Friday, December 23, 2016

Zika Part 5
The Case of the Missing Birth Defects

Did you notice that once the CDC got the big bucks for Zika, the virus and the “epidemic” wasn’t relentlessly covered in the press anymore? Gone are the breaking news reports from CNN, missing are the wrenching pictures of microcephalic babies from the pages of the Washington Post, no more lists of why we MUST believe that Zika causes birth defects from the NY Times. There have been stories here and there, but the intensity is gone – I wonder why? Maybe we aren’t supposed to notice that all those babies with microcephaly and other severe birth defects aren’t being born in Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US mainland????

Oh my - were you, my few, but loyal readers, hoping I would give up on this story too? Well, sorry – now that I’ve pulled my eyeballs away from election coverage, (and now that some of my chronic pain issues have settled down) I just have to keep going. Why? Because even without a lot of press coverage, with all that money in hand, the CDC and the NIH are marching forward. Just because we’re not looking, just because it appears few people in the US are getting sick, just because it’s not in the headlines, doesn’t mean the CDC-fueled Zika genie has been put back in the bottle. No. And as I write this, millions of dollars are being spent developing diagnostic tests for a disease that most people won’t even ever know they have or have had. Hundreds of CDC employees have been pulled from real health programs – 750 employees to be exact – to work on Zika. Despite the fact that NO safe and effective vaccine has ever been developed  for any of the viruses closely related to Zika, such as dengue or West Nile, millions are being spent on 23 different research efforts to develop a vaccine for Zika. In fact, on a recent 60 Minutes segment Tony Fauci of the NIH proudly showed off how they are modifying a DNA segment of the failed West Nile virus vaccine to try to make it work for Zika. (We aren’t, however, told that the West Nile vaccine was abandoned - for safety or efficacy issues, or both – who knows? No need to confuse us with the facts - just keep that money coming Congress!)

I have to admit – it would be easy to ignore this – to put the manufactured Zika crisis in the same CDC/NIH post-fear mongering “it’s over” file where West Nile, SARS, Ebola, H1N1 et al have gone to rest and just be OK with the fact that it never impacted you or your family. Clearly this is the play book that the CDC has used successfully over and over and over again. Scare the bejeezus and the dollars out of the American public and Congress by relentlessly feeding the 24/7 media machine until the desired amount of money is collected and then slip off into the night when we all stop looking and fail to notice that the promised world-wide pandemic has not occurred. But I just can’t. The enormity of the tax dollars being wasted on this health hoax makes My Inner Wonk really Angry. The continuing slaughter of our bees and other pollinators and the poisoning of our environment in the name of ineffective and unnecessary mosquito control just churns my stomach. And the on-going campaign to terrorize pregnant women to the point that some (how many we have no idea because no one is asking) are actually pursuing traumatic late term abortions and terminating wanted pregnancies based on manufactured hysteria, false data, greed and unreliable ultrasound diagnosis of birth defects*…… is beyond heartbreaking – it’s beyond words really. It is almost too much to let it all sink in….. And so no, I will not let it go.

To be fair, there have been a couple of tiny Zika peeps from the press here and there. On Wednesday, October 26th, next to a pic of Hilary Clinton, the front page of the Washington Post noted that Brazil’s Ministry of Health has noticed that not only does it appear that Brazil is the only Zika-affected country having babies born with microcephaly – those babies are only being born in certain parts of Brazil.

In fact, Brazil is so confounded by the birth clusters that they have convened a panel of infectious disease and epidemiological experts to try to determine what may be going on. Hmmmm – very specific, limited geographical clusters of a birth defect thought to be caused by a virus spread far and wide across South and Central America by mosquitoes – what would be your first line of inquiry when faced with such a conundrum? Maybe rethink the whole Zika-microcephaly equation? Nope. Investigate whether there is something else that is present in those environments or only occurring in those geographic areas which might lead to birth defects? Maybe? Well, no - that’s just crazy talk! No, instead of logically looking at geographically unique factors which might be causing geographically isolated birth defects, our intrepid public health officials and journalists have once again resorted to the data-free world of speculation.

The mothers of these microcephaly babies in Brazil, are, on average, young and live in poverty – so one expert suggests to the Washington Post that “sexual habits and hygiene may play a role” (smacking my forehead). What that even actually means, or how whatever that means might lead to severe birth defects is left unasked and unanswered. I mean really – bad hygiene is leading to severe birth defects??? And what evidence at all does anyone have that being poor in certain areas of Brazil leads to “sexual habits” that are different from other poor areas of Brazil? Or Columbia? Or Puerto Rico? But wait - the speculation continues - maybe in other geographical areas of Brazil, Central and South America, where Zika is rampant but few, if any, babies with microcephaly have been born, thousands and thousands of pregnant women have been secretly aborting brain damaged fetuses – at week 20 or later, which is the earliest microcephaly can be identified via ultrasound - in countries where abortion is both illegal and culturally taboo. The logistics, logic, probability, evidence of microcephaly ultrasound diagnosis, all required if this scenario were true, are also left unexplored.

Or, maybe, it is suggested, in this same Washington Post article full of bizarre data-free, logic-free speculation, maybe in the other parts of Brazil and Columbia where there were many cases of Zika, but not birth defects, woman managed not to get pregnant during the Zika outbreak (look at birth records perhaps??? Ummm, no) – Or, conversely, or maybe in addition, pregnant women there doused themselves in copious amounts of deet and magically didn’t get Zika, resulting in no birth defects…. So, we are to believe that women in these areas either managed not to get pregnant during those months or managed not to get Zika while pregnant……all without leaving a measurable data trail – quite the party trick. In addition, if any of this speculation turns out to be true – either missing Zika infections in pregnant women, or women not getting pregnant - the public health specialists interviewed for the article are already giving themselves the credit for adequately scaring pregnant women to take some type of action, resulting in the missing cases of microcephaly……

Finally, there is my personal favorite piece of conjecture – also lacking any scientific based information…..the Zika birth defects have yet to reveal themselves in these other populations. Unlike in those very specific parts of Brazil where microcephaly has occurred, the Zika affected babies in these other geographic areas were born with normal head circumferences and are developing normally so far, but just wait, these babies are actually ticking time bombs with severe birth defects and deficits just waiting to reveal themselves in the months or years to come – by what mechanism? No idea – but that’s what makes Zika so SCARY!

Conveniently, this particular theory requires the CDC and other public health entities in multiple countries to follow, examine and test all potentially affected children all over South, Central and North America as well as Puerto Rico and the mainland U.S. for 3 or more years – Cha-Ching! Ironically, these same public health officials and employees of the CDC currently arguing that the Zika virus can lurk in the body and cause severe neurological impairment, autoimmune diseases, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy or even autism (all are suggested in the Washington Post article and by a researcher on the 60 Minutes segment among other places) years later, are the same folks who in the next breath would assure you that the viruses routinely injected into babies via a vaccine could never, ever harm. Vaccine reactions or injuries are fairy tales, they say. In other words, the same types of viruses waiting to unleash Zika devastation in unsuspecting babies, when injected into you or your child in the name of health – sometimes as many as 9 viruses at a time (look at our current childhood vaccination schedule if you think I am exaggerating) - can never harm - over any time frame. Those viruses (not to mention the toxins) in vaccines most certainly cannot cause allergies, eczema, asthma, autoimmune disease, seizure disorders or autism! A virus spread by a mosquito, however, is apparently an entirely different thing…..please explain that logic to me. And how about a scientific explanation for the biological mechanism for any of these half-baked theories? Not to be found…..

