Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer) Archives

Autism Doctor a Fraud, But Hardly Alone

By Michael Fumento

"A deliberate fraud." That's what the British Medical Journal, one of the world's most prestigious periodicals, has written of the study that kicked off the current anti-vaccine movement. It's "clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare," it said in a heavily documented editorial.

The lead author of that anti-vaccine study, which also appeared in one most respected medical journals, The Lancet, was British physician Andrew Wakefield. And its consequences, as I write in AOL News, include millions of terrified and confused parents, large drops in vaccination rates and death.

This is the face of pertussis.

Many people, including me, have spent years puncturing his claims and those of his acolytes in the anti-vaccine movement. But a media that thrives on sensationalism instead played up the phony link.

Yet while this "deliberate fraud" has been exposed, others continue to go unchallenged, or worse, get trumpeted by reporters who should know better.

Last year the World Health Organization, having exaggerated the world AIDS problem by 12-fold, then hyped SARS and then spent four years terrifying us over avian flu (remember avian flu?), converted the mildest flu strain in decades (swine flu H1N1) into the first flu pandemic in 41 years simply by rewriting the flu pandemic definition. Aiding it was a study in Science magazine that completely misrepresented the citations it used as authority.

Likewise, San Francisco last year became the first jurisdiction in the country to put warning labels on cell phones, influenced in great part by a series of studies published in peer-reviewed journals alleging they cause brain tumors. Yet as I wrote in a CEI paper, "Celling Fear," they're all by a single environmental activist and totally fly in the face of the main body of research. Plus the city relied on an Environmental Working Group paper that used citations saying exactly the opposite of what the report claimed.

Why does fraudulent science thrive? Better to ask, "Why not?" It pays.

Even when the fraudsters get caught, they often laugh all the way to the bank. Wakefield gets more than $300,000 a year in salary alone from an anti-vaccine group.

Why! That's even more than I got for writing that article for AOL News!

January 10, 2011 03:11 PM  ·  Permalink

"No More Crying 'Spanish Flu!'" my article in Forbes

By Michael Fumento

What's that? Your throat feels sore? You're sniffling and sneezing? Bit achy?

IT'S THE RETURN OF THE SPANISH FLU!

Okay, that's satire - but not by much. Since 1990, every time some new viral pathogen comes along that grabs the media's attention, we hear it may be the Second Coming of a pandemic that killed about 50 million worldwide and 675,000 Americans - to 175 million globally and 2 million Americans."

This image of an overflow Spanish flu ward, was taken from an article on SWINE flu.

First, it was SARS in 1993. It ended up killing 774 people worldwide and no Americans. Which didn't stop the New York Times from writing 1,000 articles about it. NONE of which said, "We wuz wrong."

Then it was avian flu. It was supposed to go pandemic and kill literally as much as half the world's population. But nobody but me pointed out it's been circulating since 1959, so why should it suddenly go pandemic? In any case, it didn't and cases peaked a few years ago.

And then, of course, it was swine flu. And here's where you see that my satire was barely off the mark. A year ago both the WHO and the UN said swine flu might become another Spanish flu because - ready? - they both started off mild. So if swine flu had started off severely then it would have been more reassuring?

But there will NEVER be another Spanish flu again, and I explain why. And you'll be very interested. So read about it here.

May 21, 2010 12:47 PM  ·  Permalink

The Internet as medical diagnostic tool scores again!

By Michael Fumento

I was having extreme itching in my toes that I've never experienced before. I reconstructed the circumstances under which it arose, plugged them in, and out popped this. (See inset for a somewhat worse case than I have.)

Chilblains is a perfect fit. Hits me after I exercise, because that's when my feet suddenly go from nippy (I keep the temp down to save money) to very warm. (Mind you, had it proved to be an STD I wouldn't be blogging on it.)

Irritating as hell, but nobody dies from it. And I did save a $30 copay at the podiatrist plus the time to see him, and he wouldn't have been able to help me anyway.

On much more serious matters, I used the Internet to diagnose my wife's celiac disease after three different gastroenterologists failed to do so. And I found out why a friend was having double menses, after at least one OB/GYN had failed to diagnose her.

I suppose in the wrong hands the Internet can backfire and give you "Medical Student Syndrome," in which you become convinced you're dying from three different diseases. But I seem to be immune to that, if you'll pardon the expression.

February 25, 2010 09:38 AM  ·  Permalink

Bisphenol baloney takes another hit

By Michael Fumento

In a provocatively entitled paper in the current issue of the prestigious journal Toxicological Sciences, Richard M. Sharpe asks "Is It Time to End Concerns over the Estrogenic Effects of Bisphenol A?"

In a word, "yes." Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an incredibly valuable chemical added to plastics like baby bottles to make them harder and stronger. It's been in use for many decades. And the greens want to get rid of it because they say it's dangerous.

Yet as I wrote recently in Investor's Business Daily,"Countries that have evaluated BPA in the last three years, as Trevor Butterworth of the STATS think tank has documented, include Norway, France, Germany (twice), Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Add to that a World Health Organization collaborative center. Each has found BPA safe."

(CEI's Angela Logomasini also recently wrote an excellent paper on BPA safety.)

But:

The lynch mob is after BPA because it's a weak synthetic estrogen. These chemicals have been under fire since the publication of the 1996 book "Our Stolen Future," which one review aptly described as "an alarmist tract with a polemical style clearly crafted for its political, not scientific, impact." (With a foreword by Al Gore, no less.)

Never mind that over 150 plants produce chemicals that also mimic estrogen, many of them foods that contain so much that they're often recommended as natural hormone replacement therapy. The overall estrogenic effect of natural chemicals, according to Texas A&M University toxicologist Stephen Safe, is 40 million times that of the synthetics. Yes, it's just the environmentalist saw: "Man-made bad; natural good."


And so we keep throwing massive amounts of money to scientists to study it more and study it more and study it more.

Recently National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Linda Birnbaum announced $30 million in grants for two more years of BPA research, using money from the stimulus act, to "address many of the research gaps" regarding the chemical. Yet over 5,400 medical journal articles have already been published on BPA safety. How many gaps can that leave?

Sharpe comments on poorly done initial studies by an environmental aspect that I described, then writes:

Fundamental, repetitive work on bisphenol A has sucked in tens, probably hundreds, of millions of dollars from government bodies and industry which, at a time when research money is thin on the ground, looks increasingly like an investment with a nil return. All it has done is to show that there is a huge price to pay when initial studies are adhered to as being correct when the second phase of scientific peer review, namely, the inability of other laboratories to repeat the initial studies, says otherwise.

