No Big Whoop

I don’t make a habit of reading comments on news websites because the ignorance of people on both the left and the right extremes of the political spectrum makes me weep for humanity. I made the mistake of glancing at a comment today after I read this story about recent outbreaks of whooping cough.

Rachy334, clearly a scientist of unmatched brilliance, had this to say.

“This is as useless as reporting all the people who had the flu last year… why vaccinate against these illnesses when 99.9% of people don’t have any issues from it? I’ll bet there are thousands that died from the flu, but no articles on it. Why is that? 26 deaths out of 21,000 is a pretty @#$% good stat if I do say so myself. Why don’t we work harder on cures for illnesses which cause a great number of deaths instead of these minor, stupid illnesses.”

The “minor, stupid” illness to which she refers, pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, caused 9,000 deaths out of 250,000 cases per year in the prevaccination era. Adjusted for population growth, that number would be much higher today. After the introduction of the pertussis vaccine, combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DTP), the incidence of pertussis was reduced by 99% [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pertussis Disease – Questions & Answers (Whooping Cough).” June 2, 2010.].

Indeed, why vaccinate against something that 99.9% of the population does not have? Because in places around the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, India, and parts of the former Soviet Union, pertussis is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths. Because in Australia, a country whose vaccine rates were significantly impacted by the fraudulent Andrew Wakefield paper that purported a link between autism and vaccines, reported cases of pertussis increased from 14,435 in 2008 to 29,545 in 2009 [World Health Organization. WHO vaccine-preventable diseases: monitoring system 2010 global summary.]. Because if you stop vaccinating against these “minor, stupid illnesses,” herd immunity is eroded. Herd immunity is what prevents disease outbreaks from significantly affecting the population without immunity. In a population with no immunity to a disease (i.e. a non-vaccinated population), the average number of secondary pertussis cases caused by ONE incident of pertussis, would be 12-17 cases [History and Epidemiology of Global Smallpox Eradication. From the training course titled “Smallpox: Disease, Prevention, and Intervention.” The CDC and the World Health Organization. Slide 16-17.] If you (you, because you can do math, not Rachel334, because clearly, she’s not informed enough to do so) do the math from there you can see that the outbreak would multiply exponentially.

And so what if “only” 21,000 people came down with whooping cough last year? It’s a “minor, stupid” illness anyway, right? I guess so, if you think two to eight weeks of bursts of rapid coughing, during which an individual can become cyanotic, or turn blue, from a lack of oxygen, and after which vomiting and exhaustion from the outburst frequently occur. These coughing fits only happen 15-24 times per day when you have this “minor, stupid” illness. Listen here to what whooping cough sounds like and judge for yourself if you’d like to see your child go through this “minor, stupid” illness.

How about the people with “minor, stupid” brains stop trying to undo what years of scientific research and discovery has accomplished?

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011


5 thoughts on “No Big Whoop

  1. I appreciate your ability to take time to put facts around these simplistic claims. I’m usually too frustrated with the “Rachel334″s of the world to be able to do so.

  2. Two of my 3 kids actually had Pertussis a few summers ago. (And they had been vaccinated). It was awful! They’d be constantly coughing and vomiting and couldn’t sleep at night. We kept buckets by their bedsides to vomit into. They call it the “100 Day Cough” – and it definitely was…

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