Fake News serves conspiracy theorists well

A recent article posted by Orac examined the fallacious story of FBI raids on the USA Centre for Disease Control.

What’s concerning here is that such stories aren’t just bogus claims or cherry picking from evidence or misrepresenting of reports and announcements from authoritative sources. Nope, these stories are utter nonsense with no basis at all in verifiable events.

They aim to advance malignant and anti-social agendas. In the case of the above lie that the FBI raided CDC offices, it’s clear purpose was to exploit the drooling anticipation of the anti-vaccination lobby. Mainly that with “vaccine/autism/tweeting” Trump having been inaugurated the evil masters behind mass poisoning-by-vaccine would get theirs.

A second very useful purpose is that very few people check the source of the material. Within 24 hours the fake news story may have been read by tens to hundreds of thousands. Even if the piece is refuted with evidence and thoroughly debunked, it is unlikely readers drawn to the key message will invest the time and intellectual discipline to ascertain a. the facts and b. how readers were deceived.

There’s an interesting article here examining Trump’s grab bag of lies. If you can possibly (again) bear Michael Shermer’s “rustle in the grass” reason as to why he reckons our species is prone to believe, it’s lurking there to scrape your eyes across. I find this too simplistic. It side steps the notion of risk and reward – a trait of strong human beings throughout history.

Perhaps it’s more of a factor of individual cognition. I mean if we evolved to distrust the “rustle in the grass” why did only one nutter “investigate” the bogus story of a Clinton run child sex ring. By firing his gun. Into a pizza shop? No. We haven’t evolved to believe. We evolved to think. Believers tend to be fodder. Thinkers not so.

Do read Orac’s piece. It focuses on the FBI/CDC issue nicely. Not only was this fake news story published but was followed up with further fake news boasting articles with headlines proclaiming “Confirmed”.

Fake news isn’t new to those dealing with anti-vaccination lies. The anti-vaccine lobby has been publishing deceitful articles and “announcements” for years.

It seems in the present climate it is likely we will see more fake news from a range of anti-science, far right wing, bigoted groups that are finding a damaging voice to Western democracy.

Del Bigtree misleads his audience over safety of influenza vaccinations

An excellent video published by More Truth © provides a firm evidence based rebuttal to the blatant lies being peddled by Del Bigtree in his promotion of fraudulent anti-vaccine film Vaxxed.

A quick summary of main points raised in this production follows beneath the video.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 1 “The Flu Shot”

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  • The first lie from Del Bigtree is that “mercury” is still in influenza vaccines. “So let’s not kid ourselves”.

Actually the silvery metallic liquid that appears alongside huge needles in images antivaccinationists use to mislead, is elemental mercury. This has never been used in vaccines. The preservative thimerosal is used in multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine only. It is vital multi-dose containers are protected from bacterial infection and thimerosal ensures this.

Once in the body this compound breaks down into 49% ethylmercury which is expelled within approximately one week. A large number of studies confirm its safety for use in childhood vaccines. The mercury in seafood that we consume – methylmercury – is bio-accumulative and a recognised neurotoxin. This is why guidelines exist to ensure safe levels of methylmercury are consumed via seafood.

Of course the anti-vaccine lobby lie just as Bigtree does. Some even counter, bizarrely, that they do not inject fish. Or that ethylmercury is still a form of mercury and crosses the blood brain barrier. Firstly it does not enter the brain. Secondly if one is going to argue ethylmercury is “still mercury” they should apply that flawed logic to table salt; sodium chloride. In that light table salt is “still a form of chlorine”, which is inaccurate.

Thimerosal isn’t used in single shot vials. Finally, to be sure, one can simply ask for an influenza vaccine without thimerosal. There’s more information available here, and also here. So let’s no kid ourselves.

  • Next Del misleads his audience by claiming the influenza vaccine is being given to pregnant women, “and if you read the vaccine insert it’s never been tested on pregnant women”.

There are numerous studies confirming the safety of the influenza vaccine for both mother and fetus. As is clear in the above video this is true for “VAERS reports of pregnant women after the administration of TIV or LAIV”. TIV: Trivalent influenza vaccine. LAIV: Live attenuated influenza vaccine. Also there are significant problems in assuming the content of package inserts is equal to the conclusions of clinical research. Only the latter can be considered evidence.

  • Del continues with, “We now know women are probably miscarrying because of these vaccines, so that’s really horrific”.

