Either AoA is Ignorant or Callous. Or Both.

News story on a traveler with measles moving around the US: "More than 10 million people are infected with measles worldwide each year, and the disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in small children. Outbreaks are more common in Europe than in the United States, and most U.S. cases come from transatlantic travelers. U.S. law requires that any cases of measles be reported to public health authorities.
"We don't want measles to be imported back into the U.S. once it gets a foothold," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told The Associated Press."
One of the myths that the anti-vaccine folks like to spread is the idea that everyone got measles and mumps and were just fine. Stagliano trots it out regularly:

"Were kids dying of measles in America when Leave it to Beaver was airing? How about Arthur the Aardvark and his sister DW contracting Chicken Pox? Did PBS, the station that brought you Mr. Rogers and Elmo, mean to scare children with an episode about a deadly disease or simply explain to them that they too could manage the itch and discomfort of the Chicken Pox. Just last week, I heard a Frank Sinatra song called, "Ev'rything happens to me," where he sings, "I've had the measles and the mumps." When did measles and chicken pox go from entertainment fodder to epidemic fear? And who's behind it?"
Yes, because sitcoms covered it and nothing bad happened in a sitcom, it must mean that there's no danger. Wow. There you go, an explanation that makes sense: folks at Age of Autism think that television shows are real but the reports from the CDC and WHO are not.

According to the WHO,
"Measles is a highly infectious disease. In developing countries, 1-5% of children with measles die from complications of the disease. This death rate may be as high as 25% among people who are displaced, malnourished and have poor access to health care. The disease can also lead to severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and blindness."

WHO provides these figures on mortality: 

"It remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. An estimated 164 000 people died from measles in 2008 – mostly children under the age of five."
 WHO provides this information on complications:

"Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease. Complications are more common in children under the age of five, or adults over the age of 20. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. As high as 10% of measles cases result in death among populations with high levels of malnutrition and a lack of adequate health care."

Stagliano and other parents think chicken pox is no big deal, either.

The CDC reports that:

 "In unvaccinated children, chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days. Children usually miss 5 or 6 days of school or childcare due to their chickenpox and have symptoms such as high fever, severe itching, an uncomfortable rash, and dehydration or headache. In addition, about 1 in 10 unvaccinated children who get the disease will have a complication from chickenpox serious enough to visit a health-care provider. These complications include infected skin lesions, other infections, dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea, or more serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. In vaccinated children, chickenpox illness is typically mild, producing no symptoms at all other than a few red bumps. However, about 25% to 30% of vaccinated children who get the disease will develop illness as serious as unvaccinated children."

Complications, according to the CDC:
"Serious complications from chickenpox include bacterial infections which can involve many sites of the body including the skin, tissues under the skin, bone, lungs (pneumonia), joints, and blood. Other serious complications are due directly to infection with the varicella-zoster virus and include viral pneumonia, bleeding problems, and infection of the brain (encephalitis). Many people are not aware that before a vaccine was available approximately 10,600 persons were hospitalized and 100 to 150 died as a result of chickenpox in the U.S. every year."

You know, having a college degree and affluence doesn't make you an expert in areas outside your degree. And Dr. Jay, Dr. Bob, and Saint Andy prove quite well that being doctors doesn't mean they know what they're talking about, either. So when you go outside mainstream, accepted scientific consensus and spout off crap based on availability heuristic and television shows, I'm going to think you're either intentionally ignorant, callous to the suffering and deaths of children from vaccine preventable diseases, or both.


Joeymom said...

Were kids dying of measles in America when Leave It To Beaver was airing? Yes. They were. That's why that episode was aired. In fact, we had a child die of measles just down the street, the year before Joey was born. Mumps can also be deadly, and lad to complications such as sterility. And if you get chicken pox, you run the risk of shingles when you get older- which can be very painful, and that pain can be permanent.

James T. Todd, Ph.D. said...


