nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

VACCINATION IS NOT OPTIONAL; AIDS INCIDENCE DEFLATED; STEM CELLS

Parents of unvaccinated children capitulate under Maryland county threat of jail, fines.

In continuing coverage from a previous briefing, the New York Times (11/18, A36, Abruzzese) reported, "Hundreds of parents, who had been warned that they might face fines and jail time unless they had their children immunized, brought their children to a courthouse" in Prince George's County in Maryland "Saturday for the vaccinations." The parents and their children were summoned to appear before "Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. of Prince George's County Circuit Court, who is in charge of juvenile issues." Earlier in the week, the judge mailed letters to "more than 800 households with children in public schools, strongly recommending that the children be immunized Saturday at the courthouse, where health department workers had set up tables to process paperwork and give shots, or that parents prove that the children had already been immunized in accordance with state law." On Nov. 1, "Prince George's County state's attorney, Glenn F. Ivey," sent a similar letter to the same households "informing parents that their children would be withdrawn from school until the school received proof of vaccination," and that if the children remained without the proper immunizations, the parents could "be subject to criminal charges with a maximum penalty of 10 days in jail and a fine of $50 per day of absence." After Saturday's vaccine drive, the number of children that officials say still need vaccines is "939, with 101 children receiving shots and 71 having their records updated."

Doc D: On most things, I think people should have the freedom to decide what they will and won’t do. Immunization is not one of them. Vaccination is the #2 all-time, most effective tool in human history against the morbidity and mortality of infectious disease (#1 is the sanitation movement; #3 is antibiotics). Parents should not have the freedom to expose their children to serious illness. In this country, people still die of pertussis, measles and…yes…chickenpox. There are about 150 deaths a year from chickenpox. But, even more important, people don’t have the right to increase the vulnerable pool of unvaccinated that leads to increased transmission of the disease…to others, especially the young, old, and chronically ill who are more susceptible. By the way, these parents had multiple notices, letters, announcements, and home visits to inform them of the requirement…months ago. And it’s not clear that anyone was threatened with jail, at least at this point.

I’ve had patients and parents say to me, “what difference does one person make? If everybody else takes their shot, then I’ll be safe without it?” This is despicable and immoral…and I tell them so. If one can get away with it, others will want to, and then we are not safe: it’s happened before. We almost eradicated measles in this country 30 years ago, then people stopped getting their kids immunized, and ten years later we had outbreaks in colleges (several hundred deaths).

So, bottom line is that some people have to be compelled to be responsible adults.

Report indicates U.N. overestimated number of HIV/AIDS infections.

In a front-page article, the Washington Post (11/20, A1, Timberg) reports, "The United Nations' (U.N.) top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade," according to documents prepared by the U.N. But, according to the newest estimates, "the number of annual new HIV infections [is] 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year's estimate." Furthermore, the total number of people worldwide who have HIV will now "be reported as 33 million," rather than last year's estimate of almost "40 million and rising." Critics have previously questioned the agency's "portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic," and have even maintained that the U.N. has over-exaggerated "the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial support for combating AIDS."

On its front page, the New York Times (11/20, A1, McNeil Jr.) reports that these new figures mean "that new infections with the deadly virus have been dropping each year since they peaked in the late 1990s," rather than steadily increasing as had been portrayed.

Doc D: This is fascinating. I remember one interview around 1990 where the person said, “it’s not a matter of IF we will get AIDS, it’s a matter of WHEN.” (scaring ourselves to death, again) Now the UN is scrambling to do damage control for overestimating, PLUS telling us falsely that the disease was rising when it was falling. The UN is trying to put the onus on the countries who reported the numbers, but the UN tacitly agreed to the flawed methodologies in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not to say that HIV is not a major global problem; but it’s just a fifth of the problem that malaria, or schistosomiasis, are (~100-200 million each). Another blow to UN credibility.

Simple Recipe Turns Human Skin Cells Into Embryonic Stem Cell-like Cells

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2007) — A simple recipe--including just four ingredients--can transform adult human skin cells into cells that resemble embryonic stem cells, researchers report in the journal Cell. The converted cells have many of the physical, growth and genetic features typically found in embryonic stem cells and can differentiate to produce other tissue types, including neurons and heart tissue, according to the researchers.

Doc D: Most of what I write is skeptical, but this is good news. There were two studies published describing methods of doing this. This technique avoids using human embryo tissue, which I have ethical concerns about (not over the use of them, but over what the need for them can tempt people to do). It’s worth noting though, that these converted stem cells show a “similarity” to stem cells, but don’t act identically. So, it’s a step forward, side-steps the ethical issue, and gives much more material to work with…a win-win. Note that when the stem cell controversy was at its height, the President urged scientists to find a way to do exactly this, and for these reasons…two years later, lo and behold.

Sorry for the long message, I just got especially worked up this time.

D

JAMES J DOUGHERTY, MD, MPH

Opinions solely mine.

VA

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