All the missing microcephaly cases begs the question – why exactly was the CDC so sure it was Zika causing the severe birth defects to begin with? What did the data for THAT look like? Certainly the CDC had great data there? This is the part of this story that blows my Wonky mind. In their New England Journal of Medicine article “proving” Zika causes microcephaly "Zika Virus and Birth Defects — Reviewingthe Evidence for Causality", the CDC admits that while epidemiological evidence to prove causality would be nice, in the case of Zika they declare “no “smoking gun” (a single definitive piece of evidence that confirms Zika virus as a cause of congenital defects) should have been anticipated.” (Quotation marks from CDC) Why, exactly, we shouldn’t expect a direct causality link is not really explored. Instead, the CDC says we should be satisfied if the cause of these birth defects is “identified by means of the rare exposure–rare defect approach”. What do they mean by that? Traditionally, this means when a cause (Zika) is rare, and the birth defect (microcephaly) is rare and they happen temporally together, it is reasonable to declare causation.

But wait, you ask, hasn’t the CDC spent the last year hammering us over the head with the message that Zika is no longer rare? Yes, they have to admit, Zika isn’t so rare – so a little more explanation may be needed. Therefore, instead of epidemiological data proving causality, the CDC falls back on a check-list paradigm known as the “Shepard’s Criteria” to “prove” the Zika-Microcephaly connection. What in the world are Shepard’s Criteria one might reasonably ask? Hard to answer since not one media account I could find touting the certainty of the Zika-Microcephaly connection explained that the CDC had used this method to establish causality. I had to do some digging.

According to the CDC, “In 1994, Thomas Shepard, a pioneer in the field of teratology, proposed a set of seven criteria for “proof” [again, those quotes aren’t mine – those are from the CDC] of human teratogenicity.” (End of CDC quote) [Teratogenic = an agent that can disturb or halt the development of the embryo or fetus] And to make things easier to determine “proof” (ok, those quotes are mine) you need only check off 4 of the 7 criteria. Has Shepard’s criteria been used in the past to prove a virus – or any agent for that matter - has caused birth defects? Here again, I will give you the CDC’s own words – “These criteria have been used to guide discussions about causation in teratology-related litigation and to assess other potential teratogens” so, once again, according to the CDC themselves a big, fat NO. And – ok – this one is killing me – the CDC decided one of the 7 criteria doesn’t apply to Zika – so they gave themselves a pass – they only needed to meet 3 of the 7 criteria for this one. Proving causation is so much easier when you reject many possibilities out of hand and give yourself a pass on using a given criterion.
The most damning evidence cited by the CDC? One – yes one - pregnant woman from Slovenia who as a volunteer in Brazil had a “Zika-like illness” during her 13th week of pregnancy. She had normal ultrasound results at 14 and 20 weeks of gestation. She returned to Europe where fetal abnormalities were detected on ultrasound at 32 weeks and the pregnancy was terminated. To the CDC this one case, satisfied the Shepard’s Criterion #4 of “rare exposure, rare event”.**

And what of that discarded Shepard's Criterion? It “is aimed at medications or chemical exposures and does not apply to infectious agents”, so it is declared irrelevant. Do you see what they did there? “Doesn’t apply to infectious agents” – the CDC decided before they had even begun exploring causation, that microcephaly is caused by an infection. The only infectious agent studied? Zika. In the rest of the paper, nothing else is even contemplated.

No questions asked about the environment. No questions about toxic exposures, medications or vaccines during pregnancy. This, despite the fact that fetal exposure to various environmental toxins has been proven to cause severe birth defects in the past. And so, while perhaps not having a “smoking gun”, the CDC has instead set up and used a loaded one and Voila – Zika causes microcephaly! Errrgg!   (Note to self – use this type of circular logic in next disagreement with spouse).

I am hoping my next post on Zika is my last on the virus, at least for awhile – I have so many other topics to tackle - I make no hard and fast promises. But, I can’t turn away from Zika until I ask the obvious question - what is really going on in these parts of Brazil? While the numbers of babies born with birth defects seem to be both fluid and more that a bit sketchy, it does appear there is an increase - so why? Unlike the CDC, I don't expect to "prove" what's going on, but let’s explore some hunches…… If the Washington Post can speculate, why can’t My Inner Angry Wonk? I promise to have some data and logic, however…. In the meantime another Zika video from My Incredible Opinion.

*I am not interested here in passing judgement, nor do I wish to engage in a pro-choice or pro-life discussion here. My point is that any woman who has made it to week 20 in her pregnancy and is seeking out ultrasound testing to ensure the health of her fetus is most likely carrying a wanted pregnancy and contemplating abortion at that point would not be done lightly. Additionally, ultrasounds can most certainly be wrong. Of the 6 live births in a March 4th, 2016 CDC study published in The New England Journal of Medicine which is cited in the causation paper, 2 were born normal as expected, 3 babies, each diagnosed as having birth defects in utero were normal at birth. The remaining baby did have microcephaly as diagnosed via ultrasound - not a great track record with ultrasound diagnosis…….However - I cannot link you to this study because it is no longer available. While used as a citation repeatedly in the CDC's New England Journal of Medicine May 19th, 2016 causation paper, the March 4th, 2016 paper - where only 88 women were studied, and only 6 live births occurred prior to the paper's publication is no longer available. It has been replaced with a much larger study of 345 women published on December 16, 2016. You can go to the original May 5, 2016 causation paper and click on the footnotes for the March paper and it takes you to the December study published 9 months after the CDC declared Zika causes microcephaly......

**In another study cited by the CDC in their causation paper, 72 women were diagnosed with Zika during their pregnancy (review the reliability of Zika testing here). (This is the same, now-missing New England Journal of Medicine paper referenced in the footnote above.) Those agreeing to multiple ultrasounds were monitored closely. Of those, 12 fetuses – 16.6% - were diagnosed with problematic ultrasound results around week 20 – of those only 5 were diagnosed in utero as having microcephaly. Of the 12, 2 resulted in fetal deaths. At the time of this paper’s publication only 6 of the babies had been born, and only one had microcephaly. No mention is made in the paper if the 2 stillbirths showed signs of microcephaly. As I said, this paper was published before half of the babies diagnosed with birth defects via ultrasound were born. (If you want to get down and Wonky over the CDC footnotes, I will be happy to discuss the particulars over a cold beverage)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Zika Part 4
Vaccine Testing Begins
#CDC Whistleblowers

I know, I know, it’s really time to let this one go and move on, but I just can’t – My Inner Wonk is just too Angry – about $2 billion angry…..

The Zika virus emerged as a globe-circulating virus in 2014, first appearing in French Polynesia. It did, however, make an earlier mini debut on the small islands of Yap in Micronesia in 2007. While it seemed to sweep thru most of the islands', it was a mild disease that, for the most part, cleared in a few days. In fact, as I am wont to point out, it is so mild that only 1 out of 5 people who get it actually notice. However, the CDC did take notice of this 2007 outbreak and since that time has invested $20 million to develop a test to determine if a person has been infected – My Inner Wonk has to wonder - why?

