The resurgence of measles suggests our society is falling apart

Peter Beinart has written a piece for The Atlantic that uses the measles epidemic as a pretty good example of what is happening to our society as a whole.

Our amnesia about vaccines is part of a broader forgetting. Prior generations of Americans understood the danger of zero-sum economic nationalism, for instance, because its results remained visible in their lifetimes. When Al Gore debated Ross Perot about NAFTA in 1993, he reminded the Texan businessman of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which raised tariffs on 20,000 foreign products—prompting other countries to retaliate, deepening the Great Depression, and helping to elect Adolf Hitler. But fewer and fewer people remember the last global trade war. Similarly, as memories of Nazism fade across Europe and the United States, anti-Semitism is rising. Technology may improve; science may advance. But the fading of lessons that once seemed obvious should give pause to those who believe history naturally bends toward progress.

Declining vaccination rates not only reflect a great forgetting; they also reveal a population that suffers from overconfidence in its own amateur knowledge. In her book Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines, the University of Colorado at Denver’s Jennifer Reich notes that starting in the 1970s, alternative-health movements “repositioned expertise as residing within the individual.” This ethos has grown dramatically in the internet age, so much so that “in arenas as diverse as medicine, mental health, law, education, business, and food, self-help or do-it-yourself movements encourage individuals to reject expert advice or follow it selectively.” Autodidacticism can be valuable.

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"Fake News is an Oracle": how the falsehoods we believe reveal the truth about our fears and aspirations

For many years, I've been arguing that while science fiction can't predict the future, it can reveal important truths about the present: the stories writers tell reveal their hopes and fears about technology, while the stories that gain currency in our discourse and our media markets tell us about our latent societal aspirations and anxieties. In Fake News is an Oracle, my latest Locus Magazine column, I use this tool to think about the rise of conspiratorial thinking and ask what it says about our world. Read the rest

No, anti-vaccine hysteria didn't emerge from grassroots. This rich NYC couple funded it.

“A myth of the anti-vaccine movement is that it emerged organically through the rise of social media,” says Washington Post investigative reporter Amy Brittain. “We looked into the $$$ behind the movement and found a well-funded operation, driven largely by one Manhattan couple who gave millions to the cause.” Read the rest

Measles growing in the U.S., largest number of cases reported since 1992

An increase of 41 measles cases were reported in the United States from the previous week. Read the rest

Measles cause hundreds to be quarantined at two Los Angeles universities

The measles epidemic isn't a scare! This incredibly contagious disease was once thought eradicated by the miracle of modern vaccines, but if you get enough under-educated folks fearing debunked hype in one place the whole system falls apart.

CBS:

Nearly 300 students and staff at two major southern California universities are under quarantine as health officials warn they might have been exposed to measles. CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports that at Cal State Los Angeles, 198 are quarantined. Seventy one students and 127 staff members might have been exposed in a campus library.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, 76 students and six faculty are still at risk after a contagious student attended classes.

Officials at UCLA said a student contagious with measles attended classes for three days earlier this month, potentially putting hundreds at risk.

"It's crazy to see that that's happening in a place that I spend time studying. It was supposed to be eradicated," said Nolan Origer, a UCLA student.

The university has identified dozens who may have been exposed. They're being quarantined until medical records can prove their immunity.

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GoFundMe says anti-vaccine fundraising campaigns violate terms of service, will be taken down

“We are conducting a thorough review and will remove any campaigns currently on the platform.” — GoFundMe

Measles outbreak sends 800 Washington students home

Measles is no joke. Anti-vaxxers are dangerously inviting infectious disease back into our society.

NBC:

In the Washington county that is home to one of the nation’s largest measles outbreaks, the effects go far beyond the 71 confirmed cases.

The Seattle Times reports over 800 students considered exposed to the highly contagious disease in Clark County have been ordered to stay away from classrooms for up to three weeks, disrupting their education.

Since January, field trips, after-school activities and an assembly honoring Martin Luther King Jr. have been canceled or postponed. Some students are doing homework off prepared handouts; others are using school-issued laptops to keep up.

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Costa Rican measles outbreak traced to unvaccinated French tourists

Costa Rica had been measles-free for five years, until Feb 18, when visiting French tourists took their unvaccinated five-year-old son to a doctor to investigate a "rash" that turned out to be measles -- the boy's mother was also unvaccinated. Read the rest

Anti-vaxxers use Facebook to target pregnant women with fear and lies

Anti-vaxxers know no shame, Facebook is willing to do anything for an ad dollar, water is wet.

Science Alert:

Facebook is aggressively being used by anti-vaccination advocates to target pregnant women with sponsored advertisements to spread false information and conspiracy theories as the US battles a climbing measles outbreak.