Quoting from the video, “There are no studies that show the influenza vaccine can cause miscarriages or stillbirths. An independent study has actually shown that the flu shot can decrease the risk of a miscarriage or stillbirth”. A screenshot [3min 20] from the New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 24 2013 follows showing an abstract summary of Risk of Fetal Death After Pandemic Influenza Virus Infection of Vaccination. Conclusion as follows:

vaxxed_lies

There are a number of benefits for newborns associated with administering influenza vaccines to pregnant women. Between 2004-2012, 43% of children who died from influenza were healthy with no underlying conditions.

I recommend watching the video which includes evidence of a large number of studies that firmly refute the claims made by Bigtree.

Dravet syndrome is not a vaccine induced genetic mutation

Recently I was sent some appallingly misleading nonsense on Twitter regarding Dravet (pron. druh-vay) syndrome and vaccination. Or more specifically that Dravet (a rare intractable form of epilepsy) is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”.

The phrase appeared on a screen grabbed page (below) full of harmful misinformation. It took advantage of the fact that in around 80% of cases Dravet is linked to a de novo genetic mutation. More specifically the uninherited SCN1A mutation leads to the development of dysfunctional ion channels in the brain.

Seizures develop within the first year of life and infants develop normally until this time. The first seizures infants experience may often be associated with fever. Later seizures can present without heat triggers or illness. Nonetheless the first seizures often occur around six months of age and are associated with vaccination. Although it begins in infancy Dravet syndrome is a lifelong condition. It is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI).

A range of health challenges accompany Dravet syndrome including a higher incidence of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy). According to The Dravet Syndrome Foundation other conditions which require proper management and treatment include:

Behavioral and developmental delays, movement and balance issues, orthopedic conditions, delayed language and speech issues, growth and nutrition issues, sleeping difficulties
chronic infections, sensory integration disorders, disruptions of the autonomic nervous system (which regulates things such as body temperature and sweating)

Whilst the screenshot below offers a copious amount of rubbish and does so with absurd confidence, we can see how important facts have been abused to push a fearful message of misinformation. Firstly the presence of a de novo (new, not inherited) genetic mutation. Secondly the association of vaccination with the first seizure.

McIntosh et al (2010) state:

Vaccination might trigger earlier onset of Dravet syndrome in children who, because of an SCN1A mutation, are destined to develop the disease.

That statement is quite unambiguous. Infants are destined to develop the disease because of the genetic mutation. Not because of vaccines. Vaccination may trigger a seizure; the early onset of Dravet syndrome. In what may be considered a firm conclusion that vaccinations do not cause Dravet syndrome, they continue:

However, vaccination should not be withheld from children with SCN1A mutations because we found no evidence that vaccinations before or after disease onset affect outcome.

We’re now in a better position to judge how misleading this insult to evidence is.

P01YN0NYM0U55_2016-May-24

Interestingly I have not been able to source it. Nonetheless it is intellectually offensive to see so much effort go in to falsely accuse the scientific and medical communities of hiding information. Apart from targeting the WebMD page on Dravet syndrome, the piece merely insists “the medical establishment” studied six children “who had previously been diagnosed with vaccine induced Dravet”. Then the children were “re-diagnosed” as not vaccine injured. Keep an eye out and one can see a “pattern of coverups like this…”.

Below is a short audio of Dr. Linda Laux, MD, of Lurie Children’s Hospital speaking on behalf of Dravet Syndrome Foundation [Which can also be accessed here]. She is quite clear in stressing that in Dravet, vaccinations can trigger seizures. “It is not the cause of the epilepsy syndrome. But it may precipitate seizures just the way an illness may precipitate seizures”.

Dr. Laux argues this was first shown by “an Australian group” (McIntosh et al) wherein the authors chased up adults who had previously been compensated for vaccine encephalopathy. They checked for Dravet and found the majority were positive for the SCN1A gene mutation. As we saw above there is good evidence to continue vaccinating. Laux reminds us that vaccine preventable diseases would trigger seizures for such a cohort.

The researchers checked the sample’s seizures as children. They defined the “vaccine proximate group”, who had their first seizure within two days of a vaccine. The second group who had their first seizure not associated with a vaccine, was labelled the “vaccine distant group”. Then the researchers studied subsequent seizures, severity of seizures and development of both groups.

They found no difference in the prognosis of these variables. This suggests that in this study Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by vaccination did not lead to a more deleterious prognosis than Dravet syndrome seizures initially triggered by another means.

