Archive for category Public Health

WHO vs woo: Homeopathy and the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has warned against the use of homeopathy to treat a wide range of diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and infant diarrhoea. Their statements came in a response to an open letter from the Voice of Young Science Network, which called upon the WHO to issue a clear statement about the inappropriate use of homeopathy to treat serious disease.

We are calling on the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhoea, influenza, malaria and HIV. Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost.

When the WHO responded, they were both critical of homeopathy and full of praise for the Voice of Young Science and Sense About Science for speaking out on homeopathy.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Son of God says the flu vaccine will kill your kids

Last week, the British government announced that it would concentrate on immunising vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and health care professionals, against the H1N1 “swine” flu strain, before considering whether to extend the vaccination program across the wider population.  Westminster is reported to have contracts in place for 132 million doses of the vaccine, enough to immunise the entire UK population. Whether they use it or not remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, the vaccination program has attracted the attention of Internet crackpot and former son-of-god David Icke, who contends that the swine flu vaccine is a conspiracy by the Illuminati to cull vast portions of the human population.

Oh dear.

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Australian Skeptics vs AVN Propaganda

Immunization: Get the Facts

Immunization: Get the Facts (click to enlarge)

Businessman, aviator, and explorer, Dick Smith, has funded an Australian Skeptics’ advertisement to urge parents to access factual information on vaccination, in the wake of the country’s largest Whooping Cough epidemic.

The advertisement, placed in the Thursday, August 6 edition of The Australian newspaper, directly addresses the Australian Vaccination Networks’ stated position of being ‘pro-choice’ on vaccines – when realistically they’re actually very much anti-vaccine.

The AVN is headed up by Meryl Dorey – who says vaccinations are dangerous, who says no one dies of pertussis, who says that it’s better not to vaccinate and who insinuates that doctors only vaccinate children because it’s profitable for them. This, of course, is total bullshit – in fact this year alone three children in Australia have died of pertussis, some too young to vaccinate – such as Dana McCaffrey, the four-week old infant who caught pertussis and died due to vaccination rates in her home town of Lennox Head, New South Wales dropping too low and compromising herd immunity.

The advert from the Australian Skeptics is a great, emotive piece showing how to reach the public with real information – at a time when here in the UK herd immunity has been severely damaged due to the MMR hoaxes, with the most serious outbreak of measles in Wales since the time the MMR vaccine was introduced, there’s a lesson here for us in the UK too.

Well done to the Australian Skeptics and to Dick Smith for speaking out against this dangerous propaganda.

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Homeopathy 101: Overdoses and Avogadro

Last week, in a forum post on mumsnet.com – a parent’s advice forum – a worried parent left the following concerned question (spelling and grammar as per the original post):

“Just found my labour preparation bottle of caulophyllum 200c Homeopathic remedy open on the floor with several of the little tablets lying next to it. Saw him chewing/sucking a few mins earlier but assumed it was the remains of our sushi. Am not panicking but wondering if anyone can advise if we should expect a level of disturbance/ill effects esp as 200c is such a high dose” – Source: Mumsnet.com

Clearly, the forum user is worried her dear child may be at risk of an overdose on her super-strength, 200c tablets. Of course, an overdose is clearly not possible. Even a homeopath will tell you that! In fact, homeopaths deny the possibility of an overdose because of the fact that homeopathy is ‘non-toxic’ and that ‘if you take fifteen tablets or five tablets (or 100 tablets for that matter) AT ONE TIME it is one dose. You will stimulate your curative response one time‘.

Cool, well that’s put my fears to rest. Except of course, that that’s clearly utter nonsense. Curative response? Non-toxic? One tablet has the same effect as one hundred tablets? Do they really think anyone is going to buy that?!

The real reason why an overdose is impossible is that there’s absolutely, completely and utterly nothing in a homeopathic tablet. It’s just water. The only way to overdose on homeopathy is if you drown.

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Magnet Therapy: Positive or Negative?

I was reminded recently about the claims made for “magnetic therapies”, when I bought a bracelet on holiday. I thought I was just buying an attractive trinket. Being relatively superficial and easily pleased, I was happy enough to have a bracelet that looked good. But this was no ordinary ornament, for it was made of  “Magnetic Hematite”, as it proudly stated on the box:

“The natural properties of magnetic hematite were known to be used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They produced artefacts and jewellery primarily in the belief that this mineral may relieve pain, aid blood flow, enhance energy, and calm emotions. Wearers of pacemakers and pregnant women should avoid wearing this product. Natural Therapy. Made in China”

I thought this sounded too good to be true!  ‘Enhance energy‘?   Well, the most natural way to aid blood flow and enhance energy would be to just get up and move around a bit.   ‘Calm emotions?’  So, no more mood swings – like kind of a mineral prozac?  I must admit, I was a bit concerned about the warnings for people with pacemakers and pregnant women… should I approach them with care while wearing this magic bracelet?  What was a safe distance and what would happen if I failed to adhere to it?! Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Flu Defence’ Effluence – Where Swine Flu Meets Bullshit

With the swine flu death toll recently exceeding 700 mortalities worldwide according to the WHO (that’s the World Health Organisation by the way – we at the MSS are not in the habit of contacting Roger Daltrey and co for updates on global mortality rates), understandably many people are scared.  Even members of The Who, I dare venture, are scared (OK, that time I was talking about the rock band; the World Health Organisation know no fear).  After all, despite the relatively tame death tolls of recent potential pandemics – SARS topped out at around 770 mortalities worldwide, and Bird Flu at just 250 – the threat of a genuine influenza pandemic is all too real, as the 50 million deaths from Spanish Flu between 1918 and 1920 are testament to.

With good fortune and a prevailing wind, the excellent work of the WHO (again, the health guys not the ‘My Generation’ chaps) will continue to help contain and cope with the spread and treatment of the virus, so their advice is generally not to panic, to avoid unnecessary risks, and to essentially let the WHO do what the WHO do.  So being cautious but un-panicky is what we’ll do, and we’ll soldier on, make the odd joke, while listening to both the WHO and The Who (while potentially also watching Dr Who), and as best as we can try not to spread germs nor fear.

Which would be fine, if homeopaths and the rest of the pseudomedical community weren’t out there treating a pandemic as a cash cow.  Google something along the lines of ‘flu cure‘, ‘swine flu remedy‘ or ‘fuck me those pigs are going to kill us all‘* and you’ll be confronted with all manner of homeopathic, dietary, herbal and generally all-round magical cures.  And it’s to one of these fringe, whack-job, dangerous and completely bullshit quack-remedies my attention was drawn today, namely Flu Defence – a herbal pill with claims so unbelievably nonsense-filled and appallingly-unscientific, they really do need to be taken apart one by one.  And if you’ll indulge me, that’s precisely what I’ll do… Read the rest of this entry »

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