In May of 2015, Brazilian health agencies informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that they were seeing increasing cases of Zika infection in certain parts of Brazil. By October 2015, Brazil notified the WHO that they had noticed an increase in cases of a devastating neurological defect in newborns – microcephaly – babies born with abnormally small heads and other neurological problems. Interestingly, by the time the current “epidemic” began to be hyped in the US press – in early 2016 – over 30 (YES 30!!) companies were already diligently developing better testing for the virus and by March of 2016, 23 projects lead by 14 different companies were underway to develop a vaccine. Also by March of this year, the CDC had reassigned 750 full time employees to the Zika crisis* – poaching people who had been studying tick-borne diseases (aren’t all you Lyme sufferers happy to know that?!). Again, all this for a virus that 80% of  the people who get it don’t usually know they have. And on April 13th, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control - while remaining stubbornly clueless about the causes of autism, POTS, allergies, asthma and all other vaccine injury-induced disease and disability in the US - declared definitively that Zika causes microcephaly and perhaps other serious birth defects. What an interesting unfolding of events…..

In August of this year, Tom Frieden (CDC) and Toni Fauci (NIH) repeatedly and loudly warned the world that the lack of funds from Congress would slow down the development of a Zika vaccine, but lack of funds didn’t stop them from announcing the beginning of human Zika vaccine trials that same month.

Not only does this timeline raise intriguing questions about the tail wagging the dog, the utter lack of logic in the whole process gets my Angry Wonk steaming. This is a mild illness (that 80% thing again!!!) and appears to spread quickly in the right conditions. As with all viruses, once you get it you’ll have lifelong immunity. After the CDC and media fueled panic over West Nile virus, we apparently all got it – mostly without realizing it – and are now all immune. If we really believe that Zika is causing devastating neurological damage to fetuses, wouldn’t it be easier – and more effective – to help women delay pregnancy until after they have had Zika and then go on their merry way with lifelong immunity?

In fact, we can see that very phenomenon playing out in South East Asia. While the media and the CDC are hyping that the next Zika meltdown is going to happen there, the crisis has yet to explode as promised. Turns out that Zika has been circulating silently in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia since the 1960’s (where are the birth defects you might ask?– haven’t shown up) – most everyone there has already had it. This “epidemic” and “crisis” is barely making a peep there. In fact, one very puzzled virologist from University of Malaya, declared in wonder – “It's almost like the people are vaccinated” and that this “natural immunity could stop potential outbreaks”. Well – you don’t say!!

Vaccines, on the other hand, have been proven repeatedly to NOT offer lifelong immunity. Whooping cough circulates every few years in vaccinated populations. As I have written earlier, even the CDC admits the Hep B vaccine only lasts 7 years or so. This year there have been mumps outbreaks in fully vaccinated populations on the Harvard University Campus and in Arkansas. Even in the highly hyped and publicized Disneyland measles outbreak where 110 people got the measles at least 13 of those that got measles had been vaccinated. Another 47 had “undetermined vaccine status” - what does that mean? Once again the CDC is very fuzzy about that. It seems that if you didn't have your vaccine records with you, your vaccine status is labeled "undetermined" - do you know where your vaccine records are?** Only 49 people were proven to be unvaccinated and 12 of those were babies who were too young to get the vaccine, which leaves only 37 people who could have been vaccinated who were proven not to be......  This flu season experts are counselling people to carefully time the administration of their flu shot – too early and it may not provide coverage through the end of the flu season - they don't even expect it to offer protection for a few months!? How can that be worth the toxic mercury delivered with each shot?? Not to mention that the flu vaccine has had abysmal effectiveness numbers over the last several years – even according to the CDC! The flu mist apparently has had NO IMPACT on keeping the flu at bay.

But wait, what about Guillain-Barre syndrome - where the body attacks itself resulting in paralysis that usually reverses itself, but can be permanent or lead to death - that has been linked to the Zika virus, yes? We wouldn’t want to get that would we? Well, of course not, but do you know what also causes Guillain-Barre? Vaccines. Even the CDC acknowledged that the Swine Flu shots given during the 1976 “epidemic” caused at least 500 cases of Guillain-Barre and 25 people died - and the vaccine was only given over a period of a few weeks, before being pulled. In fact, according to this CDC presentation, vaccines are far more likely to cause this autoimmune problem than any known viruses (slide 3). Vaccines can have other, FDA-acknowledged adverse effects (I encourage you to read a vaccine insert). The flu shot given in Europe during the H1N1 “crisis” in 2009 caused more than 1300 cases (!!!!!) of narcolepsy -- a debilitating, incurable, life-long condition. In fact, even the Supreme Court has stated that the The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986  was necessary because it  "eliminates manufacturer liability for a vaccine’s unavoidable, adverse side effects"  (my emphasis) absolving the Pharmaceutical companies from virtually any and all liability for vaccine injury - let that sink in - the Supreme Court has acknowledged vaccine's unavoidable harm.....

Even if you really, truly believe that vaccines can provide immunity – do you really want to risk vaccine injury for a disease that is incredibly unlikely to harm you? How likely is it that a safe Zika vaccine could be developed? In my previous post I talked about how Zika is very similar to several other viruses like Dengue, West Nile, Japanese Encephalitis and Yellow Fever. Have you been offered a vaccine for any of those? No? No, you have not, because despite the fact that untold resources have been spent in an attempt to develop “safe and effective” vaccines for all of those viruses, the only vaccine out there is for Yellow Fever – and its use is limited because it is deemed too unsafe to use on anything but very targeted populations. Vaccines for all the others have been abandoned.

Nevertheless, the CDC and those 14 companies are slaving away and spending $$$$$$ (your dollars by the way) on a Zika vaccine. Human trials are underway. If you get asked to partake, umm, just say "No."

Next post - the deceitful way the CDC "proved" Zika caused microcephaly.(Yes, sorry, another - I just can't unsee what I have seen - the data is my siren call....) Feel free to share and subscribe.

*The idea of 750 full time employees reassigned to Zika is a little bit of an abstract concept to wrap your head around. To try to give you some context: in the early 1990’s my husband and I worked at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, part of EPA’s headquarters that is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That lab tests all on-road and off-road engines (those categories include: cars, snow mobiles, trains, tractors, trucks, marine engines, lawn mowers, etc. If it's got an engine they test it) sold in America for both emission compliance and fuel economy. They also analyze all fuels, fuel additives and exhaust compounds, including alternative fuels. They set guidelines for states and local governments for vehicle inspection programs. They develop and implement regulations for transportation planning across the entire US – can’t build a road in the US without following their guidelines. They work on policies related to transportation and climate change, among many other topics. How many people did that involve when we were there? About 500 full time EPA employees and a couple hundred contractors. Now, think about 750 people working on one thing – Zika – a nonissue virus that a bunch of the world has already had! Grrrrr – My Angry Wonk is about to blow a gasket!

**In the late 1970's there was a measles outbreak in our part of Missouri - in a highly vaccinated population. Despite the fact that I had had measles as a child (something I remember as a nonissue), I had no "proof" and thus had to be vaccinated along with EVERYONE else in my high school - including my sister. A few years later, when we were in college at Indiana University another measles outbreak occurred - again in a highly vaccinated population. Since we were not given any paperwork at our mass high school vaccination event, we again, did not have "proof" of either having measles or a vaccine. Thus, my sister, husband and myself were all vaccinated AGAIN. Did we get paperwork that time? No. Was it put in our "permanent record"? Nope. If my sister - who did not have measles as a child - had gotten measles in a situation like the outbreak at Disney she would be counted as someone with "undetermined" vaccination status. Her - and my - clear recollection of her vaccinations would be dismissed. The CDC finds things work better for them that way.....