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Another study (Pediatrics, 2011) by Reyes et al entitled Alleged Cases of Vaccine Encephalopathy Rediagnosed Years Later As Dravet Syndrome, includes in the abstract:

It was reported recently that a proportion of patients previously diagnosed with alleged vaccine encephalopathy might possess SCN1A mutations and clinical histories that enabled a diagnosis of Dravet syndrome, but these results have not been replicated. We present here the cases of 5 children who presented for epilepsy care with presumed parental diagnoses of alleged vaccine encephalopathy caused by pertussis vaccinations in infancy. Their conditions were all rediagnosed years later, with the support of genetic testing, as Dravet syndrome.

Verbeek et al studied data of 23 children with epilepsy onset after vaccination. In October 2014 they published in Pediatrics Etiologies For Seizures Around The Time Of Vaccination. They write in their abstract conclusion:

Our results suggest that in most cases, genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination, including both cases with preexistent encephalopathy or benign epilepsy with good outcome. These results have significant added value in counseling of parents of children with vaccination-related first seizures, and they might help to support public faith in vaccination programs.

The constant theme that emerges as one pursues research on vaccination and Dravet syndrome is that the SCN1A mutation underlies Dravet, and as demonstrated by Verbeek et al, “genetic or structural defects are the underlying cause of epilepsy with onset after vaccination”. The valuable work of McIntosh et al, reinforces the importance of maintaining vaccination regimes for these at-risk populations.

As for nonsense claiming Dravet syndrome is a “vaccine induced genetic mutation”, supporters of vaccine programmes should be aware that perpetrators of these lies can distort facts to cause fear and confusion in the unaware. Evidence to confirm vaccination does cause Dravet syndrome has not been forthcoming.

Fortunately the medical establishment has never tried to hide the truth. Vaccines can trigger seizures in infants with the SCN1A mutation at a rate of 1:16,000 – 1:21,000. The reality is that if not a vaccine causing a fever, then another trigger will certainly bring Dravet syndrome to the fore. Evidence suggests there is no difference in prognosis between the vaccine proximate and vaccine distant.

Dravet syndrome remains a very rare condition and there is still no vaccine conspiracy.

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Anti-vaccine Zika virus conspiracy fails to surprise

It was an event so impossible to predict it is absent from the highly respected Before It’s NewsWhat Did Nostradamus Predict For 2016? Or the Top 10 Nostradamus Predictions for 2016. Yet anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists reckon neonatal microcephaly associated with maternal infection with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, is actually due to… a vaccine.

It’s not spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito they warn. This truth of course, is being suppressed by a conspiracy.

A few days ago I wondered what potions, cures or other nonsense homeopaths might be selling to save the world from Zika. As it turned out I happened upon an article entitled Zika Virus. Are we being told the truth? The hosting blog, Homeopathy Safe Medicine is concocted by Steve Scrutton. Steve is also upset that the BBC aren’t playing ball with the CDC whistleblower fallacy that there is indeed a link between MMR and autism (also suppressed by a conspiracy)  – “particularly with black children”, and is happy enough to publish a final email exchange.

A little more searching would save Steve ample time on this point. For example Orac at Respecful Insolence, Rene’ Najera at Science Based Medicine and an even earlier article at SBM yield facts.

Or of course one may visit Snopes.

CDC_whistleblower_snopesSo Steve’s a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, to get back on track, you may have already guessed Steve’s answer to that title question above on Zika virus. From there we’re introduced to a fine upstanding crock of a site named The Unhived Mind III.

Here Steve alerts us to the delicate title Brazilians not buying Zika excuse for babies with shrunken brains. Charming, no? The author of this article, Jim Stone, applies the Judy Wilyman theme of logic. Namely that morbidity and mortality are not high enough for all this fuss. Jim quotes the BBC:

Zika is generally mild and only causes symptoms in one in five people. It is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya.

And adds himself:

My comment: Ok so a do nothing virus is going around that only makes one in five people get mildly sick, with no symptoms in 4 out of 5 people.

Had he continued quoting the BBC we’d have read more on this “do nothing virus”:

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika.

President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Recife in the worst-affected north-east of the country, said Brazilians needed to engage in the fight against the virus. […]

Forty-nine babies with suspected microcephaly have died, Brazil’s health ministry says. In five of these cases an infection with Zika virus was found.

