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Medicine Science

Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts 668

DavidHumus writes "Some of the longer-term effects of the anti-vaccination movement of past decades are now evident in a dramatic increase in measles. From the article: 'A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011. One of the infected was Ms. Jenkins, whose grandmother, her guardian, hadn't vaccinated her as a young child. "I was afraid of the autism," says the grandmother, Margaret Mugford, 63 years old. "It was in all the papers and on TV."'"
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Fifteen Years After Autism Panic, a Plague of Measles Erupts

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  • Jenny McCarthy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:06AM (#44348943)

    Should be seen and not heard. Nor should anyone listen to her.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:20AM (#44349019)

    Actually, he was exactly factually incorrect. This absolutely is a plague. A plague (as opposed to the plague) is defined as a significant elevation in a disease or pest's levels compared to the recent norm.

    That's exactly what's being described here.

  • Re:Jenny McCarthy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:22AM (#44349033) Journal

    Adding up []. And Barbara Walters, that ignorant fool, just hired her.

    Once again, Barbara, this isn't a "controversial" opinion, it is a murderous one. People die because of this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:24AM (#44349053)

    Since the scientific definition of plague is a particular baccilus (enterobacteria Yersinia pestis), the usage of plague is entirely colloquial rather than medical. This is how you get the accepted term "a plague of $ANIMAL", e.g. rats.

    And a 1000 fold increase constitutes a plague of sick people in colloquial terms just fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:31AM (#44349089)

    If you read about the back story here, you'll find that that's not at all what happened.

    What happened is that the government decided to move us from 3 separate measles, mumps and rubella vaccines to one triple MMR vaccine. Shortly after that move a paper was published that claimed to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. That paper made big news, and caused parents to stop their children getting the MMR vaccine. Several papers were then published discrediting the original paper, and the government used this as a reason not to return to the (more expensive, and with more serious side effects) 3 separate vaccines. Unfortunately, by this point the bull had already escaped, and there was mass panic and rebellion against MMR vaccination.

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:38AM (#44349125)

    It's not like he held a press conference calling for a cessation of MMR vaccination and making a causal connection to autism.

    It's not like he was secretly being paid over £400,000 by vaccine damage lawyers while the study was being performed, to draw conclusions that the study hadn't made yet.

    It's not like he was trying to launch multi-million-dollar biotech companies that depended on the study's results coming out in favour of his hypothesis.

    It's not like the data in the paper differ from the original patient records in ways that, by some amazing coincidence, all support the paper's claims.

    No, Andrew Wakefield is clearly beyond reproach.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:44AM (#44349169)

    Mod parent down all you like, but cracking the numbers is actually a pretty good idea.

    If the non-vaccinated kids have significantly lower rates of autism, we accept that the MMR jab is responsible in some way, even if we don't understand how yet.
    If not, we accept that the whole MMR avoidance thing is utter bullcrap.

    Sounds like a fair way to run an unbiased experiment to me.

  • by Optimal Cynic ( 2886377 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:53AM (#44349255)
    This has been done and the non-vaccinated children had very slightly higher rates of autism. []
  • Re:Trust (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:54AM (#44349267)

    In Canada, Losec was taken off the market as Nexium launched, to ensure patients switched to the new patented drug (Nexium) before the patents on Losec expired.

    Now that the Losec patents have expired, Losec is back on the market.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:56AM (#44349283)

    Mod parent down all you like, but cracking the numbers is actually a pretty good idea.

    Numbers for what? The changes in autism numbers over the past decades are caused by changes in the diagnostic criteria. Your proposal seems more pointless that comparing apples and oranges. (Those can be compared at least spectroscopically, see Scott A. Sandford, "Apples and Oranges -- A Comparison," Annals of Improbable Research, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1995).)

  • Re:Vaccination... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:56AM (#44349297)

    Idiot 2.0

    Certain diseases are deadly for new born babies. Don't wait. It could kill your kid.
    Vaccines are safe. Diseases are not.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @08:58AM (#44349321)

    That's just the pendulum swinging back from "Doctors know everything!"

    And both is wrong.

    Nowadays, thanks to studies, doctors know exactly that treatment A has a 70% chance to cure illness X, while treatment B has a 95% chance to cure it, but also a 1% chance that the patient loses e.g. his eyesight due to possible sideeffects.

    That's pretty exact knowledge, but at the same time making the actual recommendation a bit of guesswork.

  • The boring truth (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:11AM (#44349483)

    But that information, counter to what your doctor was saying, would not be nearly as effective, or convincing enough to get on the news n the first place

    Yes because the truth is just soooo boring.

    if the medical field did not have a long history or getting things wrong spectacularly

    Say what? While sometimes science goes down some wrong paths, modern medicine has a spectacular track record. They have DOUBLED live expectancies in the last one hundred years. In what bizarro universe is that somehow a failure?

    and was not widely known as being completely corrupted by money.

