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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And here we go again...

From the "Children are People Too" Department comes this unfortunate story about an outbreak in Wales. No, not an outbreak of swine flu- a disease that seems to have gripped the news media with unbelievable fervor. No, this is an outbreak of measles:

Health chiefs in Wales are dealing with a "massive" measles outbreak, with numbers already four times the highest figure recorded over the past 13 years.

Four nursery school children were treated in hospital as part of 127 cases across mid and west Wales, while there are another 39 cases in Conwy.

The National Public Health Service (NPHS) in Wales saw 39 cases last year. Its highest figure in 2003 was 44.
Officials appealed for parents to take up the MMR vaccine.

Dr Mac Walapu, consultant in communicable disease control for the NPHS, said: "For as long as there are children who do not receive their MMR vaccinations, there is the potential for outbreaks of measles to happen and we would remind anyone in Wales, and not just in the affected area."

A spokeswoman added: "We need to be up front with parents."

She added: "We try not to be too scary when we talk to people about this, but children die of measles and children are impaired by measles. "It puts children in hospital. The reality it is that this is happening now, in Wales. Measles is very contagious."
She said the outbreak was set to be the biggest in Wales since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988.


Last week, the NPHS said its research had shown the MMR uptake in one school in the Carmarthenshire area was as low as 14.8%.

The vaccine needs a 95% uptake to achieve the herd immunity needed to ensure the disease cannot take a hold in individuals who are not vaccinated.

I find it bitterly amusing that so many people are freaking out about swine flu and yet Oprah, in her usual style, is giving anti-vaccine nutter Jenny McCarthy space on her website to run a blog where, among other things, she writes about her poop. Okay, so maybe she has a few things in common with this blog.

Swine flu might be dangerous, measles definitely is. We have no safe or effective vaccine for swine flu, we do have a safe and effective vaccine for measles. You do the math.

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Blogger Jay Livingston said...

Ms. McCarthy does include a subtle pun in her account: "Low and behold . . ."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 6:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"The vaccine needs a 95% uptake to achieve the herd immunity needed to ensure the disease cannot take a hold in individuals who are not vaccinated."

Those of us who remember When Things Were Different (the 'good' old days, before we pretended boys needed to be vaccinated for rhubella) would note that this means that 1 in 20 can eschew the vaccine without any societal harm.

Which implies that 1 in 10 can do so, if half of those commit to getting the vaccine in the event of a measles outbreak. (Let's adjust that increment 20% to account for the increased possibility of a measles outbreak; so make it 1 in 9.)

If you can't convince 10 in 11 people that your monopoly-provider vaccine—which is a modernization of the old three shots that everyone who now has children got so that you only need to, three shots (just to be safe, of course)—is progress, then the real question is more why are the individual shots no longer offered rather than why won't people take the MMR.

At which point you have to move from "correlation is not causation" to explaining what the cause actually is. For which we are all waiting with rational thought and actions pending.

Monday, May 25, 2009 9:23:00 AM  

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