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Zika Part 3
Another CDC Whistleblower: Zika Testing

Ok, so maybe there aren’t as many microcephaly cases in Brazil as we first thought. Maybe aerial spraying is more of a publicity stunt and not particularly effective at controlling mosquitoes. Maybe there aren’t that many locally transmitted cases of Zika infections in the Continental US. Maybe, based on past outbreaks of dengue in the US, we’re not really on the verge of an epidemic here. But surely, surely, the CDC wouldn’t be causing such panic, threatening vital tourism dollars in developing countries, causing untold numbers of pregnant women unimaginable worry and heartache – having them contemplate late-term ABORTING of much wanted babies - unless they had irrefutable rock-solid data showing that the Zika virus – and nothing else – is spreading around the globe.


It has taken me a while to write parts 2 and 3 of this series, in large part because the deeper I dig into the details, the gnarlier (and depressing) this story gets. That such life-impacting decisions are being made on the basis of so little data, or such bad data is just beyond mind-boggling to me. So, the question becomes why? What’s always the answer – the $$$s. The CDC relentlessly hounded Congress for $1.9 billion to “fight” this “epidemic”, even though they have $2.7 billion leftover from their last panic room freak show, Ebola (which barely touched America). Aided by an always-willing-to-hype-a-disease-story main stream press, who knows how much the CDC has stashed away from previous “epidemics” – West Nile Virus, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, MERs……? This model seems to have served them very well in the past, so it’s no surprise they're using it again.

However, this time Congress was a little slower to bite on this bait, forcing the CDC to threaten to move money around. That unprogrammed $2.7 million for Ebola? Can’t touch that – that wouldn’t stir the panic pot. No, the CDC threatened to take money from public health programs where there is real illness and disease – HIV/AIDs, heart disease, cancer research and then one of their favorites – the childhood vaccination programs (ok, the vaccine program is only real in that it creates illness and disease – but I digress). This reprogramming of funds within the top public health organization in the US would imply they have a lot of solid information - that the tests being used to confirm that these are really cases of Zika infections are reliable and widely available; the freak-out about this birth defect/Zika connection is warranted because we have irrefutable evidence of the connection; these birth defects are so devastating, and happen with such frequency that it warrants taking dollars from HIV/AIDs, heart disease and cancer programs and research; that researchers have successfully developed safe and effective vaccines for similar diseases. Well, ummm, no, not really - on any of the above counts.

In researching for my last blog post, I was struck by a recurring, puzzling bit of info (Ok, a lot was really puzzling…). Tom Frieden, head of the CDC and Tony Fauci of NIH – the Fear Monger Czars - kept talking about “confirmed cases of Zika infection”. In the next breath, or paragraph, when they turn the talk yet again to the need for more funding, they cite the need for “better testing.” Better testing???? You mean the CDC demanded $2 billion for a disease we don’t really have a reliable test for? I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you!

How unreliable are those tests? Well, that’s another reason this blog post took so long to write – I couldn't find the data – and you know me - I have to have the data! Why is the data so hard to find? A few weeks ago the Washington Post reported that a CDC Whistleblower (Hmmmm, why does that phrase sound so familiar???) has come forward to say the CDC has been using the “wrong” Zika test. Robert Lanciotti, the head of the CDC Diagnostics and Reference Laboratory – who was in charge of developing both tests - claims that the test being used by the CDC and recommended for use by State and Local Health departments, misses 39% of Zika cases. The CDC vehemently denies those numbers and promptly demoted Lanciotti (who has since been reinstated after filing a whistleblower complaint). But if you wade thru these articles, that is just the beginning of the problem. According to its own Interim Guidance for Interpretation of Zika Virus Antibody TestResults, all available Zika tests are unreliable and subject to producing both false positive and false negative test results.

The Zika virus is a type of Flavivirus – a category of viruses that includes Yellow Fever, West Nile. Dengue, and Japanese Encephalitis among others. According to this article in the NY Times, the best way to identify whether you have had a Flavivirus infection is a test on blood drawn within the first 7 or so days after the onset of symptoms. This proves a little tricky in a disease that 80% of people never notice they have. Testing negative with this test, according to the CDC, tells you very little about whether or when you were infected with the Zika virus. There is some evidence that the virus may stick around longer in a person’s urine, but the CDC is a little fuzzy about the reliability and availability of such tests – again, this data-driven Angry Wonk is quite frustrated by the lack of details and numbers provided about these tests. (Hello, investigative journalists – where is your curiosity?)

If a person tests negative for Zika in the initial blood test, but is still worried about Zika exposure – say a pregnant woman perhaps - there is an antibody test available that is not dependent on testing so close to the time of virus exposure. However, this test comes with its own set of weaknesses. People who have had one of the other Flaviviruses (e.g., Yellow Fever, West Nile (which many, many people in the US have had – again, probably without knowing it), or Dengue), or had the Yellow Fever vaccine, can have a positive antibody test without actually being infected with Zika. So a positive antibody test doesn’t tell you much for a person who may have been exposed to other viruses in the same family sometime in the past. In fact, according to the NY Times article, previous exposure can lead to BOTH false positive and false negative results in an antibody test.

Here in the US, to try to amp up numbers and provide info for pregnant women, all three tests are being done – blood test, urine test and the antibody test - with less than reliable, trustworthy outcomes according to the CDC, Washington Post, NY Times and NPR. As might be expected, that’s a lot of testing ($$$$) and has also resulted in a significant testing backlog, leaving thousands of worried pregnant women in desperate limbo. Which for me begs the question – what about in Brazil? Columbia? Were all those cases of Zika in pregnant women so meticulously documented? Again, the information out there is fuzzy. I found some articles from early 2016 saying a new rapid test was on the verge of going mainstream in Brazil, but whether it ever did has been hard to determine.

All of this left me thinking – this is a disease that just recently emerged as a global issue. The current outbreak started slowly in 2014 on Yap – a tiny group of islands in the Pacific, where it was highly unlikely to explode. A disease that 80%!!! (Yes, I know I keep saying this - but REALLY!) of the people who have it DON”T EVEN KNOW! Why, oh, why did the CDC even have a test ready? Turns out, if you read the Washington Post CDC whistleblower article very closely, you will see that the CDC began developing a Zika test in 2007, after a Zika outbreak in the Micronesian Islands out in the vast Pacific Ocean. According to the article, before this current outbreak, the CDC had already spent $20 million developing said, apparently not very reliable test. Hmmmm..... what prompted THAT investment decision? (More on that later -- stay tuned -- yes, there will be a Zika Part 4! Groan.)

So, let’s recap – the CDC has whipped up fear about the Zika virus all year, with eager help from the press, telling us that it is running rampant thru the Caribbean and Central America, nipping at the heels of the mainland US while spreading dangerously thru Puerto Rico. US media outlets have prominently hyped this story, doing their best to scare the bucks out of America. The same sad, tragic pictures of deformed babies have been shamelessly published over and over again on the websites of the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, National Geographic. Neighborhoods in the US, where few or NO cases of locally transmitted Zika infections have been drenched in useless, neurotoxic pesticides that cause the same type of neurological fetal deformities they are supposed to prevent, in the process not killing mosquitoes but instead killing pollinators that are crucial to agriculture.  The CDC has demanded – and received – almost $2 billion to fight this “epidemic” and “crisis” of a disease that 4 in 5 people don’t know they have because it is so mild, all based on a diagnosis that cannot actually be confirmed by multiple lab tests. Yes, yes, THAT sounds like a great way to protect public health.

