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More confusing disease stats by Sandy Gottstein

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“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts—for support rather than illumination.” - Andrew Lang - More confusing disease stats 

by Sandy Gottstein

It was bad enough when statistics and a graph provided by the CDC  were discovered that reported more measles deaths (1 million per year) than reported measles cases (797,322).  (You would think that, at a minimum, all deaths would have been included in cases.)

And it is hard to understand how there could be more deaths in industrialized nations from measles than cases of encephalitis (deaths: 1 to 3 per 1000, encephalitis 0.5 to 1 per 1000).  (Vaccines)

It has been bad enough that statistics on measles deaths in the developing world, where disease in general, and measles, specifically, is clearly more serious, have been continuously and unjustifiably used to strike fear in the hearts of parents in countries like ours, where measles is normally benign.  (How often is the mantra heard that if vaccinations decline, disease rates will go up and that one million will die worldwide, but it is not mentioned that those deaths and high death rates occur in developing nations?)

And it's hard to imagine any justification for failing to make any distinction between serious and benign disease or between serious disease and mere disease incidence.  

But what is perhaps most troubling is that official graphs showing the decline in measles deaths in the U.S. only go back to just immediately prior to the introduction of vaccination, thus failing to show the tremendous drop in measles deaths before measles vaccine was introduced, thereby making it appear as if the vaccine is responsible for most of the decline in deaths, when, in fact, that is not true.

What does all this say about how much we can trust CDC and other statistics, including the care with which they are gathered and the accuracy with which they are reported?                  

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 4-19-2002