At some point it's time to say "Enough!" and we passed that point with BPA a long time ago.

February 15, 2010 05:17 PM  ·  Permalink

Another "man-made" disease cluster solved

By Michael Fumento

What man-made pollutants were causing the mysterious cluster of scleroderma in South Boston?

Scleroderma is a rare, incurable, sometimes fatal illness that hardens muscles and internal organs. It's victims are overwhelming women. It's an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system is attacking itself.

There's been a cluster of the disease in a section of South Boston which has long confounded citizens, except that they knew it had to have a man-made cause. Some blamed a nearby power plant. Others hazardous waste sites.

It got national media attention and led to an 11-year Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In their just-released findings they did indeed find "higher than expected cases" in a neighborhood of about 30,000 people.

But they found the significant cause was not the environment, but rather genetics.

"It's not necessarily that the community they were living in was producing this disease," Robert Simms, the chief of rheumatology at Boston Medical Center and a researcher in the study told the Boston Globe. "When you look at the data, it does not support that."

The study found that people with a family history of specific autoimmune-rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's disease, lupus, and thyroid disease, were more likely to develop scleroderma.

"For the women afflicted with the disfiguring disease," said the reporter, "the findings have come as a bitter disappointment."

"I believe there is a cumulative effect," said Mary Cooney, a South Boston activist who has been working with the state on the study. "If these women had grown up in West Roxbury or Hyde Park, they would not have gotten the disease."

Have sympathy for these women. They are no hardcore environmental activists receiving tens of millions of dollars from mega-foundations to prove a that which isn't. As one put it, "I thought that if we had an answer then we could fix it," adding, "It would help us make sense of why so many of my neighbors have this horrible disease."

As Simms put it, the women were seeking "emotional validation."

That said, clusters like these are quite common and virtually never pan out (the main exception is drug side affects), but the media play them for all they're worth - to attack perfectly safe technologies.

The most famous, or infamous as it were, is probably the Long Island breast cancer cluster.

As I wrote back in 1997:

Since the early 1990s, women in the Northeastern U.S., especially Long Island, New York, have been claiming that A) they are suffering an extraordinary rate of breast cancer, and that B) the cause most assuredly lies in the hand of man.

What the specific pollutant is, they have been at a loss to say - pesticides in general, chlorinated chemicals, power lines. The point is that some faceless, nameless corporation run by insensitive (no doubt cigar-chomping) white males has to be at fault.

Environmentalists have willingly accommodated them in this belief. Not long ago the left-wing magazine Mother Jones featured a cover with a woman wearing a gas mask as a brassiere.

But nothing ever came of it. One study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that women in the Northeast are indeed more likely to die of breast cancer than in some regions of the country, but less than others. It also found the risk was almost completely due to certain risk factors which these women have incurred, including having children later in life and greater rates of alcohol use and obesity.


It might also have noted that Ashkenazi Jews have extraordinary breast cancer rates and that Long Island has large Jewish population.

But the activists didn't want to hear this. Cindy Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based National Women's Health Network, told the Boston Globe the study "doesn't set my mind at ease, and it doesn't make me think there aren't environmental factors at work."

Yet in 1993 still another study found that the Long Island breast cancer rate wasn't extraordinary. Using a computer database, the Long Island-based newspaper Newsday discovered, "The highest breast cancer incidence rates were in the San Francisco Bay area, suburban Boston, and suburban Chicago, not on Long Island. Nassau and Suffolk (the counties making up Long Island) ranked right in the middle of the group studied."

Did this mollify the Long Island activists? Far from it. "The fact that Long Island isn't alone isn't a comforting thought at all - it's an even more disturbing message," one told Newsday.

Get it? The original problem was that Long Island's breast cancer rate was so extraordinarily high. When it turned out it wasn't extraordinarily high it was proof of an even greater problem.

Since I wrote my article, the National Cancer Institute released a study giving man-made chemicals on Long Island an all clear.

"Long Island is not the breast cancer capital of the United States," as the activists say, Dan Fagin, who covered the Long Island "epidemic" for 12 years at Newsday, told the British Medical Journal. "It's the capital of breast cancer activists."

Yet the NCI is studying the situation to this this day and probably always will. There are still activists. And still grant-hungry researchers willing to confirm, reconfirm, and then reconfirm again findings. This though the money and effort could be so much better spent on finding and reducing real risks.

February 7, 2010 08:10 PM  ·  Permalink

Washington Post Back to Pushing Avian Flu Panic

By Michael Fumento

Remember avian flu?

Until swine flu came along, that's what was going to wipe out mankind. My last unprinted letter to the Washington Post scored the paper's opinions page for declaring "panic is good . . . panic is what we want," for claiming swine flu could kill 207,000 Americans and nine to 10 million worldwide, and for refusing to print anything to the contrary. Well, with the swine flu hysteria dying down in light of very few humans, dying the Post in desperation is switching back to the bird variety. And, true to form rejecting sane letters such as this one of mine.


To the editor:

The review of Alan Sipress's book "The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic" (December 6, 2009) is misleading in one important respect and terribly wrong in another.

While writer David Oshinsky states humans have been contracting avian flu H5N1 for a decade without it becoming readily transmissible between humans, according to the World Health Organization it was first detected in Scottish poultry in 1959. Hence it's been making contact with humans for at least half a century. Oshinky says "a sort of mutation, common to influenza viruses" could "produce an H5N1 variant that is transmissible." But an exhaustive 2007 lab study in the Oct. 2007 issue of Virology showed,
in the words of the researcher leader, "We think [H5N1] will need to get to 13
[mutations] to be truly dangerous."

Oshinsky also wrongly parrots Sipress's assertion that for H5N1 "the mortality rate has been a staggering 60 percent." That's based solely on those who come into contact with the medical system, thereby excluding those with milder symptoms. Consider that the recent CDC estimate of swine flu includes 4,000 deaths, 98,000 hospitalizations, and 22 million infections. So the ratio of deaths to hospitalizations was one in 24 but to overall infections was
merely one in 5,500.

Indeed, a January 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine study found extremely high rates of apparent bird flu illness among Vietnamese living and working in close proximity to infected poultry, yet by definition none of
these people had died.


There, now! Nothing in that letter that could possibly be of interest to Post readers!

December 14, 2009 01:36 PM  ·  Permalink

Weekly flu watch - What swine flu ISN'T doing this week

By Michael Fumento

Every Friday the CDC website publishes a situation update on swine flu with figures updated through the previous week, though some of the data is newer. And every week the hysteria-minded media ignore it. Statistics get in the way of articles filled with doom and gloom, of body bags and cemetery land set asides.