Next up - of course - time to get your vaccine!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zika Part 2
Humans are Just Food Trucks for the Andes Aegypti Mosquito

Please stick with me readers. I know these Zika posts are a deep, wonky dive, but this faux crisis is just so emblematic of the problems of the politicizing and profiteering that corrupts many (most?) of our environmental and public heath issues that I just can't give this a quick pass over. It also concerns me deeply that I've found so much disinformation and bad analysis at each and every layer of this story. And I just can't get out of my mind the untold number of pregnant women who are needlessly having the bejesus scared out of them. 

Let’s quickly recap my last post: We should all be afraid, very, very afraid. The Zika virus is ravaging the Americas and leaving in its wake thousands of babies with profound birth defects – or maybe only hundreds – oh, wait, how are we defining microcephaly? Oh, never you mind! Despite being absolutely clueless for decades about what is causing autism and our current epidemic of allergies, asthma and a host of autoimmune diseases, after mere weeks the CDC is absolutely sure Zika causes microcephaly and other yet to be documented birth defects and needs our $$$$s STAT! In the meantime, we’re in an all-out war with the mosquito.

The headline in the Washington Post said it all - ‘Like it’s been nuked’: Millions of bees dead after South Carolina sprays for Zika mosquitoes. This was horrible news, even more so because of the poor health of bees and other pollinators in America due to the not yet well understood phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that pollinator bees in America are worth $15 Billion dollars in crop production annually. Carelessly killing several million bees, as well as an unknown number of other pollinators such as wild bees, butterflies and moths, in addition to being tragic, is also a very expensive mistake. Moreover, the pesticide used in South Carolina, Naled, has actually been banned in many other countries because of its toxicity to humans -especially developing fetuses - and other living things.

However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes for Health (NIH) the stakes are high enough to warrant out-right panic over the Zika virus – and therefore, by extension, any reckless decision-making that comes along with it. The day before the article reporting the bee deaths, the Washington Post prominently featured an Op-Ed by our friends Tony Fauci of NIH and Tom Frieden, head of the CDC hyping the Zika Virus’ “unprecedented threat to the people of our nation, especially pregnant women” and decrying the lack of funding provided by Congress. How panicky should we be? These fine gentlemen are threatening to take some of the money previously destined for cancer research, HIV/AIDS programs, heart disease (the number one killer in America) and the CDC’s own sacred cow, the childhood vaccination program and re-direct those dollars toward fighting Zika.

This huge, unprecedented reprogramming of funds – and willingness to undertake poorly-planned aerial spraying with a pesticide with known toxicity – implies that a whole host of data is available about Zika, the disease’s transmission, mosquitoes, pesticides et al, and that the data is clear, unimpeachable and supports, in the strongest possible way, a myriad of decisions being made at the Federal, State and Local levels. Decisions which have serious and profound, personal, economic, environmental and public health impacts.

Undertaking aerial spraying implies many things, for example: that aerial spraying is the best way to fight the mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika; that those mosquitoes are actively spreading the disease; that there are many, many cases of Zika that we know are being spread by local mosquitoes; and that in the past we have seen similar mosquito-borne diseases spread quickly and dangerously through the population once they hit the mainland US.

Further, the emergency reprogramming of funds within the top public health organization in the US leads one to believe that the tests being used to confirm that these are really cases of Zika are reliable and widely available; the freak-out about this birth defect/Zika connection is warranted because we have irrefutable evidence of such; these birth defects are so devastating, and happen with such frequency that it warrants taking dollars from HIV/AIDs, heart disease and cancer programs and research; and finally, that researchers have successfully developed safe and effective vaccines for similar diseases.

Well, ummm, no, not really - on any of the above counts.

As I like to say – let’s unpack a few of these assumptions…..

Aerial spraying is an effective way to combat the mosquitoes thought to be spreading the Zika virus:

The Zika virus is being spread here in the U.S., Puerto Rico and elsewhere in Central and South America by the Ades Aegypti mosquito. As so elegantly put by an infectious disease and mosquito expert on the Diane Rehm show on August 3rd, the Ades Aegypti is “the Norway Rat” of mosquitoes (listen at 46:15). What exactly did Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease, Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, mean by that? Simply put – we are these mosquitoes’ food trucks – they want to be where we are. That means in urban areas, near the ground. According to Dr. Osterholm, studies have found one of the places they love to hang out is in our closets (46:44). They are hanging out near our birdbaths and the kiddie toys in our backyards (46:35) – not near a semi-rural bee farm in South Carolina. So, absolutely “no” to the effectiveness on that aerial spraying (46:50)

But surely, spraying is effective in certain conditions? Like in the urban areas mentioned above? Well, no, not really according to Dr. Osterholm and Phil Goodman (another panelist on the same show who has spent decades fighting disease spreading mosquitoes in the Florida Keys) (31:50) As they said, the mosquitoes stay close to the ground. The spray falls on any number of things – including us, bees, butterflies, moths and our back yard gardens – before it would ever get to the mosquitoes. Not to mention that the life span of an infected mosquito is 8 to 10 days – that means every time you turn around there’s a new crop of mosquitoes in your back yard or closet. Getting on top of each generation of mosquitoes would require almost constantly bathing neighborhoods in pesticides that have proven neurotoxic effects on developing fetuses. (Remind me again, who are we supposedly protecting with all this spraying? Developing fetuses?)

In addition, one of the reasons Mr. Goodman of the Florida Keys is helping Miami-Dade County with mosquito control is because Miami-Dade doesn’t have much of a mosquito control program. Why? Because they don’t have much of a mosquito problem. Ocean breezes and winds pretty much keep them at bay (14:08).

On top of that, it turns out most of these mosquitoes have become rather immune to the stuff. Remember DDT? That wonder pesticide which was once deemed so safe, we were encouraged to cover our baby’s nursery with wall paper embedded with the stuff? Moms were encouraged to wipe down lunch boxes with it and children were actually SPRAYED with the stuff while eating lunch or swimming in the pool – really – watch this short, mind-blowing video. Well, DDT – which as we know has been deemed to very much NOT be safe - is a close cousin to the pesticides being used today on Andes Aegypti (yet we’re supposed to believe this new version of this pesticide is perfectly safe). It turns out all our spraying of DDT and related pesticides over the decades has led to current generations of mosquitoes who are pretty resistant – (13:13 and 33:50). In fact, by Dr. Osterholm’s assessment, the spraying does little whatsoever to control mosquitoes and is used mostly by municipalities to “look like they’re doing something.”(46:54) I’m SURE the bees and beekeepers appreciate that.....

