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Swine flu: Eight myths that could endanger your life

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 29, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT NEWSCIENTIST

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.

So what’s the big deal? The virus hasn’t evolved into the monster that some feared and most cases are mild. Were all those pandemic warnings just scare-mongering?

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.

MYTH 1

The symptoms are like regular flu. You’ve got it if you’ve got a fever

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT NEWSCIENTIST


Swine Flu Vaccine Fears Debunked

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 23, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT DISCOVERY NEWS

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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT DISCOVERY NEWS

More Nonsense from Dr. Jay Gordon

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on October 15, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

Dr. Jay Gordon is a pediatrician to a particular subculture of pseudoscientific celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy. He lends his MD cred to this community. He also appears, in my opinion, to be a shameless self-promoter – one of those pop professionals (Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil) who has sold his soul for some easy celebrity.

Regardless of his motivations, he has been spouting arrogant nonsense about vaccines for years, essentially arguing that his clinical gut feeling and anecdotal experience trump the actual science. This is exactly the wrong approach to science-based medicine.

In a recent open letter on his website, he adds to the anti-vax chorus advising not to get the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. It’s almost as if this crowd wants to maximize the morbidity and suffering from this somewhat preventable disease. I know this is not literally true, but their ideologically motivated and confused actions will have the same effect.

Gordon starts his letter with, of course, some anecdotal evidence from his practice, admitting that he is seeing many cases of flu-like illness over this summer, but:

They all felt miserable, and they are all feeling just fine now.

The implication here is that H1N1 is not that bad. In an average flu season, 30,000 Americans die from the flu. By all accounts, we are in for at least a very heavy flu season, and H1N1 has been killing more young and otherwise healthy people as well as pregnant women (while the regular flu tends to kill the old and infirm). Again we see Gordon perfectly willing to substitute his own anecdotes for hard data.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

Evidence? What evidence?

Posted in Red Rabitt's Life by Skepdude on September 24, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT RED RABITT’S LIFE

There are two types of chiropractor:

1. The good “mechanic.” This chiropractor knows a lot about back anatomy and back pain, and is able to use chiropractic techniques to bring relief to people who have things like degenerative disc disease, bad posture, old injuries, etc.

This type of chiropractor does not see children.

2. The “woo-meister.” This type pretends he can cure diseases by fiddling with your neck. He “treats” children, and tells them to stop their asthma puffers. He says, if your back is aligned, you don’t need to get vaccinated. He clearly has no understanding of disease processes.

Guess which type posted this:

I don’t believe flu shots work. Here’s why:

* If they work…why do some people who get the shot still get the flu?
* If they’re only 50% effective, why get the dang shot, anyway?
* I don’t know what’s in that vile
* Where’s the proof that they REALLY work?
* EVEN if the flu shot worked, the little flu virus adapts quicker than the appropriate vaccine can be developed.
* Did you know that many MDs that recommend the flu shot DON’T get them.
* Anecdotally, the last flu shot I got was forced on me by Uncle Sam before I left the Air Force 33 years ago. I’ve had the flu ONCE.
* Isn’t it funny how flu season ALWAYS comes AFTER the flu shots are given out?

Let’s start with the beginning:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT RED RABITT’S LIFE

Skeptify this poll

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 27, 2009

Vit Twitter @BadAstronomer points our skeptical attention to this poll on Fox News. It needs skeptifying! Click image to go to poll site and cast your vote for the correct answer!

foxpollswineflu

FDA Warns Web Sites against Marketing Fraudulent H1N1 Flu Virus Claims

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 15, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FDA.GOV”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is enforcing the laws that protect consumers from illegal products marketed through the Internet that claim to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

On May 1, 2009, the FDA warned consumers regarding products related to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus offered on the Internet. The products involved are those that are promoted and marketed to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, treat, or cure the 2009 H1N1 flu virus but are not approved, cleared, or authorized by the FDA. The agency advised operators of offending Web sites that they must take immediate action to ensure that they are not marketing products intended to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, treat, or cure the 2009 H1N1 flu virus that have not been cleared, approved, or authorized by the FDA.

Since then, the FDA has issued more than 50 warning letters to offending Web sites and as a result, more than 66 percent of these Web sites have removed the offending claims and/or products.

“We are committed to aggressively pursuing those who attempt to take advantage of a public health emergency by promoting and marketing unapproved, uncleared, or unauthorized products,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “We have achieved some success and will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect consumers from these fraudulent, potentially dangerous products.”

