the minimun, GEDs.

    I for one am still waiting for someone to determine that the rise in autism and neurlogical disorders and the rise in imports of Chinese-made baby bottles, dishes and baby toys are connected.

  59. Evolving Squid, to add on to your comment about people asking to see Sedna, I got you beat:

    Me: Hey man, I bought a telescope, an 8″ reflector….I can see Jupiter and the Andromeda galaxy amazingly clearly!

    friend: Cool! Have you see Nibiru?

    me: ummm…..no.

    friend: You should look for it. It’s going to affect us all in a really bad way soon.

    me: cya later.

  60. Mike

    My wife was diagnosed with moderate Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild type of Autism) a few years ago, and we have a few thoughts for anti-vaxxers:

    Thought 1) Part of the scare for antivaxers is that Autism seems more prevalent now and they are trying to figure out why (must be those persky vaccines). There are two reasons – 1) Until recently, Aspergers and other related syndroms were not considered the same as Autism. Autism is now considered a spectrum disorder with Aspergers being a mild form. Now, a lot more people are considered to have “Autism”. 2) Doctors are looking for it more in young children because they now know what to look for.

    Thought 2) I’m an engineer, and I bet that 20% of the people I work with have Aspergers. Most have learned to hide it and cover it up, but some are worse off than others. It is not an “end of the world” type disorder, many people learn to function just fine with it. Many become scientists or engineers because they understand numbers and facts better than social interactions. From reading this blog over the years, our lovely host may have Aspergers himself. (The fact that he gets on stage and gives presentations throws that diagnosis off a bit)

    Thought 3) It is a coincidence that Autism disorders are diagnosed around the time of vaccinations. The social skills that are lacking with Autism disorders are not present in any child under a few years old. Only once a child’s peers begin to show these skills is a difference seen in their development. So when the parent takes them to a doctor, a once perfectly healthy child now has Autism.

    I could keep going on, but I need to get back to work.

  61. Tom Marking

    “Does California require every single report of autism by general practitioners to be reported to DDS or M.I.N.D? If so, has that always been the case?”

    It’s my understanding that the M.I.N.D. Institute is a private entity which was contracted to perform the study so they don’t collect reports from pediatricians. Like most states California has what is called ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) which is designed to detect kids who may have developmental problems and get them the help they need starting before the age of 3. So DDS is probably tied in with ECI but like any system I’m sure there are kids who fall through the cracks. Parents who send their kids to private schools and never report their kids to ECI are not known to the system.

  62. amphiox

    (Disclaimer: I have no evidence to back this up. It is personal opinion) I suspect that part of the increase in autism in California may be related to silicon valley and the computer industry. It is a long running joke that a computer is a device designed by a person with Asperger’s for another person with Asperger’s to use. So the rise of the electronics industry (and other similar industries) has the effect of bringing lots of people with mild Asperger’s together and allowing them to mingle socially. The result is that babies get made, and the genetic factors predisposing to autism get concentrated. (End disclaimer)

    In medical ethics the principle of autonomy almost absolutely trumps all. The right to refuse medical treatment of any kind is sacrosanct. The only rare exceptions are when a substantial risk is posed to others. For example, a psychiatric patient cannot refuse institutionalization if it is deemed he/she is an imminent danger to others. A patient with a controlled infectious disease cannot refuse to be placed under quarantine when admitted to a hospital for treatment.

    Although the diseases we vaccinate against are pretty bad, none of them currently are THAT bad. Smallpox, potentially, might have been, but we don’t vaccinate for smallpox anymore, thanks to the successful eradication of said disease by vaccines. In the hypothetical case of a new smallpox outbreak (or biological warfare/attack with smallpox) it might be considered justifiable to institute mandatory vaccination. If something similarly bad, something say as virulent and deadly as Ebola, and as prevalent as influenza
    were to come along, and we managed to get a vaccine made for it, I would be all for mandatory vaccination. Not for anything less severe.

  63. Dave Hall

    As I was saying earlier:
    I for one am still waiting for someone to determine that the rise in autism and neurlogical disorders and the rise in imports of Chinese-made baby bottles, dishes and baby toys are connected.

    Now:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/09/04/controversial-plastics-chemical-causes-problems-in-monkey-brains/

    Maybe someone is on to a link . . .

  64. a simon

    In medical ethics the principle of autonomy almost absolutely trumps all. The right to refuse medical treatment of any kind is sacrosanct. The only rare exceptions are when a substantial risk is posed to others

    so, a few thousand ill and dozens deaths would be an acceptable collateral damage, aren’t they ?
    Or, would be they a kind of human sacrifice at the altar of autonomy regardless of consequences ?

