US Centers for Disease Control Caught Misleading About Disease [Yet Again - Yawn]?

An astute reader has noticed the following seemingly grossly false claims by the US Centers for Disease Control ['CDC'] – which looks a little like vastly exaggerating the threat measles as a disease poses?

According to the US CDC there are 100 times or 20 million more cases of measles than the WHO reports for the entire world.  And according to the US CDC there are 100 times more deaths from measles [or 162,000 more deaths] than would be expected if relying on figures for a developed country cited by other governments [like the UK Department of Health].

Is this credible? For examples of how governments fake disease statistics to be orders of magnitude higher than the real numbers see Numberwang! Governments Fake Flu and Measles Death Estimates

So how reliable are these figures?

US CDC Figures:

Worldwide, there are estimated to be 20 million cases and 164,000 deaths each year.”

Overview of Measles Disease

Or put another way, the US CDC are alleging the case fatality rate worldwide for measles is 1 person dies in every 122 unvaccinated individuals who catch the disease.

Compare World Health Organisation [WHO] Figures:

Total 2012 worldwide reported measles cases = 226,722.

SOURCE: WHO published Measles reported cases Last update: 20-Oct-2013 (data as of 16-Oct-2013).

Compare Measles Case Fatality Rates England 1960:

The UK Department of Health gave out these figures:

“Death after measles – 1 in 25000″ [sic] “to 1 in 5000 depending on age
Miller CL. Deaths from measles in England and Wales, 1970-83. British Medical Journal. 1985; 290:443-4.”

[And the Miller paper the UK's DoH cites is based on 1960s figures - and case fatality rates have fallen dramatically since the 1960s]

Compare Case Fatality Rates England 1993-2008:

Data from the Health Protection Agency shows there have been 76,000 reported cases of measles in the UK since 1992 and no deaths in adults or healthy children from acute measles. There was one death in a 14 year old on immunosuppressant drugs for a lung condition and one in an immunocompromised child [according to the HPA] since 1992.  That gives a chance of nil deaths per annum in healthy children since 1992 over the entire population of England and Wales – which is roughly 55 million – give or take – such as for annual fluctuations etc.  Alternatively the measles case fatality rate is nil for healthy children or 1 in 38,000 when the seriously immunocompromised are included.

Prior to 2006, the last death from acute measles was in 1992.”

…….

“In 2006 there was one measles death in a 13 years old male who had an underlying lung condition and was taking immunosuppressive drugs. Another death in 2008 was also due to acute measles in unvaccinated child with congenital immunodeficiency whose condition did not require treatment with immunoglobulin.  “

http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733835814

According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2008 death is now doubted to have been a measles death.

So the point for anxious parents in the UK being brow-beaten to vaccinate their children is – the chance of their child developing an autistic condition is 1 in 60 and the chance of their child dying from measles if they catch measles if not vaccinated is nil for healthy children [or 1 in 38,000 if the relatively very few very very sick individuals are included].

But of course that is the measles case fatality rate – the rate in individuals who contract the infection.  A large proportion may not catch measles either because they are immune or because they just did not become infected.

The risk of mortality to all children who have not previously contracted measles is what parents need to know – that is the risk to every child and not just those who catch measles – and in developed nations that is far lower.  Only a proportion of the population contract the disease.  [So watch out for measles case fatality rates as they give a distorted idea of the true risk.]

People are extremely bad at assessing risk and overcompensate for negative outcomes.  And in the UK around 600,000 individuals die every year.  British children and adults are at risk from road and other accidents, all sorts of other illnesses, old age and many other causes.  With no deaths in healthy individuals from acute measles and three deaths in very sick individuals since 1992 in England or Wales, the risk of anyone in a year dying from measles has fallen to well below 1 in 55 million overall population figure.

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2 Responses

  1. The comment submitted here was an absolutely hilarious example of one of Dr Ben Goldacre’s numerically challenged BadScience Forum troll-spammers setting out to troll, spam and deliberately mislead.

