Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

I’m a compassionate person.  I hate to see others suffering, even when they bring it upon themselves.  But when the suffering person not only asks for it, but actively encourages others to engage in the same behavior and then gets burned in the act,  I have to admit letting out an ironic laugh:

Modern Alternative Mama (MAMA) has lost her home to mold.

mldWhy is this funny (in an ironic, “teachable moment” kind of way)?  Take a look at one of MAMA’s most recent Facebook posts, linking to her website article on natural cleaning 1:

prodBad Advice
In her home-cleaning article 1, MAMA recommends soaking in water, scrubbing with vinegar, baking soda, microfiber cloths, and five other methods that range from dubious to ineffective for cleaning mold.  Much better methods exist, but they aren’t “natural”, so MAMA didn’t use them.  Only one of her methods — scraping, is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency 2.

Soaking in water is especially dubious.  The EPA recommends water and detergent and — very important — drying things up right away.  According to the EPA, mold is usually not a problem indoors, unless

“mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing”

Vinegar and baking soda have anecdotal support but don’t make the EPA list of what’s recommended and known to work. The EPA article contains a great deal of advice on dealing with mold and the dangers of letting it go untreated.  Danger signs that indicate when to call in professionals are clearly pointed out.  Never one to let science get in the way of folk remedies, we find this gem on MAMA’s web site:

claim

“but really — they work.”  Do they?  Let MAMA answer this herself, via her web site:

ep

The Aftermath
One might ask: how are things working out for MAMA and her family, who are reportedly suffering health problems from the mold?  Well…

dtYes… she’s been handling the problem “the natural way”.  If you’ve read past MAMA articles on “detoxing”, you’ll know this involves using natural “pathways” such as pooping, vomiting, and sweating.  Oh, and consuming lots of grains and juices.

As Winnie the Pooh famously said:  “Oh, bother.”

Normally, my heart would go out to someone who’s just lost their home.  But given the amount of dangerous information Modern Alternative Mama dispenses, I have to confess to a (heartless?) smug satisfaction that she’s reaping what she’s sown.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

 

References
(Please note: to prevent increasing search engine exposure to quack web sites, I use the excellent DoNotLink service to obfuscate hyperlinks to such sites).

(1)  Top 10 Natural Cleaning Tools I Use  (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bx8u

(2)  A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home
http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html#How

Legal Stuff
Images of screen snapshots of Facebook posts in a public forum are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Which is Safer: Vaccines or Illnesses?

An internet alternative medicine fringe web site, Modern Alternative Mama (MAMA), has begun promoting “Vaccine Injury Awareness Month” in conjunction with (an announced) dangerous campaign to hawk natural cures for cancer, in scientific mockery of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ll debunk the cancer quackery when it’s published by MAMA, but since the vaccine nonsense came first, I’ll have a go at it in this article.  The MAMA article, “Which is Safer: Vaccines or Illnesses?” 1, solemnly informs us that:

whatweneedxamLet’s get started…

How Dangerous are these Diseases?
This is best answered using pre- and post-vaccination numbers for the United States from a well-referenced article by the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii)2:

  • Before 1985, Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) caused serious infections in 20,000 children each year.   In 2002, there were 34 cases.
  • In the 1964-65 rubella epidemic, 12.5 million people were infected.  Of the 20,000 babies born with rubella, 11,600 were deaf, 3,580 were blind, and 1,800 were mentally retarded.  There were only 4 cases of congenital rubella between 2001 and 2004.
  • In 1952, polio paralyzed more than 21,000 people.  In 2002, the United States was polio-free.
  • In the 1920s up to 200,000 cases of diphtheria were reported each year, killing up to  3,000 annually. In 2002, the number of cases in the USA: one.
  • Prior to 1963, measles killed more than more than 500 people per year out of an infected total of more than 3 million/year.  In 2002, there were 44 cases of measles nationwide.  (Recently, when vaccination rates dropped due to anti-vaxxers, serious outbreaks of the disease occurred in unvaccinated persons in states such as California and Ohio.  Ohio alone exceeded the entire 2002 nationwide total).
  • In the 1940s, whooping cough killed up to 8,000 children per year, infecting an average of 175,000 per year.  In 2002, only 771 cases were reported.

Despite all of this, MAMA somehow concludes:

ooopsNo MAMA.  The people more likely to get any of these preventable diseases are the people who have not been vaccinated.  Look at the statistics.

How Dangerous are These Vaccines?
MAMA’s best answer to this question is given in her quote here:

donotbelieveUnfortunately, in science, what one person believes or doesn’t believe doesn’t matter.  “I don’t believe it” and conspiracy theories figure heavily into MAMA’s work.

