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.  “

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.