Thursday, July 17, 2008

What About Typhoid and Scarlet Fever?

I wanted to know where the huge instances of disease are in light of the low vaccination rate in the adult population as cited by the CDC in a recent article. Neo-agrarain brought up some good points in response to my Where's the Diphtheria Outbreak? post. He said,

Diphtheria is again more a disease of conditions. Diphtheria is rare in the United States and Europe,where the sanitation systems are very developed. Also health officials have been immunizing children against it for decades. However, it's still common in developing countries where immunizations aren't given routinely. There are many cases of it in nations at war such as Afghanistan and Iraq. There it would be a benefit to immunize the population until the sanitation system gets up to par. As for vaccinating we still need to? One could argue the point that no we don't need to, but it is kind of like taking a vitamin it may do you some good or it may do nothing to you, but it shouldn't harm you if done properly

That got me thinking some more. I'm not sure that all the vaccines we're giving our kids and are being pressured to take more of ourselves are necessarily harmless, "like taking a vitamin." I want to show you a couple of things.

This graph shows the decline in five infectious diseases from 1900 up until 1965, also indicating the years when various vaccines were introduced into public use. (The data comes from The Vital Statistics of the United States)
It shows measles, scarlet fever, typhoid, whooping cough and diphtheria all decreasing in severity. This is a graph of the death rate from these diseases, not incidence. That's what matters for sickness though, right? Am I going to be OK and get through this illness, or am I going to die? Do you see anything interesting about these five diseases? I notice that typhoid was second in deaths after diphtheria in the early 1900s. Clearly a scourge. Then, lower down on the graph is a closer cluster of scarlet fever, whooping cough and measles. You can see that the death rate for all of these diseases declined well before introduction of vaccines.

What about typhoid and scarlet fever? There are no vaccines for those two diseases, and yet the death rate for them declined just as it did for whooping cough and measles and diphtheria. Especially after WWII--look at where the numbers are then for all of these diseases, before vaccine introduction for both whooping cough and measles.

Clearly there are all sorts of things involved in disease carriage and transmission. Sanitation and improved nutrition and access to clean water all increased as the rate of death from these diseases decreased. I don't think this is coincidental. I think there's a causal relationship. I think it's why you see increased death rates worldwide where people don't have access to clean water and good food.

While communicable diseases in general and childhood diseases were decreasing other conditions were increasing. This graph shows the increase in cancer mortality during the 1900s. It shows a greater than 3 fold increase in cancer death rates during this period.
There have also been huge increases in the incidence of asthma, allergies, and autism. All of this occurring at the same time. I don't think vaccines helped with the diseases, I think improved sanitation and improved nutrition and clean water did. However, there has been a shift away from real, whole foods to convenience foods laden with artificial ingredients and chemicals. Is this healthy? Vaccination rates are ever increasing for more and more conditions (whether or not they're life threatening). There are vaccines for ear infections and diarrhea? Yet, typhoid and scarlet fever aren't even thought about in this country. Yet. They may develop a vaccine for those too, and then we'll start seeing literature about how awful those diseases are.*

This is the recommended vaccination schedule from 1983 compared to 2007.

Has there been a concurrent improvement in overall health in children during this time? Or are we seeing more asthma, allergies, autism, diabetes, heart disease (even in children), and cancer?

I think vaccines can have a negative impact on health, and I fully support a parent's right to determine the best ways to ensure health for their children. Parents are responsible for the health of their own children. Disease eradication is much more complicated than a magic pill or magic injection. Ultimately, many people are thinking we may be trading some temporary illnesses that you can get through for long term health problems.

* NOTE: I stand corrected. I just read an article about Scarlet Fever--it says several vaccines are being developed. Are you worried about scarlet fever right now? Does is occur to you to be concerned about it? Will you get a vaccine for this for you or your kids? Also, there is a typhoid vaccine that people are recommended to take when traveling to areas of the world with typhoid...but, typhoid diminished here in this country well before the onset of a vaccine, and no one takes it here. Yet.


Susie said...

Delurking here, just found your blog a few days ago. Interesting read, I'm not sure where I stand on this whole issue, but I always like to read up on it.
I have a very small (5 total kids) lisensed in home daycare and a one year old daughter. Every time any sort of serious outbreak happens anywhere in the state of Wisconsin I receive a letter from the state letting me know about it as well as encouraging my childcare parents to vaccinate or monitor their children for signs of illness. I've gotten letters each year I've been in business, the majority about whooping cough and it's actually been serious a few times with many school aged kids getting it and becoming very ill. This year there were reported cases of measles in the Milwaukee area. In the late 90's children died from an outbreak. I'm glad to be informed of this, yet I wonder what this means and at this point I feel more relieved than worried that my child has been vaccinated. Thanks for your information, Susie

Laura said...

Hi Susie,

Thanks for delurking.

I think there's room to question all of the vaccination program here in the States. Parents need to do what feels right for their family. I'm glad you feel secure in your decisions.

Thanks for visiting!


Ivy Plum said...

Oh MY WORD. That is so striking. I knew, but seeing it like that... Shiver.

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