So, does that mean GMO mosquitoes are the answer? Setting aside all questions about the pros and cons of releasing heretofore not well studied genetically modified organisms into our ecosystem and just looking at the effectiveness of such mosquitoes, if indeed, they could interrupt the Andes aegypti life cycle, Dr. Osterholm says “no” to that as well (41:20). The Andes Aegypti mosquitoes never venture more than 300 – 400 yards from where they hatched (41:24). Add that to their 8 to 10 day life span and you would, according to Dr. Osterholm, have to release GMO mosquitoes in a “carpet-like fashion” every 300 – 400 yards at least every two weeks to have any impact on the problem over many, many square miles. It is not, he says, “a high utility tool that would wipe out these mosquitoes.”(41:55)

Mosquitoes are actively spreading many cases of Zika on the US Mainland:

To keep everyone in panic mode, and Zika hysteria prominently featured in the press, the CDC and the NIH like to throw around big Zika infection numbers. But we have to ask ourselves: Are we hearing the relevant numbers in all those news reports? Probably not. When you hear a spokesman for either organization talking numbers, they are likely confounding many categories to make the number sound big. On any of the audio recordings or articles I link to on the post (including this one) Tom Friedan or Tony Fauci say we are closing in on 20,000 Zika infections in the US. Clearly, that is meant to scare you. What they don’t tell you – or at least don’t tell you right away - is that there are more than 14,000 cases in Puerto Rico, but just over 2,000 in the lower 48 (which is not to say that Puerto Rico isn't important, it just raises the question of why are we gearing up for a mainland assault on mosquitoes when the real problem is elsewhere?). What they almost always leave out is that the vast majority of those cases on the mainland are travel related – people have traveled to countries where Zika is actively being transmitted by mosquitoes and have come home infected. How many of the Zika cases on the mainland have been acquired by local mosquitoes? Well as I write this, forty-three  – yes, that’s right only 43 cases – all in Florida. What? How about the cases in South Carolina, where they felt they had no choice but to aerial spray and killed all the pollinators, surely they had many locally transmitted cases, yes? No. No, in South Carolina there are ZERO - yes, 0 documented cases of actively transmitted Zika infections. South Carolina has only had 43 cases of TRAVEL RELATED Zika – total – since April – but no locally transmitted cases at all……

We have every reason to believe Zika will spread rapidly throughout the US:

This one is really forehead slapping worthy. On August 26th Tom Frieden of the CDC did a Facebook Live interview with NY Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise, to really push two messages – first, Congress is being derelict in its duty – the CDC needs money NOW for vaccines, better testing and tons of research and secondly, we all should be very, very afraid as Zika related birth defects are certain to explode here in the US at any moment. He and the reporter start the interview dutifully sticking to the agreed upon message – money and panic, money and panic, money, vaccines and panic.

But then a funny thing happens. On a Facebook Live event the reporter isn’t the only one who gets to ask questions – the fine folks listening in on Facebook get to ask some questions too….. First, at -10:53 Frieden gets asked – why isn’t Zika exploding in the US? Oh, but it is, he says – in Puerto Rico! We should expect it to explode in Florida too he insists. Then someone asks – “Isn’t Zika very similar to dengue fever in many ways?” Aren’t they are similar in symptoms, mode of transmission and geographical pattern of outbreak? Well, yes. Next question. But wait, we’ve never really had a serious outbreak of dengue in the Continental US – why? Ummmm…. Frieden then has to admit that dengue hasn’t spread in the US in the past because we don’t really have all the conditions necessary here to facilitate such a widespread outbreak of dengue (-10:12)

WHAT?!? Well, it turns out that in Central and South America, the Caribbean and other areas where mosquito borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika spread widely, it is in part because those areas have conditions conducive to said spreading. In these areas, the population density is much higher than in the US, there is very little air conditioning so everyone’s windows are open and few people even have screens on said windows allowing mosquitoes easy access to the human “food trucks.” These conditions, Frieden has to admit, don’t really exist in the US. Still, he tries to fan the flames of fear, pointing to a round of dengue infections in the Florida Keys a few years back that stuck around for a year before dying out and once again turning our attention to Puerto Rico. But a questioner brings up dengue again, towards the end of the Facebook session. In response, Frieden admits yes, “9 times out of 10” dengue has died out after a few clustered cases in the US (-3:27). But never mind that – what we really need to do is worry about that 1 time out of 10 when it doesn’t! It could happen with Zika! Yes, he says, usually you get a couple of dengue cases in a household or a workplace and it “hits a dead end”, but that time in the Florida Keys (and a little in Miami) – they saw 40 to 50 locally acquired cases of dengue over a year-long period! (In a population of over 2 million people…..-3:06) How far up the East Coast has dengue ventured in the past? (It has only been seen in Texas and Florida -2:15).

So, someone asks, the real issue is people coming home with infections from other countries? Well, yes. And the best way to avoid spreading the disease under those circumstances? Practice safe sex and wear bug spray for 3 weeks after you return so the local mosquitoes don’t pick up your infection – Wait, what? I’ve never heard that advice before - that sounds like a simple, inexpensive and effective way to fight Zika in the US (-2:00). Shouldn’t we be telling everyone coming home from a trip in an area with active Zika infections use bug spray? ….oops, never mind, can’t dwell on that. Time.Is.Up!  Tom Frieden’s World Fear-mongering Tour must move on.

To be continued…..where I will unpack some of the issues regarding the reliability and accuracy of the tests for Zika, the real likelihood of the development of a safe and effective vaccine and the strength of the “proof” that Zika causes birth defects. In the meantime, if you enjoyed watching Zika 101, here's Zika 201.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zika Virus, Diane Rehm and the CDC

Be afraid, be very, very afraid – terrified even. Stay inside, bathe yourself in DEET, wear long sleeves, embrace GMO mosquitoes, don’t travel to South or Central America, especially not Brazil, or go to certain parts of Miami, or maybe avoid Miami altogether as well as Puerto Rico, and maybe the Caribbean. Don’t get pregnant for a year or maybe two, or have unprotected sex with your spouse for 6 months…….  But the Olympics – oh the Olympics in Rio, Brazil? Yeah! Be sure to go to the Olympics! But before you go, how about an extra $1.9 Billion for the CDC?!

Oh, the Zika virus – where to start? My Inner Angry Wonk has been simmering about this since day one (just ask my poor sister), but over the last couple of weeks I have hit the boiling point. On August 3rd, driving home from taking my youngest to Shakespeare Camp, listening to the Diane Rehm show on our local NPR station I was dismayed to hear them talking, yet again, about the latest CDC horror show known as the Zika virus. Among those on her panel that day were Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Irina Burd, director of the Integrated Research Center for Fetal Medicine at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. In between all the pearl clutching and hand wringing over 15 Zika cases in Florida, they gave call-in advice to panicky mothers of small children living near those cases (listen at 18:55). To protect their very small babies, and infants as young as 2 months old, these doctors were recommending that these mothers keep their babies in long sleeves and long pants at all times and when taking them outside slather their exposed skin – i.e. their hands and faces with both sunscreen and a DEET containing insecticide – where it will undoubtedly wind up in their tiny mouths. Can you hear my Inner Wonk screaming?????

The CDC has been studying autism since the epidemic they refuse to acknowledge began almost 30 years ago - growing in incidence from 1 in 10,000 in the 1980's to the current rates of 1 in 68 over all, 1 in 42 boys and a shocking 1 in 28 in the children of Somalia immigrants living in and around Minneapolis. Yet despite the untold millions they have spent on research, the CDC remains stubbornly clueless about the causes of autism, not even certain if this dramatic increase in numbers represents a real rise or simply better counting and diagnosis (?!?!), and absurdly suggesting their best guess is that there is a strong genetic component in a condition that has increased exponentially in just one generation!?!. Nowhere on the CDC autism pages is it even entertained that maybe, just maybe there could be some sort of environmental factor involved – or maybe even factors…..

However, unlike the impenetrable mystery that is autism, a few short months into the current Zika outbreak and the apparent increase in microcephaly cases in Brazil, the CDC is certain – absolutely, completely, unequivocally certain – that Zika and Zika alone, is the sole cause of a profoundly devastating birth defect. A virus that has been around since at least the 1940’s (If not longer...Western medicine has a maddening tendency to equate their finding and naming something with the definitive starting point of said disease or condition….) that is so mild and harmless that 80% of the people who have had it didn’t actually notice, is suddenly harming fetuses, causing miscarriages and striking others with Guillame-Barre syndrome. However, despite their certainty, their pronouncement was remarkably, frustratingly, data light and only asks one question – could Zika cause birth defects? No other possibility is even entertained. In the paper the CDC itself actually admits there is no “smoking gun” linking the Zika virus to the cases of microcephaly. This lack of data has not, however, stopped the CDC from issuing a long list of unprecedented recommendations and advice – which the news media has gleefully, breathlessly. reported far and wide – impacting untold millions of people, many countries and communities with wide-ranging and significant - some might even say profound -personal and economic consequences. Not to mention that $1.9 Billion funding request and the burgeoning coffers of bug spray, GMO mosquito companies and vaccine developers.

