Measles Epidemic in Wales Has Roots in Antivax Movement

The measles outbreak in Wales may have claimed its first victim.

According to the Guardian, a 25-year-old man was found dead in his apartment in Swansea Thursday. Gareth Colfer-Williams was known to have measles at the time of his death. What’s not clear is what the actual cause of death was; he was an ill man, apparently suffering from severe asthma. We’ll know what the exact cause of death was soon enough, I imagine. But his having measles at the time is very, very suspicious, and more tests will be run next week.
Either way, this tragic death has focused attention again on what’s happening in Wales. More than 800 people have been diagnosed with measles in Swansea in this recent outbreak. People are lining up to get their vaccinations, and a campaign has been started to get more people vaccinated, which is a good thing; I just hope it’s in time. But with so many people contracting the illness, serious repercussions are almost inevitable.

Wales has had low Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates for some time … since about 1998, in fact, when Andrew Wakefield published his bogus study in the Lancet falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.
It’s easy to lay all this misery at Wakefield’s feet, but there’s plenty to go around. The Lancet should never have published it (many of the co-authors later withdrew their names from the paper). Tony Blair, then prime minister of Britain, declined to reveal whether his own son had gotten the MMR vaccine, prompting rumors it wasn’t safe. (Bizarrely, years later, Cherie Blair, Tony’s wife, said they had given their son the vaccine; how many people would’ve been spared misery had they simply stated the truth?) Newspapers printed ghastly articles linking vaccines and autism. And groups like the Australian Vaccination Network spread—and continue to spread—outright falsehoods about vaccines. Many of these groups actively support Wakefield.
Measles is a terrible, terrible disease. On average about 1 in 1,000 people who contract it will die. Even those who don’t die have a terrible time of it. One in 20 children with measles gets pneumonia. One in 10 gets an ear infection. One in 1,000 gets encephalitis, which can lead to brain damage.

Yet measles can be easily prevented by getting the MMR vaccine. Andrew Wakefield can point fingers all over the place, but in the end a lot of this comes back to him. Given what we’ve learned in the years since his report was published, this wasn’t the case of honest researcher being wrong. His research was unethical; it has been called fraudulent by the British Medical Journal; and it caused Wakefield to be struck off as a doctor in the United Kingdom—like being disbarred. He stood to make multiple millions of dollars from a substitute vaccine he was working on at the time, yet that huge conflict of interest is never mentioned by him or the antivaxxers who stubbornly support him despite all the evidence.

His misdeeds still echo in the hallways of medical centers in Wales.

 

California Measles Outbreak Highest Since It Was Declared Eradicated, And It’s Only April

A shocking 49 measle cases have been reported in California to date in 2014, up from only four at this same time last year.

The outbreak is reigniting public health concerns over the anti-vaccination movement; while releasing its data at the end of March, the California Department of Public Health urged residents to consider the startling outbreak’s implications.

“This dramatic jump in the number of measles cases is a reminder to get fully vaccinated,” Dr. Ron Chapman, CDPH director and state health officer, said in a statement. “Being fully vaccinated against measles does more than just protect the person who receives the vaccination — it also protects their family and friends, including children who may be too young to be vaccinated.”

Despite it being only three months into 2014, this is the first year that the number of measles cases in California has surpassed 40 since 2000, when the highly contagious disease was declared eradicated in the U.S., KQED reports.

Affected Northern California counties include Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo, but a staggering 21 cases have been reported in Orange County, home to many affluent communities where anti-vaccination clusters tend to flourish, OC Weekly reports. California is one of 19 states that allow personal belief exemptions from school immunization requirements, and exemptions filed for the county’s incoming kindergartens  from fall 2012 to fall 2013, compared to a 15 increase across the state, according to the Orange County Register.

“The fact that there is… an anti-vaccine movement questioning the importance, the utility of getting the [measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine] dose, means that from our side, you never look forward to these events,” Dr. Matt Zahn of the county’s Health Care Agency told the Register.

“These events are the last thing you want to have happen. At the same time, it is worth mentioning to people: This is why you have to get your MMR. This is why this vaccine is important. These outbreaks can be prevented.”

