Does “Twitchy” really just mean “knee jerk?” Correcting the record, deflecting the hoaxes, propaganda and Mau-Mauing about Rachel Carson and DDT

June 1, 2014

Or is there any “knee” in that at all? Maybe it’s just jerk.

You know the drill. Someone says something nice about Rachel Carson’s great work. Someone on the right can’t stand that a scientist gets spoken of well, comes unglued, and spills every lie about Rachel Carson anyone can find, including the big lie, that “millions of kids died unnecessarily because DDT was banned because Rachel Carson lied about DDT, which is really a lot like sugar water to humans and all other living things.”

For the record, each of those claims is false; in reverse order:

  1. DDT is toxic to almost all living things, a long-lived and potent poison (which is why was used to kill harmful insects and other vermin). While bed bugs and mosquitoes have evolved resistance and total immunity to the stuff, few other creatures have.
  2. Rachel Carson told all the truth about DDT that was known at the timeHer accuracy was confirmed by a panel of the nation’s top scientists, who reviewed her work for errors, and federal policy for usefulness and safety.  Since the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, and since Carson’s untimely death from cancer in 1964, we’ve learned that DDT is a carcinogen (though, we hope, a weak one); we’ve learned that DDT is an endocrine disruptor that fouls up sex organs and sexual maturity in more animals than anyone can count, including humans; and we’ve learned that  DDT causes birds to lay eggs with shells so thin the chicks cannot survive, even if the DDT doesn’t kill the chick outright.
  3. Carson didn’t urge a ban on DDT, nor did it happen until eight years after her death.  As I explain below, Carson fought to stop DDT abuses, to preserve DDT’s utility in the fight against disease.  She lost that fight, and as a resul tof DDT abuse by DDT advocates, the World Health Organization (WHO) had to scrap it’s ambitious program to eradicate malaria from the Earth — just as the campaign got to tropical areas of Africa.  DDT was banned for crops in the U.S. (health uses have never been banned here), after two different federal courts ordered EPA to do something because under the existing law they’d be required to ban DDT completely if EPA didn’t act, and after a rather adversary administrative law hearing that lasted nine months, featured testimony and document submissions from more than 30 DDT manufacturers, and compiled a record of DDT’s benefits and harms nearly 10,000 pages long.  It was science that got DDT banned, not Rachel Carson’s great writing.
  4. Every year since EPA banned DDT use on crops in the U.S., worldwide malaria deaths dropped, from peak-DDT use years (circa 1958-1963) levels of approximatly4 million deaths per year, to 2013’s approximately 627,000 deaths.  It’s unfair and grotesquely inaccurate to claim a reduction in deaths of about 84% is, instead, an increase.  Malaria was not close to eradication in 1965 when WHO stopped its campaign on the ground, nor in 1969 when WHO officially abandoned eradication as a goal, nor in 1972 when the U.S. banned DDT use in the U.S., and dedicated all U.S. production of DDT to export, mostly for fighting insects that cause disease.

In short, Rachel Carson is exactly as the history books present her, a very good scientist with a special gift for communicating science issues.

That’s exactly the stuff that galls the hell out of self-proclaimed conservatives, especially those who know they are the smartest person in any room, even an internet chat room with a few million people in it.  Say something good about a scientist, and they know that statement must be false, and what’s more  “. . .  let’s see, there should be something bad about this guy on Google . . . um, yeah . . . yessss! here, Lyndon Larouche’s magazine has some guy I’ve never heard of, but he’s smarter than any librul because he agrees with my bias! Take THAT you scurvy dog!”  And in short order they’ve scooped up all five or six nuts who said bad stuff about Rachel Carson and cross-cited each other, and they’ve copied the links to the three articles on the internet that obscure groups like CEI and AEI and Heritage have paid to raise in the Google searches, and . . .

Done deal.  “Good scientist!  Heh! No one will listen to old Rachel Carson any more!”

Unless good people stand up to the reputation lynch mobs, and stop them.  That’s why I’m telling you, so you’ll have the stuff you need to stand up.  I’m hoping you will stand up.

Shortly after dawn on May 27, Twitchy rose out of the mucky water and lobbed some mud balls at Google and especially Rachel Carson.  Twitchy is an interesting site.  It’s mostly composed of Tweets that support conservative causes and are snarky enough earn a snicker.  In short, there is no fact checking, and biases are preferred — whatever is the imagined conservative bias of the day (oddly enough, never is conservation of soil, water, nor human life ever a conservative-enough issue . . . but I digress).

It’s the nervous twitch of a knee-jerk mind and knee-jerk political mentality.

Twitchy opened up with a straightforward salvo from IowaHawk.

Note that, above, and again below, I note that there were no “millions of malaria victims” of Rachel Carson.  IowaHawk, David Burge,  assumes — without a whit of real information — that DDT was the key to beating malaria, and so after the EPA ban on DDT, malaria must have risen, and so there must have been millions who died unnecessarily. Challenge the guy to put evidence to any part of that chain, and he’ll demur, probably suggest you’re mentally defective, and cast aspersions on what he assumes your political stand to be.  Or, he’ll ignore the challenge in hopes everybody will forget.   And another person will retweet Burge’s disinformative bit of propaganda — no facts, but what sounds like a nasty charge at someone who is presumed to be a liberal.  Burge’s erroneous Tweet had 504 retweets when I wrote this on June 1, great impact.

