The second wave of the swine flu pandemic is now under way in the northern hemisphere. Case numbers are climbing fast and in some places vaccination has begun.
The Butcher family of Southampton, UK, wouldn’t say so. In August, their daughter Madelynne, 18, became sick and short of breath after returning from a holiday. Two weeks later, she died in hospital.
Neither would the Parker family of Baltimore, Maryland. In September, their healthy 14-year-old daughter Destinée started having trouble breathing within minutes of arriving at school. She was rushed to hospital. A week later she was dead.
There has been complacency-mongering, too. This pandemic is very far from the worst-case scenario, but it is not normal flu either. Many more people than usual will catch flu this year. The vast majority will be fine but some of us, including young, otherwise healthy people, will die. You can help protect yourself and your family by learning the latest on swine flu, from how to spot a serious case to the facts about the vaccines.
The symptoms are like regular flu. You’ve got it if you’ve got a fever
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Monday came out strongly against efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of religions, saying the moves would restrict free speech.
“Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. “I strongly disagree.”
Clinton said the United States was opposed to negative depictions of specific faiths and would always fight against belief-based discrimination. But she said a person’s ability to practice their religion was entirely unrelated to another person’s right to free speech.
Oct. 23, 2009 — With school closings, a run on face masks, and even a flu-tracker iPhone app, it’s clear that swine flu is taking the country by storm.
As of this month, the flu, now called the 2009 H1N1 influenza, was widespread among people of all ages in 41 states, and it has been reported in all 50. Numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are unusually high for this time of year. And the situation is likely to get worse.
To stem the pandemic, the U.S. government is urging just about everyone older than 6 months to get the H1N1 vaccine as doses of the shot and nasal spray eventually become available for more than just high-risk groups.
Yet, while some people are waiting for hours in line to get themselves or their children vaccinated, others are avoiding it — convinced that the H1N1 vaccine is unnecessary or even unsafe. Scientists are fighting hard to tackle those misconceptions.
“These are urban myths and you can’t even track them down,” said Greg Poland, Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minn. “Someone says something that spreads virally from person to person and becomes truth in their minds.”
Here are expert answers to some of the most common concerns.
Concern #1: Swine flu is no big deal. It’s just another example of media hype.
Looks promising but something is not sitting right with me…can’t figure out what though!
Should US health insurers fund spiritual healing? As members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives slug it out over issues like government-funded health insurance, clauses that could force health insurers to pay for religious and spiritual healing have slipped into at least two of the healthcare reform bills currently making their way through Congress.
One of the House bills, for example, states that insurers shall not “discriminate in approving or covering a healthcare service on the basis of its religious or spiritual content”, as long as that service is tax-deductible. There is similar language in one of the Senate healthcare bills.
Christian Scientists are the only religious group whose practitioner services are currently tax-deductible and they believe strongly in the healing power of prayer. These bills will have to be combined over the next few weeks before being signed into law, and it’s unclear whether the “religious or spiritual content” provisions will survive. But if they do, they could force health insurers to pay for prayers from Christian Science practitioners.
“It’s so important that anyone in this country, not just Christian Scientists, not be discriminated against because they use spiritual care or rely on it instead of conventional medical treatment,” said Phil Davis, who manages media and legislative affairs for Christian Scientists globally, speaking to the St Petersburg Times, a Florida newspaper.
Ms Becklyn Ulzen-Christian, National Vice President of Coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Malaria Control, on Wednesday said superstition and misconception accounted for most causes of maternal morbidity in Ghana.
She said in some pregnant women were urged to contact spiritualists on when to attend ante-natal clinic.
Ms Ulzen-Christian made the observation at a press conference organised by the Coalition of NGOs to disseminate the report on a Civil Society Health Forum held last month.
She noted that before some pregnant women got to the clinic, they had missed the first, second and third phases of Intermittent Prevention Treatment (ITP) leading to pregnancy-related complications.
“Some women also believe that the white insecticide treated mosquito nets are used in the burial of corpses therefore, reject them during and after delivery,” Ms Ulzen-Christian said.
A new study showed that blood mercury levels in children diagnosed as autistic was NOT higher than that of traditionally developing kids, thus putting the definitive nail in the mercury-causes-autism coffin. Somehow I predict that this latest development will not phase the antivax crowd not one bit; they’re already moving away to more generic “toxins” as the scapegoats anyway! Here is the full study if you care to read through it yourself.
I am not familiar with the website and the PDF does not look like a usual study PDF; looks too crude and amateurish so take these results with a grain of salt.
Skepdude says – Excellent article! Loved every line of it. This should be mandatory reading for any skeptic!
To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ‘em and stab ‘em.” Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”
Thousands of people revile Offit publicly at rallies, on Web sites, and in books. Type pauloffit.com into your browser and you’ll find not Offit’s official site but an anti-Offit screed “dedicated to exposing the truth about the vaccine industry’s most well-paid spokesperson.” Go to Wikipedia to read his bio and, as often as not, someone will have tampered with the page. The section on Offit’s education was once altered to say that he’d studied on a pig farm in Toad Suck, Arkansas. (He’s a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine).
Then there are the threats. Offit once got an email from a Seattle man that read, “I will hang you by your neck until you are dead!” Other bracing messages include “You have blood on your hands” and “Your day of reckoning will come.” A few years ago, a man on the phone ominously told Offit he knew where the doctor’s two children went to school. At a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an anti-vaccine protester emerged from a crowd of people holding signs that featured Offit’s face emblazoned with the word terrorist and grabbed the unsuspecting, 6-foot-tall physician by the jacket.
“I don’t think he wanted to hurt me,” Offit recalls. “He was just excited to be close to the personification of such evil.” Still, whenever Offit gets a letter with an unfamiliar return address, he holds the envelope at arm’s length before gingerly tearing it open. “I think about it,” he admits. “Anthrax.”
So what has this award-winning 58-year-old scientist done to elicit such venom? He boldly states — in speeches, in journal articles, and in his 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets — that vaccines do not cause autism or autoimmune disease or any of the other chronic conditions that have been blamed on them. He supports this assertion with meticulous evidence. And he calls to account those who promote bogus treatments for autism — treatments that he says not only don’t work but often cause harm.
As a result, Offit has become the main target of a grassroots movement that opposes the systematic vaccination of children and the laws that require it. McCarthy, an actress and a former Playboy centerfold whose son has been diagnosed with autism, is the best-known leader of the movement, but she is joined by legions of well-organized supporters and sympathizers.
I have just witnessed a rout – tonight’s Intelligence Squared debate. It considered the motion “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, opposing the motion, comprehensively trounced Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke for it. The archbishop in particular was hopeless.
The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon, who’s a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember.
The problem (from the Catholic point of view) was that the speakers arguing for the Church as a force for good were hopelessly outclassed by two hugely popular, professional performers. The archbishop had obviously decided that it would work best if he stuck to facts and figures and presented the Church as a sort of vast charitable or “social welfare” organisation. He emphasised how many Catholics there were in the world, and that even included “heads of state”, he said, as if that was a clincher. But he said virtually nothing of a religious or spiritual nature as far as I could tell, and non-Catholics would have been none the wiser about what you might call the transcendent aspects of the Church. Then later when challenged he became painfully hesitant. In the end he mumbled and spluttered and retreated into embarrassing excuses and evasions. He repeatedly got Ann Widdecombe’s name wrong. The hostility of both the audience and his opponents seemed to have discomfited him.