Liberia confirms spread of ‘unprecedented’ Ebola epidemic

Conakry (AFP) – Aid organisation Doctors Without Borders said Monday an Ebola outbreak suspected of killing dozens in Guinea was an “unprecedented epidemic” as Liberia confirmed its first cases of the deadly contagion.

Guinea’s health ministry this year has reported 122 “suspicious cases” of viral haemorrhagic fever, including 78 deaths, with 22 of the samples taken from patients testing positive for the highly contagious tropical pathogen.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta, Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry,” Mariano Lugli, the organisation’s coordinator in the Guinean capital, said in a statement.

The group, known by its French initials MSF, said that by the end of the week it would have around 60 international field workers with experience in working on haemorrhagic fever divided between Conakry and the south-east of the country.

“MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but they were much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations,” Lugli said.

“This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities have announced two Ebola cases among seven samples tested from Liberia’s northern Foya district, confirming for the first time the spread of the virus across international borders.

Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale told reporters the patients were sisters, one of whom had died.

The surviving sister returned to Monrovia in a taxi before she could be isolated and the authorities fear she may have spread the virus to her taxi driver and four members of her family.

The woman and those with whom she has come into contact are in quarantine in a hospital 48 kilometres (30 miles) south-east of Monrovia, Gwenigale said.

 

— Unstoppable bleeding —

 

Ebola has killed almost 1,600 people since it was first observed in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo but this is the first fatal outbreak in west Africa.

The tropical virus leads to haemorrhagic fever, causing muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

The WHO said Sierra Leone has also identified two suspected cases, both of whom died, but neither has been confirmed to be Ebola.

No treatment or vaccine is available for the bug, and the Zaire strain detected in Guinea has a historic death rate of up to 90 percent.

It can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another’s blood, faeces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

MSF said it had stepped up support for the isolation of patients in Conakry, in collaboration with the Guinean health authorities and the WHO.

“Other patients in other health structures are still hospitalised in non-optimal conditions and isolation must be reinforced in the coming days,” it added.

The WHO said it was not recommending travel or trade restrictions to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone based on the current information available about the outbreak.

But Senegal has closed border crossings to Guinea “until further notice”.

Fukushima fallout damaged thyroid glands of California babies

A new study finds that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California, 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

baby_thyroidThe Fukushima catastrophe has been dismissed as a potential cause of health effects even in Japan, let alone as far away as California.

A new study of the effects of tiny quantities of radioactive fallout from Fukushima on the health of babies born in California shows a significant excess of hypothyroidism caused by the radioactive contamination travelling 5,000 miles across the Pacific. The article will be published next week in the peer-reviewed journal Open Journal of Pediatrics.

Congenital hypothyroidism is a rare but serious condition normally affecting about one child in 2,000, and one that demands clinical intervention – the growth of children suffering from the condition is affected if they are left untreated. All babies born in California are monitored at birth for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels in blood, since high levels indicate hypothyroidism.

Joe Mangano and Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project in New York, and Christopher Busby, guest researcher at Jacobs University, Bremen, examined congenital hypothyroidism (CH) rates in newborns using data obtained from the State of California over the period of the Fukushima explosions.

Their results are published in their paper Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The researchers compared data for babies exposed to radioactive Iodine-131 and born between March 17th and Dec 31st 2011 with unexposed babies born in 2011 before the exposures plus those born in 2012.

Confirmed cases of hypothyroidism, defined as those with TSH level greater than 29 units increased by 21% in the group of babies that were exposed to excess radioactive Iodine in the womb [*]. The same group of children had a 27% increase in ‘borderline cases’ [**].

Contrary to many reports, the explosion of the reactors and spent fuel pools at Fukushima produced levels of radioactive contamination which were comparable with the Chernobyl releases in 1986. Using estimates made by the Norwegian Air Laboratory it is possible to estimate that more than 250PBq (200 x 1015) Bq of Iodine-131 (half life 8 days) were released at Fukushima.

This is also predicted by comparing the Caesium-137 estimates with I-131 releases from Chernobyl, quantities which caused the thyroid cancer epidemic in Byelarus, the Ukraine and parts of the Russian Republic.

