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Ignorance and Misinformation Assist in Measles Resurgence

 

 

Measles cases are on the rise again in the US. Why is it that this ‘eradicated’ (in the USA) virus is still causing harm?

ImageIt’s been about 15 years since Andrew Wakefield first suggested that:

We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella [(MMR)] immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.(1)

Wakefield clarified this statement in an interview with Brian Deer:

I have to say that there is sufficient anxiety in my own mind of the safety, the long term safety of the polyvalent, that is the MMR vaccination in combination, that I think that it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines. (2)

Reading the initial publication, there is not a very convincing argument made for the vaccine causing autism. And it would be curious why Wakefield would make such a connection –  except that he was also in the process of forming a company with a patented test for “autistic enterocolitis” that could produce $43 million (US) in revenue for investors according to the prospectus.(3) That might be reason enough. Further, the primary interest that lead to the investigation of whether the MMR vaccine might cause autism came not from a sound scientific hypothesis, but from lawyers willing to pay for study results that could be used in their ongoing prosecution of drug manufacturers. According to the British Medical Journal, Wakefield received $674,000 in compensation as payment for doing this research and also in support of Wakefield’s new diagnostic company, Carmel Healthcare Ltd. (4)

Over the years Wakefield has bobbed and weaved like a boxer shifting his hypotheses on how MMR vaccine causes autism from Measles proteins migrating from the location of the shot, to the gut and then to the brain – to the Mercury preservative, thimerosal – to the number of antigens (immune-stimulating particles) children are faced with as they receive their first vaccines. Nevertheless, his results have not been duplicated (to the extent that they were shown to begin with) and no additional evidence has come forward supporting any of these speculations.

The resulting controversy dealt a heavy blow to immunization efforts in the UK. Meanwhile, in the United states, which officially eradicated Measles in 2000, record numbers of cases are now being reported. So far 20 cases of the disease have been reported in New York (5), while another 32 have been reported in California which “allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their children if they fill out a form stating they don’t believe in vaccinations.”(6)

ImageThanks, Dr. Wakefield. Most of us have forgotten what Measles looks like. Now we can remember.

For more information about Measles, see the WHO fact sheet:

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  •  In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.

 

 

References:

1. RETRACTED: "Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children" AJ Wakefield, SH Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell, DM Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, AP Dhillon, MA Thomson, P Harvey, A Valentine, SE Davies, JA Walker-Smith The Lancet  28 February 1998 (Volume 351 Issue 9103 Pages 637-641 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(97)11096-0)
2. http://briandeer.com/wakefield/royal-video.htm
3. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/11/autism.vaccines/
4. "Secrets of the MMR scare: How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money" 2011. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258
5. "Measles Outbreak Now Up To 20 Cases In New York City"20 March 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/19/measles-new-york_n_4994100.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular
6. "Surge in measles cases continues: California now has 32 in 2014" 14 March 2014. http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/03/14/42809/measles-cases-continue-to-rise-in-california/
 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Measles data from Wales – a closer look

Yesterday I wrote a quick post about a report of spiking measles cases in Wales as reported by Wales Online. What troubled me was the manner that the data was being presented. In the graph presented in the article, the y-axis is labeled ‘cumulative number of cases’. What bothered me is that this is not ‘new cases’ and I had to go searching through a lot of reporting and data to clarify what the numbers really were.

– Regardless of what I found, it is true that there is a very worrisome spike in Measles cases, but I do not think it serves people well to misrepresent data. Or, perhaps I could state it more clearly as “I still think the data is being presented in a way that does lead to misinterpretation, but not as bad as I thought.”

The BBC shows the epidemic this way:

Since the outbreak began in November, 77 people have needed hospital treatment for the illness.[I’m not sure if this means hospital admission or not.]

Health officials said 1,825 had been seen at four hospitals in Bridgend, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot on Saturday.

The breakdown of people vaccinated were:

  • Morriston Hospital, Swansea 341

  • Singleton Hospital, Swansea 302

  • Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend 727

  • Neath Port Talbot Hospital 455

  •                                         -From BBC News

The news has increased in urgency with these high numbers of potential cases, and also became more grave as”Gareth Williams, 25, died at his home in Swansea on Thursday.”

In the years prior to the current epidemic, which began in November of 2012, there was a distinct trend of increasing cases, but this has been increased by an order of magnitude over even the worst years. Data from the Public Health Wales Health Protection Division (analogous to the CDC here in the States) show the trend starting, but these data do not include many of the current cases as it cuts off just as the epidemic struck:

Image

note: this only contains data for the first two months leading into the currernt epidemic

So… my original fear was that data was being unjustly ‘massaged’ in order to present the problem as possibly more serious than it is. After looking at the data, I still think it may not be the best way to present the data, but it does communicate the right message. One thing that I must admit is the difficulty in finding good, raw data that is up to date.

Questions I would like to see answered from this outbreak are:

How are immunized vs partially immunized vs unimmunized people faring? i.e. how protective is the vaccine?

Has herd immunity been doing much of the ‘protection’ up to this point – also, do/would booster shots  really provide any protection for previously immunized people? (somehow these two go together in my mind)

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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