Aug 27 2008

First Measles Now Mumps

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Comments: 23

Here is another report of an outbreak of a preventable infectious disease in a population with low vaccination rates. This time it’s mumps in Canada in a religious community that believes getting vaccinated shows a lack of faith in the protection of God. I wonder if they feel it is blasphemy to wear a seatbelt, or use sunscreen, wash their hands, cook their food thoroughly, or do any of the common-sense things people should do to reduce their risk of infection or disease.

The report indicates:

There have been 116 confirmed cases of mumps and another 74 suspected cases since February, according to the Fraser Health Authority. On average, the region has only 10 cases a year.

Further, the cases of mumps are spreading outside of this community to the general population, including the city of Vancouver.

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg if pockets of vaccine non-compliance continue to spread.

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23 responses so far

23 Responses to “First Measles Now Mumps”

  1. jasonnybergon 27 Aug 2008 at 10:38 am

    So nice of these anti-vax’ers to expose other people’s vulnerable, not-yet-vaccinated infants to these diseases.

  2. JustinWilsonon 27 Aug 2008 at 10:48 am

    What is it that makes the anti-science/anti-vaccination propagandists so successful in marketing their ideology? I hope we can do as well to reeducate the public.

  3. jonny_ehon 27 Aug 2008 at 10:51 am

    It’s turning out that anti-vax mentality is the next big target that skeptics should focus their laser beams on. This issue has real immediate implications for people’s health, and the mainstream medical community seems to be just letting it get out of hand.

  4. DevilsAdvocateon 27 Aug 2008 at 11:00 am

    Justin: “What is it that makes the anti-science/anti-vaccination propagandists so successful in marketing their ideology?”

    Like the mumps outbreak in a religious community, much of it follows religious thought guidelines, hence, needn’t make any sense scientifically or logically, a much easier sales pitch.

    The non-religious, quasi-intellectual anti-vacs, memorably referred to as “scientifically-illiterate pretty-people (SIPPs)” practicing “celebrity based medicine (CBM)” by Dr. Novella in the
    ‘Measles Outbreak – Thanks, Jenny’ post, fall prey to correlation errors, outright propaganda, and an overarching sense that fame in one area translates into knowledge in another. Again, suffering these particular ignorances, an anti-vac sales pitch needn’t respect science or logic or reason.

    It only occurs to me know that Justin was probably questioning rhetorically.

  5. superdaveon 27 Aug 2008 at 11:08 am

    I am no epidemiologist but am I the only person surprised at how quickly these small pockets of outbreaks pop up?

  6. superdaveon 27 Aug 2008 at 11:22 am

    I am pleasantly surprising to read the comments on that news article. Most of the recommended posts are pro vaccines.

  7. Steven Novellaon 27 Aug 2008 at 12:08 pm

    superdave – what this indicates is what the CDC and others feared- that these infections are still out there in the population just waiting to crop up when they encounter a vulnerable population.

  8. godkillzyouon 27 Aug 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Maybe… just maybe this is Natural Selection’s way of weeding out religion? Makes sense to me.

  9. delaneypaon 27 Aug 2008 at 12:50 pm

    “What is it that makes the anti-science/anti-vaccination propagandists so successful in marketing their ideology? I hope we can do as well to reeducate the public.”

    That depends on how you measure success….they need not be very successful to cause measurable harm, as is apparently happening.

  10. JustinWilsonon 27 Aug 2008 at 1:32 pm

    DevilsAdvocate – Quite rhetorical but thanks for the response.

    delaneypa – I’m not sure how I measure their success. Maybe not so much by the harm caused but more along the lines of how much exposure they seem to get vs. the exposure of legitimate science. I see more science because I look for it, but when talking to people on the issue; they see more McCarthy and less CDC.

    I’m just not sure how to judge their success or failure.

  11. Oracon 27 Aug 2008 at 5:08 pm

    It’s turning out that anti-vax mentality is the next big target that skeptics should focus their laser beams on. This issue has real immediate implications for people’s health, and the mainstream medical community seems to be just letting it get out of hand.