Anyway, why consult the data when you can offer plenty of anecdotes about people suffering from a "flu-like illness?"

But for those who do care about how our alleged pandemic is progressing, I will begin herewith to provide a weekly summary.

Total deaths since August 30 from "Influenza and Pneumonia-Associated" illness generally are 936, but only 114 of those have been laboratory-confirmed as being flu of any type. And yes, people do die of pneumonia from many causes other than flu.

flu visits
FEAR FACTOR: The red line indicates emergency room and walk-in clinic visits from persons in 2009 who think they have the flu. The other colors are previous years.

The CDC no longer separately tracks swine flu cases or deaths. However, the FluTracker website does, and as of today lists 136, 268 confirmed U.S. cases with 644 confirmed fatalities.

By comparison, the CDC estimates 36,000 Americans die annually of seasonal flu, or about 257 per day during the season of approximately 140 days.

The number of positive tests for swine flu is down this week, notwithstanding all those articles you've been reading about how swine flu is finally taking off. You can see the data here.

A word of caution, though. Those are reports from a sentinel system of laboratories. It's possible the laboratories were overwhelmed with specimens and simply couldn't keep up with the samples doctors forwarded to them.

But, the percentage of samples proving positive barely increased, from 22.55% to 23.87%.

Another way of looking at it is that over three-fourths of samples that even doctors (much less scared patients) suspect may show swine flu do not.

That's one indicator of hysteria.

Another is that even though the number of actual flu detections tested is down, the percentage of visits to outpatient clinics by people who think they have the flu continues to rise. In fact, if you look at the curve it's been practically shooting straight up for the past four weeks.

But apparently nobody but me has been looking at the data. Turns out that if you click on the link to take you to the underlying numbers, they're four weeks behind the figures in the chart. The CDC press office didn't even know about this until I asked. What does that tell you?

Finally, deaths from influenza and pneumonia are well within the normal bounds for this time of year.

So visits to emergency rooms and other outpatient facilities from people afraid they have the flu are way up while infections are apparently down. I don't call it "pandemic panic over a piglet" for nothing.

September 25, 2009 06:10 PM  ·  Permalink

On being a modern day Cassandra - or when scientific methodolgy hurts you

By Michael Fumento

The following is from an essay on why people love conspiracy theories:

The reality may be that all too many of us actually prefer to believe the fantastic over the mundane. Maybe the sky is falling, but isn't life also a bit more romantic with the nervous thrill that maybe the end really is at hand? And even if the sky isn't falling, aren't the nights more exciting with beings from other worlds buzzing around in them? These are exciting times for those who believe themselves to be living in the biblical "End Times," shortly to be called to do Apocalyptic battle with the forces of Satan. On a whole other level, a national poll reveals that some 70 percent of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What the pollsters didn't ask was whether those 70 percent of Americans felt better believe that their president was killed by an elaborate conspiracy than by some isolated nut with a mail-order rifle and a head full of sour politics. If the lone nut could get the president, didn't that make life so random that anything could supposedly happen to anyone at any time? In the traumatic wake of the JFK assassination and the subsequent murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, the concept of conspiracy offered a certain degree of chilly comfort. At least it possessed sufficiently evil stature to explain the pain.

Unfortunately, most people in our culture don't seek enlightenment in their daily reading. They seek either confirmation bias or entertainment, or better yet both together. The last thing they want is a simple explanation for a phenomenon, for example that Gulf vets are getting sick and dying for no other reason than that everybody gets sick and everybody dies and fact is Gulf vets are getting sick and dying at exactly the same rate as matched controls who didn't deploy.

And disasters are also entertaining. So if a presidential council says swine flu could kill as many as 90,000 Americans this year it's page A1 news. When I write that the evidence indicates we'll just have a typical flu season in terms of deaths, that's so BORE-ING. Important? Absolutely! But unless you're among the minority to whom enlightenment is exciting, such a piece may be considered dull, dull, dull.

It makes you a sort of modern-day Cassandra. People don't believe your predictions. And it's not because they're not based on solid science but, to a great extent because they are based on solid science. Solid science just isn't what they're looking for.

September 2, 2009 11:33 AM  ·  Permalink

Bring out your dead! The plague is back!

By Michael Fumento

Swine flu, move over! The plague is back - at least in China, where it's now killed three people in the province of Qinghai. A single outbreak of the plague from 1348 - 1351, called "The Black Death," is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population. THEREFORE, we can say with a high degree of confidence that 60% of the world's population, or over four billion people, will be dead of plague within three years.

My having now made that prediction, you can expect to see me tonight on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CNN. I will probably be paired with other experts, some of whom will say my estimate is probably more of a "best-case scenario" and possibly the entire planet is at risk. But, as always, women and children will suffer the most.

August 5, 2009 11:33 AM  ·  Permalink

Constructive criticism on swine flu writing

By Michael Fumento

The level of denial of reality is so frigging high in this article that I am now certain that you are a sick faggot.

July 31, 2009 12:04 PM  ·  Permalink

No Swine Flu Rationality Please, We're British

By Michael Fumento

The Exeter City Council, in southwest England, has announced plans to use 19th-century catacombs to contain the overflow of swine flu victims if the pandemic worsens.

"A council spokesman said the plan could be put into operation if the cemeteries and the crematorium could not keep up with funeral demands," according to Agence France-Presse. "We have some empty catacombs in an old cemetery in the city," a councilman said. "These are 19th century underground burial chambers which are normally a tourist attraction," he added, but can "be safely used for their original purpose and allow us to temporarily store bodies in the remote possibility that the need should arise."

Seasonal flu kills about 12,000 in England and Wales, or about 215 deaths each day during the approximately two-month season according to the Cabinet Office.

The total British swine flu death toll since the epidemic began three months ago, including also Scotland and Northern Ireland? About 30. Total swine flu deaths in the area around Exeter? About zero.

July 28, 2009 11:08 AM  ·  Permalink

Swine flu could be AS BAD as seasonal flu, says UK "worst-case" scenario

By Michael Fumento

What? Not vastly worse? Not somewhat worse? Not worse at all?

Read about it in the Wall Street Journal, which has a link to the actual report.

July 16, 2009 01:15 PM  ·  Permalink

CDC Swine Flu Histrionics

By Michael Fumento

The CDC is sayingU.S. demand for swine flu vaccine could reach 600 million doses. "That's in case two doses are required for children and adults under 50, CDC representatives said," according to CNN. Really?

