One of my photos


May 2nd, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 1 Comment · Life

I came across an interesting footnote to a post on Andrew Collins’ blog.  He rails about the ignorance and mixture of over-reaction and under-reaction about the current flu outbreak, but by extension other similar events.I think he missed one target though.  Here is the footnote:

Known side effects of Tamiflu, taken from the Roche website: “Rare but serious skin reactions and allergic reactions … children and adolescents may be at an increased risk of self injury and confusion shortly after taking Tamiflu and should be closely monitored for signs of unusal behavior. The most common side effects … are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting.” Known side effects of Relenza, from the GlaxoSmithKline website: “Some patients have had bronchospasm (wheezing) or serious breathing problems … Relenza has not been shown to shorten the duration of influenza in people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … the most common side effects with have been headaches; diarrhea; nausea; vomiting; nasal irritation; bronchitis; cough; sinusitis; ear, nose, and throat infections; and dizziness. Other side effects that have been reported, but were not as common, include rashes and allergic reactions, some of which were severe.”

So.  Two medical treatments, that don’t cure a condition but relieves symptoms have some side effects, some of them severe, and all acknowledged by the manufacturer.  The only criticism of these drugs in the medie is that the country doesn’t have enough of them.

Meanwhile, another medical treatment that does actually prevent a potentially fatal illness is demonised because those same tabloids choose to believe an isolated, un-repeated and unconfirmed test that says it might be linked with something else – the MMR vaccine.

When it comes to aything vaguely scientific the newspapers’ reaction – specifically papers like the Daily Mail – appears to be dictated more by blind prejudice than any scientific rigour.  In fact  it is like the course of an oil tanker: very hard to shift.  I reckon there is a snap decision of what attitude to take and once that is taken the paper has to hold its course despite any future evidence because it is unable or unwilling to be seen to change its mind.

I actually wonder if, in the long term, there will be more casualties from the campaign against MMR vaccines than from swine flu.


One Comment so far ↓

  • skud's sister

    The fatality rate for the Spanish Flu pandemic was 2.5% – the rate for measles is only 3 fatalities per 1000 cases. However, there have so far been only a dozen or so confirmed cases of swine flu in the uk; in 2007 the UK had 871 cases of measles and this figure rose to over 1200 in 2008. Any good risk assessment would, at the moment, suggest that the MMR vaccine was a good idea. And of course, this doesn’t take into account the possible risk of complications like pneumonia and corneal scarring and the higher risks of death among the poor, the malnourished and the immunocompromised. Flu, oddly, tends to kill healthy young adult victims – measles kills the very young, the poor and disadvantaged.