Monday, August 25, 2008

Wishing For Natural Therapies Can Kill or Injure

A couple of news reports reminds us about how as a society we have very short memories - one involves measles and the other involves raw cow milk.

The CDC reported a large increase in the number of measles cases. An outbreak in Illinois occurred in home-schooled children and none were vaccinated. Already in 2008, 131 cases were reported, which is three times that of 2007.
  • "Before the measles vaccine in this country, there were 400 deaths of U.S. children each year caused by measles," says Dr. William Schaffner, department of preventive medicine chairman at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Measles carries serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, which is a life-threatening inflammation of the brain tissue that can be caused by viral infections such as measles. Measles is a serious illness. To be cavalier and not vaccinate shocks someone like me, who has seen the devastating effects of this disease."
  • So far this year, 15 patients have been hospitalized as a result of measles. They suffered symptoms such as high fever, dehydration and pneumonia. Four of those who were hospitalized for measles were infants.
Although there has been concern, but yet to be proven scientifically, a link between vaccinations and autism, it appears many parents refuse to have their kids immunized. Unlike Dr. Schaffner, who has evidently witnessed the complications of measles, since the vast majority of us have never seen it, we wrongly assume that it can't happen. One option parents can consider is delaying the measles vaccine until their child is older as the shot is given at 12 months of age. Since autism is picked up at about 18 to 24 months, one could ask the pediatrician if it would be ok to delay for a few months. For older children, vaccinating them will make it less likely they can carry it and give it to vulnerable infants.

The other story was about raw cow milk and how 15 people became ill and one woman became partially paralyzed! This frankly is unbelievable and sad. Louis Pasteur, the famous French scientist, who figured out that organisms invisible to the naked eye caused diseases, was also the one to understand and learn how to kill them and make things like milk safer for consumption. This is where the word- pasteurized - came from.

  • The raw milk came from Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms, which supplied the product to 115 customers.
  • The county's Department of Public Health suspects at least 15 people were sickened by Campylobacter, a common bacteria found in domesticated animals. The department has confirmed three cases, and are awaiting test results for the other 12.
  • Alexandre EcoDairy voluntary stopped its raw milk program June 15 after learning one of its customers was hospitalized. That woman later became partially paralyzed by a rare disorder often associated with Campylobacter infection.

In a high-tech world where many of us wish for simpler times, we must not forget that these more natural methods had major problems as well. The leading cause of death about a hundred years ago was due to infectious diseases. Like the example of measles, just because we don't witness illness or problems ourselves doesn't mean that the problems still don't exist. Many of the reasons we live longer than generations ago is because of high immunization rates and more sterile and hygenic food processing techniques. Are some of the foods perhaps less natural and less safe than the past because of pesticides and hormones? Hard to say, but in that case, purchase organically grown products. Don't ignore basic common sense.

Here's the other question. If people became ill because of an accident or food poisoning, then I don't think anyone would argue we should take care of them. However, what if a person out of ignorance gets ill from a very preventable infection, should we as a society pay of their healthcare? If the woman, who is partially paralyzed doesn't regain full use of her body and requires resources from the community, is that fair for the rest of us?

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