    I’ve been arguing that for at least a couple of years now.

    Antivaccination loons have far more potential to do harm now than, for example, creationists. Yes, in the long run creationists will cause serious harm to science education, but antivaccinationists will cause children to suffer; to be made deaf or infertile (complications of the mumps); to suffer severe neurological sequelae from encephalopathy (measles); or even to die. Antivaccinationists have the potential to destroy the progress we have made in the last 100 years bringing common infectious diseases under control and take us back to the bad old days described by Dr. Crislip here.

    Whether in the long term one views the anti-intellectualism of creationists as a greater threat to humankind’s progress than antivaccine loons, there is no doubt that in the short term antivaccine loons are a far more dangerous phenomenon. Indeed, the movement has only been gaining steam over the last decade, and already cracks are beginning to appear in our public health system, as evidenced by the resurgence of measles in the U.S. and U.K. (in the U.K. to the point where, a mere 14 years after being declared under control, measles was recently found to be endemic again), the mumps in the U.K. (with its first fatality from the mumps) and soon to be in the U.S. as well; and, of course, this mumps outbreak in Canada. Similar outbreaks are occurring in Europe in nations where vaccine uptake has fallen, thanks to the fears stoked by antivaccinationists.

    It just goes to show how easy it is to unwind the progress of decades. I really do fear that these outbreaks this year are the beginning of a major resurgence of infectious disease previously prevented with vaccines. Thank Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, Barbara Loe Fisher, Generation Rescue, the antivaccine crew at Age of Autism, and all the other antivaccine loons and their enablers (such as Dr. Jay “I’m really, truly not antivaccine but I spout antivaccine misinformation to the media on a regular basis” Gordon).

  12. Jolly Blogeron 27 Aug 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I live in Vancouver, and we just had a discussion about the mumps outbreak in a Health and Safety committee meeting at work this morning. I went off on a bit of a vaccine tirade, and I think I made everyone else feel uncomfortable. But such is the life of the Office Skeptic!

  13. Dave S.on 27 Aug 2008 at 8:20 pm

    We should be on the lookout not only for the un-vaccinnated, but also for the insufficiently vaccinated. We had a couple outbreaks of mumps at a local high school and a university. See the paper: Two successive outbreaks of mumps in Nova Scotia
    among vaccinated adolescents and young adults – http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/175/5/483.pdf.

  14. Nitpickingon 28 Aug 2008 at 8:48 am

    I’m not ready to back down from either Creationist fanatics OR antivax lunatics.

    Presumably these religious idiots in Canada also don’t eat food. After all, God can miraculously keep them alive despite starvation if He wants to.

  15. eiskrystalon 28 Aug 2008 at 9:26 am

    The anti-vaxers and religious are on a hiding to nothing. They put themselves more at risk and they will suffer the backlash when it happens.

    Sudden resurgences of diseases will always cause more panic and backlash over any generally out there but stabilised issue such as autism. The only problem is the number of people who will be hurt before that backlash happens.
    I am in no fear of some return to a medieval europe however.

  16. Skepticoon 28 Aug 2008 at 10:41 am

    I guess this outbreak proves that their faith in the protection of God is misplaced.

  17. Mrs.Schaarschmidton 28 Aug 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I’ve done a lot of arguing this point on public forums, and it seems the public objections to vaccinations are mainly as follows:

    1) Vaccines cause autism. I always counter that by requesting a study showing that result. I’m not convincing anyone, but maybe causing someone to think once in awhile.

    2) Forcing people to get vaccines is a violation of personal choice. This is a really big one. “They can’t tell me what to do! It’s a personal choice!” seems to be the rallying cry. I try to explain that it is not a personal choice, it is a public health issue. I compare it to arguing against garbage removal, public sewage, or food safety regulations.

    3) People believe that the only people affected by not getting immunizations are the kids who are not immunized. It does not matter what you say, how you present it, or how many facts that you have at your disposal, it doesn’t seem possible to get people to understand this is false.

