Tag: pertussis

Debunking vaccine myths

By Phil Plait | September 10, 2012 9:30 am

My friend Dr. Rachael Dunlop is a tireless promoter of science and fighter of antivaccination propaganda. I somehow missed this when she wrote it last November, but she put together a fantastic article tearing apart a whole passel of antivax lies: "9 vaccination myths busted. With Science". It’s basically one-stop shopping for the truth about vaccines.

We need people talking about the need for vaccines more than ever right now. Measles cases have nearly doubled over last year in the UK. My hometown of Boulder is suffering through an outbreak of pertussis. California is on its way to having serious epidemics due to lower vaccination rates. In North Carolina just a few days ago, a two month old infant died from pertussis.

Let me repeat that: babies die because of diseases that can be prevented by a simple vaccination. Factually-bereft antivaxxers – cough cough Meryl Dorey cough – claim that no one dies from these diseases any more. They are wrong.

Antivaccination beliefs are bad science, pure and simple. Vaccines don’t cause autism. They don’t have toxins in them that can hurt you in the doses given. They don’t overtax the immune system. Read Rachie’s article to get the truth.

What vaccines do is save millions, hundreds of millions, of lives. They protect us from diseases that used to ravage entire populations. And they save babies’ lives.

We need to keep up our herd immunity if we are to keep ourselves healthy, and that includes adults. Talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need a booster. Please.


Related Posts:

Washington pertussis outbreak is very, very bad
UPDATE: partial Complete success with American Airlines!
Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder
Stop antivaxxers. Now.

Washington pertussis outbreak is very, very bad

By Phil Plait | July 24, 2012 9:42 am

This is one of the scariest graphs I’ve seen in a long time.

This plot, from the CDC, shows probable and confirmed cases of pertussis – whooping cough – in the state of Washington from 2011 through June 2012. Last year’s numbers are the short, light-blue-grey rectangles, and this year’s are the dark blue. The plot is by week, so you can see the 2011 numbers slowly growing across the year; then this year’s numbers suddenly taking a huge leap upward. They are reporting the new rate as 13 times larger than last year. Note that 83% of these cases have been confirmed as being pertussis, while 17% are probable. The drop in recent weeks is due to a lag in complete reporting of cases.

Got that? There are 13 times as many people – more than 2500 in total so far – getting pertussis right now as there were last year at this time in Washington.

Some of this increase may be attributable to the pertussis bacterium growing a resistance to the vaccine and booster. However, it’s curious that Washington state has seen such a large jump; the incidence of pertussis overall in that state is nine times higher than the national average.

Why would this be? Well, it so happens that the antivax movement is quite strong in Washington state, and it also so happens that parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children in higher numbers there than the rest of the nation.

There may be other factors, but it’s clear that people who don’t vaccinate are at least partially to blame for this. Maybe it’s due to religious reasons, or the large number of antivaxxers who still blame autism on vaccines, when we know for sure that’s not the case. Either way, when vaccine rates get too low, herd immunity is compromised, and we see more pertussis cases, even among those who are vaccinated.

Pertussis is a terrible, terrible disease. It puts infants at grave risk of dying, and eight infants so far this year have been killed by pertussis in the US. Even if it doesn’t kill them, it’s a horrible thing to put them through.

Vaccines save lives. Talk to your board-certified doctor and find out if you need one, or a booster. I did, and my whole family is up-to-date with their vaccinations. I refuse to be a part of spreading a disease that can kill anyone, let alone babies, and I refuse to be silent about it.

Tip o’ the needle to Steven Saltzberg at Genomics, Evolution, and Pseudoscience and mims on Twitter.


Related Posts:

Not vaccinated? No kisses!
Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder
Pertussis can kill, and you can help stop it
Pertussis and measles are coming back

Not vaccinated? No kisses!

By Phil Plait | June 12, 2012 10:00 am

I love this. Just love it. Short, simple, and to the point.

This was a billboard designed by Every Child By Two, a vaccination advocacy group I like a lot and strongly support (in fact, if you buy a Zen Pencils print of my Science Fare speech half the profits go to ECBT). While people like Meryl Dorey and Judy Wilyman vilely attack parents of babies who have died from vaccine-preventable diseases, groups like ECBT are trying valiantly to save babies’ lives.

Go talk to your board certified doctor and find out if you need to be vaccinated, and if you need your TDAP booster. Help save lives.


Related Posts:

Followup: Antivaxxers, airlines, and ailments
Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder
Pertussis can kill, and you can stop it
I got shot

Big Picture Science: Antivaxxers (and updates)

By Phil Plait | May 15, 2012 11:15 am

I do a roughly monthly segment with astronomer Seth Shostak on Big Picture Science, a radio show/podcast done by The SETI Institute. This month, Seth and I talked about the American Airlines dustup when they were planning to run an interview with reality-impaired antivaxxer Meryl Dorey. This story is a great victory for reality, and I’ve already written about the back story.