  65. Dagger

    Gotta agree with Simon here amphiox. Vaccinations are designed to prevent the outbreak of communicable disease, not to stop it after it’s started. As an example, every year my family and I get Influenza vaccinations. Every year. This is to give us a fighting chance in case there is an outbreak. Getting the shot after contracting the flu would be pointless and potentially dangerous since your system would already be fighting the disease.

    In the long list of personal freedoms U.S. citizens have given up in the last little while, manditory vaccinations, should they come to pass nationwide, should not be considered as one of them. Vaccinations benefits far far far outway being told you have to get them by law.

  66. Greg

    I have recently read that there are a large number of unvaccinated children because of the controversy over the shots and autism. Has any ‘study’ counted the number of autistic children in that group and compared the ratio with the ratio of autistic children in the vaccinated group? Seems to me that that would at least solve one issue.

  67. Tom Marking

    “Autism:number of cases: one or two/1000 in the population: most cases have a genetic link.”

    Most studies refute this. Only about ten percent of autism cases have an identifiable genetic cause (typically Fragile X).

    hypertexttransportprotocol colon forwardslash forwardslash www dot emedicine dot com forwardslash ped forwardslash TOPIC180.HTM

    “Sex: The male-to-female ratio is 3-4:1. Autistic disorder is most common in boys who have the 46,XY karyotype (ie, the karyotype of healthy normal boys). In some studies, fragile X is reported in approximately one tenth of males with autistic disorder.”

    The 4 to 1 male to female ratio is certainly suggestive of some genetic component but that is far from an identifiable genetic cause. In my son’s case (age 5 with autism) he had a specific test for Fragile X which came back negative and a battery of genetic tests called a CMA (Chromosome Microarray Analysis) which looks for a variety of genetic problems. All of the tests have come back negative. More than 90 percent of autism cases are unexplained medically and scientifically. It is this one fact, more than any other, that allows room for the folks at ASA and DAN! to spread their conspiracy theories.

  68. Todd W.

    @Greg

    Skeptical Inquirer had a couple of articles on the debate in a recent issue (January, I think?). The article by Dr. Steven Novella cites some studies (and they’re included in his references at the end of the article) that looked at autism rates in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations. Some of the studies, IIRC, looked at just MMR vs. no MMR, while others looked at vaccines in total vs. no vaccines in total. That might be a good starting point.

  69. Naomi

    “Show me your study which demonstrates this conclusion, please. BTW, a 5-year old kid who can’t talk and runs around flapping his hands is not likely to “pass under the radar”. Put that kid in a kindergarten class and the teacher is going to notice his behavior for sure. This has always been true so even if the kid’s parents ignored the symptoms of autism by school age it will be obvious.”

    Two words: Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers was never included on the autism lists until about ten years ago – it wasn’t even put in the DSM until 1994! Add those with Aspergers to those with Autism, and you immediately see a sharp rise in diagnoses for Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Funny, that. There’s also High-Funtioning Autism, which CAN pass under the radar – it’s essentially Autism where the autistic person is verbal.

    I have Aspergers. I was a textbook case when I was a kid, but because I was already well in to primary school when the diagnosis was published, and I had already had a reputation for being ‘weird’ and ‘eccentric’, I DID pass under the radar. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was eighteen, in fact, and the diagnosis was much more common. So add someone else to the list who has been autistic all along but only recently increased the number of ASD diagnoses…

  70. Naomi

    Oh, and by the way – yes, I had the MMR shot. So did my other four siblings, none of whom are autistic (and one of my brothers DID get a mild case of measles, including a high fever, from the vaccination). I had NO reaction to it, and yet I’m the autistic one. Funny, that!

  71. geek.anachonism

    My mother is one of your crunchy hippie types, so we’ve generally lived in those types of areas (semi-rural next to an artist’s enclave and an island that got ‘town water’ hooked up in the late nineties) but she always vaccinated. Always.

    I got rubella as a child, my sister got pertussis as a teenager. We were absolutely surrounded by the diseases because no-one else in the groups vaccinated. The rubella was why we moved out of the first area, pertussis why she ended up moving to a regional area without her beloved hippies. She didn’t want to see anyone else in the family get these diseases as an adult. I’m lucky – I’m an urbanite so there are fewer anti-vaccination people around.