Eh. Truth wins in a fair fight, Ben Franklin said.  [I'm pretty sure it was Franklin; I'm still sourcing it, and if you have a correction, let me know!]

At length, more people chime in . . . and the level of misinformation in that discourse makes me crazy.

Occasionally I’ll drop in a correction, often a link to contrary information.  Then the abuse is astonishing. This conservative “hate information” machine is ugly.

From the Wellcome Trust malaria page, an explanation for why it's so important to stop bites in the home, at night, and why it's generally not necessary to kill mosquitoes out of doors, in daylight.

From the Wellcome Trust malaria page, an explanation for why it’s so important to stop bites in the home, at night, and why it’s generally not necessary to kill mosquitoes out of doors, in daylight.

Sometimes I unload.  I was on hold for a more than an hour on a couple of phone calls that day.  Some guy working the handle OmaJohn took great exception to something I said — I think his complaint was that thought I knew what I was talking about — and of course, he knew better!  How dare I refer to facts!

Here’s my response.  I think OmaJohn may have gotten the message, or rethought the thing.

But others haven’t.

I list his statements, indented; my responses are not indented.  Links will be added as I can.  All images are added here.

Rachel Carson is still right, still a great scientist and an amazing writer.  DDT is still poisonous, still banned for agricultural use in the U.S., and still not the answer to “how do we beat malaria.”

OmaJohn said:

Always with the crow’s lofty view to try and cherry-pick facts to paint a valid conclusion.

I wouldn’t know, Mr. Corvus. I’ve been looking at DDT professionally for science and policy, and as a hobby, and for law and history courses, for more than 30 years. I’m rather drowning in studies and statistics. A crow might be able to find some information that contradicts Rachel Carson’s writings and EPA’s rulings — but it’s not evident in this data ocean. You see some of those cherries? Do they outweigh the ocean they float in?

I do like how you use blogs to justify your condescension, though. [He complaining that I offered links to answers here, at this blog; how brazenly wrong of me to study an issue!]

I think your denigration of people who actually study a subject is ill-advised behavior. Research papers are printed on paper, just like comic books. It’s up to us to use the information to form cogent ideas about history, science, and make good policy as a result. The blogs I cite are often written by experts in the field — see especially Bug Girl, Tim Lambert and John Quiggen — and they most often provide links to the original sources.

(I gather you didn’t bother to read to see what was actually there. Your loss.)

I don’t like what appears to be your view that your non-informed opinion of something you really know little about is as valid as the work of people who devote their lives to getting the facts right. In the long run, your life depends on their winning that game, and always has.

Without having read a lot, I took a gander at a few of the folks ‘on the other side’ on this, and I was Jack’s complete lack of surprise to see you in here with your head high, throwing around blog references and talking down to people.

Much as you are talking down to me, from your position has head muckraker? I see.

I’m not sure what you mean by “folks on the other side.” If you mean on the other side of Rachel Carson, please note that in 52 years not a single science source she listed has ever been found to be in error, or fading as a result of changing science. Discover Magazine took a look at this issue in 2007, concluding Carson was right, and DDT use should be restricted as it was then and remains. The author wrote this, about claims that Carson erred on damage to birds from DDT:

In fact, Carson may have underestimated the impact of DDT on birds, says Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and director of the American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds program. She was not aware that DDT—or rather its metabolite, DDE—causes eggshell thinning because the data were not published until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was eggshell thinning that devastated fish-eating birds and birds of prey, says Fry, and this effect is well documented in a report (pdf) on DDT published in 2002 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The report, which cites over 1,000 references, also describes how DDT and its breakdown products accumulate in the tissues of animals high up on terrestrial and aquatic food chains—a process that induced reproductive and neurological defects in birds and fish.

Don’t take my word for it. Go read for yourself. Check out PubMed, and read the first 50 citations you find on DDT and birds, the first 20 on DDT and human health, the first 50 on DDT and malaria. Check out the recent good books on the issue — William Souder’s great biography of Carson last year, On a Farther Shore, or Sonia Shah’s wonderful biography of malaria, [The Fever, How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years].

Get real facts, in other words. Don’t talk down to people who might know what they’re talking about.

You wrote:

DDT use was officially stopped in most countries (perhaps all, I’ve not read anything I’d tout as even remotely conclusive, but I’ve not spent a substantial amount of time on this issue), but quickly (within a decade) was brought back to common use.

You should compost that, but it’s too green to do anything but foul things up indoors, here.

DDT was banned first in Sweden in 1971, then in the U.S. in 1972 — the U.S. ban was on crop use, only. About the only use that actually fell under that ban was cotton crops.

A few other European nations banned DDT.

DDT has never been banned in China, India, nor most of Asia, nor in any nation in Africa. Some African nations stopped using it when it stopped being effective; some African nations stopped using it when DDT runoff killed off food fishes and several thousands starved to death.

The World Health Organization never stopped using DDT, though its dramatic decline in effectiveness, especially in Africa, was key to the collapse and abandonment of WHO’s campaign to eradicate malaria. WHO stopped that campaign in 1965, and officially killed it off at the 1969 WHO meetings. You’ll note that was years before the 1972 ban in the U.S. — so the claims that the U.S. ban prompted a WHO to act is also false just on calendar terms.

