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.
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