Resorting to scare tactics in the guise of science, MAMA then pulls a package insert from an MMR vaccine and lists every possible side effect, including:

sidesIt’s interesting to note MAMA’s hypocrisy here as we quote her article’s thoughts on scare tactics, regarding CDC commentary on ear infections as a vaccine side effect:

scare2MAMA isn’t a bit shy about listing “death” as a possible side effect of the MMR vaccine (which has never been proven6), but that doesn’t stop her from accusing the CDC of fear-mongering.  Not to mention openly lying in saying that the CDC statement concludes that hearing loss is likely.

MAMA’s fear-mongering continues with a cherry-picked statistic from the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS):

vaers1What MAMA doesn’t tell you is the most important thing about VAERS: anyone can file a VAERS report.  No cause-effect relationship between a vaccination and the reported problem is ever established.  For example, I can get the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination tomorrow, get food poisoning at lunch from a bad burrito, and report the resulting vomiting and diarrhea to VAERS as a reaction to the vaccine, and into the database it goes. 7  This disclaimer is in the first paragraph of the VAERS database description.

The irony thickens.  Had MAMA actually read the VAERS introduction, she would have seen the disclaimer:

“VAERS data contains coincidental events” 7

… and she wouldn’t write mind-numbingly contradictory tripe like this in the introduction to her article, where she demands hard evidence, not stories, in the vaccine debate:

vaers3Yes MAMA, please… no scary tales.  If you’re going to quote from the VAERS database, understand what it is first.  Really.  Please.

Are There Any Benefits to These Diseases?
I’ll leave that up to the reader.

Are blindness, deafness, paralyzation, mental retardation, and death beneficial?

Anyone?

Third World Countries

Perhaps the most offensive part of the the MAMA article deals with Africa.

The article is written in debate/response format, addressed to a reader named Erich, who she tries to shame (along with the CDC) as a fear-mongerer for pointing out the elephant in the room regarding vaccinations and disease.  Before I give you the answer, let’s see if you can figure it out by reading a passage directed to Erich:

canwejustagreeNo MAMA, we cannot agree, because it’s piss-poor science.  You admit you have the data.  Maybe you should have looked at it.  Since you picked Africa, I’ll pick Africa.  Let’s talk polio, which has been eradicated in the USA (your “first world” country) thanks to vaccinations:

According to UNICEF, more than 70% of the world’s children who have not been vaccinated against polio live either in Africa or Asia. 3

Polio remains an active problem in ten countries worldwide.  Of those countries, eight are in Africa:  Angola, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo,  Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. 4,5

Eight poorly vaccinated countries.  No wonder MAMA wants to dismiss Africa.

Polio in the Wild (CDC image)

Polio in the Wild (CDC image)

MAMA’s dismissal of immunization statistics regarding Africa is not only scientifically dishonest, it’s also, IMHO, heartless.  African children are not being vaccinated because of socioeconomic conditions (poverty, war, etc.).  According to UNICEF, one impoverished child dies every 20 seconds from a disease preventable by a vaccine.

“Children in remote rural regions and impoverished areas of cities in poor and emerging countries are not being vaccinated” — UNICEF Report

… and, of course, children in “first world” countries such as the USA are being vaccinated… unless MAMA gets her way.

Figures lie, and liars figure…

A large part of the MAMA article involves some very hazy math prefaced repeatedly by her favorite term “let’s assume”.  Rather than combat fictional numbers, I’ll simply point out that she quotes from the CDC “Pink Book” (Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases) which supports her anti-vaccine numbers like a flea supports an elephant on its back.  But then we get this gem:

notsureWhy oh why would you rely on statistics from a source you don’t believe is accurate?  And why oh why would you write a supposedly science-based article and lace it with statements about your beliefs, and your assumptions, rather than hard numbers?

Why?

assumeBecause when you assume, and base your pseudoscience on personal beliefs, you can make anything seem true.

 

References
(Please note: to avoid increasing search engine positioning for dubious, quack web sites, I use the excellent DoNotLink.com redirect service for hyperlinks to these sites).

(1) Which is Safer: Vaccines or Illnesses?  (original MAMA article)
http://www.donotlink.com/bw1o

(2)  Vaccine Effectiveness:  Do vaccines work?
http://www.immunizationinfo.org/parents/why-immunize

(3) UNICEF Immunization
http://www.unicef.org/immunization/index_bigpicture.html

(4)  UNICEF Polio
http://www.unicef.org/immunization/polio/

(5) Interim CDC Guidance for Polio Vaccination for Travel to and from Countries Affected by Wild Polio Virus
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6327a4.htm

(6)   MMR (Measles, Mumps, & Rubella) Vaccine
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mmr.html#reaction

(7)  VAERS Data
https://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index

Nurses Against Mandatory Patient Safety

I’ve just run across a post in a Facebook group that epitomizes my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance […] nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.”