If people over 50 didn't need two doses, then that would be more vaccine than we'd need assuming ever last American were vaccinated. But as the CNN story notes, with no irony, "That would come on top of the 115 million doses of seasonal flu that are distributed annually, health officials said Friday." In a typical year, about 80 million Americans get flu shots.

So let's get this straight. The CDC can only manage to distribute 115 million doses of vaccine for seasonal flu, which is many times deadlier than swine flu. But it's determined to vaccinate every last American for swine flu. Does that make sense? Medically, no. From a power-seeking bureaucrat's perspective, absolutely.

July 2, 2009 11:27 PM  ·  Permalink

Swine flu about one-eighth as fatal as seasonal flu - and what it means for WHO's avian flu death rate

By Michael Fumento

With its updated estimate of how many Americans have actually contracted swine flu versus those actually identified, the CDC has given us a death rate of 0.012%. That compares to the seasonal flu death rate normally put at 0.1%.

Specifically, the agency estimated one million infections when 127 people have been reported dead. The official recognized case toll is 28,000, meaning the ratio of unrecognized to recognized cases is 35 to 1. Funny thing, though, that the WHO puts the death rate for avian flu H5N1 at 60% based on the presumption that there are NO unrecognized H5N1 cases. The CDC parrots this. This is especially curious given that where these cases are occurring, all in developing countries, you'd expect surveillance to be especially poor.

In short, the WHO and the CDC know the avian flu fatality rate is a crock and all those people making horrific estimates of death rates if H5N1 became pandemic (Laurie Garrett is worst, estimating that the entire world population will be infected and half will die) are either awfully dumb or malevolent.

And speaking of which, flu alarmist John M. Barry estimates in the Washington Post that swine flu will kill around 89,000 Americans. Actually, it may do so if swine flu just becomes another strain of seasonal flu. After many years it would eventually hit that 89,000 figure.

But Barry is saying 89,000 as a pandemic. Were we to limit the length of time when swine flu could be called pandemic to something reasonable, say 18 months, his estimate is ridiculous. How are you going to get there with a flu that's an eighth as fatal as seasonal flu when seasonal flu kills about 36,000 Americans a year according to the CDC.

Which is why his commentary was in the Post when they rejected my piece on the WHO's political science in labeling swine flu a "pandemic" that eventually appeared in the much-larger Los Angeles Times.

June 25, 2009 05:17 PM  ·  Permalink

Results from WashPost Swine Flu Naming Contest!

By Michael Fumento

The Washington Post has named winners in its swine flu naming contest that seem to suggest a certain skepticism about the WHO labeling it a pandemic - a well-founded skepticism, as I've written. Among the winners:

- "CNN Flu"
- "Fox News Flu"
- "NewFlu" because it will "disappear as quickly as New Coke," and can be "recycled as needed."
- "Ponzi Flu," because it "starts with just a few, increases until widespread," and then everyone realizes "nothing is there."
- "Y2K Flu," because "It's the same hype and senseless waste of money. Twice."

My, my! Whom can not trust the WHO?

June 20, 2009 07:28 PM  ·  Permalink

The WHO Fabricates a Pandemic

By Michael Fumento

For five years now, the WHO has been crying that a flu pandemic is a "when, not an if." Now it can boast it was right. Problem is, the mildest pandemics of the 20th century killed at least a million people worldwide, while old-fashioned seasonal flu strikes every nation yearly killing an estimated 250,000 to 500,000. But swine flu had killed all of 144 people when the pandemic was declared - far fewer than succumb daily to seasonal flu.

And in Mexico, where the outbreak began and where it has been the most severe, cases had already peaked.

Meanwhile, the declaration has signaled governments worldwide to launch emergency response plans. These will be costly when we can least afford it, could prompt severe restrictions on human activities (think China), and render the term "flu pandemic" essentially meaningless - risking lethal public complacency if a bona fide one hits.

How could the WHO get away with simply swapping "avian" for "swine?" Find out in my piece in today's Los Angeles Times.

June 15, 2009 01:29 AM  ·  Permalink

Obama Encourages "Swine Flu as Bioweapon" Kookiness

By Michael Fumento

"The latest bioterrorism attack by the New World Order is likely a beta test," according to the conspiracy website "New World Liberty." It continues, "Yes, it is a bioterrorism attack. It was a hybrid strain created from human, swine, and bird flu from North America, Europe, and Asia. It was created in a laboratory. This doesn't happen in nature."

Actually it's happened in nature numerous times; but these fruitloops can take comfort that Pres. Barack Obama has proposed financing production of a swine flu vaccine in part with $3 billion set aside for defenses against biological attacks.

Fortunately, opposition is bipartisan. "Using BioShield funds for flu preparedness will severely diminish the nation's efforts to prepare for [weapons of mass destruction] events and will leave the nation less, not more, prepared." So stated chairman of The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), and vice chairman, former senator James M. Talent (R-Mo.), in a letter sent yesterday to Pres. Obama.

Aside from the "weapon" aspect, "mass destruction" hardly seems applicable to a virus that to date has killed about as many Americans who die every three hours from seasonal flu during flu season.

But the konspiracy kooks must feel vindicated. Now if only Obama would speak out against that pyramid with the eyeball on the dollar bill . . .

June 8, 2009 01:38 PM  ·  Permalink

Mexican swine flu epidemic peaked almost as soon as it began

By Michael Fumento

According to a study just released in the CDC publication Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, swine flu H1N1 was identified in Mexico just after mid-April and appears to have peaked on April 27. Seasonal flu season in the U.S. lasts about five months. Add in the remarkably low fatality rate of swine flu compared to seasonal flu. Now decide for yourself whether the ongoing hysteria, much of it driven by the World Health Organization, is justified.

June 4, 2009 02:59 PM  ·  Permalink

CDC tacitly admits swine flu dramatically less severe than seasonal flu

By Michael Fumento

In my "Pandemic over a Piglet" article at Forbes.com May 15, I challenged both assertions of the WHO-backed authors in Science magazine, that swine flu was both more severe and more contagious than seasonal flu. I noted that the very evidence they gave showed the opposite. It was quite simply a dishonest article. Now there's even more evidence as to swine flu severity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have probably been more than 100,000 infections, with only five U.S. deaths. Seasonal flu has a death rate of about one per thousand or 100 per 100,000. So swine flu's death rate at this point is 5% that of seasonal flu.

So much for the next "Spanish Flu" - more like the next severe cold.

May 18, 2009 05:51 PM  ·  Permalink

How accurate is the CDC's seasonal flu death estimate?