A sponsored ad found by Quartz journalist Jeremy Merrill shows the anti-vaccination organisation Stop Mandatory Vaccination targeting women ages 20 to 60 who have expressed interest in pregnancy living in the state of Washington – where the governor recently declared a state of emergency over the measles outbreak.

Nearly 50 children and young adults in Clark County, Washington have become sickened by the disease since January.

According to the CDC, there have been over 100 instances of measles since January – more than the entire year of 2016, when there were only 86. So far, nearly every child who has gotten ill is un-vaccinated.

In the sponsored ad by Stop Mandatory Vaccinations, which has over 100,000 likes on Facebook, it said a woman's daughter died "12 hours after being injected by eight vaccines in 2008."

Vaccination rates have plummeted in pockets of the Pacific Northwest in recent years, as lies about the dangers of vaccines have spread, despite the fact that the measles vaccine is safe for almost everyone and can prevent many debilitating illnesses and death.

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Pacific Northwest measles outbreak spreads

In the Pacific Northwest 54 are confirmed infected with the once eradicated measles, as an outbreak also emerges in Texas.

Think Progress:

A large measles outbreak in Washington state shows no sign of abating.

According to the State Department of Health, there are now at least 54 cases of the illness, all but one of which were located in Clark County, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon. Directly to the south, the Oregon Health Authority has reported at least four cases. Within Clark County, the vast majority of diagnoses are of children 10 years old or younger.

Measles — an airborne virus that can lead to lung infections, brain damage, and death in the worst cases — was responsible for thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year prior to the discovery of a vaccine in 1963. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but in the last year, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the virus, with cases increasing 30 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One of the main drivers of this trend is a growing reluctance to vaccinate children, so much so that the WHO listed the anti-vaccination movement as one of its top ten threats to global health in 2019.

“The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines…threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” the WHO report reads. “The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are the key reasons for the underlying hesitancy.”

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Online Russian trolls hyped vaccination scares

Putin's army pushed our buttons over the anti-vax agenda during the 2016 US election, and likely beyond. The Russians do this to help spread distrust in the government, distrust in vaccines and to sow general discord.

Vaccines are good. Do not be fooled.

Via the BBC:

Troll accounts that had attempted to influence the US election had also been tweeting about vaccines, a study says.

Many posted both pro- and anti-vaccination messages to create "false equivalency", the study found.

It examined thousands of tweets sent between 2014 and 2017.

Vaccination was being used by trolls and sophisticated bots as a "wedge issue", said Mark Dredze from Johns Hopkins University.

"By playing both sides, they erode public trust in vaccination, exposing us all to the risk of infectious diseases," he said.

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European measles outbreak infects 41,000 people, killing 27 of them (so far)

Anti-vaccine shenanigans have lowered Europe's average vaccination rate below the threshold to adequately provide for herd immunity. Following the decade's lowest year of measles cases in 2016, the rate of measles cases in Europe in 2018 is already headed for the stars. Read the rest

More parents deem vaccines "unnecessary"

Coinciding with a mumps outbreak on Long Island, a new survey by the American Academy of Pediatricians, has shown that increasing numbers of American parents deem vaccines "unnecessary."

Via WaPo:

The AAP paper's publication coincidentally comes during a week when there's yet another outbreak in the United States of an infectious disease we can prevent through immunizations. Since August, at least 36 people have contracted mumps — whose symptoms include puffy cheeks and possibly serious respiratory symptoms — in one Long Island town.

Health officials said that some of those infected had been vaccinated, leading them to wonder whether there is a new strain going around, but that they still believe immunization provides the best precaution and urged everyone in the area who has not gotten the measles, mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine to get it right away. "We're trying to prevent this from getting larger,"Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County health commissioner, told ABC News.

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Watch Penn and Teller's anti-anti-vaccine rant

Penn and Teller's classic takedown of anti-vax bullshittery. And if you don't know, now you know.

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Six cases of measles confirmed in Tennessee outbreak. Measles was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.

Public Health officials in Shelby County, Tennessee today confirmed six cases of measles in the county, up from two last Friday. Victims of the measles outbreak are "widely diverse" in terms of age, gender and where they live, authorities said. Read the rest

Woo with a body-count: measles epidemic follows anti-vax scare

Wales is in the grip of a measles epidemic, thanks to the anti-vaccine scare more than a decade ago. Once the critical mass of herd immunity dropped below a certain threshold, in came the old, deadly -- and utterly preventable -- disease. Read the rest

Correlation between autism diagnosis and organic food sales

Redditor Jasonp55 has a neat demonstration of the perils of confusing correlation with causation, and his well-chosen example makes this a potentially useful chart for discussing this issue with friends who won't vaccinate themselves and their kids.

/r/skeptic, I was practicing GraphPad and I think I may have discovered the 'real' cause of autism... (imgur.com)

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest