Yes, California children are dying of measles. Today. It’s called SSPE. Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, Polly Tommey, stop lying about it.

2 Nov

One of the very frustrating aspects of the vaccines-cause-autism myth is that my community–autism parents–are largely responsible for spreading the misinformation and the fear. One need only look at Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the National Autism Association, TACA (Talk about Curing Autism), Polly Tommey, and almost any online discussion about vaccines to see the misinformation being spread by autism parents.

Listen to someone spreading the fear about the MMR vaccine and you will almost always hear, “measles doesn’t kill”. I’ve heard it a number of times from Andrew Wakefield. Remember him? He’s the guy whose unethical research 20 years ago fueled the fear we have today. His current effort is a fake documentary called “Vaxxed”. His team includes Del Bigtree (a former actor and low level producer for daytime TV) and Polly Tommey (an autism parent and Wakefield ally). As part of their PR tour for their film, they’ve given a number of personal appearances and posted video to Facebook. Watch them a few times and you will see Wakefield’s team–especially Del Bigtree–that measles is not a fatal disease. That no one has died of measles in California, they say. Del Bigtree focuses on California a great deal. He’s from California. California had a sizable outbreak recently and, partially as a result of that, changed their laws on vaccines for students.

Del Bigtree is wrong, as he usually is. Measles does kill. The death rate in France over the past decade has been about 1 in 2000, And that’s the number for people killed during the infection. The recent outbreaks in California have not resulted in immediate deaths, but we haven’t had outbreaks as large as those in France. However, measles is killing people in California right now. It’s killing them with the long-term infection called SSPE. People in California have died in recent years, and one is currently dying of SSPE. SSPE is incurable. It’s a slow, agonizing death.

Want more facts about SSPE?

What is Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis?
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a progressive neurological disorder of children and young adults that affects the central nervous system (CNS). It is a slow, but persistent, viral infection caused by defective measles virus.

and read more from that same site:

What is the prognosis?
Most individuals with SSPE will die within 1 to 3 years of diagnosis. In a small percentage of people, the disease will progress rapidly, leading to death over a short course within three months of diagnosis. Another small group will have a chronic, slowly progressive form, some with relapses and remissions. A very small number (approximately 5 percent) may experience spontaneous long term improvement and regain lost function. Prevention, in the form of measles vaccination, is the only real “cure” for SSPE.

You can read more but here’s what we are talking about: in addition to the people who die from measles infections, measles infects the brain in some people and they die. They die over years, slowly losing function. Spending years knowing death is coming.

And a recent study shows that SSPE has been happening in California. People have died in recent years. Someone is dying right now of SSPE.

There are a number of news stories about this. Below is the abstract from the conference.

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: the Devastating Measles Complication is More Common than We Think

Background: Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal complication of measles. Thought to be rare, SSPE incidence decreased with routine measles vaccination, but infants with measles remain at highest risk of this complication. We reviewed SSPE cases in California from 1998-2016 to understand current risk factors for SPPE.

Methods: SSPE cases had a clinically compatible illness and either 1) measles IgG antibody detection in the cerebrospinal fluid; 2) characteristic pattern on electroencephalography; 3) typical histologic findings in brain biopsy; or 4) medical record documentation of SSPE-related complications. Cases were identified though a state death certificate search, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or through investigations for undiagnosed neurologic disease. Measles IgG detection was performed using indirect enzyme immunoassay at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or by immunofluorescence assay at clinical laboratories.

Results: Seventeen SSPE cases were identified. Males outnumbered females 2.4:1. Twelve (71%) cases had a clinical history of a febrile rash illness compatible with measles; all 12 had illness prior to 15 months of age and measles vaccination. Eight (67%) children were living in the United States when they had measles. SSPE was diagnosed at a median age of 12 years (range 3-35 years), with a latency period of 9.5 years (range 2.5-34 years). Many cases had long-standing cognitive or motor problems prior to diagnosis. Among measles cases reported to CDPH during 1988-1991, incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children < 5 years, and 1:609 for children < 12 months at time of measles disease.

Conclusion: SSPE cases in California occurred at much higher rate than previously published among unvaccinated children who were infected with measles in infancy. Protection of infants younger than 12-15 months of age, when measles vaccine is routinely administered, requires avoidance of travel to endemic areas, or early vaccination prior to travel. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of SSPE in patients with compatible symptoms, even in older patients with no specific history of measles infection. SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

Let’s pull that last sentence out for emphasis:

SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

The study above is based on something called data. Del Bigtree bases his arguments on a Brady Bunch episode.

No, I’m not making that up, Del Bigtree claims that since there was a Brady Bunch episode about measles, it must not have been a big deal in the 1960’s. That’s about as logical as saying, “well, there was this TV show about being in the Marines called ‘Gomer Pyle’. So, obviously, the Vietnam War was no big deal.”

I have zero belief that Del Bigtree (or Jenny McCarthy, Generation Rescue, the Age of Autism blog, Andrew Wakefield, or any of the rest) will change their claims that “measles is no big deal”. Why? Because Del (and the rest) are cowards. It takes guts, serious courage, to stand up and say, “I was wrong”. It takes guts to break from your community and say, “people, this position is dangerous”.

It takes the sort of courage that Del Bigtree and the rest just do not have.


by Matt Carey

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21 Responses to “Yes, California children are dying of measles. Today. It’s called SSPE. Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree, Polly Tommey, stop lying about it.”

  1. reissd November 2, 2016 at 23:44 #

    During the SB277 hearings we were told of a four year old dying from SSPE in a hospice now. So sad.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 00:22 #

      So Bigtree has no reason to not know that he’s lying? This isn’t new information.

      • reissd November 3, 2016 at 00:25 #

        Can’t be sure he noticed or remembered.

        I was paying close attention, don’t know how close he was.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 00:30 #

        Bigtree has taken on the role of spokesperson for his community. As such it is his responsibility to be educated on the subject. He’s not. He’s ignorant, not only on this specific topic, but multiple topics involving autism, vaccines and more.

        He speaks out irresponsibly from ignorance and clear bias.

  2. wzrd1 November 2, 2016 at 23:46 #

    While some will be cowardly liars, others will be brave prostitutes. Prostituting the respect in their little tribe in order to acquire more power, more profit and increased standing, victims health and lives of others be damned.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 00:32 #

      wzrd1–

      I was doing a search for Del Bigtree recently. One of the top suggested searches was “del bigtree married”. Make of that what you will.

  3. WarriorMama (@warriormama1019) November 3, 2016 at 00:05 #

    Is there a link to the actual study?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 00:24 #

      https://idsa.confex.com/idsa/2016/webprogram/Paper56915.html

      Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis: the Devastating Measles Complication is More Common than We Think

      Background: Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a fatal complication of measles. Thought to be rare, SSPE incidence decreased with routine measles vaccination, but infants with measles remain at highest risk of this complication. We reviewed SSPE cases in California from 1998-2016 to understand current risk factors for SPPE.
      Methods: SSPE cases had a clinically compatible illness and either 1) measles IgG antibody detection in the cerebrospinal fluid; 2) characteristic pattern on electroencephalography; 3) typical histologic findings in brain biopsy; or 4) medical record documentation of SSPE-related complications. Cases were identified though a state death certificate search, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or through investigations for undiagnosed neurologic disease. Measles IgG detection was performed using indirect enzyme immunoassay at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or by immunofluorescence assay at clinical laboratories.

      Results: Seventeen SSPE cases were identified. Males outnumbered females 2.4:1. Twelve (71%) cases had a clinical history of a febrile rash illness compatible with measles; all 12 had illness prior to 15 months of age and measles vaccination. Eight (67%) children were living in the United States when they had measles. SSPE was diagnosed at a median age of 12 years (range 3-35 years), with a latency period of 9.5 years (range 2.5-34 years). Many cases had long-standing cognitive or motor problems prior to diagnosis. Among measles cases reported to CDPH during 1988-1991, incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children < 5 years, and 1:609 for children < 12 months at time of measles disease.

      Conclusion: SSPE cases in California occurred at much higher rate than previously published among unvaccinated children who were infected with measles in infancy. Protection of infants younger than 12-15 months of age, when measles vaccine is routinely administered, requires avoidance of travel to endemic areas, or early vaccination prior to travel. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of SSPE in patients with compatible symptoms, even in older patients with no specific history of measles infection. SSPE demonstrates the high human cost of “natural” measles immunity.

      Kristen Wendorf, MD, MS1, Kathleen Winter, MPH, PhD1, Kathleen Harriman, PhD, MPH, RN1, Jennifer Zipprich, MS, PhD1, Robert Schechter, MD1, Jill Hacker, PhD, MPH2, Chris Preas, BA2, James D. Cherry, MD, MSc, FIDSA3 and Carol Glaser, DVM, MPVM, MD4, (1)Immunization Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA, (2)Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA, (3)Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, (4)Kaiser Permantente, Oakland, CA

      • wzrd1 November 3, 2016 at 00:35 #

        The horror is this:
        Among measles cases reported to CDPH during 1988-1991, incidence of SSPE was 1:1367 for children < 5 years, and 1:609 for children < 12 months at time of measles disease.
        Examine that last number!

        There is a phenomenal latency present as well, up to 35 years in some cases.

        Orac covered this very topic yesterday.
        http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/11/01/measles-is-more-dangerous-than-we-thought-and-vaccines-are-as-safe-as-we-thought/

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 17:37 #

        Del Bigtree likes to take the number who died directly from infections in a given year in the past and divide by the total population. It gives him a low number, which apparently is what he wants. In a recent public appearance he called this fraction the number who died out of those infected.

        Read that through a couple of times–he’s doing a bait-and-switch. He starts by using total population as his denominator then claims its the fraction who were infected (which is a much smaller number).

        I wonder if he realizes just how dishonest he is being, or if he just doesn’t have the chops to understand his own arguments. Or both.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 3, 2016 at 00:31 #

      “Is there a link to the actual study?”

      It was included (complete with the abstract) in the article above. Why didn’t you read it? Why is it that “warrior” mothers so rarely actually do the basic research?

  4. Roger Kulp November 3, 2016 at 20:05 #

    I’m sure you are aware,the usual suspects,AoA,whale.to,etc have been blaming MMR for SSPE for years.Here is an example from 2012. http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/09/age-of-autism-weekly-wrap-does-mmr-plus-toxins-equal-sspe-equal-autism.html

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 4, 2016 at 16:30 #

      Thanks for that. (well, sort of 😉 )

      With people like Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted, one can always count on AoA to make laughably bad scientific arguments. And pretend they are experts at the same time.

      Frome the article you linked to

      Or, for that matter, if you had a lick of common sense.

      Irony meter officially blown. Olmsted has common sense but has spouted nonsense for well over a decade. Looks like he can manage to live independently, even go to college, and still firmly believe things that are absolute nonsense. And then act like he understands this well enough to guide others. People who think that just because they have “common sense” that they aren’t going to make fools of themselves from time to time are, well, fools.

      As they are well aware of the idea of PCR (gene sequencing), a method abused by Andrew Wakefield, they should at least look for studies where people test whether SSPE is caused by vaccine strain measles virus.

      It isn’t.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15566859

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12210437

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16235165

      But, we are talking Dan Olmsted. Journalist. Who together with Mark Blaxill (whose profession centers around intellectual property) couldn’t do a simple website search of CHOP and instead wrote a long attack article about Paul Offit by pulling figures out of their virtual nether regions.

      Watching them throw their gifts away, just ignore their intelligence, is very frustrating when one has a disabled kid.

      • Chris November 7, 2016 at 02:42 #

        “Olmsted has common sense but has spouted nonsense for well over a decade. Looks like he can manage to live independently, even go to college, and still firmly believe things that are absolute nonsense.”

        🙂

        My adult son is not ready for independent living, but he has more sense than Olmsted. Even if he did spend seven years getting a two year associates degree and still believes in aliens.

  5. Tammy J March 2, 2017 at 18:13 #

    When citing the conference about the 12 cases of SSPE it says that they had had a illness prior to 12 months of age and they had been given a measles vaccine. How did they get measles, which causes SSPE, if they were vaccinated? I’m honestly curious. Does this mean that the measles vaccine was ineffective?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 2, 2017 at 19:41 #

      “Twelve (71%) cases had a clinical history of a febrile rash illness compatible with measles; all 12 had illness prior to 15 months of age and measles vaccination.”

      They had the illness (measles) before the vaccination.

      So, it means that the measles vaccination can’t prevent SSPE in children who have already had the measles. Which is expected. It would be wonderful if the vaccine could stop SSPE, but that was never the intention of the vaccine.

    • Chris March 2, 2017 at 20:13 #

      The MMR vaccine is only given after the first birthday. They were too young for the vaccine. This is why it is important to maintain community immunity to protect babies who cannot be vaccinated.

      Though when they were old enough, they would still get an MMR vaccine to protect them from mumps and rubella.

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  1. When Was the Last Measles Death in the United States? – VAXOPEDIA - April 15, 2018

    […] Yes, California children are dying of measles. Today. It’s called SSPE. […]

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