Examples of unapproved, uncleared, or unauthorized products targeted by the FDA include:
–A shampoo that claimed to protect against the H1N1 flu virus;
–A dietary supplement that claimed to protect infants and young children from contracting the H1N1 flu virus;
–A “new” supplement that claimed to cure H1N1 flu infection within four to eight hours;
–A spray that claimed to leave a layer of ionic silver on one’s hands that killed the virus;
–Several tests that have not been approved to detect the H1N1 flu virus; and
–An electronic instrument costing thousands of dollars that claimed to utilize “photobiotic energy” and “deeply penetrating mega-frequency life-force energy waves” to strengthen the immune system and prevent symptoms associated with H1N1 viral infection.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “FDA.GOV”

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Bill Maher Evolution & Swine Flu

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 3, 2009

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Religious zealots hog the headlines as swine flu spreads

Posted in The Freethinker by Skepdude on May 1, 2009

AS swine flu began its spread across the globe, first to step up to the pig ignorant podium was Israel’s deputy Health Minister, who wanted its name changed to “Mexican” flu to avoid ruffling Jewish feathers.

Then up stepped imam Amadia Rachid, based in the Italian city of Salerno, who claimed this week that the swine flu virus affirms Islam’s teachings. Said Algerian-born Rachid:

We believe that what is happening shows the truth of our faith. Even Muslims who live in Italy are talking about swine flu at the moment … many believe the disease confirmed the teaching of the Koran

He added:

The Islamic faith doesn’t explain exactly why pigs should be considered unclean animals. But it’s clear that, for most theologians, it is precisely to avoid the spread of disease that Islamic tradition tends to keep men away from pigs.

Shortly after – despite the fact that global health experts insist that the mass slaughter of pigs is entirely unnecessary and a waste of resources – Egypt, one of the few Islamic states which allows pig breeding, began giving the chop to the country’s estimated 300,000 pig population.

pigs

According to this report, at one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, scores of angry farmers blocked the street to prevent Health Ministry workers in trucks and bulldozers from coming in to slaughter the animals. Some pelted the vehicles with rocks and shattered their windshields and the workers left without killing any of the animals.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE FREETHINKER”

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Australian Skeptics Swine Flu poster

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 30, 2009

Our good Australian Skeptic, Richard Saunders of the Skeptic Zone Podcast, left a comment on one of my latest posts directing me to this poster that you can find at the Young Australian Skeptics website, so I am reproducing it here for your convenience and if you click the image it should take you to the actual PDF file on their website.

I still find it hard to believe that Richard Saunders left me a comment. Yay!

rsz_swine_flu_posterI seem to have trouble loading the PDF from the link so here is the PDF file if you cannot access it by clicking the image. Australian Skeptics Swine Flu Poster

Things More Likely to Save You From Swine Flu Than Homeopathy

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on April 28, 2009

(x-posted on Skepchick!)

  1. Private island
  2. Gas mask
  3. Real medicine
  4. Aliens
  5. Mace
  6. Jesus (note: only if you’re in a Stephen King novel)
  7. Superman
  8. Your own immune system

A short recap for those stumbling upon Skepchick for the first time: homeopathy is nothing more than regular water, shaken up and packaged in boxes covered in lies and sold to people who don’t know any better. For a more thorough overview, see this post.

Mark, an official Friend of Skepchick, tweeted us a link to this ridiculous site trying to sell homeopathic remedies by capitalizing on the world’s panicked reaction to outbreaks of swine flu. Here are some highlights (bolding mine):

It is important for those more at risk to seek professional help from their homeopath, GP or health practitioner now. Constitutional treatment is the best way for anyone to strengthen the immune system and Helios would recommend consulting a homoeopath.

Sorry, no. Just . . . no. If you are “more at risk” to have a deadly infectious virus, like you just got back from a pig-licking tour of Mexico* where you were repeatedly sneezed on, then you should see a real medical professional. Homeopaths do not necessarily have medical degrees and all they can do is give you sugar water and then maybe contract swine flu from you and then you can die in one another’s arms, just like Romeo and Juliet only stupider, which is really saying something.

At present we do not have a nosode, i.e.a remedy made from the disease material. However, we do have existing remedies which have been used successfully over many years to treat all stages of flu. These are safe for everyone from babies to the elderly.

Man I am so hoping they manage to get their hot little hands on a vial of swine flu so they can bust that sucker open and dilute the crap out of it until they have their extra special magic water, which they can then drink to cure the swine flu they just gave themselves.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE ROGUES GALLERY”