By Michael Fumento

All health agencies tend to exaggerate the threat of anything within their ambit, whether it's numbers or overall severity as we're currently seeing with the WHO and its threats to declare swine flu a pandemic. That's in addition to including with their ambit that which clearly doesn't belong, such as the CDC expanding into gun deaths and divorce.

For this reason, numbers coming from outside of the agencies and their officials tend to be more reliable. A 2008 study by Foppa and Hossain in Emerging Themes in Epidemiology analyzed data from 1995 to 2005 and comes up with an annual average of 23,710 U.S. seasonal flu deaths. By coincidence, until fairly recently, the CDC used a range of 24,000 to 36,000.

That said, Dushoff and others in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 said the CDC figure was too low. Analyzing data from 1979 to 2001, they found an annual average of 41,400.

It would be interesting for somebody to contrast their methodologies. My gut feeling is that the CDC figure is too high, but gut feelings in science are for leads and not for conclusions.

All this said, when it comes to swine flu comparisons there isn't one.

The widely-used estimate for the U.S. seasonal flu death rate is one per one thousand infections (0.1%), though the CDC, using in part it's 36,000 death estimate, employs a range of 0.06% to 0.24%. Currently three Americans have died out of 4,298 "confirmed and probable cases," all of whom were chronically ill, for a rate of 0.07% without even counting hidden infections. (The "fourth" U.S. case was a Mexican national who sickened there and died under treatment here.)

But with any flu, each confirmed case represents many milder or even asymptomatic hidden infections. Indeed, despite its alarmist theme, the Ferguson et al. paper in Science magazine, prepared under the auspices of the WHO, says Mexico apparently has had hundreds of undetected infections for each confirmed swine flu case. Thus to peek below the tip of the swine flu iceberg would be to find the U.S. death rate dramatically lower than that of seasonal flu.

May 14, 2009 10:04 PM  ·  Permalink

More Evidence the People Aren't Buying Official Pig Panic Scenario

By Michael Fumento

The BBC reports Brits are having "swine flu parties," along the lines of chickenpox parties in which kids are intentionally exposed rather than grow up and catch chicken pox as an adult when it's far more dangerous. These flu get-togethers, though, are probably based on the fallacy that, come the cold season, the virus could be more severe. It won't be, though cold weather does usually make a flu or cold virus more contagious. That said, if there is an explosion of infections come autumn and winter, your child does have a better chance of getting good medical health now. I don't really know what to make of these things.

May 14, 2009 01:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Pig Pandemic Panic Purveyors Looking Pathetic

By Michael Fumento

Sorry bad guys, other than filling hospitals with worried well, which only takes a small portion of the population, the fear fomenting doesn't seem to be working this time around. A new poll indicates that fewer than a third of U.S. adults would get a shot especially made to protect against swine flu virus, and only 18 percent said the disease is a severe threat.

Now how could they possibly think that after all the devastation wrought by heterosexual AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and avian flu? Oh.

May 14, 2009 12:02 AM  ·  Permalink

Three Cheers for Pandemic Panic?

By Michael Fumento

The usually reasonable Washington Post and Slate columnist Anne Applebaum has gone hysterical over the swine flu hysteria.

"Where infectious diseases are concerned, panic is good. Panic is what we want," she writes. "Without panic, nothing happens. Up to 500 million people will get malaria this year, and more than 1 million of them will die, mostly in very poor countries. Yet there is no fear of malaria in the rich world; there is no hysterical media coverage, and thus there is still no satisfactory prevention or cure."

The reason malaria has always been shortchanged is precisely because of contagious disease panic - other contagious diseases. Many years ago I was writing that AIDS hysteria was draining off fantastic sums of money from both malaria and tuberculosis. There will never be a panic over malaria and TB, hence those diseases will never get the kind of funding they would in a sane world.

Apple also uses the last refuge of the contagious disease panic-monger, that the virus may not be bad in its present form but it could change to be worse. With that attitude, nobody should ever get married because. After all, your would-be spouse may be the greatest human being on the planet now but develop a really nasty personality over time.

Swine flu is no more likely to mutate into a more contagious or severe form than is any of the numerous strains of seasonal flu that go around every year. Why don't we just have an annual flu panic every November?

Applebaum concludes by praising that "brief, possibly ludicrous but nevertheless useful moment of mass hysteria that brought us such terrific headlines over the past couple of weeks."

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, there was never a good hysteria or bad period of rationality. Panics are psychologically costly, economically costly, and can induce complacency when a real problem comes along. They often lead to the seeking out and punishment of scapegoats. Even today, in some countries, "witches" and "sorcerers" are burned.

One particular aspect of this panic has been the overrunning of hospitals, in which the truly ill are forced to wait behind the worried well who have a sniffle, some coughing, and the occasional desire to oink. Here are excerpts from an e-mail I received today.

I am a nurse at an emergency room in central Texas. The week of April 26 through May 2 was the busiest week for our ER, ever. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday were the top four days on record for individual visits at our facility. Almost all of the excess business was due to people who thought they had flu. On Thursday, we saw 372 patients; more than double the normal load for an April 30th. Number of positive flu tests: 12. Number of positive swine flu tests: 0. Number of positive swine flu tests in our county (so far): 1 . . . The economic consequences are undeniable.

He goes on:

If the media is either directly or indirectly encouraging people to go to the ER, they are actually causing them to be exposed to more virulent diseases. On April 30, about 200 people came into our ER because they thought they had flu. 12 actually did; 188 had colds, allergies, or were not sick at all Meanwhile, they exposed themselves to people who had some really infectious conditions.

"I saw people with MRSA, Streptococcus, Pertussis, C. difficile, conjunctivitis, impetigo, scabies, and flu,” he says, with the worried well sitting among them for three hours. If the media even notice, I doubt the sudden uptick in disease will be tied to the swine flu hysteria."

Joseph Feather
Round Rock, TX.

I don't doubt that he's right.

May 12, 2009 05:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Yes, I'm writing about the Science mag pandemic panic piece

By Michael Fumento

Bottom Line: If you look at the actual numbers and ignore the spin, the data are actually reassuring. They show a virus both less contagious and less severe than seasonal flu. But that requires actually reading the study and its citations, not just the abstract and press release. What self-respecting reporter would do that? Why would one want to when it's fear, not facts, that sell.

It also helps to know the paper was written under the auspices of the planet's chief chicken little, the WHO.

