Straight Out Of Dickens

Nov 12 2013 @ 1:38pm

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Julia Ioffe describes what it’s like to have whooping cough:

At this writing, I have been coughing for 72 days. Not on and off coughing, but continuously, every day and every night, for two and a half months. And not just coughing, but whooping: doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering. Sometimes, I cough so hard, I vomit. Other times, I pee myself. Both of these symptoms have become blessedly less frequent, and I have yet to break a rib coughing – also a common side effect.

Unsurprisingly, she has some choice words for vaccine denialists:

How responsible are these non-vaccinating parents for my pertussis? Very. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that outbreaks of these antediluvian diseases clustered where parents filed non-medical exemptions – that is, where parents decided not to vaccinate their kids because of their personal beliefs. The study found that areas with high concentrations of conscientious objectors were 2.5 times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis.

Yes, she was vaccinated in childhood:

The problem, in part, is that the protection offered by the pertussis vaccine wears off by the time you reach adulthood. Until recently, however, this was not a problem. Back in those halcyon days when we vaccinated our children, the disease was not bouncing around our population and so it was okay that adults did not get re-immunized. (That’s the whole point of herd immunity: it’s hard to get sick from people who aren’t sick.)

Razib applauds Ioffe for her strategic shaming:

Over the past few years I’ve become much more aware of cultural streams in public health, and the public’s reaction to that health advice, because I have become a father. More specifically, when my wife was pregnant with my daughter, and after she was born, we encountered major pressure from peer networks to not vaccinate. In the social circles in which we were embedded, “progressive,” “crunchy,” and “alternative,” vaccinating one’s child was the heterodox decision. It was rather obvious to us that one of the major reasons that many people do not vaccinate their children is that many of their friends, and vocal people whom they trust, do not vaccinate their children. … [T]his groundswell of denialism must be countered by public opprobrium, and yes, shaming. Peer pressure kills, but it can also save lives.

(Infographic: Jen Kirby)