Jim Stone has his own tortuous conspiracy ramble site including an utterly ridiculous piece on the Zika virus. Jim advises his poor readers:

The claim is that a mosquito naturally carried this disease across almost all of South and Central America in only six months. This defies all logic because mosquitoes have a life cycle that is too long for immediate propagation and won’t fly more than a mile from where they hatch, which would limit the movement of a totally new disease to a mile or so a month, not 30 miles a day.

Jim gets pretty worked up about reports on the Wikipedia Zika virus page suggesting the carrier can “just rip across continents to all corners in months, faster than a bush tribesman could travel. It really is that way, Wikipedia said so!”. Well, no not really. What Wikipedia did note but Jim didn’t is:

The global distribution of the most cited carrier of Zika virus, A. aegypti, is expanding due to global trade and travel. A. aegypti distribution is now the most extensive ever recorded – across all continents including North America and even the European periphery. […]

Jim has also conveniently ignored the impact of human travel. Like many who seem happy to blame the Tdap vaccine, Jim is worried that the association between microcephaly and Zika virus has not been made before. It was initially identified in rhesus monkeys in 1947 then in humans in 1952, in Uganda.

Conspiracy theorists fail to grasp that the first documented outbreak of Zika virus in a human population was in 2007 and 2013 in the Pacific (Yap and French Polynesia, respectively), and later in the Americas in 2015 (Brazil and Colombia) and Africa (Cape Verde) [WHO Zika Fact Sheet]. ( Edit: The possibility of sexual transmission {2} is being investigated ). It is believed to have arrived in Brazil in 2014, and spread slowly. The outbreak in Columbia was reported by the WHO on October 21, 2015.

These relatively recent initial outbreaks are exactly why little is known about complications associated with the disease. Experts, including the WHO are not yet certain a causal link has been established between microcephaly and Zika virus. However health officials are operating under the assumption there is one.

Should this be the case it appears that infants born to mothers who had the virus during the first trimester are at an increased risk of microcephaly. The failure of the Tdap conspiracy theorists is partially evident in their inability to produce any data beyond a crude correlation. The Tdap vaccine is being offered in the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks). In the US and UK when there is a suspicion of foetal microcephaly where pregnant women have returned from Latin America, ultrasound screening will be offered from 20 weeks every 2 to 4 weeks.

Thus foetal microcephaly due to maternal infection with Zika could be evident 2 – 3 months before the vaccine is even offered. Essentially the conspiracy coincidence is vanishingly small and demonstrably false.

It would thus seem there is an opportunity to identify the time of malformation or the absence of genetic material of the Zika virus in placental tissue, to advance the case of the conspiracy theorists. Their case could do with real hard evidence as opposed to yet another vaccine timing coincidence.

The Internet is of course teeming with rubbish sites pushing the lie of vaccine induced birth defects. The Zika virus gives them something to exhaust the correlation gambit on. A nice twist that appears on No Vaccines Australia evokes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by a British biotech’ company they fund, named Oxitec has come under scrutiny. However a critical 2010 Science article suggests the Foundation had not funded a 2009 project that saw release of the mosquito on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. In a very recent article on the Zika virus the authors give the same GM project the thumbs up.

They write under There must be a better way to control mosquitoes?

Not yet but they’re in the works. A British biotech called Oxitec—which was recently purchased by Intrexon, a U.S. synthetic biology company—has developed A. aegypti mosquitoes containing a gene construct that will kill their offspring before they reach adulthood. When massive numbers of male individuals of this strain are released in the wild, they will mate with local females, producing offspring that are not viable, which has been shown to make a dent in the population.

For now I can offer the below press releases.

To wind up we can turn back to Steve the homeopath to realise that like Nostradamus he’s had a bash at predicting the future.

He writes:

If there is any truth in this, conventional medicine will have to act quickly and effectively.

  • They will have to denounce this as a ‘conspiracy’ theory.
  • They will have to convince us that it is mosquitoes, and not Big Pharma, who have caused this microcephaly.
  • They will have to move quickly to defend mandatory vaccination, especially the vaccination of pregnant women.
  • They will have to convince us that the TDAP vaccine is different to the DPT vaccine that they have been giving our children for decades.

And perhaps most difficult of all, the pharmaceutical industry, and conventional medical doctors, will have to convince us that this time they are telling the truth about this matter!

In fact if there were a conspiracy under way the amount of work needed to pull it off would simply dwarf Steve’s list. More so all evidence suggests it is impossible to convince such minds of the truth – regardless of evidence.

Regrettably this is just another opportunistic and disturbing effort by predictable conspiracy theorists.

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