How data light are we talking? Let’s start to break this sketchy story down.

First off, as I said above, there seems to be an apparent increase in microcephaly cases. To document an actual increase, what do you need first? You need a baseline - a “before” number. Well, pretty much every media report or article I cite in this series of posts is missing the before number. Why? Because Brazil apparently did not have a very well-documented “before” number. One of the very few news reports that I could find with a before count was an article in Nature which reports that the number of microcephaly cases recorded in Brazil in 2014 was 147 – a number, the article points out, so low as to be unbelievable given the number of microcephaly cases which occur annually worldwide (for example, approximately 25,000 babies are diagnosed with microcephaly every year in the US). The paper cited in the CDC report, used as the CDC basis for their "before" number, claims the number of microcephaly births in Brazil to average 157.3 cases per year from 2000 – 2014, also unrealistically low. So much for the "before" number.

Even as a skeptic, however, one cannot deny the existence of the heartbreaking pictures of the babies and sad, painful stories of mothers and fathers truly suffering in Brazil. They exist. They are hurting. They need help and services. And they deserve answers – truthful answers. Exactly how many babies and families are we talking about? Good question – that is another disquieting piece of this story. You would think if the CDC is telling every woman of child-bearing age in the Americas to panic, consider terminating pregnancies and demanding Congress come back in the middle of August recess in an election year to approve emergency funding, they would have a pretty good handle on this – but no, again.

The number of cases reported have varied wildly since the CDC and the press began hyping this story. In February 2016 the NY Times reported the numbers were upwards of 4,783. The Nature article from March 21st cites 6,398. The next day, in the Washington Post the number dipped much lower, maybe only 2,500. Then there was talk of how to “define” microcephaly.  Wait, what? There wasn't even an agreed upon definition of microcephaly to begin with? No, apparently not. In the beginning, Brazilian health authorities asked doctors to report a case of microcephaly when a newborn baby’s head measured 33 centimeters (cm) or smaller. Then it was decided that measurement was too inclusive and the number changed to 32 cm. Eventually Brazilian Health authorities adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of microcephaly, with head measurements of 31.9 cm for newborn boys and 31.5 cm for girls.

Wait. What’s that you ask – we’re defining this devastating neurological deficient SOLELY on the measurement of a baby’s head circumference? No other physical characteristics? The muscle constrictions? Brain calcification? Eye disorders? An MRI or CT scan? No. It appears that, especially in the beginning, microcephaly cases in Brazil were being counted by head circumference alone. Here, National Geographic tries to make sense of the numbers in March - they are reporting 641 cases of “confirmed” microcephaly in Brazil. According to the article another 4,222 are being “investigated” and 1,046 cases have been “rejected” for not meeting the “criteria” although what that criteria consists of is not shared with us. I could not find a description of that criteria anywhere. Hmmm…..

All the news stories aimed at scaring the dollars – oops, I mean crap – out of us acknowledge that this Zika outbreak has been working its way around various parts of the world starting sometime in 2014, hitting the Pacific Islands near Guam and the Marshall Islands, Haiti and most of the Caribbean and pretty much all of the countries in Central and South America. If, indeed, Zika causes microcephaly, and various other disastrous outcomes, the virus should have left a trail of miscarriages, paralysis, death and profound disability across all these countries, right? Well, in a nutshell, not so much.

Try as they might, the CDC, the Washington Post and the NY Times have not been able to produce any real evidence of increased cases of any of these ills in any other country besides Brazil (begging the question, once again, what the heck has happened to investigative journalism???). 

Missing the numbers to convince you to be terrified, they’ve done their best to explain away the lack of data with a variety of excuses – most of them ridiculous and highly offensive to the population of the countries involved. Haiti? TheWashington Post says the residents there don’t go see doctors often enough for either fevers or childbirth and therefore Haitian mothers missed the fact that their babies were born horribly malformed and disabled. To the extent that they did notice? The physicians in Haiti and the wise reporters of the Washington Post speculate that their superstitious mothers interpreted their births as the work of “evil spirits” and left them somewhere to die. The doctors of French Polynesia and Yap? They just forgot to document women were giving birth to babies with tiny, unnatural looking heads – if you go back looking for them you can find a few – maybe an increase from 2 cases a year to 8 – and again, no other cause for such an increase has been explored (some of the sentences written in these articles have actually caused ME harm – smacking my forehead with my keyboard – how did someone write these things and how in the world did they think we would believe it????). And as Columbia announces Zika is on the way out, and we’ve hardly heard a peep about microcephaly cases there, the NY Times assures us that there are still six reasons we should still believe that Zika causes microcephaly.

So hey, better go ahead and slather that baby – and any pregnant woman you see – with both sunscreen and DEET, just in case (I can pretty much guarantee you that that safety study has not been done). But while driving and listening to the radio that day, My Inner Angry Wonk was at least relieved to hear Diane Rehm’s response to the DEET recommendation – she was horrified – she refuses to use DEET on herself she said – why in the world would she use it on a baby?? Both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Burd chastised her and insisted that it was safe to use, citing EPA “pesticide registration” as proof of safety. Hey, I worked for EPA, and I believe that a lot of good things get done there. But I would NEVER and I mean NEVER tell someone to forgo their own research, their own instincts, their own skepticism simply because the EPA said so. Decisions in big bureaucracies get made for many reasons, under various circumstances and you better believe that I’ve seen bad decisions made under both "big P" and "little p" political pressures and for other dubious reasons. Yay Diane!

But this disease is worth a lot of money for a lot of people. Maintaining the public's level of fear is important to the CDC. Imagine my disappointment, but not my surprise, when 2 days later, on her Friday News Round-up show, Diane Rehm revisited the issue (at 34:32). After talking with a caller from Miami about a different topic, Rehm used the caller’s location as a reason to launch another discussion of the Zika virus. She reminded people that she is going to Florida later this month. That two days before she had declared her worries about the safety of using DEET-containing insecticides and her life-long refusal to use it. Well, never mind, she said, Dr. Fauci had had another conversation with her and changed her mind. Zika is just too dangerous and the CDC just too important to ignore. She would, in fact be using DEET insecticides on her very person on her trip to Florida she declared. One of her panelist, Ruth Marcus, a columnist at the Washington Post, doubled down on this message. “This is very scary. Listening to Tony Fauci is one of my rules in life. Everyone should listen. Everyone should listen to the CDC.” Rehm chimed in – “Absolutely!”

That noise – that noise you hear along with the screaming – I need to go ice my forehead……

Next time…. But of course that test they are using is really accurate – right? (Until then, enjoy this video - Zika 101)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

If They Start the Shots Early Enough Part 2…..
The Vitamin K Shot

As I said in earlier posts, there are moments that I look back on, where I read something that defied logic, heard something that made me suck in my breath, saw a report that made me slap my forehead. Things that in retrospect make me wish I had followed my gut and done more research – moments when I wish I had been able to figure out what was going so wrong. When I wish I had just grabbed my kid and run.