May 12, 2009 11:22 AM  ·  Permalink

Denial of Harm Equals Big Tobacco

By Michael Fumento

Under the subject line of "Hexavaent Chromium" (it's "hexavalent") Nancy [omitted] wrote:

Dear Mr.Fumento,

I am researching the P G & E/Hinkley, California case and have read some of your writings. As long as you short cut and use information provided by P G & E scientists, physicians and their reports to back your 'facts' you will always come out suspect. For years, the tobacco industry claimed through their scientist and doctors that smoking in no way caused cancer, we now know they were wrong. Surveys have been done that have indicated that for enough money there are many doctors and scientists who will 'sell' themselves and print whatever is wanted by those providing the money.

An interested law student

My response:

I didn't use any information from PG & E scientists. Consult my articles on my website. And please, stop with the tobacco comparisons. Just because somebody somewhere says their product isn't as dangerous as others claim it is doesn't make them another BIG TOBACCO. I insist that reading my material won't make you go blind. Does that put me on par with the makers of Camel cigarettes?

Well, maybe you shouldn't answer that.

Also, please learn how to use quotation marks if you are to join the legions of tort lawyers.

May 10, 2009 12:34 PM  ·  Permalink

Swine Flu Also Proving Far Less Harmful than Seasonal Flu

By Michael Fumento

Initial reports seemed to indicate swine flu was both vastly more contagious and more lethal than seasonal flu. You don't get headlines like: "Bug Outbreak Will Kill Millions Scientist Warns" and "Pandemic Could Kill Up To 120 Million, Warn Experts" for nothing, nor over 300 million references as of May 5 when entering "swine flu" into the Google News search engine. In an earlier blog, I noted that it appears the new flu is far less contagious than the old. But how dangerous is the virus itself?

"What the epidemiologists are seeing now with this particular strain of [swine flu]," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said yesterday, "is that the severity of the disease . . . is not stronger than regular seasonal flu."

In fact, swine flu is considerably less severe. Here's how we know.

There are no good data on Mexican cases or deaths and at any rate flu deaths are much higher in underdeveloped countries. It seems only now the media are catching onto the link between poverty and illness.

Our chief concern, naturally, is the U.S, and here we do have good data.

Seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has a death rate between 0.06% and 0.24%. (Others put the figure in the middle at about 0.1%.) The Agency derives its figure from the ratio of estimated annual infections 15 to 60 million to that of the estimated 36,000 deaths.

As this is written, the CDC reports about 400 swine flu cases with no American deaths. (The one death attributed to the U.S. was a Mexican national who sought help here after becoming sick at home.) Therefore, so far we have a denominator but no numerator.

So to provide a numerator, let's assume for sake of argument that one American dies right now. We would therefore have a death rate of 0.25%. That's at the top end of the CDC's seasonal flu range, right? Wrong. Remember, the death rate isn't calculated per case, it's per infection. And we know that most flu infections are too mild for people to seek medical help and hence become part of any database. So how can we figure out how many U.S. swine flu infections there might be? By reference to seasonal flu.

Because seasonal flu is not on the list of nationally notifiable diseases, that must come from information gathered by the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System. Sentinel laboratories across the nation collect suspect blood samples and forward them to these agencies, which forward their findings to the CDC.

This past flu season, detected flu infections were about 40,000. That's our number of confirmed cases. Divide that 40,000 into the CDC estimate of 15 to 60 million U.S. infections and you get a ratio of confirmed cases to unidentified infections of 375 to 1,300 to one.

During a period of heightened alertness you'd expect a lot more people to see a doctor, thus causing this ratio to drop. But even if it were just 100 to one, the U.S. swine flu death rate (again, assuming somebody dies right now) would be 0.0025% - vastly below that of seasonal flu. If ten Americans suddenly dropped dead, it would be 0.025% - still vastly lower than the seasonal flu rate.

And after having 400 cases with no fatalities, it's a calculated bet that ten Americans aren't about to drop dead.

May 5, 2009 12:35 PM  ·  Permalink

Early Calculations Show Swine Flu Hard to Transmit

By Michael Fumento

It SEEMS like swine flu isn't particularly infectious by looking at case numbers and consulting news stories that continue to find a strong link to Mexico. But there's a scientific way of measuring using what's called a "basic reproductive number."

That essentially means the measure of how many secondary cases a typical patient will cause in a population with no immunity to the pathogen. Keep in mind that as an epidemic progresses, the number drops because the pathogen finds fewer and fewer susceptible victims. That's why all epidemics can be roughly plotted on the shape of a bell curve. (When I wrote that about U.S. AIDS epidemic, I was called a fruitcake. AIDS subsequently followed the shape of a bell curve.)

The director of Mexico's National Center for Epidemiology and Disease Control, told the Washington Post "According to the preliminary models, the reproductive number that we have in the Mexico City metropolitan area is 1.5," noting, "It's a number fairly low, and that's good news."

Indeed for SARS, which caused only 8096 cases and 774 deaths over a period of about 170 days (115 cases and 4.5 deaths per day), the figure was 3.0.

For other contagious diseases, according to the CDC, it's vastly higher: 6-7 for diphtheria, 12-18 for measles, 4-7 for mumps, and 6-7 for Rubella.

Most importantly for our purposes the basic reproductive number for seasonal flu seems to range from 1.5 to 3.0. (Although you do see much higher numbers.)

That means no swine flu pandemic. The WHO can label it a pandemic; they can also label it a wombat. But because it won't begin to approach the severity of worldwide seasonal flu (700 - 1,400 deaths daily, it will not be a pandemic. Flu pandemics are supposed to be MORE severe than typical flu years, not far less.

And that's the end of it, right? Not necessarily. And here's where you see a difference between the know-it-all alarmists and a careful anti-alarmist.

Flu, like polar bears and penguins, loves cold weather. It's no more dangerous then, but spreads far more easily. If swine flu is still bouncing around in October, it will probably spread far more efficiently and quite possibly at the same rate as seasonal flu - though there's no reason to think it will be any higher.

That's why I called for making swine flu one of the strains in the annual seasonal flu vaccine. Unfortunately, that vaccine is already being grown in a laborious process using chicken eggs.

So the WHO and the CDC must decide whether swine flu merits the expensive creation of a whole separate vaccine, perhaps with a relatively new process using cell cultures instead of eggs. Considering how much money the U.S. threw away on pandemic avian flu ($5.6 billion; worldwide daily average of zero cases and zero deaths), it seems at this point they probably should.

May 3, 2009 04:17 PM  ·  Permalink

Mexico's Devastating Failure to Compare Swine Flu to Seasonal Flu

By Michael Fumento

To provide necessary perspective on the swine flu, I've noted that in the U.S. for each day of the seasonal flu season there are about 800 hospitalizations and 200 deaths. Worldwide, there about 700 -1,400 seasonal flu deaths spread out over the whole year. But what about the epicenter of the problem, Mexico itself?