More on this later. At Fukushima, the winds generally blew the radioactive iodine and other volatile radionuclides out to sea, to the Pacific Ocean. The journey 5,000 miles to the West Coast of the USA leaves a lot of time for dispersal and dilution. Nevertheless, small amounts of I-131 were measured in milk causing widespread concern.

The authorities downplayed any risk on the basis that the “doses” were very low; far lower than the natural background radiation. The University of Berkeley measured I-131 in rainwater from 18th to 28th March 2011 after which levels fell. If we assume that mothers drank 1 litre of rainwater a day for this period (of course they didn’t) the current radiation risk model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) calculates an absorbed dose to the adult thyroid of 23 microSieverts, less than 1/100th the annual background “dose”. The foetus is more sensitive (by a factor of about 10 according to ICRP) but is exposed to less as it is perhaps 100 times smaller.

So this finding is one more instance of the fact that the current radiation risk model, employed by the governments of every nation, is massively insecure for predicting harm from internal radionuclide exposures or explaining the clear observations.

The Fukushima catastrophe has been dismissed as a potential cause of health effects even in Japan, let alone as far away as California. And on what basis? Because the “dose” is too low.

This is the mantra chanted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO, largely the same outfit), and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). And let’s not forget all the nuclear scientists who swooped down on Fukushima with their International Conferences and placatory soothing presentations.

This chant was heard after Chernobyl, after the nuclear site child leukemias; in the nuclear atmospheric test veterans cases; and in all the other clear situations which in any unbiased scientific arena would long ago have blown away the belief that low level internal exposures are safe.

But this one-size-fits-all concept of “dose” is the nuclear industry’s sinking ship. It provides essential cover for the use of uranium weapons, whether fission bombs or depleted uranium munitions; for the development of nuclear power stations like Hinkley Point; the burying of radioactive waste in landfills in middle England; releases of plutonium to the Irish Sea from Sellafield (where it drifts ashore and causes increases in cancer on the coasts of Wales and Ireland); and most recently, for the British Governments denial of excess cancers among nuclear test veterans.

This new study is not the first to draw attention to the sensitivity of the unborn baby to internal fission products. In 2009 I used data supplied to me when I was a member of the UK government Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters (CERRIE) to carry out a meta-analysis of infant leukemia rates in five countries in Europe: England and Wales, Germany, Greece, and Byelarus.

There had been an unexpected and statistically significant increase in infant leukemia (age 0-1) in those children who were in the womb during the (whole body monitored) increased levels of Caesium-137 from Chernobyl. The beauty of this study (like the TSH study) is that, unlike the Sellafield child leukemias, there is really no possible alternative explanation.

It was the low “dose” of Caesium-137 that caused the leukemias. And the dose response trend was not a straight line: The effect at the very low “dose” was greater than at the very high “dose”. Presumably because at the high doses the babies perished in the womb and could not, therefore, develop leukemia. I published the results and drew attention to the failure of the ICRP model in the International Journal of Environment and Public Health in 2009.

I had published a paper on this infant leukemia proof of the failure of the risk model inEnergy and Environment in 2000, and also presented it in the same year at the World Health Organisation conference in Kiev. It was there that I first really came up against the inversion of science deployed by the chiefs of the IAEA and UNSCEAR. The conference was videofilmed by Wladimir Tchertkoff and you can see his excellent documentary, which made it to Swiss TV, Atomic Lies, re-released in 2004 as Nuclear Controversies (link to youtube, 51 minutes).

For what is done by these people is to dismiss any evidence of increased rates of cancer or any other disease by shouting at it: “the doses were too low”. In this way, reality is airbrushed away. What is this quantity “dose”? It is a simple physics-based quantity which represents the absorption of energy from radiation. One Sievert of gamma radiation is one Joule per kilogram of living tissue.

This might work for external radiation. But it doesn’t work for internal exposures to radioactive elements which can produce huge effects on cellular DNA at low average “doses”. It is like comparing warming yourself in front of the fire with eating a hot coal. Or comparing a punch to stabbing. Same dose, same energy. Very different effects.

This “dose” scam has been used to dismiss real effects since it was invented in 1952 to deal with the exposures from nuclear weapons development and testing. For those who want to dig deeper into the science there is a recent book chapter I wrote in the book New Research Directions in DNS Repair.