Never forget: this antivax issue is more than important: it is literally life and death. Because of lowering vaccine rates, pertussis outbreaks are so prevalent health officials in the state of Washington have declared it to be an epidemic. The governor has had to dip into emergency funds to the tune of $90,000 to finance an information campaign to get the word out.

But the money is secondary to the idea that babies and people with immune deficiencies are at risk of dying from a disease that is essentially totally preventable if everyone got their vaccinations and boosters.

I cannot state that any more simply. The antivax crowd says vaccines cause autism, vaccines cause neurological problems, vaccines hurt your immune system. None of that is true. The real danger is when people believe the antivax propaganda. Infants too young to be vaccinated themselves rely on herd immunity — if enough people are vaccinated the disease has no place to live. And when we as a community don’t vaccinate, people get sick, and some people — including those infants, usually just a few weeks old — die.

Talk to your board-certified doctor, and if they say it’s OK, get vaccinated. You may save more than one life doing so.


Related Posts:

Followup: Antivaxxers, airlines, and ailments
UPDATE: partial Complete success with American Airlines!
Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder
Stop antivaxxers. Now.

Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder

By Phil Plait | April 9, 2012 9:40 am

Medical officials are saying that there have been 37 cases of pertussis — whooping cough — reported in my hometown of Boulder so far this year.

We’re not even 100 days into 2012 yet. [Note: Washington State is in the midst of an actual epidemic of pertussis.]

How serious is this? 30 of those Boulder cases are in children under the age of 18… and it almost took the life of six week old Natalie Schultz. The local news reported on this:

[You may need to refresh this page to see the video.]

This outbreak might shock you, especially considering Boulder is one of the most educated cities in the United States. But in fact, I’ve been wondering if and when something like this might happen here. Denial of the benefits of vaccination is strong in educated areas, like Boulder or Marin county, California — being educated doesn’t mean you get things right, and in fact can make people believe in their own knowledge even more strongly. They go online and find antivax literature which magnifies their own beliefs.

Also, these tend to be more left-leaning areas, and the antivax movement does better there. The result? A little baby, not even two months old, is recovering from a nearly-fatal event that was totally preventable if enough people were vaccinated. Herd immunity would have prevented this whole thing. Natalie is too young to get a pertussis vaccine herself, so babies like her rely on adults — us — to be immunized against these diseases.

Adults should have a pertussis booster every ten years. I got my TDaP booster a couple of years ago. Just two months earlier, unbeknownst to me at the time, a little girl in Belgium named Lore Darch died from pertussis at the age of 83 days. Her father, Danny, wrote a diary for her as a memorial. Read it if you can. I did, and my heart aches so hard it’s a physical pain.

Like David and Toni McCaffery — who lost their daughter Dana to pertussis — Danny and his wife Katrien have become vocal advocates for vaccination.

If you haven’t had your booster, you should talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need one as well.

As Danica, Natalie’s mother put it:

"I almost lost my daughter at almost six weeks old… that could have been prevented if everyone was vaccinated."

She’s right. Antivaxxers are wrong. DON’T believe them about vaccine ingredients. DON’T believe them when they say they just want to educate people. DON’T believe them when they say vaccines cause autism. DON’T believe them when they say vaccines don’t work.

Vaccinations save lives. It’s that simple. Go talk to your doctor. NOW.

My thanks to The Vaccine Times on Twitter for alerting me to this.


Related Posts:

Stop antivaxxers. Now.
Pertussis can kill, and you can help stop it
Pertussis and measles are coming back
More on Wakefield’s descent: money, money, money!

Pertussis can kill, and you can help stop it

By Phil Plait | June 16, 2011 7:00 am

Pertussis, known commonly as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease. It’s bad for anyone to get, but in infants it can result in death.

We have a vaccine that inoculates people against the bacterium. Yet, because not enough people get this vaccine, we’re seeing pertussis (and measles) outbreaks in many, many places. And who suffers? Babies too young to be vaccinated.

I want you to watch the following video. It’s a segment on the Australian 60 Minutes program, which deals with this issue plainly and truthfully. It’s an extremely difficult video to watch, as you’ll see (I had to turn my head several times, to be honest) but it’s also extremely important that everyone sees it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJbc9Xw3yHc

Pay close attention to antivaxxer Viera Schiebner. Watch her demeanor, her manner, her attitude. This is a leader in their movement? To say her view of medicine, of reality, is skewed is to seriously understate the case. Barbara Holland Bronwyn Hancock, who works with Schiebner, justifies not getting vaccinated by making the outrageous statement that diseases can be beneficial.

I fail to see how exposing infants to potentially fatal infections is beneficial in any way.

Mia Freedman has written an excellent article about this. Apparently, only 11 8% of adults in South Australia, are vaccinated against pertussis [the 11% number is an average for all of Australia, my apologies for any confusion]. It’s tempting to blame the antivaxxers for this, but I wonder. I know a lot of my readers here are not antivax, but how many have had their Tdap booster?