If you check with the Wellcome Trust, they have several papers and PowerPoint presentations on the problems with malaria in Mexico, Central and South America — where DDT has been used constantly since 1948, with no ban. Unfortunately, malaria came back. Resistance to DDT in mosquitoes is real, and if malaria is not cured in the humans while the populations are temporarily knocked down, when the mosquitoes come back, they will find those humans with malaria, withdraw some of the parasites from that human, incubate them to the next part of the life cycle, and start a plague within a couple of weeks.

So, no, DDT was never banned in most places. There is a treaty, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs), which names DDT as one of the dirtiest pollutants in the world. Though every other pollutant on the list is severely restricted or completely banned, DDT has a special carve out (Addenda D, if I recall correctly) which says DDT may be used by any nation to fight any vector-borne disease.

All a nation need do is send a letter to WHO explaining that it plans to use DDT, and when.

And, no, DDT was not brought back in haste to make up for a lack of the stuff.

Not sure where you’re getting your history, but it’s not exactly square with what’s happened.

That’s a pretty huge, expensive policy shift — twice.

Would have been, had it been done as you described. Not so.

There was a lot of pressure to make those changes.

So in the fight on Malaria, I think that scientists and bureaucrats generally agree that DDT plays an
important role, particularly after seriously slowing or stopping use for a substantial amount of time.

Read the POPs treaty — go to the WHO site and you can still get some of the deliberative papers.

For almost all uses, DDT has much better alternatives available today.

Malaria is a special case because humans screwed up the eradication campaign, first, by abusing DDT and creating DDT resistance in the mosquitoes, and second, by completely abandoning most other parts of the program when DDT crapped out.

DDT doesn’t cure malaria. All it does is temporarily knock down the mosquitoes that carry the parasite through part of its life cycle. Better medical care is a very important part of beating the disease, and as in the U.S., improving housing cuts malaria rates dramatically, especially with windows that are screened roughly from sundown to early morning.

DDT is one of 12 chemicals WHO approves for use in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), in areas where there are outbreaks of the disease. If any one chemical were used alone, it would be ineffective within months, or weeks.

When tobacco farmers in Uganda sued to stop DDT spraying in the early years of the 21st century, WHO issued a press release saying it still believes in DDT. Well, WHO always did. But as of 2010, DDT’s effectiveness is even less, and many nations use only the other 11 chemicals for IRS against malaria.

DDT is still there, if it works, and if it helps; bednets alone are more than double the effectiveness of DDT in preventing malaria. We could probably phase out DDT completely without anyone noticing. DDT is not a panacea. There is no shortage of DDT anywhere today. No one dies for a lack of DDT — though many may die from a lack of bednets or appropriate medical care, problems DDT cannot touch

I believe that Rachel Carson championed her cause very successfully. I believe there was sizeable, if not perfectly tangible, fallout that would only be measurable in human livesand misery thanks to her efforts. And in the end, things were as they should have been, despite her best efforts to force them where they
shouldn’t be.

I see. You don’t know what Rachel Carson said about DDT.

Carson said that DDT was — in 1962 — a pesticide without a clear replacement. She said it was absolutely critical to the then-existing WHO campaign to fight malaria.

And because of that, she urged that use of DDT on crops, or to kill cockroaches, or to kill flies at picnic sites, be stopped — because unless it were stopped, the overuse could not fail to leak into the rest of the ecosystem. Mosquitoes would quickly develop resistance to DDT — that had been a key problem in Greece in 1948, and Carson cites several other places where anti-typhus and anti-malaria campaigns were scuttled when the insects started eating DDT — and once that resistance developed, Carson said, beating malaria would be set back decades at a minimum, and maybe centuries.

She wrote that in 1962.

Fred Soper was the super mosquito fighter in the employ of the Rockefeller Foundation who developed the DDT-based malaria eradication program. He was loaned to WHO to take the campaign worldwide. Soper thought Carson was too tough on DDT in her book, but he had already calculated that DDT resistance would develop by 1975. He had just more than a dozen years to eliminate malaria, he wrote. (This is chronicled in Malcom McDowell’s 2001 profile of Soper in The New Yorker; you can read it at McDowell’s website.)

WHO’s campaign had mopped up pockets of malaria left in temperate zone nations; he had massive successes in sub-tropical nations, and he was poised to strike at the heart of malaria country, in equatorial Africa, in 1965.

The first campaign launched there fizzled completely. When they captured some mosquitoes, they found they were highly resistant to DDT already. Turns out that farmers in Africa wanted spotless fruit, too, and were using tons of DDT to get it.

For the health workers, what that meant was they had no tool at all to knock down mosquitoes even temporarily, to then finish the medical care, housing improvement and education components of the malaria eradication campaign.

It is also true that many of those nations had unstable governments. Soper’s formula required that 80% of the homes in an affected area be treated. That required highly trained, very devoted workers, and a willing population. Those things were difficult to find in nations with unstable governments, or worse, civil war. So there were other complicating factors. But Soper had faced those, and beaten them, behind the Iron Curtain, in Asia, in the Pacific and in South America.

When DDT quit on him, as Carson predicted it would without official action to save its potency, Soper called it quits.

Soper ended his campaign without approaching most of equatorial Africa in 1965. WHO ended the program in 1969.