The director of epidemiology and disease control for the Mexican Health Ministry, told the Washington Post that during the last flu season of October - March, there were 7,000 cases there - or about 38 cases per day. But that's clearly the result of a lousy reporting system, since Mexico's population at 109 million is slightly over a third that of the U.S.

Making the absurdly conservative assumption that Mexicans die of seasonal flu at no higher rate than Americans, they should have suffered about 65 DEATHS alone per day of seasonal flu. At last count, according to the WHO, all of 37 Mexicans have died of swine flu.

By failing to get out these numbers, and leaving the job to some gringo named Michael Fumento, Mexico has terrified its citizenry and wreaked havoc on its economy. Que lastima!

May 3, 2009 01:37 PM  ·  Permalink

Swine Flu Data Have Panic Purveyors Scared

By Michael Fumento

One blog site, Effect Measure, part of a consortium called "Science Blogs," that had long warned of the inevitable utter devastation of pandemic avian flu - and condemned my "rantings that bird flu was a "Chicken Little" story - quickly latched onto swine flu as its substitute. Now, bitterly disappointed by the realization that tens of millions of people are not going to die, it's telling readers to ignore the swine flu data in favor of heart-rending anecdotes. Very scientific!

"As this outbreak moves forward we will be barraged by numbers and statistics. This is a form of spectator sport to which we have become accustomed," it states. "As the late epidemiologist [and alarmist] Irving Selikoff once remarked about the horrific toll of asbestos victims, 'death statistics are people with the tears wiped away.'"

And non-death statistics are cause for mourning.

May 2, 2009 04:11 PM  ·  Permalink

So just how lethal is swine flu?

By Michael Fumento

The latest WHO update show 15 countries have officially reported 615 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, or 218 outside of Mexico. Yet only Mexicans have died (16 in Mexico, 1 of a Mexican who sought treatment in the U.S.) BUT now there's been a case in Hong Kong, meaning the flu will soon hit the mainland of the world's largest underdeveloped country. When that happens, you can expect to see many more deaths - and a media that insists on using worldwide fatalities as "THE death rate" for swine flu. Never mind that as is the case for seasonal flu, avian flu, AIDS, and other infectious diseases, and as was the case for SARS, a world rate for either cases or deaths is worthless - except to promote panic, of course.

May 2, 2009 11:16 AM  ·  Permalink

"The Price of a Porcine Panic" (My article in Forbes.com)

By Michael Fumento

There's panic in the streets over a flu outbreak. "Projections are that this virus will kill 1 million Americans," the nation's top health official has warned.




flu2009.html


"Evil has a new face . . ."

 
The virus is swine flu. But the date is 1976. And the projection, it turns out, is off by 999,999 deaths. Direct ones, that is. The hastily developed vaccine killed or crippled hundreds. Sadly, the current hysteria outbreak threatens devastation on a worldwide scale.

A calm perspective of the current outbreak of the virus now known as influenza A (H1N1) would compare it to seasonal flu. According to the CDC, the seasonal flu infects between 15 to 60 million Americans each year (5% to 20%), hospitalizes about 200,000 and kills about 36,000. That comes out to over 800 hospitalizations and over 250 deaths each day during flu season.

Keep reading here.

April 30, 2009 10:28 PM  ·  Permalink

Mexico's swine flu death rate plummets

By Michael Fumento

A member of the World Health Organization (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.

Vivienne Allan, from WHO's patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths - all in Mexico - and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

"Unfortunately that [150-plus deaths] is incorrect information and it does happen, but that's not information that's come from the World Health Organization," Ms. Allan told ABC Radio today.

"That figure is not a figure that's come from the World Health Organization and, I repeat, the death toll is seven and they are all from Mexico."

Oops.

In fact, as of this writing, the WHO still lists confirmed Mexican cases at 26, not the 1,000 + you've been reading about ad nauseum. What's going on here?

April 29, 2009 07:39 PM  ·  Permalink

Concerning an earlier flu panic . . .

By Michael Fumento

Swine flu panic purveyors will surely call me insane, evil, or both for trying to spoil their fun. I haven't looked but I assume they've already started. They will, as always, ignore my track record on heterosexual AIDS, Ebola virus, SARS, and avian flu - the last of which I slammed both during the first outbreak of hysteria in 1997-98 ("Chicken Little Gets the Flu" in the Wall Street Journal) and the second ongoing one. Let them. I just discovered that even the federal government now admits the first avian flu pandemic was "a panic."

April 29, 2009 07:20 PM  ·  Permalink

Latest Swine Flu case and death update

By Michael Fumento

As of now, 118 confirmed cases outside of Mexico in 8 countries, plus 215 unconfirmed in 25 countries. Only Mexicans have died so far, though I expect we'll soon see more in other underdeveloped nations.

April 29, 2009 12:25 PM  ·  Permalink

NYTimes headline: "First U.S. Death From Swine Flu Is Confirmed."

By Michael Fumento

Um, actually a Mexican who came here for treatment. Same diff, huh?

April 29, 2009 10:41 AM  ·  Permalink

Pondering Pig Flu Panic

By Michael Fumento

Tweeters have jumped out of the gates with all their sagacious advice, such as to not eat pork products, while I go the old-fashioned route and actually research the swine flu outbreak for an article. Remember articles? But since I know some people are interested in what I'm going to say, here's a preview:

As the outbreak develops, keep in mind that seasonal flu, according to the CDC, infects between 28 and 56 million Americans each year, hospitalizes over 100,000, and kills about 36,000. (The death figure is probably on the high side.) Did you bother to get vaccinated?

At this point there's no evidence swine flu is easier to transmit than seasonal flu or that it's more lethal. There have been no deaths yet outside of Mexico. All infectious diseases strike much harder in underdeveloped countries because the people are less healthy to begin with.

"Swine flu" simply means it has pig RNA mixed in. There's nothing inherent to it that would make it worse than seasonal flu. We've had a previous outbreak of swine flu; it killed one person.

True, we have no vaccine for this flu; but two years ago it turned out that the seasonal flu shot was ineffective - the equivalent of no vaccine. We're still here.

No, swine flu doesn't threaten to become "another Spanish Flu of 1918-19." Nothing does. Check your calendar; that was 90 years ago. Since then we've developed things called "antibiotics" as well as antivirals and other anti-flu medicines. In all flu outbreaks, including the Spanish one, the vast majority of deaths come from secondary bacterial infections.

