Just a quick update

Ah, the life of an epidemiologist. If I’m not responding to one thing, I’m responding to another. We always compare ourselves to firefighters because we sometimes sit around for hours or days and then spring into action when something goes down. Some of us are lucky enough to be thrown on a plane and flown to the other side of the world only to be thrown on another plane and flown to another part of the world. That cycle repeats over and over again, and it’s been repeating a lot lately for all the contributors to this blog.

So I just wanted to let you know that we’re still keeping an eye on all the non-believers and the mess that they have made. (By “non-believers,” I mean the anti-science zealots.) It’s just that time has been hard to come by lately, especially on long flights from one continent to another, and then catching up with personal lives once we get back home and before we’re sent elsewhere again.

I hope you understand.

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A crash course on Ebola you should be reading right now

This is the ninth blog post that has nothing to do with vaccines. I’m glad because I’m getting a rash from not writing about them.

With all the craziness going on about Ebola, a friend decided to give us his epidemiological perspective on Ebola. Here is the first lesson, and here is the second one. You should go read them.

Seriously, go. I won’t feel bad if you do.

The dog days of summer

I must admit to you that I’m not in much of a blogging mood when it’s this hot out. My walk to the office and then back to my flat are exhausting in this heat. The mid-Atlantic humidity really does a number on me. When I get home and all my clothes are soaked and clinging to me, the last thing I want to do is blog. (Yeah, that was not a pretty picture.)

I’ve been especially grumpy lately because some pro-vaccine advocates have taken it upon themselves to tell me what to write, how, and when. They think that I’m a writing machine. I’m not the blogger with hypergraphia. I’m the blogger that is slowly working his way to the 200th post, and is thinking very hard about what to write once that milestone is met.

I guess I could tell you all about the lies and misinformation being spewed by the anti-vaccine advocates, but what else do you expect from anti-vaccine advocates? Or I could tell you that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield continues to claim that he didn’t say what he said, or that his study said something completely different to what it really said. But what else do you expect from Andrew Jeremy Wakefield?

I could explain to you why a petulant anti-vaccine loon thinks that having/knowing/friending/peeing next to someone who does business with someone who is related/knows/works or pees with someone in the pharmaceutical industry makes you “morally bankrupt.” But what do you expect from that child? That’s all he knows how to do, a real stain in the educational institution that is GWU.

Maybe I could tell you why homeopathy would violate all rules of physics if it worked like homeopaths and others say it does. Or that “alternative and complimentary medicine” is not really “medicine.” Rather, these things are no better than “wishful thinking.” While there is such a thing as the placebo effect, there is no room in reality to say that these things are cures for anything.

What I’m trying to say is that I can only write and write and write some more about the things that anti-science, ignorant people say or do online and in real life. There are only so many topics that can be covered. There are only so many people I can laugh at (while simultaneously shaking my head). I keep thinking about this as the 200th post is coming up.

Remember, this blog was not supposed to be all about refuting stupidity. It was supposed to be a companion blog to “The Poxes.” It just got out of hand because there really is that much stupid to refute. There really are that many ignorant and evil people in this world. So we’ll see where I go once I hit 200.

Another day, another anti-vaccine blog

Hey, everyone, quick update! The Kid has his own blog now, titled “Autism Investigated.” I guess he’s finally been completely cut-off from the online newspaper of the inexistent autism epidemic. A word of caution: He doesn’t mention anything about your privacy with regards to the information you have to enter to comment or your IP/location that is gathered by WordPress when you comment. And why would he? He’s been publicizing his former masters’ personal emails for a few weeks now. So please be careful commenting on his blog, especially if you’re trying to maintain a pseudonymous persona on the net. WordPress can give an IP address when you comment that may track you down to your home.

So much for getting that master’s degree in epidemiology, huh, Kid?