Carson died in 1964. She would have been saddened that DDT stopped working in the malaria fight so early. She had written about it occurring in some future year — she probably knew of Soper’s calculation in the 1970s.

The public relations smear campaign against Carson, costing the chemical companies $500,000, generated some doubt among the public, but the President’s Science Advisory Council published its report saying Carson was accurate on the science, and calling for immediate action against DDT — in 1963.

It was 7 years after her death that EPA was organized, and 8 years before EPA moved against DDT.

Carson pleaded for a dramatic reduction in unnecessary DDT use — to make spotless apples, for example — in order to save people from malaria.

What did you think she said? What things were back where they should have been — poor kids dying of malaria is as it should be?

We could have done better, had we listened to Rachel Carson in 1962.

You’ve offered nothing that logically refutes those conclusions.

You should have read those blogs.

More:

  • David Burge, Iowahawk, whose post started the Twitchy twitches, several years ago revealed that a young boy his family had been sponsoring in Africa through a private charity, had died from malaria.  Death from malaria is a tragic reality.  Burge urged people to speak out for more DDT, and to donate money to Africa Fighting Malaria.  Readers of my blog may recall that AFM is the astro-turf organization founded by Roger Bate years ago, from all appearance to pay Roger Bate to say nasty things about Rachel Carson.  We could find on their IRS 990 form no evidence that the organization does anything to fight malaria, anywhere.  One might wonder how much anti-malaria activity Roger Bate’s $100,000/year salary would have purchased, in any of the several years he headed the non-help group, or since.  Adding insult to tragedy, Burge noted at his blog that “environmental groups” opposed Indoor Residual Spraying in Africa, and especially the use of DDT.  But it turns out that the chief opposition at that time came from tobacco growers and tobacco organizations — the groups from whom Roger Bate solicited money to start up AFM.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to stick with the facts?
  • If you want to do something, to save a life from malaria, send $10 to Nothing But Nets.  In stark contrast to AFM, NbN sends almost all its money to buy bednets to give away to people in malaria-endemic areas of Africa.  While AFM ridicules nets, they are much more effective at preventing malaria than IRS, especially IRS with DDT alone.  Nets are much cheaper, too.  NbN acts in partnership with the NBA and the United Methodist Church in the United States, and is one of the most upstanding charities anywhere.  They do not say nasty things about Rachel Carson — probably wouldn’t if they thought to, because they are so busy fighting malaria.

Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids

May 30, 2014

May 27’s Google Doodle honoring Rachel Carson brought out a lot of those people who have been duped by the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers, people who are just sure their own biased views of science and the politics of medical care in the third world are right, and Carson, and the people who study those issues, are not.

So comes “The Federalist,” what appears to me to be a reactionary site, which yesterday got great readership for a story from Bethany Mandel.  Mandel tells a story of a child in Cambodia suffering from malaria.  The suffering is horrible and the child most likely died.  It’s a tragic story of poverty and lack of medical care in the third world.

Erroneously, Mandel up front blames the suffering all on Rachel Carson, in a carp about the Google Doodle.

Here was my quick response between bouts in the dentist’s chair yesterday [links added here]:

[Bethany Mandel wrote:] Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.

Don’t be evil?

Start by not telling false tales.

1.  Carson presented a plethora of evidence that DDT kills birds.  This science was solid, and still is.

2.  Carson did not argue DDT should be banned.  She said it was necessary to fight disease, and consequently uses in the wild, requiring broadcast spraying, should be halted immediately.

3.  Scientific evidence against DDT mounted up quickly; under US law, two federal courts determined DDT was illegal under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; they stayed orders to ban the chemical pending hearings under a new procedure at the new Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA held hearings, adversary proceedings, for nine months. More than 30 DDT manufacturers were party to the hearings, presenting evidence totaling nearly 10,000 pages.  EPA’s administrative law judge ruled that, though DDT was deadly to insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the labeled uses proposed in a new label (substituted at the last moment) were legal under FIFRA — indoor use only, and only where public health was concerned.  This labeling would allow DDT to remain on sale, over the counter, with few penalties for anyone who did not follow the label.  EPA took the label requirements, and issued them as a regulation, which would prevent sales for any off-label uses.  Understanding that this would be a severe blow to U.S. DDT makers, EPA ordered U.S. manufacture could continue, for the export markets — fighting mosquitoes and malaria being the largest export use.

This ruling was appealed to federal courts twice; in both cases the courts ruled EPA had ample scientific evidence for its rule.  Under U.S. law, federal agencies may not set rules without supporting evidence.

4.  DDT was banned ONLY for agriculture use in the U.S.  It was banned in a few European nations.

5.  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.

6.  USAID’s policy encouraged other nations to use U.S.-made DDT, consistent with federal policy to allow manufacture for export, for the benefit of U.S. business.

7.  U.S. exports flooded markets with DDT, generally decreasing the price.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

8.  Although WHO had been forced to end its malaria eradication operation in 1965, because DDT abuse had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT, and though national and international campaigns against malaria largely languished without adequate government funding, malaria incidence and malaria deaths declined.  Especially after 1972, malaria continued a year-over-year decline with few exceptions.

Note that the WHO campaign ended in 1965 (officially abandoned by WHO officials in 1969), years before the U.S. ban on DDT.

Every statement about DDT in that paragraph of [Mandel's] article, is wrong.

Most important, to the purpose of this essay, malaria did not increase.  Malaria infections decreased, and malaria deaths decreased.

I’m sure there are other parts of the story that are not false in every particular.  But this article tries to make a case against science, against environmental care — and the premise of the case is exactly wrong.  A good conclusion is unlikely to follow.

Mandel was hammered by the full force of the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers.  I wonder how many children will die because people thought, “Hey, all we have to do is kill Rachel Carson to fix malaria,” and so went off searching for a gun and a bullet?

You are not among them, are you?

Update: This guy, a worshipper of the Breitbart, seems to be among those who’d rather rail against a good scientist than lift a finger to save a kid from malaria. If you go there, Dear Reader, be alert that he uses the Joe Stalin method of comment moderation:  Whatever you say, he won’t allow it to be posted.  Feel free to leave comments here, where we practice First Amendment-style ethics on discussion.


Resources for World Malaria Day 2013

April 25, 2013

Not a word about condemning Rachel Carson.  No plea to use DDT to try to poison Africa or Asia to health.  That’s a great start.

More:

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria.  Columbia University MVSim image

Mother and son under a protective bednet, the most efficient method to prevent malaria. Columbia University MVSim image


April 25 is World Malaria Day — right, Bill?

April 24, 2013

He’s absolutely right.

English: World Malaria Day Button (english)

English: World Malaria Day Button (english) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are you doing to fight malaria today?

More:


V for Vaccine: A slightly rude film with a powerful point

January 10, 2013

A couple of kids in the Dallas area have died already from influenza — neither had been vaccinated against it.  Deaths have occurred across the nation, frequently in young, otherwise healthy people.

Nasty flu bugs going around this year, and the every-year epidemic has hit about two months early.  One part of the good news is that the vaccines this year are especially well-suited to target the viruses that cause the trouble.  The vaccines work well every year, but especially well in 2012 and 2013.

The bad news is that millions of people haven’t bothered to get vaccinated. That’s not good.

  1. Under Obamacare, there’s no copay for insurance for a flu shot.  It’s “free” if you have any kind of insurance. In addition, county health offices offer the vaccines for free to any comers.  A couple of weeks ago at the pharmacy I stood behind a woman who confessed she’d not gotten a flu shot (pharmacies are pushing vaccinations these days, to promote their mini-clinics).  “I’ve got that crappy teachers’ insurance,” she told the technician.  “It never pays for anything like that.”  The tech looked it up, and told her that her copay was zero, and her insurance paid for it — essentially a free shot, to her.  On the way into the clinic she said, “I’ve never gotten a flu shot before.”  Oy.
  2. Think Herd Immunity:  Are you usually healthy?  Great.  But if you’re pregnant, or you work around people who are or may be pregnant, or if you’re over 60, or if you have any chronic condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic sinusitis, or a raft of other things, you’re at risk, and you put others in those risk categories at risk.  My grandfather worked at a hospital while my mother and my oldest brother were living with him; after a week of my grandfather’s working in the polio ward, my brother came down with the disease.  Of course we don’t know for sure, but my grandfather kicked himself for 40 years, until his death, because he thought he’d brought home the disease my brother caught.  With vaccines, those incidents become much more rare.

Risking this blog’s G rating, I’m going to post this film, “V for Vaccine.”  Found it at New Anthropocene.  Turn up your offense filter, or ignore the language — but pay attention to what this guy says, PowerM1985:

Is it worth getting your children vaccinated if it risked them becoming autistic? In this video I give a short demonstration of why I personally believe that even if there was a risk of my child becoming autistic (AND THERE IS NOT!) I would still get them vaccinated.

You should probably know that the work of the Centers for Disease Control to correctly predict which strains of the viruses will be most prevalent, and get vaccines that will fight those viruses, has been very, very good this year.

  • Influenza A (H3N2), 2009 influenza A (H1N1), and influenza B viruses have all been identified in the U.S. this season. During the week of December 23-29, 2,346 of the 2,961 influenza positive tests reported to CDC were influenza A and 615 were influenza B viruses. Of the 1,234 influenza A viruses that were subtyped, 98% were H3 viruses and 2% were 2009 H1N1 viruses.
  • Since October 1, 2012, CDC has antigenically characterized 413 influenza viruses, including 17 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses, 281 influenza A (H3N2) viruses and 115 influenza B viruses.
    • All 17 of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses were characterized as A/California/7/2009-like. This is the influenza A (H1N1) component of the Northern Hemisphere vaccine for the 2012-2013 season.
    • Of the 281 influenza A (H3N2) viruses, 279 (99%) were characterized as A/Victoria/361/2011-like. This is the influenza A (H3N2) component of the Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine for the 2012-2013 season.
    • Approximately 69% of the 115 influenza B viruses belonged to the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses, and were characterized as B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like, the influenza B component for the 2012-2013 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine. The remaining 31% of the tested influenza B viruses belonged to the B/Victoria lineage of viruses.

What are you waiting for?  Go get a flu shot!

More:

English: This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee An...

This is CDC Clinic Chief Nurse Lee Ann Jean-Louis extracting Influenza Virus Vaccine, Fluzone® from a 5 ml. vial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Graphic on influenza, 2013 - Flu.gov

Information from Flu.gov; click image to get to active Flu Vaccine Finder


World Malaria Report 2012: Malaria still declining, but more resources needed fast

January 4, 2013

Significant gains against malaria could be lost because funding for insecticide-treated bednets has dropped, and malaria parasites appear to be developing resistance to the pharmaceuticals used to clear the disease from humans, while insects that transmit the parasites develop resistance to insecticides used to hold their populations down.

Malaria room

African bedroom equipped with LLINs (insecticidal bednets) Photo: YoHandy/Flickr

UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) published its annual report on the fight against malaria last month, December 2012.  Accompanying the many page World Malaria Report 2012  were a press release and a FAQ; the fact-sheet appears unedited below.

Insecticidal bednets have proven to be a major, effective tool in reducing malaria infections.  Careful studies of several different projects produced a consensus that distributing the nets for free works best; people in malaria-infected areas simply cannot afford to pay even for life-saving devices, but they use the devices wisely when they get them.  Nets often get abbreviated in official documents to “LLINs,” an acronym for “long-lasting insecticidal nets.”

Generally, the report is good news.

Dramatic facts emerge from the report:  The “million-a-year” death toll from malaria has been whacked to fewer than 700,000, the lowest level in recorded human history.  More people may die, and soon, if aid does not come to replace worn bednets, distribute new ones, and if the drugs that cure the disease in humans, lose effectiveness.  Many nations where the disease is endemic cannot afford to wage the fight on their own.

Links in the Fact Sheet were added here, and do not come from the original report — except for the link to the WHO site itself.

Logo for World Health Organization

17 December 2012

World Malaria Report 2012

FACT SHEET

Malaria is a preventable and treatable mosquito-borne disease, whose main victims are children under five years of age in Africa.

The World Malaria Report 2012 summarizes data received from 104 malaria-endemic countries and territories for 2011. Ninety-nine of these countries had on-going malaria transmission.

According to the latest WHO estimates, there were about 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths. Africa is the most affected continent: about 90% of all malaria deaths occur there.

Between 2000 and 2010, malaria mortality rates fell by 26% around the world. In the WHO African Region the decrease was 33%. During this period, an estimated 1.1 million malaria deaths were averted globally, primarily as a result of a scale-up of interventions.

Funding situation

International disbursements for malaria control rose steeply during the past eight years and were estimated to be US$ 1.66 billion in 2011 and US$ 1.84 billion in 2012. National government funding for malaria programmes has also been increasing in recent years, and stood at an estimated US$ 625 million in 2011.

However, the currently available funding for malaria prevention and control is far below the resources required to reach global malaria targets. An estimated US$ 5.1 billion is needed every year between 2011 and 2020 to achieve universal access to malaria interventions. In 2011, only US$ 2.3 billion was available, less than half of what is needed.

Disease burden

Malaria remains inextricably linked with poverty. The highest malaria mortality rates are being seen in countries that have the highest rates of extreme poverty (proportion of population living on less than US$1.25 per day).

International targets for reducing malaria cases and deaths will not be attained unless considerable progress can be made in the 17 most affected countries, which account for an estimated 80% of malaria cases.

  • The six highest burden countries in the WHO African region (in order of estimated number of cases) are: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire. These six countries account for an estimated 103 million (or 47%) of malaria cases.
  • In South East Asia, the second most affected region in the world, India has the highest malaria burden (with an estimated 24 million cases per year), followed by Indonesia and Myanmar.  50 countries are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75%, in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets for 2015. These 50 countries only account for 3% (7 million) of the total estimated malaria cases.

At present, malaria surveillance systems detect only around 10% of the estimated global number of cases.  In 41 countries around the world, it is not possible to make a reliable assessment of malaria trends due to incompleteness or inconsistency of reporting over time.

This year, the World Malaria Report 2012 publishes country-based malaria case and mortality estimates (see Annex 6A). The next update on global and regional burden estimates will be issued in December 2013.

Malaria interventions

To achieve universal access to long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), 780 million people at risk would need to have access to LLINs in sub-Saharan Africa, and approximately 150 million bed nets would need to be delivered each year.

The number of LLINs delivered to endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa dropped from a peak of 145 million in 2010 to an estimated 66 million in 2012. This will not be enough to fully replace the LLINs delivered 3 years earlier, indicating that total bed net coverage will decrease unless there is a massive scale-up in 2013. A decrease in LLIN coverage is likely to lead to major resurgences in the disease.

In 2011, 153 million people were protected by indoor residual spraying (IRS) around the world, or 5% of the total global population at risk. In the WHO African Region, 77 million people, or 11% of the population at risk were protected through IRS in 2011.

The number of rapid diagnostic tests delivered to endemic countries increased dramatically from 88 million in 2010 to 155 million in 2011. This was complemented by a significant improvement in the quality of tests over time.

In 2011, 278 million courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) were procured by the public and private sectors in endemic countries – up from 182 million in 2010, and just 11 million in 2005. ACTs are recommended as the first-line treatment for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly Plasmodium species that infects humans. This increase was largely driven by the scale-up of subsidized ACTs in the private sector through the AMFm initiative, managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Drug and insecticide resistance

Antimalarial drug resistance is a major concern for the global effort to control malaria. P. falciparum resistance to artemisinins has been detected in four countries in South East Asia: in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. There is an urgent need to expand containment efforts in affected countries. For now, ACTs remain highly effective in almost all settings, so long as the partner drug in the combination is locally effective.

