Editorial: As Whooping Cough Returns, Trust Science, Not Opinion

Make no mistake: Those who advise against vaccinations to prevent the spread of diseases and illnesses would hurt you and your children and don’t care that they are creating a public health menace.

People who listen to bogus science and deny facts from legitimate scientific studies are pushing an agenda that a wise parent should back away from. In fact, backing away is too slow. Turn and run.

Missouri public health officials should be commended for offering free pertussis shots in the wake of an increase in the bacterial disease, whooping cough. The highly contagious and dangerous disease has hit levels not seen since 1955. The highest levels in 58 years demand that kind of response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were 41,000 cases of whooping cough last year, compared with 18,719 in 2011. The numbers also have increased locally, with 259 cases in St. Louis County (up from 239 in 2011), and 60 in St. Charles County (up from 26 in 2011).

This is not an epidemic, but it is significant enough to worry public health officials. They are encouraging caregivers who may never have been vaccinated or who may have been vaccinated more than 10 years ago to get the shots. This includes doctors, nurses and others who might infect vulnerable populations.

But anti-vaccine fear is still abroad in the land. The scare about childhood vaccines being linked to autism was based on bad science to start with. A 1998 study published in the medical journal Lancet, and later retracted, was based on fabricated research by Andrew Wakefield, the lead author. He was stripped of his medical license in Great Britain in 2010.

But the myth became enshrined. Among the many overreactions was a petition for Congress to pay parents for injuries to their children through a Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Courts found no proven link between vaccines and autism, because science has proven there isn’t one.

Another effect was that parents began refusing immunizations for their children. Diseases that had been all but dormant for decades, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough, began to rise.

It comes down to this: Who would you rather get medical advice from — Jenny McCarthy, former nude model turned childhood development expert, or the Journal of Pediatrics?

Ms. McCarthy is convinced that her son’s autism is linked to childhood vaccinations. But in April, pediatric researchers published a study that looked at nearly 1,000 children and concluded that exposure to vaccines during the first two years of life was not associated with an increased risk of developing autism.

Fueling concern over a link between autism and vaccination was that many childhood vaccines contained an ethyl-mercury preservative, thimerosal. Mercury at high doses can cause harm, but the low levels of ethyl-mercury did not. Despite that scientific finding, the ingredient was taken out of vaccines in the early 2000s in an effort to allay parents’ concerns.

Still, there has been an increase in autism and so far, the reasons have not yet been discovered. The CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder, and that males are four times as likely as females to have one.

This number compares to the 1980s, when autism was reported as 1 in 10,000 children, and the 1990s, when it was diagnosed as 1 in 2,500 children. The Autism Science Foundation cautions that comparing autism rates over the last 30 years is difficult because diagnostic criteria have changed.

Indisputable is the fact that more children are being diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder than in the past. It’s a mistake to look to phony science to explain the reasons, just because the cause has thus far not been found. The best guess at the moment is that genetics and environmental causes are at fault.

So, parents beware — Jenny McCarthy and her son deserve your sympathy. Be concerned for them. Watch her on “The View.” Send her a card.

Meanwhile, get your kids to the doctor.

Source : http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/editorial-as-whooping-cough-returns-trust-science-not-opinion/article_611abfed-4e13-574e-8776-7cbb5903909f.html

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