Here’s the post, from a group known as Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines:
CaptureLet’s concentrate on the highlighted portion:   If you are a nurse or other health care provider in direct contact with patients, not only is it your employer’s right to know which medical diagnoses and/or vaccinations you’ve had, it is the patient’s right to know. 

You see, like bad advice, diseases can be passed along from person to person.  In the case of a medical provider who comes into contact with a lot of infectious disease, the odds of passing along the disease increases– much in the same way the odds of receiving bad advice increase for those coming into more frequent contact with the bad advice found in the Nurses Against Bad Vaccines forum.

Perhaps the nurse who wrote this gem of a post has never heard of contagious diseases such as Ebola.  If I’m a patient and my nurse has Ebola, he is carrying with him a near-certain death sentence (1) —  a highly contagious death-sentence during certain stages of the disease.  Certain death for him; very likely certain death for me.  I don’t have a right to know?  Really?

There’s a word for this idea, and that word describes the material that comes out of the back ends of male cattle after a long day of feeding.  (To prevent offending the delicate sensibilities of my readers, I don’t want to say the word “bullshit” in my blog.)

Oops.

Back to the subject…

If my medical care provider has been diagnosed with an infectious disease, I have a right to know his/her medical condition.  Going back to the Isaac Asimov quote:  the nurse may feel that he/she has a democratic right to keep this information secret.  However, not realizing the danger he/she poses to me is scientific ignorance on the nurse’s part, and it does not trump the patient’s scientific knowledge.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t trump the patient’s rights either.

But What if the Nurse Isn’t Infected Yet?
Maybe an already-infected Ebola patient is an unfair example.  In the spirit of sincerity and fairness, let’s look at pre-infection cases involving more common infectious diseases that are preventable by safe and effective vaccines which are readily available: Influenza,  Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Chickenpox (2).  (Of these, Measles is particularly deadly in children (3), and Chickenpox can cause extreme complications (and even death) in adults (4).)

What the author of this Nurses Against Mandatory Vaccines post is really campaigning against is getting vaccinated and/or making their vaccination status known.  Do I as a patient have a right to know if my nurse has been vaccinated, and/or demand removal from the doctor’s office of nurses who haven’t?

Pseudoscience groups have yet to come up with a shred of evidence that any vaccine I’ve mentioned here is dangerous, while study after study has shown that vaccinations are key to preventing the spread of these diseases.  I’ve blogged on this twice with exhaustive lists of references (5) (6).

If my nurse has not been vaccinated against infectious diseases, I have a right to know.  Because of herd immunity (7) and the fact that no vaccine provides a 100% guarantee, it’s especially important that an unvaccinated health care provider doesn’t come anywhere near myself or a loved one. To be blunt, I have a right to know if my nurse is a potential Typhoid Mary (8).

Health care workers are exposed to more potential virus carriers than you or I.  That’s a fact of life in the hospital or doctor’s office.  There’s a reason that experts recommended that the first people to receive the first Ebola vaccines be healthcare providers (9) — not only were they most at risk — they were the most likely to become breeding grounds for the virus and pass it on to other people.

Because a health care worker’s first priority is the care of the patient, and vaccines do not place the health care worker at risk, patients have a right to know if their health care provider is an unvaccinated breeding ground for a highly infectious disease.

Legal Precedent/Expectations
But is there a legal precedent for this?  Are there any other professions where both the employer and the consumer have a legal expectation to know the health status of the employee?

Well, yes.  As a matter of fact, there is.

Have you ever flown on a commercial airliner?  The health requirements for airline pilots are quite strict (10).  When an anti-vaccine nurse steps onto her flight from Dallas to Miami, she knows for a fact that the pilot in the cockpit is certifiably free of nearly two dozen serious medical conditions (11).   Why?  Because the health and safety of others are directly affected by the pilot.

If the pilot has a problem in flight, it very quickly becomes a problem for every passenger on the plane.

Sounds a lot like vaccinations, doesn’t it?  Any anti-vaccine nurses out there willing to fly on a Delta Airlines flight piloted by a woman suffering from angina pectoris, epilepsy, or substance abuse?   I didn’t think so.

So, no, a person whose work directly involves the safety of others does not have a right to expectation of privacy concerning health matters that would adversely and directly affect others, and/or engage in health behavior that would adversely and directly affect others.  Nurses, get your vaccinations.