Mosquito resistance to at least one insecticide used for malaria control has been identified in 64 countries around the world. In May 2012, WHO and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership released the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management in malaria vectors, a five-pillar strategy for managing the threat of insecticide resistance.

www.who.int/malaria

You were perceptive.  You noted there is no call from malaria fighters for more DDT, nor for any change in DDT policy.  This is a report from medical personnel, from public health experts, the real malaria fighters.  It’s not a political screed.

More, and related articles:


More good news about Obamacare: No pre-existing conditions clause

May 31, 2012

More:


Is the anti-vaccine movement dangerous?

April 24, 2012

I get e-mail from Bob Park, the physicist curmudgeon/philosopher at the University of Maryland (I’ve added links):

Robert L. Park

Robert L. Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“DEADLY CHOICES”: PAUL OFFIT EXPOSES THE ANTI-VACCINE MOVEMENT.

There was never a time before people knew that falling trees and large animals with teeth can kill.  Microbes are another matter. They had been killing us for perhaps 200,000 years before Antonie van Leeuwenhoek showed them to us. Paul Offit and two colleagues worked for 25 years to develop a vaccine for the rotavirus, a cause of gastroenteritis that kills as many as 600,000 children a year worldwide, mostly in underdeveloped countries.  The vaccine is credited with saving hundreds of lives a day.  Offit wrote “Autism’s False Prophets” in 2008 exposing British physician Andrew Wakefield for falsely claiming the MMR vaccineis linked to autism.

H. Fred Clark and Paul Offit, the inventors of...

H. Fred Clark and Paul Offit, the inventors of RotaTeq. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vaccination prevents more suffering than any other branch of medicine, but is still opposed by the scientifically ignorant who accept the upside-down logic of the alternative medicine movement.  Because vaccination of schoolchildren against virulent childhood infections is ubiquitous, crackpots, scoundrels and gullible reporters get away with linking it to unrelated health problems as they did in the 1980s with the ubiquitous power lines.  We still hear echoes of the power-line scare in the cell phone/cancer panic. Paul Offit has just written “Deadly Choices: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.”  We need to do everything we can to stop it.

You don’t subscribe to Bob Park’s “What’s New?”  You should.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.

Archives of What’s New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org
What’s New is moving to a different listserver and our subscription process has changed. To change your subscription status please visit this link:
http://listserv.umd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=bobparks-whatsnew&A=1

You’ll be smarter for reading his little missiles missives missiles.

More:

Measles cases reported in the United States be...


Good news about health care in the U.S.: The case for Obama’s health care reforms

March 7, 2012

Here’s a preview of another piece of television that many Republicans hope you will not bother to see, a piece that explains exactly how and why the health care reforms championed by President Obama will help you and millions of others:

Program: U.S. Health Care: The Good News

Episode: The Good News in American Medicine

Journalist T.R. Reid examines communities in America where top-notch medical care is available at reasonable costs and, in some instances, can be accessed by almost all residents. Included: Mesa County, Colo.; Seattle; Everest, Wash.; Hanover, N.H. In Mesa County, for instance, doctors, hospitals and insurers place an emphasis on prevention; and a program that offers pre-natal care to poor women has proved popular.

T. R. Reid’s report started airing on PBS stations in mid-February.  If you haven’t seen it, go to this site to view the entire production.

More, resources (suggested by PBS, mostly):


Fighting malaria with indoor use of insecticides, with USAID money

September 18, 2011

Short video demonstrating the Indoor Residual Spraying program in Mali, financed by funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Note there is no ban on DDT, note that fighting malaria, even with poisons for mosquitoes, requires more than just spraying poison.

The video is in French.

539 views, September 18, 2011

DDT “costly for Uganda”

July 22, 2011

To aid researchers looking for news from Africa on malaria and DDT, I’ll reproduce the entire news story from Uganda’s New Vision here.  Stories from this outlet frequently trouble me, in the unquestioning way writers take quotes from people where a more probing reporter might be more skeptical.  I am not sure of the status of New Vision among Uganda’s media, but it’s one of the few available to us here on a regular basis.

So, here’s the story, on DDT usage to fight malaria.  A couple of points we need to remember:  First, it’s clear that DDT is not banned in Uganda, and that DDT usage goes on, despite the crocodile tears of Richard Tren, Roger Bate, and the Africa Fighting Malaria, Astroturf™ group; second, this story relates difficulties in using DDT, including cost.  It’s not that the stuff itself is expensive.  DDT doesn’t work on all mosquitoes anymore, and it’s dangerous to much other wildlife.  Malaria fighters must do serious work in advance to be sure the populations of mosquitoes targeted will be reduced by DDT — that is, that the bugs are not immune to DDT — and care must be taken to control the applications, to be sure it’s applied in great enough concentrations, and only indoors, where it won’t contaminate the wild.

Here’s the story from New Visions:

DDT spraying costly for Uganda

Tuesday, 5th July, 2011

By Raymond Baguma and Gerald Kawemba

INDOOR residual spraying as a strategy to control malaria in Uganda is too costly and has affected the programme countrywide.

According to Dr. Seraphine Adibaku, the head of the Malaria Control Programme, this is why other malaria control strategies such as use of insecticide-treated nets and Artemisinin-based combination therapy are considered to be ahead of indoor residual spraying.