The most scary instances of the sensitivity of the foetus to radiation are the sex ratio studies of Hagen Scherb, a German biostatician and member of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR). With his colleague Christina Voigt he has published a series of papers showing a sudden change in the sex ratio of newborns after various radiation exposure incidents.

Sex ratio, the number of boys born to 1,000 girls is a well accepted indicator of genetic damage and perturbations in the normal ratio of 1,050 (boys to 100 girls) are due to the deaths before birth of radiation damaged individuals of one sex or the other depending on whether the father (sperm) or mother (egg) was most exposed.

We found such an effect (more girls) in our study of Fallujah, Iraq, where there was exposure to Uranium weapons. But Scherb and Voigt have looked at the major catastrophes, Chernobyl, the weapons tests fallout, near nuclear sites in data from many countries of the world. Huge datasets.

They estimate that millions have babies have been killed by these subtle internal radiation exposures. The nuclear military project is responsible for an awful lot of deaths. In years to come I believe this will eventually be seen as the greatest public health scandal in human history.

Of course, the exposure to radio-Iodine is associated with thyroid cancer in children. There was a big rise of thyroid cancer in Byelarus, the Ukraine and the Russian Republic after Chernobyl. The situation at Fukushima seems set to echo this, despite the reassurances from the authorities that there will be no effects.

Our paper reports 44 confirmed thyroid cancer cases in 0-18 year olds in Fukushima prefecture in the last six months (a figure that has since risen to 53). In the hypothyroidism paper we discuss the 44 cases relative to the population and calculate that this represents an 80-fold excess based on national data prior to the Fukushima Iodine releases.

This presents a severe challenge to Dr Wolfgang Weiss of the UN and WHO, who stated last year that no thyroid cancers could result from the Fukushima disaster as the “doses were too low”. How does he explain the 80-fold increase in this normally rare condition?

Or rather, when will he admit that the entire scientific model that underpins his views is fraudulent? And that nuclear radiation is – roughly speaking – 1,000 times more dangerous to human health than he is letting on?

Chris Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk. For details and current CV see www.chrisbusbyexposed.org. For accounts of his work seewww.greenaudit.orgwww.llrc.org and www.nuclearjustice.org

For statisticians:
* RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.04-1.42; p = .013
** RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.2-1.35; p = .00000001.

Polio-like disease appears in California children

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven’t identified any common causes connecting the cases.

The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.

“The disease resembles but is not the same as polio,” he said. “But this is serious. Most of the children we’ve seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg.”

But doctors are not sure if it’s a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.

“We want to temper the concern, because at the moment, it does not appear to represent a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon,” he said, noting similar outbreaks in Asia and Australia.

But for some children, like Sofia Jarvis, 4, of Berkeley, rare doesn’t mean safe.

In this photo taken with a mobile phone, Jeff Jarvis …

In this photo taken with a mobile phone, Jeff Jarvis of Berkeley, Calif., holds his 4-year-old daugh …

She first developed what looked like asthma two years ago, but then her left arm stopped moving, and it has remained paralyzed ever since.

“You can imagine. We had two boys that are very healthy, and Sofia was healthy until that point,” said her mother, Jessica Tomei. “We did not realize what we were in store for. We did not realize her arm would be permanently paralyzed.”

Van Haren, who diagnosed Sofia, said polio vaccines do not protect children from the disease, but he stressed that it is still important for children to receive that vaccine.

Dr. Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Monday that the research is still underway in California, and there are a variety of infectious diseases that can cause childhood paralysis.

Any of a number of illnesses could be at work, and it’s possible some of the cases had one infection and some had another. Regarding the presence of EV-68 in at least two cases, “it could be an incidental finding,” Seward said.

In this photo taken with a mobile phone, Jessica Tomei …
In this photo taken with a mobile phone, Jessica Tomei holds her 4-year-old daughter, Sofia Jarvis,  …

Until officials get more information, Seward said they are not looking around the country for similar cases of EV-68.

The California Department of Public Health has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked, said Dr. Gil Chavez, the deputy director of the Center for Infectious Disease and state epidemiologist.

“Physicians and public health officials who have encountered similar illnesses have submitted 20 reports to CDPH, and CDPH has conducted preliminary tests on 15 of these specimens,” he said. “Thus far, the department has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked.”