    The BadScience Forum block discussion. Some of its members for sport in their spare time disrupt other fora on the internet and attack, bully, abuse and harass ordinary people and parents of very sick children wanting to share information. These kinds of groups are organised for just such a purpose on the internet “The time for talking has passed. I draw the line at kidnapping, incidentally.” on sites owned and operated by opinion formers in the mainstream medical professions.]

    The intellectual dishonesty of some of these BadScience Forum people is breath-taking. The main point of this CHS post was that official disease “estimates” cannot be trusted – which is perfectly clear – they can’t.

    Incredible really. The troll-spammer’s big point was “so all the claims of CHS are wrong” when clearly not so.

    But then the same numerically challenged individual previously posted on CHS claiming HERE an outright whopping untruth that “mother to baby transmission” of Hepatitis B is rare in the Western world entirely because of vaccination. Around 600,000 infants born in the UK annually are not at risk because their mothers are not infected and none of them have been vaccinated – neither mothers nor babies. The fact the mothers are not infected has nothing to do with vaccination. Hep B vaccination is not routine in the UK.

    In this case, having demonstrated official estimates cannot be relied on this BadScience troll-spammer claims [and falsely so - as to be expected] that the entire CHS post is based on an error by the UK Department of Health.

    Is this man an idiot? His example based on further errors by the UK Department of Health demonstrate if they cannot get their figures right their estimates clearly cannot be trusted – supporting the overall point in the CHS article – [and not the first time a BadScience troll-spammer has pulled a stunt like that].

    Then this individual ignores completely the official figures he and his buddies are so keen on misquoting from the UK’s Health Protection Agency demonstrating a far more recent estimate of the case fatality rate from acute measles is no more than 1 in 38,000 and nil in the healthy.

    And he ends up with the bizarre claim that:
    “This is something CHS could have easily checked before failing so spectacularly.”

    Trolling includes butting one’s nose into other fora and disrupting them. One too many of the BadScience Forum trolls work in packs tag-teaming to spam other peoples’ blogs with trolling comments.

    That can be seen from this initial attempt to do the same. This BadScience Forum troll-spammer still comes here to claim, notwithstanding the UK measles case fatality rate is currently around 1 in 38,000 [at worst and according to figures he knows all about], that CHS is getting it spectacularly wrong when CHS is illustrating that official figures cannot be trusted.

    And this is in the context of UK NHS, Department of Health and their officials giving out measles case fatality figures recently of 1 in 1000 and at other times of 1 in 2,000 or 1 in 5000. [Officials were claiming to the media earlier this year 1 in 1000 would die from measles.]

    LOL. Hey LOLLY LOL. Looks like the Bozometer has been blown way off scale yet again by the “BadScience” Forum – [clearly aptly named by Dr Ben Goldacre].

    But then that is not unusual. The same BadScience Forum troll-spammer was found engaging in bizarre behaviour on another blog written by one of his BadScience Forum buddies.

    The main point of the entire blog was the claim an online news site should not have reported a particular news story.

    The story was that a leading pediatrician from a leading national children’s hospital was complaining that 50% of children contracting measles from a wide area of Pakistan were from the vaccinated population.

    Apparently for a news site to report that particular item of news was, according to the BadScience troll-spammers, “cherry-picking”. According to them that was because the reporter did not carry out an extensive review of all medical journal papers published on the topic.

    [LOL!]

    Or to put it another way, that is like accusing all newspapers of cherry-picking with pretty much every story they write every day of the week.

    It is no basis for claiming a news report of a particular news event is cherry-picking and particularly not when the news event is a pediatrician complaining that 50% of measles cases from a wide area of Pakistan had been vaccinated.

    These BadScience Forum buddies used unsourced unsubstantiated information cobbling together disparate pieces of information from different places and invented new figures not in any news report [as we pointed out HERE and HERE].

    Even when caught red-handed both trolls refused to retract or apologize.

    Oops – Bozometer vaporized – self-destructed.

    [NB. This comment has been edited in accordance with common advice to blog and website operators - "Don't feed the trolls".]

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