Thank you for the reminder of the folly and irresponsibility of discounting the dangers of these diseases. Some of these illnesses may be relatively rare and low risk among essentially healthy, affluent people with good access to medical care. But what about everyone else? The people you describe really seem to not care about everyone else--particularly the poor, the people who don't have doctors, and the people they've misinformed with their bad information. Out here we have an anti-vaccinationist who tells people to avoid Gardisil because cervical cancer is "curable." Kinda, I guess, with varying levels of surgical excision of the woman's reproductive system, and except for the 4000-plus women who don't get "cured" and die of it in the US, and except for the hundreds of thousands who die in the developing world where the mortality rate is about 50% due to limited access to medical care, and except for the nearly 100% of the world's poorest in the third world, for whom it is typically an agonizing death sentence.

I am old enough to remember a poster in the school nurse's office telling pregnant women to get vaccinated and to avoid people with the measles. It featured a girl with all the signs of congenital rubella syndrome--the thick glasses necessitated by removal of congenital cataracts, and the clunky box-style hearing aids that were the state-of-the-art back then. (CRS is about 50% when rubella is contracted during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.) The poster was memorable because there was a girl in my class who looked exactly like the girl on the poster, and a boy who had managed to miss the hearing loss but not the cataracts or heart disease. Like the girl, he mostly stood around during recess. Maybe these posters worked. German measles were feared, and rightly so. Thus, to hear someone recently say of the same disease, "it's like the chicken pox, nothing to worry about" terrifies me.

Thanks again for the post and all the others like it. You might be saving lives.


Life in the House That Asperger Built said...

Great post, Kim. I've got a question about the chicken pox vaccine. I was unaware that people got the disease anyway. Is the same true of the other vaccines we use?

KWombles said...

@joeymom, thanks for the additional link.

@Jim, thanks. Those individuals freely admit that they don't care about other's children, point blank, that their children and themselves trump societal concerns. Of course, they also think there's a massive governmental conspiracy to cull the herd, too. Some of the most startling comments can be found at that site.

@Laura, the protection isn't 100%, and some people don't build immunity as well as others. Ideally, enough people in a community are immunized to provide effective barriers so that the virus doesn't have a route in and enough of an immunity is built so that the disease, if it does get access, will have less effect, will be fought off more quickly and robustly. That's why intermittent exposure after the initial disease served a protective factor as the immune system was exposed again and had the opportunity to create more memory B cells; boosters serve the same effect.

Anonymous said...

The mind boggles.

I've seen children's shows talk about getting the flu as if that was normal too, but that doesn't mean the flu is harmless and doesn't result in deaths. I've also seen children's shows tell children to brush their teeth, does that mean tooth decay and dental surgery is also a myth?

The reasoning goes "this piece of entertainment treated condition x like it was nothing life-threatening, therefore it isn't." Wow. Brilliant. I'll go watch Elmo for more health advice!

Or, to be kinder to the claim, "this piece of entertainment reveals a truth that we have forgotten, ie conditon x is harmless". That's OK, if it really was harmless back then. There is proof that it wasn't.

Could it be - just maybe - that TV shows and songs about conditions that couldn't be prevented the way they are now (thanks to vaccines), talked about these conditions because they were so horribly prevalent? For all age groups?

All this would be laughable, if it wasn't potentially deadly.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

@Dr. Todd, while giving a ludicrous reason of curability as a counter strategy to vaccination is sad, real questions remain which are yet to be answered and therefore caution is warranted. High efficacy for certain strains may destroy their niche allowing some of the other HPV strains to become dominant or mutate, since we are talking about a whole lot of viral strains. Serious adverse events are under-reported and the question of long term health issues (7 year follow ups in Brazil looked only at efficacy)as well as deaths still remain to be seen.
Vaccines have led to a tremendous reduction of deaths in the world, but require more scrutiny.

C... said...

From what I remember my brother and I (both vaccinated as children) got chicken pox and had itchy spots all over, under foot everywhere. I just remember vomitting, itching and fever. How unfortunate that children suffer and die because of what is seemingly a childhood illness. I don't know enough about this to make a case but my son was also vaccinated and he's never had the chicken pox yet. However, he is autistic.