I have. As much as I talk about this issue, I didn’t know I needed a booster shot for tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis until recently. As soon as I found out I went to my doctor and got the vaccination. Pertussis is spread by unvaccinated adults carrying the bacterium, so getting the booster shot will help lower the reservoir of hosts.

Getting the booster may not save your life, but it could very well save the life of an innocent infant too young to be otherwise protected. Go see your doctor, ask them about it, and if they recommend it, get the booster.

My thanks to Richard Saunders for the video, and to David McCaffery — who appears in the above video with his wife Toni — for the link to Ms. Freedman’s article. David’s daughter Dana would have been over two years old now if she hadn’t succumbed to pertussis at the age of just four weeks.


Related posts:

Pertussis and measles are coming back
The AVN falsehoods keep on a-comin’
More truth-based weapons against the antivaxxers
BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud

Pertussis and measles are coming back

By Phil Plait | June 1, 2011 12:00 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned antivax topics here, and a lot has happened in the past few weeks.. and it’s not good.

Our old nemesis measles is roaring back in the US, with the CDC actually issuing a warning for travelers. Americans visiting other countries are bringing the disease back with them, and places where vaccination rates are low are seeing outbreaks. We’ve had twice as many cases of measles so far in 2011 than we did all year in 2010.

As Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, points out, it’s interesting how there is a cluster of cases in Minnesota, where antivaxxer Andrew Wakefield and others have been targeting the Somali community. Seth also notes that of the cases we’re seeing here, 89% are from unvaccinated people, and fully 98% of the people hospitalized were unvaccinated. He goes on to show the real financial cost of the disease, on top of the devastating health problems it causes.

And we have some unwelcome company: In Australia, pertussis (whooping cough) is on the rise, with more than 4500 cases so far this year.

4500. Holy crap. And this horrible disease is particularly dangerous for infants, babies too young to be vaccinated. It can and does kill them. That is the plain and very, very hard truth. In the article linked above, doctors come right out and say it’s the antivaccination movement behind this; parents who do their research on the internet about vaccines instead of talking to doctors who have devoted their lives to science, medicine, and saving people. These parents, I have no doubts, want to do what’s best for their children, but by not seeking out a doctor’s advice they are putting these children — and others — at very grave risk.

It’s really very simple: vaccinations save lives. And the lives saved may be those of the most vulnerable among us. Have you had your TDAP booster? I have. If you haven’t, please please please talk to your doctor.

Tip o’ the needle to Thomas Siefert. Pertussis image from Microbiology2009.


Related posts:

The Panic Virus
Doonesbury tackles McCarthyism
Pertussis claims a ninth infant in California
Some vax facts

More news on preventable diseases

By Phil Plait | April 7, 2011 1:15 pm

I know I just wrote about vaccine-preventable diseases on the rise once again, but even in the past couple of days there’s more news:

1) Houston is seeing the first case of measles in six years. The victim? An 11-month-old baby. Let’s hope she has a full and swift recovery, and no one else falls ill.

2) In that post linked above I talked about a school in Virginia that had to close down due to a big pertussis outbreak. Well, in Canada, they’re telling kids who are unvaccinated they can’t come to school; at least, not until they can show their inoculations are up-to-date. I have mixed feelings about forcing kids to get vaccinated, but in the end we simply cannot have schools be breeding grounds for diseases which are trivially easy to prevent. I read about this story on Fark, and the comments there are interesting, to say the least.

3) Seth Mnookin, who wrote "The Panic Virus" an exposé of the antivax movement, has posted his thoughts on these recent news stories. As usual, I find his comments to be well-reasoned and thoughtful.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind

While people sicken, CBS reporter spreads antivax propaganda

By Phil Plait | April 5, 2011 4:04 pm

Short and sweet:

Why is it that when…

a) 30 people in Virginia have been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough) — enough to cause classes to be canceled at a local school — and

b) 14 cases have popped up in Minnesota — cases which can apparently be traced almost directly to the dangerous antivax movement —

… does CBS allow a ridiculous antivax screed by reporter Sharyl Attkisson ever to see the light of day?

Get vaccination FACTS at Immunize for Good.

Tip o’ the syringe to balister. Pertussis image from Microbiology2009.


Related posts:

Indexed takes on antivaxxers
BREAKING: BMJ calls Andrew Wakefield a fraud
More on Wakefield’s descent: money, money, money
The Autism Science Foundation

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind

Whooping cough now an epidemic in California

By Phil Plait | June 23, 2010 7:48 pm

Syringe, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/8499561@N02/2756332192/According to a statement just released by the California Department of Public Health, pertussis — whooping cough — is now officially an epidemic in California.

That’s right: an almost completely preventable disease is coming back with a roar in California. There have been well over 900 cases of pertussis in that state this year, over four times as many as this time last year (and 600 more suspected cases are being investigated). If this keeps up, California may see more cases in 2010 than it has in 50 years.

If that doesn’t anger and sicken you enough, then this most assuredly will: there have been five deaths this year from pertussis as well, all babies under three months of age.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »