Friday, January 18, 2013

Stop Criticizing Me or I'll Blow Up the Internet!

There is something strangely fascinating about the tactics that anti-vaccine cranks use. Reading their various rants and how they react to critical refutation of their arguments, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that these are angry people. Ruled by their emotions, I wonder if they ever actually take the time to distance themselves from anything to think it through before reacting. We've seen it time and time again. Some of the things they say and do, particularly when they've had at least a little time to consider their actions, just astound me.

The latest in the "And you thought that was a good idea?" line of actions comes from Hollie. Hollie has a Facebook page called Motherhood: The Truth. (I have this image of a bunch of young moms sitting around a table with cards in their hands: "I play 'Timeout', followed by 'Warrior Mommy'.") On this site, apparently after some folks posted comments taking her to task for her anti-vaccine claims, vaccine-related posts are taboo (unless, of course, they're anti-vaccine...then it's okay). At any rate, the folks on the Anti Vax Wall Of Shame (AVWOS) countered her claims, which Hollie didn't like. No, not at all. So what did she do? She targeted one of the members of AVWOS.

Monday, January 14, 2013

In the Midst of an Outbreak: Better to Immunize or Not?

The flu season is well and fully upon us. In the U.S., the season generally begins in October and runs through May, with a peak sometime in February. There are a number of factors that may play a role in this cyclic nature of influenza, ranging from people being indoors more in the winter, thereby creating greater opportunity for the virus to spread, to less UV radiation that would otherwise kill the virus. Whatever the reason, the cycle is rather predictable.

This season, the flu has hit hard and early:

Source: CDC Influenza Weekly Report, January 14, 2013
The red line is the current season. Unlike most seasons, we're taking a track similar to the 2003-2004 season, with an early peak. This has led a number of regions to declare a public health emergency, meaning that states can release more resources to fight the spread of disease, such as allowing expansion of immunization clinics.

With increased rates, is this sort of declaration helpful? With influenza already in full swing, will expanding immunization help, or is it a bit of a double-edged sword?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Taken for Granted

We take a lot of things for granted. And by we, I mean the majority of gainfully employed people living in developed nations. Shelter is a given. Food is available whenever we want. Clothing, transportation, entertainment are all available to us, generally any time we need them. We don't give these things much thought.

We also take our health for granted. Sure, we get sick and injured now and then, but we have ready access to health care (at least, those of us who can afford private insurance or who live in countries with universal care). And above all, many take for granted the fact that we no longer need to worry about many diseases, like polio, tetanus or measles.

Not everyone in the world is so, lucky, however. For instance, let's take a look at Pakistan. Pakistan has seen quite a number of problems related to health care and disease.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Have to Wear a Mask? Unfair!

I recently discovered something that disturbed me a bit, but which I did not find altogether surprising. In December, the Massachusetts Nursing Association (MNA) issued a position statement opposing mandatory masking of health care workers as a means of preventing the spread of influenza. The statement comes as many hospitals in the state are beginning to require that those health care workers who do not get vaccinated against the flu must wear surgical masks to help prevent the transmission of the virus. In some hospitals, refusal to either get vaccinated or wear a mask while at work can result in disciplinary action. This does not seem all that unreasonable, to me, and I've touched on the use of masks before (for example here and here). It is another tool in the fight to make our health care facilities that much safer for patients, so to see an organization representing hundreds of thousands of health care personnel opposing measures that would help achieve that goal simply boggles my mind.

Reading the statement makes me think that the opposition stems mainly from those who do not want to get vaccinated and find that the masks are uncomfortable. Images of petulant teens whinging about the unfairness of it all spring to mind ("Spinach or broccoli for my vegetable? Why can't I just skip the veggies for dinner! It's not fair!"). Of course, the MNA doesn't outright take this approach; it's just the impression I got. And I won't even get into how these policies generally apply to more than just nurses (e.g., all other health care workers, and may even extend to non-employees, such as volunteer greeters and so on).

No, they try to claim that science supports their opposition.