    I would like people to see the absolute grace on a refugee mother’s face when she finds out she can actually prevent her kid from getting these kinds of diseases. She know what they do, how they affect more than just ‘a couple of weeks of scratching’. Hell we got stuck in rural NSW when I was a preteen because I got chicken pox and became really really ill (up until a few years ago I thought I’d only had a mild case – turns out I was delirious for four days…)

    As far as autism goes – I’m ‘apparently’ on the spectrum. The tests for Aspergers? Nearly as bad as the ‘tests’ for ADD – they can be applied to almost anyone. And don’t forget that one Asperger’s raising another (which I’m guessing the case is going to be in Silicon Valley) can axacerbate certain symptoms of Aspergers. I just don’t trust that diagnosis – it pathologises some really normal behaviours. I don’t deny it as a diagnosis, I just think it tends to get bandied about in geek circles as yet another reason we’re different.

  72. @ Tom

    Minor nitpick:

    > BTW, the ACLU has yet to shoot down the medical-only exemptions in
    > these two states so they are constitutional as of now.

    That doesn’t make them constitutional. That just makes them part of the current law code. This country approaches law somewhat backwards (on purpose) -> laws that are blatantly unconstitutional (like the Patriot Act) can be passed, they’re part of current code until a successful challenge overturns the law on constitutional grounds.

  73. @ Lawrence

    > Times change. If that happened today (a Typhoid Mary situation), I’m sure
    > the ACLU would immediately file a lawsuit against the “imprisonment”
    > quarantine.

    Uh, I call shenanigans. I’m pretty sure that in a Typhoid Mary situation, the ACLU would *not* immediately file a lawsuit, for a few reasons.

    Note that if someone is infected with a disease, you’re not quarantining them, you’re isolating them. Quarantining is something you do to healthy people to keep them from getting infected.

    From The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 357:433-435 August 2, 2007 Number 5 “Legal Power and Legal Rights — Isolation and Quarantine in the Case of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis”, by Wendy E. Parmet, J.D.

    “Both the states and the federal government have the authority, in appropriate cases, to compel isolation and quarantine. The states derive their authority from their police power, the sovereign authority they retain under the Constitution. Although the federal government lacks a general police power, it has long used its authority for regulating international and interstate commerce to quarantine interstate or international travelers or commerce. Today, Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services (which acts through the CDC) to apprehend, detain, and forcibly examine persons to prevent certain communicable diseases (specified by the President) from entering the country or traveling across state lines. Tuberculosis and types of influenza with pandemic potential are among the listed diseases.

    Traditionally, courts have interpreted the authority of the states and the federal government broadly, giving great deference to public health officials. Still, even broad authority is not unfettered. Detained persons have a right to a court review of their detention’s legality. Moreover, constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process must be respected.”

    Now, the ACLU might file suit to prevent one community from being quarantined while another is not (for example, if someone quarantined all the low income communities and left the high income communities un-quarantined), and they might file suit to get an isolation lifted if the carrier wasn’t carrying the disease everyone thought he was carrying, but being interested in defending civil rights doesn’t mean that the ACLU is suicidal.

  74. Tom Marking

    “Autism is now considered a spectrum disorder with Aspergers being a mild form. Now, a lot more people are considered to have “Autism””

    There’s quite a bit of confusion about this so let me clear it up once and for all. Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT a type of autism. There is a grouping of diseases called PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) or ASD (Autism Spectral Disorder) colluoqially. PDD contains the following separate diseases:

    1.) Autism
    2.) Asperger’s Syndrome
    3.) Rhett’s Syndrome
    4.) PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified)

    In informal usage you sometimes here that “Asperger’s is a milder form of Autism” or “PDD-NOS is a milder form of Autism”, etc., etc. Technically speaking this is incorrect. Asperger’s and Autism are topologically siblings, not child and parent. The correct statement would be:

    Asperger’s Syndrome is a milder disease under PDD than Autism is.

  75. Tom Marking

    “Two words: Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers was never included on the autism lists until about ten years ago – it wasn’t even put in the DSM until 1994! Add those with Aspergers to those with Autism, and you immediately see a sharp rise in diagnoses for Autistic Spectrum Disorders.”

    The UCLA/M.I.N.D. study was looking at childhood autism cases specifically and not the broader category of PDD (ASD). They specifically addressed the issue of changing criteria for diagnosis and they found that this does NOT fully explain the rise in autism cases in California over a ten year period. It is a real increase – not caused by changes in diagnosis.

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