    Medicine is no more corrupted by money than any other profession and arguably less so than many. You'll have a hard time convincing me that journalism is some paragon of integrity and journalists are the ones convincing people of a (false) link between a treatment and a disease.

    Also it would of helped if they had not used mercury in the shots.

    There is no evidence [] that mercury that used to be in some vaccines ever caused a problem.

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:12AM (#44349519)

    It's more common than you think, especially in misconduct cases. Almost all of the authors did retract the paper's findings; Wakefield wasn't one of them.

  • Re:Trust (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jahta ( 1141213 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:13AM (#44349531)

    People didn't vaccinate their kids because they heard a (false) series of stories on the news. The problem wasn't that they didn't trust their doctor too little but rather that they trusted the news too much. If you saw a steady parade of (dis)information from a news source you regard as credible, why would you doubt it? Saying vaccines cause autism is a nice sound bite which is easy to understand whereas the counter argument that there is no credible evidence of any link is harder to explain.

    Agreed. But there's an important factor you missed; complacency resulting from the success of vaccinations on previous generations.

    I grew up in the late 1950's and 1960's when diseases like measles, polio and others still killed people (especially kids) every year and left others with life changing disabilities. My folks, and their peers, wouldn't have dreamed of refusing vaccinations; they could see the clear and present dangers that resulted from NOT vaccinating.

    Roll forward a few decades and vaccination had completely eradicated these diseases in the western world. So when modern parents decided not to vaccinate their kids (due completely unfounded autism scares), they didn't realise the enormity of the genuine risks they were exposing the kids to.

    Re the media coverage of the "MMR Scare", which was (and in some cases still is) shameful, it is well covered the chapter "The Media’s MMR Hoax" in Ben Goldacre's excellent Bad Science []. The tabloids, in particular, continued to report Andrew Wakefield's opinions as gospel, long after the overwhelming weight of readily available evidence proved them bogus.

  • by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:15AM (#44349561)

    I would say it's more than simple misconduct. He knowing published false information so he could get a pay off.
    Misconduct would be more like, putting a loved one on a potential drug trial to help them get treated. Wakefield is responsible for bringing back diseases to nearly epidemic levels. []

  • Re:some data (Score:4, Informative)

    by phishead ( 56639 ) <> on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:23AM (#44349679) Homepage Journal

    That's strange. If the coverage level is the same, why would there be 2-3x fewer cases in 2004-2008 when compared to 1990?

    There's a transient effect of the current infection rate on future rates. If you have the same immunization coverage, but fewer people are infected, the likelihood of a non-immunized person coming in contact with a carrier is lower, thus the present infection rate will be lower.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 22, 2013 @09:32AM (#44349785)

    Oh, would you? And how many children would they need to study for it to be statistically significant?

    Hint: the sample size required depends on the expected size of the effect you're looking for, and the confidence level you want. It does not depend much on population size (except for very small populations). A sample size of a thousand or so is more than enough to get statistically significant results in most cases, at an acceptable (i.e. publishable, usually 95% or higher) confidence level.

  • Re:The boring truth (Score:5, Informative)

    by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @10:16AM (#44350365)

    Thanks for insulting me. Now I can take the safeties off the weapons.

    Did you really mean to say that out loud? Deary deary me.

    Thimerosal has been shown to break down inside the body in exactly the way it isn't supposed to.

    If it breaks down at all (most of it is excreted intact over a period of a few days or weeks) it forms ethylmercury which is not exactly harmless but is not particularly potent. Methylmercury is a lot nastier and anti-vaccination loons often don't or won't realise the difference a single letter makes in a chemical compound name hence the fluff and fluster from ill-informed folks like yourself.

    And the chlorine in salt isn't the kind of chlorine that's really harmful, which is why what you're saying is fucking hilarious.

    ORLY? What kind of not-really-harmful chlorine are you referring to? All isotopes of Cl are equally poisonous in elemental form and there are no other alternative forms of chlorine in the universe (well, my universe at least. I don't know what it's like where you come from). In table salt the Cl atom is bound very closely to a sodium atom, in Thimerosal the Hg atom is linked to a sulphur atom and an ethyl group, the latter of which results in ethylmercury if the molecule breaks at the sulphur bond. If there is a pathway to produce methylmercury it doesn't seem to be common or prevalent before the byproducts get excreted.

    you can't comprehend that Thimerosal isn't the only preservative available.

    It's a very good preservative for the specific job of preventing lots of deaths and injury from contaminated bulk vaccine -- see for example the incident (referred to in the Google article about Thimerosal) in 1928 when a batch of contaminated diptheria vaccine killed 12 children out of 21 treated. Thimerosal doesn't affect the vaccine which in many cases is basically a low-grade infection as far as the body is concerned, a soup of protein coats and killed viruses that antiseptics are designed to destroy. Thimerosal is well-proven with a long track record of not being deleterious to the population being vaccinated. What more could you want?

  • Re:Jenny McCarthy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gramie2 ( 411713 ) on Monday July 22, 2013 @11:17AM (#44351087)
    Here's a good article [] about this

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