Mail Order Disease

Sometimes a story so shocking comes along, I have to share it.  Usually, it’s a case of good shocking. This time, it’s a case of oh-my-gosh-what-are-they-doing shocking.

Pox parties; you may have heard of such a thing. Parents get kids together to play with one another when someone in the group has chicken pox. Chickenpox can be a pretty nasty disease–particularly in adults, but is usually not too bad in children. In fact, for many, it seemed a right of passage to get the pox and the associated fever.  I remember my case of chicken pox, despite it being maybe 25 years ago.

The idea of the pox party is that all kids in a group get chicken pox at the same time, and by getting it as children, they don’t face the wrath that comes with pox in adults. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but we’re not talking about giving everyone soda at the same time so they all crash and take a nap together. We’re talking about an extremely contagious disease being forced upon kids by their parents. If this doesn’t scream human rights violation, I don’t know what does.

Now, what happens when parents don’t know someone with chickenpox? It seems some moms have been linking up through Facebook to find pox across the country. Live disease is being sent through the mail to moms. Of course, not only does no one know the viral load being sent, since these are strangers even the disease itself can’t always be known or trusted. Parents unknowingly getting hepatitis or meningitis through the mail and giving it to their children is just around the corner.

The biggest kicker here: there’s a vaccine for chickenpox. That’s right, a safe and effective way to build immunity to chickenpox is a doctor’s visit away.

What these parents are doing is dangerous, not based on facts, and most likely illegal.

Read more at Mike the Mad Biologist (PG-13 for language) and Aetiology (includes video)

The Vaccine War

Last night’s Frontline on PBS (which can be viewed in its entirety), titled “The Vaccine War”, showed the conflict in America raging over whether or not to vaccinated children.

It pitted establishment: doctors, big pharma, NIH, and the CDC against the small guy: people who think vaccines are harming children at unacceptable rates.

The topic really comes down to some anecdotal evidence against current medical advice.  Being a scientist, I’m sure you can guess where I come down on this debate.  I can think for myself and do not make important, life decisions based on rumor or Internet gossip.

The main argument by the anti-vaccine camp seemed to be the possibility of autism being a side effect of childhood vaccinations.  Frontline pointed out that autism is typically diagnosed in young children.  One of the reasons being development delays are a symptom of some autism patients.  Vaccines are done in young children, so it’s easy to see a correlation.   Of course, correlation doesn’t equal causation; meaning as was said in the show, “just because a rooster crows and the sun comes up doesn’t mean the rooster caused the sun to rise.”

Jenny McCarthy, actress and parent to an autistic son, said that within 12 weeks after the MMR (a vaccine that prevents 3 different diseases) her son showed signs that something was wrong.  Which is funny, since in 2007 she told Oprah, “…the nurse gave [Evan] the shot,” she says. “And soon thereafter—boom—the soul’s gone from his eyes.”  So which is it?  Instantly or 12 weeks?  Okay, so Jenny’s a mom–a hot mom–but not a scientist.  Since she isn’t a scientist, we really probably shouldn’t even be listening to her.  (It’s kind of like taking environmental advice from Al Gore.)  Although she does say she’d rather take the measles than the autism. Continue reading

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