ABC News and the Boston Globe have run reports highlighting the potential threat of co-infection of influenza and MRSA. Influenza kills at least 35,000 people in the US every year. This year’s influenza vaccine was less effective against the strains common this year. Each year the selection of vaccine type is a guessing game and mortality from flu will likely be higher this year. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a superbug that is resistant to common antibiotics because it is the product of the over use of common antibiotics. While MRSA can be successfully treated, for now, the likelihood of higher mortality rates when flu and MSRA are experienced concurrently is a near certainty.
The co-infection of viral and bacterial infections points to a serious problem that may grow difficult to control. The rise of not only MSRA but also more and more antibiotic resistant strains of common and once deadly infections coupled with a potent viral illness such as bird flu, SARS or drug resistant TB could result in a health catastrophe.
Is this a perfect storm?
All signs point to that direction. Drug resistant strains of infections continue to evolve, more diseases are jumping from animals to humans, the development of new antibiotics and anti-virals are difficullt and offers poor returns to developers, and the community is slowly losing its herd immunity due to misinformation about vaccination.
Why are we here?
Since the 1940’s science and medicine has successfully controlled and treated once deadly diseases en-mass. The population has been lulled into a false sense of security, if not addressed shortly, will result in a pandemic. For the time being, the best method of delay is flu vaccination and other vaccinations to prevent viral outbreaks and blunt antibiotic resistant strains infection from behaving opportunistically.
Regrettably, the CDC, AMA, FDA, family physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and the public health community have done a poor job communicating the importance of vaccination and its safety. In there place an odd confluence of anti-evolution, anti-science, home schooling religious zealots have linked up with Prius driving, McMansion-living, organic food eating Luddites that have started to dominate the discussion. Twenty states offer vaccination opt-out programs that are, in general, overly liberal. This is brilliant, risk public health based on emotion and not scientific evidence. Jenny McCarthy has no background in science or medicine. It is unclear whether she completed high school biology. Yet she appears on Larry King berating epidemiologists, virologists and physicians regarding vaccination. While I feel sorry for parents with children with unexplained neurological conditions, grasping at straws and seeking to attach blame to vaccines threatens the health of entire society.
Vaccinations do not cause autism. Autism is a description of symptoms not a disease. Don’t trust the CDC; Danish, British, and Canadian scientists have published peer-reviewed studies that present finding that are not consistent with vaccines being a causative factor in the development of symptoms consistent with autism. The studies claiming causative connections were very poorly designed an executed.
Very shortly, we will see the first of a series of very promising treatments for both Fragile X and certain types of autism put into humans. These treatments are the results of efforts of dozens of scientists laboring in obscurity for nearly two decades with insufficient funding. The time and funding wasted by people with agendas far away from science including but not limited to studying the effects of alternative medicine, prayers or happiness on disease is tragic. Science can provide a path to cure many diseases but when it is ignored by the people it can most help, little is accomplished.
Let’s get behind our scientific community and provide the funding to find treatments and cures. In the meantime, make sure to get both you and your children get vaccinated.