I was wondering how long it would take

My friend Ren told me about a mother who started blogging about autism up in the town where he lives. I told him that it wouldn’t take long for her to go the anti-vaccine route, given how angry she seemed in all of her “rants” and “raves” about autism. I even confronted her on it in one of her first blog posts:

“Mrs. [redacted], I really, truly hope that you’re not going to turn this blog into yet another anti-vaccine “rant” blog like AgeofAutism.com, “Adventures In Autism”, and many others. If there is one thing that is very much settled, it is that vaccines do not cause autism. The Wakefield “study” was not a study, it was a case series, it was flawed, it was fraudulent, and it didn’t make any scientific sense. Time after time, case control studies looking at neurotypical children versus autistic children have failed to find any difference in the odds of being vaccinated between those two groups.

As for the increase in prevalence (and not incidence), it has been explained as consisting of increased awareness, diagnoses, diagnostic tools, and systematic reviews of the data. An increase in prevalence does not indicate an increase in incidence. For example, the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS is declining, but the number of existing people with HIV/AIDS is increasing. The former was incidence, and the latter was prevalence.”

That explanation of mine seems to have fallen on deaf ears. She recently wrote this (with my emphasis in bold): Continue reading

One hundred posts later

When I first started this blog on that lonely September night after watching the movie “Contagion”, I never thought that I would carry it forward to 100 posts, or even to 50. My point wasn’t to blog about things that were unscientific or antivaccine. My intent was to keep up with “The Poxes” and blog about how I was writing it, how I was being inspired to write it, and what the diseases were that I covered in that story. However, slowly, I began to get pulled into expressing myself about the varying degrees of ignorance that are permeating our society. And I thought I’d have a colleague to read from and gain inspiration. But…

I was saddened to see “The Epi Times” washed away in a controversy manufactured by an anti-vaccine activist. From that, I was convinced that my writing had to be pseudonymous in order to avoid the wrath of the cranks. I also made a deal to not name any names in my posts, which is a hard thing to do at times. But that was “Epi Ren’s” mistake. He personally took on a crank, and the crank reacted viciously. Ren also put out his real name for everyone to see. His intentions were noble, to show that he wasn’t afraid, but it kind of backfired on him. So there went that template on how to take on the crazies. However, the more I wrote and researched my posts, the more I kept coming up with very interesting blogs by other people with similar interests.

From my research into what happened with “The Epi Times”, I discovered Liz Ditz, a wonderful person and huge advocate for children with disabilities. Her writings are well thought out and thorough. From her, I learned about Orac and his “Respectful Insolence”. Orac is a physician who blogs about anti-science things that catch his attention, and he does so wonderfully. And how can I forget to mention Todd W. at “Harpocrates Speaks”? His writing is clear, concise, and he addresses things with a very logical, reasonable mindset. “Sullivan” at “Left Brain/Right Brain” takes on the issues facing people of all ages who are on the autism spectrum and lays them out for his audience in a way we all can understand.

There are also some epidemiologists, like me, that blog about things that interest them, things that end up being also anti-science and anti-vaccine nonsense. There’s “Skewed Distribution”, “Mr. Epidemiology”, and “EpiWonk”, though the latter’s blog seems to be inactive nowadays. In short, if you look at my list of links on the right of this blog, you’ll see the kind of blogs I like to read. And read them I do.

Without a doubt, there may be those of you out there who wonder who I am and what kind of a person I am. My Facebook profile and twitter account probably doesn’t give you many clues. I like it that way. I like the privacy of writing pseudonymously and free to not be restrained by the possibility of some nut job taking out their frustrations on me. Some of you may want to verify my credentials to make sure that I am an epidemiologist, that I know what I’m writing about. That’s okay. It’s only human to be curious.

But I can’t put all the cards on the table just like that. Some venomous anti-vaccine or anti-science loon may come out biting.

So just know that I am not lying to you about my credentials, that I will always do my best to back up my assertions with evidence, and that I will not try to fool you. I’m not good enough at mind games (or game theory) to fool anybody.

Finally, I want to thank you. Yes, you, right there reading this. I want to thank you for reading. Whether you agree with me or not, it is because I know you’re reading (via Google analytics) that I keep writing. I once had a crisis of faith when I looked at the prospect of countering so much bullsh*t, but now I’m encouraged more than ever. Truth needs to be defended from those who’d like to bury it in fear. So thanks for reading. I really do appreciate it.

Now, on to post #101…