University of California, San Francisco, neurology professor Emmanuelle Waubant said doctors believe, but don’t have proof, that it’s a virus that for most children shows up only as a benign cold. She said a few children, due to their biological makeup, are having much more serious symptoms and she hoped doctors would look for them.

“For a lot of the neurologists who have trained in the last 30 years, it’s extremely rare to see polio or polio-like syndrome,” she said.

Confirmed case of typhus in Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles

Typhus Fever Los Angeles

Santa Ana police animal services supervisor Sondra Berg, center, and other officers carry traps to be placed around Willard Intermediate School to capture feral cats that might have fleas infected with typhus.

Los Angeles County public health officials say they have confirmed a case of endemic typhus fever in Manhattan  Beach, in the neighborhood around Polliwog Park, officials said in a statement Thursday.

Officials did not release any information about the patient’s identity or condition. It was also unclear whether this was a new case of typhus. In December, Manhattan Beach officials said county public health officials had contacted residents in the same neighborhood regarding a case of typhus and handed out brochures about how to take precautions against the disease.

Typhus is spread by bacteria-infected fleas, found on cats, opossums and rats. Infected people suffer from fever, headaches, chills and body aches. Though typhus often requires hospitalization, it is usually treatable with antibiotics.

Flu season hitting working-aged adults hardest

Disease strikes younger peopleAt 6 foot 3 and 350 pounds, Tim Allen was an imposing figure. A man’s man, the Texan carved wood for fun and operated heavy construction equipment for a living.

So it came as a surprise when the flu quickly claimed the 52-year-old’s life in late December.

“If you looked at Tim, he always seemed like a big bear,” said Randal Allen, his older brother. “You think it takes a lot to bring down a bear, but it doesn’t. It takes a little germ. In less than a month, he went from the flu to death.”

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this flu season has been particularly bad for young people and middle-aged adults like Tim Allen.

People between the ages of 18 and 64 have accounted for 61 percent of influenza hospitalizations, the CDC reported. Last flu season, that age group represented only about 35 percent of flu-related hospitalizations.

Exact numbers aren’t known, but flu deaths are believed to be significantly higher too. The CDC estimates that people ages 25 to 64 have accounted for about 60 percent of flu deaths this season. That’s compared with 18 percent, 30 percent and 47 percent for the three previous seasons.

This year’s dramatic rise is being linked to a resurgence of the H1N1 virus, the so-called swine flu responsible for a global pandemic in 2009.

“It’s back this year, and it’s hitting younger people hard,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said Thursday.

Tim Allen, 52, of Texas died in December after being hospitalized with the H1N1 flu virus. (Family p …

Frieden said the fact that only 1 in 3 young adults is getting vaccinated against the flu is to blame for the higher hospitalizations and deaths.

“It’s too low,” he said, noting the vaccination rate for seniors and children is nearly is two-thirds. “Any preventable death is a tragedy.”

Officials said the low vaccination rate among young people and middle-aged adults is consistent with previous years, but that many people that age are at greater risk because they have no immunity to a virus like H1N1.

Being vaccinated has reduced the chance of having to go to the doctor for the flu by about 60 percent this season, the CDC reported.

Allen doesn’t know for sure, but said he doubts his brother got a flu shot.

“Knowing my brother, I would suspect that he did not,” he said. “He was worse than the rest of us about going to the doctor.”

The CDC said that 85 percent of working-age people hospitalized with the flu often have another underlying health concern. Allen said his brother’s death certificate lists obesity and congestive lung failure along with H1N1. He said decades of not wearing a mask on construction sites proved to be harmful for his brother.

“He definitely contributed to his poor health,” Allen said. “When he got the flu, he couldn’t fight everything off. The virus just kind of did him in.”

While this season’s outbreak is only a fraction of what it was when H1N1 emerged in 2009, the CDC says the flu is killing at epidemic levels and remains widespread in 24 states. The season is expected to last for several more weeks.

“Influenza can make anyone very sick very fast, and it can kill,” Frieden said. “Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu.”

A warning Allen hopes others heed.

“Tim would do for other people what he wouldn’t do for himself, that’s part of the issue,” he said. “We take our health far too casual. Preventive maintenance is definitely what we should all be seeking.”