Epilogue
In an upcoming article, I’ll be taking down some specific, dangerously false information being put out by anti-vaccine groups, including the hilarious claim that your best defense against the Shingles infection is repeated exposure to/infection by Chickenpox.  Until then, I’ll leave you with a photo of myself getting the 45th flu shot of my life, and encourage you to talk to your doctor and get one for yourself and your children as well.

I’m not dead yet!

shot

(1) Medline Plus, Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001339.htm

(2) Vaccines.gov
http://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/index.html

(3) Vaccines to Prevent Measles
http://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/measles/index.html

(4) CDC – Chickenpox Complications
http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/complications.html

(5)  The state With the Highest Vaccination Rate Has the Highest Infant Mortality Rate
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/copy2/

(6)  Uneducated Chiropractor and Nurse Endanger Life of Three Month Old Child
https://badscidebunked.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/uneducated-chiropractor-and-nurse-endanger-life-of-three-month-old-child/

(7)  Herd Immunity
http://www.vaccines.gov/basics/protection/

(8)  Typhoid Mary
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid_Mary

(9)  A looming problem: How to ration Ebola vaccines and medicines
http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-ebola-drug-rationing-20140918-story.html#page=1

(10)  FAA:  Pilot Medical Certification Questions and Answers
https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/faq/

(11)  FAA:  Disqualifying Conditions for Pilot Certification
https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/medical_certification/faq/response6/

Uneducated Chiropractor and Nurse Endanger Life of Three Month Old Child

Pertussis

It all started with a Facebook post in a forum named “Unvaccinated America”. A mother, claiming to be an “educated Registered Nurse”, reports she suspects her 3 month child has Whooping Cough (pertussis). After listing unsubstantiated, ineffective folk cures she’s tried (butter, oil, fermented cod liver, etc.), she asks THE INTERNET for advice on treating her child.

The obvious question here is “shouldn’t she have taken the baby to a doctor?” If you have time to shop for fermented cod liver oil while your child is dying, is a side trip to the doctor an inconvenience?

But it gets worse.

The mother proudly reports that she has never had her child vaccinated. Sadly, the first and best line of defense against Whooping Cough IS vaccination. The vaccine is safe and effective (see CDC recommendations in references at end of article). This illness could have been prevented. And a serious illness it is:

Whooping Cough is a highly contagious disease caused by a bacterial infection. Bordetella pertussis is the culprit. The bacteria’s effect on the body is violent coughing, often to the point that breathing becomes difficult or impossible. In children under the age of one, such as the baby who’s the subject of this article, the disease can be fatal.

It’s estimated that around 200,000 children die each year from Whooping Cough out of an infected total of 16 million. In the 12 year period beginning 2000, 255 children in the USA died from the disease. All but 34 of those were under 3 months old. Remember, the baby discussed in this article is three months old.

Half of babies who get Whooping Cough require hospitalization. 25% of those will get pneumonia, a second highly dangerous disease. Seizures and brain damage are common outcomes.

But it gets worse.

In the case of our endangered baby and the Facebook plea for help, ENTER “MR G.”, a self described “Doctor of Chiropractic”. If you thought that the mother was endangering her child with snake oil — err, sorry — fermented cod liver oil —was bad, Mr. G. makes it worse. Rather than recommending the proper treatment, which is immediate hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics, our friendly, misguided chiropractor takes us on an irrelevant journey of the nervous system, suggests removing sugar from the baby’s diet, and — by all means — get the baby to a chiropractor as soon as possible!!! And friends, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. G. just happens to have the name of a good chiropractor he can pass along if the mother will just private message him.

I’m sorry. Get the baby to a chiropractor?

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, perhaps a trip to the undertaker would be more appropriate. This baby is in the highest possible risk group for fatalities and is being denied every known working treatment. Will it even be alive tomorrow?

Epilogue
On October 1, 2014, less than two weeks after this article was written, an unvaccinated baby died from whooping cough in New South Wales, Australia.  This was the 3rd unvaccinated baby to die in New South Wales in the past 5 years.

REFERENCES

About Pertussis:
http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/

About Vaccination:
http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/vaccines.html

Treatment After Infection:
http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/clinical/treatment.html

CDC Fact Sheet for Parents:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/fs-parents.html

Pertussis Worldwide:
http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/countries.html

Baby Dies from Whooping Cough:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-01/baby-dies-from-whooping-cough/5783360

CREDITS
1. Images of screen snapshots of facebook posts in a public forum are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

2. Image of the young boy with Whooping Cough courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), image ID #6378

Original post from mother

Original post from mother, a woman claiming to be a Registered Nurse who has left her baby unvaccinated and now suspects it has Whooping Cough (pertussis)

Reply from "helpful" chiropractor

Reply from a chiropractor suggesting (according to established medical procedures — see references) every possible wrong treatment for an endangered 3 month old child.