The Government is implementing the indoor residual spraying using pyrethrum-based and carbon-based insecticides in 10 malaria-endemic districts in the northern and eastern regions.

They include Amolatar, Apac, Kitgum, Kumi and Bukedea.

“About three million people in the 10 districts have been covered. We have reached over 90% of the population,” Adibaku said.

She added that under the Presidential Malaria Initiative, the budget for indoor residual spraying is sh4.5b per district each year.

Adibaku said it would be much cheaper if the ministry distributed insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

She, however, said indoor spraying has an advantage of delivering immediate impact compared to treated nets.

Adibaku disclosed that the health ministry is re-evaluating the effectiveness of using DDT for malaria control.

Dr. Joaquim Saweka, the World Health Organisation (WHO) resident representative in Uganda, said indoor residual spraying is highly effective and has been successful in Zanzibar and Rwanda.

He, however, added that it is capital intensive and needs a lot of money for each application done twice a year.

Saweka cited his previous posting in Ghana during which a town of 300,000 inhabitants required $3m for spraying each year.

He said with the high cost of spraying and low financial resources available, Uganda needs to prioritise usage of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Saweka added that Uganda is on the right path to eradicating malaria with efforts in prevention, diagnosis and treatment as well as universal coverage of insecticide-treated nets.

Health minister Dr. Richard Nduhura yesterday kicked off a nationwide programme to distribute 11,000 bicycles to health volunteers who will diagnose and treat malaria in homes. The programme is supported by the Global Fund.

It is part of the Government’s home-based management of malaria, which is part of a larger national strategy to deliver treatment to children within 24 hours after diagnosis.

 


George Clooney’s malaria? DDT didn’t cure it

January 25, 2011

Not sure why, but pro-DDT sites have been harping about George Clooney’s having contracted malaria, a second time, while performing one of his humanitarian acts in southern Sudan.

George Clooney in Sudan, Time Magazine photo

George Clooney in Sudan, Time Magazine photo

True, Clooney got malaria.  His take?

“This illustrates how with proper medication, the most lethal condition in Africa can be reduced to bad ten days instead of a death sentence.”

Sometimes it may pay to remember that malaria is disease caused by a parasite who must live part of its life cycle in humans, and part of its life in mosquitoes.  Killing mosquitoes only works until the next susceptible mosquito comes along to bite an infected human.

The goal of malaria prevention and eradication campaigns generally is to cure the humans, so regardless how many mosquitoes may be in a given location and regardless how many people they may bite, there is no malaria pool for the mosquitoes to draw from, to spread to other humans.

To beat malaria, we need to prevent the spread of the disease.  At some point that requires providing quick and accurate diagnoses of which parasites cause the infection, and a complete and completed regimen of therapeutic pharmaceuticals to actuall cure the human victims.  DDT is mostly a bystander in that crucial part of the fight.

What was Clooney doing in Sudan?  According to the New York Daily News:

Clooney was in Sudan in December to work with Google and the UN on a human rights project that combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports to prevent a new war from occurring in the troubled country.

“We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” he said in a statement at the time. “War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Do you consider it odd that Clooney’s contracting malaria might gather more news in western outlets than his actual trip to Sudan, to call attention to the campaign against genocide?

World Blog – The race to contain drug-resistant malaria

January 23, 2011

NBC News’s World Blog carried a series on malaria and fighting it around the world.  Here’s part I:

PAILIN, Cambodia – The border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia at Pailin has a rather bleak feel about it at the best of times. In the heavy monsoon rain, the dingy checkpoints are reduced to gray smudges.

World Blog – The race to contain drug-resistant…, posted with vodpod

 

See more video information from NBC, here.


President’s Malaria Initiative: Plans for FY 2011

December 14, 2010

Barack Obama continued George W. Bush’s Africa-oriented fight against malaria.  The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)continues to target malaria for control and, if possible, eradication.

PMI announced today plans for work in 2011, country by country:

Malaria Operational Plans for Fiscal Year 2011

These Malaria Operational Plans have been endorsed by the U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator and reflect collaborative discussions with the national malaria control programs and partners in country. If any further changes are made to these plans, it will be reflected in revised postings.

How long before some wag complains that Obama’s program is anti-Africa because it doesn’t propose enough poisoning of the place?  “Not enough DDT!” they will complain, I wager.  And, for the record, I make this prediction not having read any of the country operational plans — in nearly complete ignorance of what the plans actually propose.  Can you find “enough” DDT in any country’s plan?

More:


Mandy Moore Talks Mosquito Nets – ABC News

December 13, 2010

Don’t ask me what work she’s done, because I couldn’t tell you.  I can tell — based on the headlines of the clipping services — that Mandy Moore is popular.

Ironically, in her brief tour of Africa and — shall we label it? — probably-shallow understanding of the issues, Ms. Moore has a deeper understanding of malaria and how to fight it than the most erudite of the DDT denialists, like Michael Crichton, or Rutledge Taylor.  Innocence wins.

For ABC News, the actress talked about charity work in Africa:

Mandy Moore Talks Mosquito Nets – ABC News, posted with vodpod

It’s a case of a celebrity doing “Do a Good Deed” duty, most likely.  In the video, Mandy Moore puts DDT denialists to shame.  In writing?  Moore doesn’t come off as well.  (Did she write that piece herself?  Maybe she should write what she talks.)


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