Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I don't know all the facts about H1N1, but I'm sure everyone will act stupidly about it

In the last 3 days, I've received quite a few chain letter emails, Tweets, and Facebook postings about the dangers of the H1N1 (or "swine flu") vaccine. In many of them, I've been given links that lead to websites like FluNews.com, NaturalNews.com, etc. All of these sites lead back to someone named "The Health Ranger", Mike Adams, who purports to have no formal schooling in health sciences, but says he just does the research & reports "the truth" with headlines like "How to Halt Diabetes in 25 Days", "Green Tea Prevents Prostate Cancer", and also claims that mammograms actually CAUSE breast cancer. You would think with headlines like these that people wouldn't be sucked in, but unfortunately, some are believing these wild, speculative claims that have no basis in medical truth.

And here's how far down the rabbit hole he goes: http://www.naturalnews.com/026141.html . The only other person I've heard bandying about wild claims like this is Obama claiming pediatricians were yanking kids' tonsils out because they got more money for it than just giving them antibiotics.

Due in no small part to the current strong debate over healthcare, paranoia is rampant. When it comes to the H1N1 vaccine, or vaccines in general, everyone thinks they're scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, or virology experts. Many people have come to a common conclusion that the government, the medical system, big pharma, and insurance companies want them dead, or want them to be on medications to keep them sick to make money. (Sounds like Obama's claims, hmmmmm?)

Belief in these wild claims is manifesting in irrationality and ignorance of nearly 100 years in epidemiology and medicine. The fundamental problem is lack of trust with a side of ignorance. Vaccines have saved far more lives than have been lost.

Ultimately, every American should have a conversation with their doctor or a health care professional about their need for a flu shot. But it is a fact that the flu, in all variants, has the highest rates of fatalities in the following groups: infants, school-age children, people over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic health conditions. It is my concern that people will accept the advice of some snake oil selling, mid-level marketing, con artist who works for a shadow company that makes their living selling books, tapes, and CD's of blatant lies, rather than talking to a physician who can see you personally and give you a choice. There will be "fringers" who dismiss what I have to say, but it remains to be seen how many stoically die at home of their flu shunning health care to their grave.

Trying to explain statistics to a lottery culture is futile. Your odds of dying of the flu is much higher than hitting the lottery, but people still line up to waste their money on tickets. Vaccines save lives. Don't gamble with your life, or your children's lives. Only time will tell which side was right but you can use science, not pseudoscience, to make an informed choice.