When my oldest was 10 and half years old, he fell off the high dive at the local High School pool, landing on the pool deck. His skull fracture and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) almost killed him and left him in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Georgetown University Hospital in DC for a month. With no voluntary movement – he couldn’t even make his eyes track together - and dependent on both a feeding tube for nourishment and a trach tube for breathing, we left Georgetown by ambulance and headed to Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) in Baltimore to begin his very painful and arduous rehabilitation journey.

Our time in the PICU had made it abundantly clear – leaving a severely ill person in the hospital without an advocate 24/7 was to court disaster. At Georgetown we had been there continuously, along with my mom and sister and our son was never left without one or more of us in his room. But after 4 weeks, my husband needed to get back to work and be at home with our then 8 year old daughter, so moving forward we agreed I would live in our son’s room at KKI. Once installed there, I joined a cadre of amazing warrior moms. Smart and fearless, they were always a step or two ahead of the staff. Moms who knew their kids’ every medical issue, medication and treatment. Moms totally in tune with their children.

In addition to being a rehab hospital for those who had suffered a TBI or spinal cord injury, KKI has a feeding program. It’s a therapy program for kids who, for various medical reasons, have difficulty eating. Several of those moms had children with autism. And to a one, they told me their children had regressed into autism – losing speech, no longer making eye contact, losing motor skills. All these years later I remember their stories and how they worried me. Before our time at KKI, autism had barely registered on my radar. And to the extent I had any awareness of autism, it did not include regressive autism. What I don’t remember about those conversations is whether in their stories, did those mothers link their child’s regression to vaccinations? Whatever they told me, I am embarrassed to admit, it was not enough to prompt me to question vaccines for my third.

His birth may have been 10 years after our daughter’s, but sadly their birth stories are not all that different. Despite my insistence that I was ready to push, and despite my doctor’s many notes in my chart about my short pushing phase, my youngest was born after two pushes onto the birthing bed with only my husband and daughter in attendance. Instead of being by my side, our nurse was across the room with her back to us admonishing me and insisting that I was absolutely clueless about what stage of labor I was actually in and refusing to go wake the doctor at 4:11 am (lest you think I am misremembering this in some sort of birthing-room fog, we have photographic evidence to prove it!)

Like his sister he was serene at birth and had great Apgar scores and sadly, like his sister, I sent him off with his father for tests and whatever else the hospital had in store for him. When I first started writing this post about his vaccine injury I was certain it would be about his Hepatitis B shot like his sister. But it is back-to-school season and I was looking for his records. I was shocked to see he didn’t get Hep B until his 1 month checkup. So what did he get that first day that made us all miserable - the thing that started us down his road of vaccine injuries? His vitamin K shot…

But wait, you say, how could the vitamin K shot lead to vaccine damage – it’s not even a vaccine? The Vitamin K shot is just that – just some natural, straight up Vitamin K like you would get from the deep green leafy veggies that come weekly in your box from your organic Community Supported Agriculture – right? That’s certainly what I believed until recently. But no. Turns out the vitamin K shot not only contains 22,000 times the level of vitamin K that newborns are typically born with, it is not a natural version of vitamin K, it is a synthetic. The shot also contains aluminum, a known neurotoxin, polysorbate 80, a toxic chemical which has been proven to cause infertility in animals and propylene glycol, a chemical which is also used as a solvent in antifreeze, engine coolants, varnishes and the like. Really.

And if all of that isn’t horrifying enough, the vitamin K package inserts warn that it should be given subcutaneously (under the skin) or really bad things could happen – like anaphylaxis among other side effects. That’s because phytonadione, the synthetic vitamin K used in the injections, can cause allergic reactions and hasn’t really been studied for safety in pregnant women and babies. In fact, pregnant or nursing women are counseled not to take synthetic vitamin K as its effects on unborn or nursing babies are not known. It’s also not to be taken by anyone with compromised liver function (like maybe babies…..) or anyone known to be allergic to it (how would we know about a minutes old infant?) So, of course, you would think hospitals are super cautious and always take the time to deliver the injection subcutaneously…..but no, most of the links I cite within this blog suggest otherwise. My husband is certain our son received an intramuscular injection into his thigh.*

When my son and my husband returned to my room, my baby wasn’t howling in horrible pain as his sister had been, but he was cranky. Then he became so sleepy he was basically unresponsive. While his siblings had been eager, successful nursers, I could not rouse him enough to even try. I have since learned that sleepiness and deep unwakeable sleep are signs of a vaccine injury. When, the next day, he became so dehydrated he only had urine crystals in his diaper, the nurses absurdly started pressuring me to offer him a bottle – which I refused. If he wouldn’t/couldn’t wake to nurse, how/why in the world would a bottle be any different? My husband and I tried over and over to wake him with a cold wash cloth to the back of his neck and then on the soles of his feet and when that didn’t work we progressed unsuccessfully to ice. While my husband and I worried about his unresponsiveness and dehydration the nurses and doctors shrugged it off – some babies just found birth very tiring they claimed…..(???) It was more than week before he really woke up. In the meantime I went through excruciating engorgement as my milk came in on time for a baby who was perpetually, unresponsively, asleep.

Clueless to the possible reasons for his lethargy and totally unaware how many shots had been added to the infant vaccine schedule during the intervening 10 years, I was floored when at his 2 month checkup the nurses ambushed him with 4 shots – giving 2 in each thigh simultaneously - representing 6 vaccines. As I look back on his vaccine record and his ensuing medical and developmental issues I can now see that he either regressed, developed new medical issues, or both after every round of vaccinations.

The stories from the mother’s at KKI lurked in the back of my mind during this time, especially when I sensed a change in him after his 4 month vaccines – the same toxic onslaught he endured at his 2 month checkup. When I raised concerns with his pediatrician about autism (I wasn't even linking my worries to the vaccines - I was just worried about regression!) she poo-pooed my concerns – chalking it up not to real changes in my child, but to my maternal paranoia as traumatized mother. All those rumors swirling around about vaccines and autism? Nonsense she insisted! And I guess as a parent, analyst, proud bureaucrat, a political science major who completely believed in the integrity of journalism as the 4th estate, I just did not, could not, believe that all those parties involved would be willing to put so many lives in such horrible danger.

Then she said something that turns my stomach to this day - the whole regression thing she declared, was bogus. She had worked with autistic children during her residency and to a one, she insisted, the parents had just missed it. Mothers just didn’t realize their children never made eye contact, never pointed, didn’t speak. Their children simply had not really acquired the developmental skills - and then lost them - these mothers thought they had. I was speechless – like the wind had been knocked out of me. This was a doctor I had been with for years. She had cared for my twin nieces after they arrived fragile and tiny 8 weeks too soon. A doctor I really, really respected and trusted. I thought of all those warrior moms at KKI. Moms fighting for their kids and the skills and health they had lost. Those moms who missed NOTHING. Looking back, I just should have grabbed my kid and bolted. Instead, I stood there dumbstruck as the nurses descended with his 6 month vaccines…..

*All this begs the question – do babies really even need a super-infusion of any kind of vitamin K – synthetic, natural, injected or oral? Might nature have some reason for babies to naturally be born with low levels of vitamin K, since it seems to be universal the world over?  Don’t doctors – and Pharma – lecture loudly and often that buying vitamins and supplements for adults is a waste of time and money? Don’t they spend a great deal of time warning us all about the dangers of mega doses of vitamins? Some of the links here address some of those questions. I hope to cover this topic in a future post.