    If we could somehow publicly answer these three objections in a way the true believers would understand and accept, we would go a long way to solving the problem.

    Believe it or not, most of the people that I’ve argued with are not against vaccinations for religious reasons. Most are genuinely concerned parents who don’t want to do something to their kids that they consider dangerous. When people argue against them it gets hostile and then the anti-vaccination moms get defensive.

    It’s important that we find a way to answer these objections to good parents who are trying to do their best BEFORE it becomes an argument where people are defending their decisions. You will never convince a mom that by doing what she thinks is best for her child, she is doing a bad thing.

  18. Oracon 28 Aug 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I’m not ready to back down from either Creationist fanatics OR antivax lunatics.

    I never said you should.

    However, without a doubt (to me at least), thus far in the skeptic movement far more energy and effort have been expended fighting creationism than in fighting antivaccine activists. I’m arguing that much more effort needs to go to fighting this truly dangerous form of antiscience.

  19. Blair Ton 28 Aug 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Perhaps this issue is really a testament to how successful vaccinations have been. The reason people feel comfortable not vaccinating is because they have no memory of what it was like before vaccinations when these diseases posed significant risks.

    When you can’t see the danger you are being protected from, it is easy to dismiss the risk of not vaccinating children.

    Despite the religious basis for objecting to vaccination in this case, I think the object lesson of one’s children getting seriously sick will likely make them reconsider. . . . though some will likely try to figure out what they did wrong to get punished by God instead of seeing what is blatantly obvious about disease transmission.

  20. alexon 28 Aug 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I recently fought the corner for vaccine, by channeling what I’ve learned from the Skeptics Guide.

    The way I got through to one of my ‘opponents’ was to make a wager. They were adamant that you could catch the flu from the flu vaccine – I was adamant the other way. I agreed to something, I can’t remember what – go to church with her or something. She agreed to ask her doctor about getting herself and her son vaccinated.

    (I emailed Steve about this and he pointed out that there is one kind of of flu vaccine that isn’t deactivated – I’m glad we didn’t come across that while we were settling the bet)

    My actual question is about the other person I was trying to convince that vaccines are safe. Her husband, my uncle, recently had a kidney transplant and is taking immuno-suppressive drugs (or whatever they are) and so I didn’t want to go saying “its still the best option” because i didn’t know if it was. I just suggested she should contact her doctor to find out – but used the opportunity to explain how if everyone else was vaccinated it would improve the environment for those (like my uncle) who cannot be vaccinated.

    So is it?

    If someone in your household has a suppressed immune system, is it better to get immunized and thus reduce your chances of getting a disease you can pass on, or is it better to not get immunized because you will put them at risk?

  21. Steven Novellaon 28 Aug 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Yes – if a family member is immunocompromised you should get vaccinated to protect them.

  22. mlangdonon 01 Sep 2008 at 8:15 am

    Non of these people are anti-vaccine they are skeptical of the process which has determined that these vaccines are safe. Their concerns first arose from EPA guidelines for exposure levels of thimerosal. Some of these infants had exposure levels many times greater than EPA guidelines.

    When they tried to get answers they were treated like the citizens of Hanford WA who were exposed to radioactive iodine with their consent by the DOE.

    While large scale studies have been done many are in fact NOT scientific. Why? Because they cannot be repeated. Numbers are the only determination of a studies validity. Methodology and selection of intervals is just as important. I find that many of the so called scientists are quick to point out the size of the studies but fail to mention methodologies, provide data sources, how intervals and subjects were selected and so on. Saying something is scientific does not make it so.

    I would like to also point out that 100,000 people a year die from medical mistakes that could have been prevented. And yet the vaccine skeptics are somehow the problem.

  23. HCNon 01 Sep 2008 at 12:53 pm

    mlangdon says “Their concerns first arose from EPA guidelines for exposure levels of thimerosal.”

    And that is a factor in the MMR how? The MMR has been around since 1971, and has never contained thimerosal.

    Plus, in the vaccines that once did contain thimerosal, they have been availalbe withOUT thimerosal for almost eight years.

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