UK doctors call on WHO to condemn homeopathy for serious illnesses

Boo to the upcoming Homeopathy for Developing Countries conference in the Netherlands.

Yay to The Voice of Young Science and Derren Brown for pointing out that rich people wasting money on pointless treatments of water is different than trying to sell those treatments – and hope – to developing nations that have severe health problems in large populations of people who need help.

Measles still rising in the UK

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Remember when I grumbled about how the stupid autism scaremongerers scared some British parents into not immunising their children for Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)?

Rates of measles continue to rise. From the BBC:

Data from the Health Protection Agency showed there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November 2008.

And 75% of the 115 cases diagnosed in November were outside the traditional hotspot of London – in the north west, west midlands and south east.

The HPA’s Dr Mary Ramsay said the rise in cases was due to “relatively low” MMR uptake over the past decade.

Here’s a graph showing yearly cases of measles in the UK, with numbers from the Health Protection Agency:


People you don’t want to piss off

I’m just back from my regular teeth-cleaning visit to my dental hygienist. I made the unwise decision of talking politics with her, specifically today’s London mayoral election. She and I are, it seems, at opposite ends of the decision-making spectrum.

This is a woman who can already tut-tut me into shamefulness. She could also cause me great tooth-scraping, gum-prodding discomfort if she so wished. It was, in hindsight, a discussion I should have steered clear of.

Luckily, the discussion happened after my morning’s visit was over. I only hope that her professionalism and the six months until I see her next are proof against any future retribution.

Spotty results

In 1998 UK doctor Andrew Wakefield had a study published that claimed there was a link between autism, a new type of bowel disease, and the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccination jab given to children. This scary proposition – that something that almost all children were getting might cause autism – led to a massive amount of media coverage of the study. And that, of course, led to massive dropoffs in the rates of MMR immunisation of children in the UK.

It quickly became clear, even back in 1998, that Wakefield’s results were suspect. Ten of the thirteen authors of the paper summarizing the studyremoved their names from the conclusions drawn. It’s been a sordid saga since then. Newspapers have re-ignited the scare. Wakefield has beencharged with professional misconduct. The publication that carried the original study has since denounced the study as flawed. Although Wakefield continues his work, there are very few medical professionals who believe there is a connection.

The MMR scare is a key focus for Bad Science’s Ben Goldacre; you can read his history of columns referencing it here.

What is absolutely certain is that large areas of the UK now have a generation of kids that have levels of measles, mumps, and rubella immunity that are lower than they need to be to prevent the spread of those diseases.

Surprise, surprise: areas of London are having measles problems.

I’m back

My back got much better on the weekend. I decided that I wasn’t exercising it enough, that the pain was making me too timid. So I took a couple of paracetemol and went about my normal routine: cleaning up, cooking, entertaining folks at the BBQ. Yesterday I went for a run. And all in all I’m feeling much better.

Still, I made a physio appointment for this afternoon that I’ll go to. The knots aren’t completely gone. And my health care coverage provider has authourised  several sessions, so I might as well use them.

Back to it

I’ve mentioned before that I’d been having problems with my back. A trip to the doctor verified that it’s nothing serious: just knotted, spasming muscles. They just seemed to come from nowhere, and were just so sore, and are taking so long to go away.

Why has no one told me about this “getting older” thing before? Has no one done this before me?

Anyway, it is slowly getting better. Luckily, I can work from home, which is more comfortable than being at the office. Given the rain and flooding that continues to hit the Thames Valley, which my office lies along, that’s not a bad thing to be doing this week.

Last chance for the Tripoli Six

I blogged last autumn about the sick, sad story of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had been found guilty of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV. It’s sick and sad because they were sentenced to death when it seems very doubtful that they are really guilty: a great deal of expert testimony says that the infections probably happened before the Bulgarians came to work there.

They have lost their last appeal, and their sentences of execution have been upheld by the Libyan supreme court. There’s a great deal of international outcry. Their last chance may be the High Judiciary Council, which reviews death penalty verdicts, and can override the supreme court. There seems to be some compensation deal in the works that may influence this.