Still scared? Wash your hands several times a day, keep away from coughers, and stay tuned.

April 27, 2009 08:50 PM  ·  Permalink

Year-end Update on Avian Flu "Pandemic"

By Michael Fumento

I published major articles with the Weekly Standard in 2005 and 2006 (with updates elsewhere) on how, despite predictions of as many as a billion deaths from pandemic avian flu and calls for spending 2.5% of the U.S. GNP annually to prevent it, overwhelming evidence indicated the disease posed no threat to humanity.

Naturally that made me a nutcase because it was exactly the opposite of what all the quoted government officials, media-savvy scientists, journalists, and bloggers were saying. "I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and say something about this sleaze," one wrote. "What the piece shows is just how ignorant of public health Fumento really is," declared another.

Many relied heavily on an article in the November 23, 2006 New England Journal of Medicine by the prestigious uber-alarmist Robert Webster and his observation that human cases of avian flu were continuing to increase annually. As they started to decline, I asked: If an increase is so very important, why is everybody ignoring the decrease?

Now here are the 2008 year-end figures, which are dated December 16th but there have been no new cases since then.

New bird-to-human and suspected human-to-human cases dropped 23 percent from 2006 to 2007 and 54 percent from 2007 to 2008. That's a plummet of about two-thirds from just two years ago. Not incidentally, there still has never been a case in the developed world. Cases have always been under conditions of squalor that exist only in certain areas, primarily Asia.

Meanwhile, the bacterium methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, kills about 19,000 Americans of all ages each year. The federal budget for avian flu is about $5.6 billion. The budget for MRSA is practically non-existent.

You read it here first. And probably last.

December 31, 2008 02:30 PM  ·  Permalink

Cal. study gets vaccines off hook again for autism

By Michael Fumento

Grant the anti-childhood vaccine fanatics this; they are dogged. As I write in The American Spectator Online, "Absolutely no amount of data and no number of studies from any array of sources will sway them from their beliefs - or claimed beliefs - that thimerosal, a mercury-containing vaccine preservative once used in many such injections, is causing the so-called "autism epidemic."

Therefore a California Department of Public Health study in the current Archives of General Psychiatry hasn't either. It shows absolutely no decrease in the rate of increased autism diagnoses, notwithstanding that thimerosal was discontinued in childhood vaccines in 2001. (I include a graph that makes the point abundantly clear.) Yet not only did the nut cases claim the California data would eventually prove their case, they even claimed it already had.

For the rest of us there are two valuable lessons. First, the lack of a thimerosal connection to the developmental disorder has once again been reaffirmed. And second, those fanatics really and truly are fanatical - as a British Medical Journal book reviewer put it, an "angry and paranoid universe."

I've already gotten a barge-load of nasty e-mail from this paranoid universe. See what's made them so incredibly angry.

January 22, 2008 05:21 PM  ·  Permalink

I'm on ADHD medicine and it's great!

By Michael Fumento

A medical write wrote to me:

Hi Michael,

A little belatedly, I ran across your excellent article on the "hoax that is ADHD." :-)

I can't thank you enough for the excellent dissection. Five years ago, when I discovered that my scientist husband has ADHD and we both went through hell trying to coax decent care out of our very broken mental health care system - and some truly ignorant psychiatrists - I swore that others would benefit from my hard-won experience.

So, I've been volunteering almost full time - essentially a Peace Corps at Home stint - helping other people to understand this ridiculously common condition, especially in adults. At this point, after finishing a book so I can try easing out of doing so much volunteer work, I'm pretty much exhausted. But I've made my dent.

[Two paragraphs omitted.]

The idea that nutballs like Fred Baughman and overreaching egotists like Lawrence Diller (who has absolutely no clue about what happens when these children who are not treated grow up and leave the structure of "helicopter" parents) are the most prominent influences on the internet is appalling. So I really appreciate it when thinkers and writers like you put their focus on this subject.

Thank you,

I responded:

You're welcome. I started taking ADHD drugs a few months ago and it''s been wonderful. I've long known I have the problem, but I found lots of ways to cope. But it got to a point where I was simply blanking out and missing freeway ramps and stuff. That's not just frustrating; it's dangerous. And it's so nice not to be constantly mislaying things. Meanwhile my creativity hasn't been touched in the least bit. In other words, no, I am not a zombie thank you very much.

All the best,
Mike

January 20, 2008 02:45 PM  ·  Permalink

Hysteria, not illness or death, drives gov't disease spending

By Michael Fumento

You've heard that the highly-drug resistant germ MRSA causes 94,000 U.S. invasive infections each year, with about 19,000 deaths. Here's what you haven't heard. As I write in the New York Sun, the government is doing practically nothing about it.

Meanwhile it's working mightily and spending the bank on three diseases that have yet to kill a single American and probably never will: Ebola virus, SARS, and avian flu. Federally-funded Ebola and SARS vaccines are in human trials and the government is already stockpiling FDA-approved avian flu vaccine. Yet government-funded MRSA vaccine research is still in mice.

One spending comparison: Congress has specifically earmarked $5.8 billion for avian flu, the threat of which continually recedes. Yet, although the CDC lists in addition to MRSA 8 important diseases connected to antibiotic resistance, the total annual budget for these is merely $221 million.

I conclude: "We need a government that pays more attention to medical statistics than to headlines. The one we have now is killing us."

November 8, 2007 12:26 PM  ·  Permalink

Skeptical question of the day (seasonal flu deaths)

By Michael Fumento

Dave wrote:

Today's paper again mentioned the 36,000 deaths per year from flu...........and I believe I've heard / read that the only way that kind of figure will hold up to scrutiny is if 1918-1919 is included!...........what is your take on this statistic?

How many people died of flu in 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003.............?

Thanks in advance,
Dave

Dave,

This is seasonal flu, having nothing to do with even the last pandemic of 1968 (the Hong Kong flu). The CDC uses the number of 24,000 - 36,000, which the media naturally convert to solely the top end. I'll bet 24,000 is more like it.

Further, there's a lot of what's called the "harvesting effect." Flu causes few deaths outside the elderly population and probably kills those elderly not too long before something else does.

That said, I get my annual flu shot because I cannot afford any down time that I might otherwise have prevented. Plus, it adds to herd immunity so that it protects those who might get more seriously ill than I am but either didn't get the vaccine or are insufficiently protected.

In fact I've even had the pneumonia vaccine, which can prevent secondary bacterial infections from attacking immune systems under assault from the flu virus. Unfortunately, while it protects against 23 different bacterial strains, it does not protect against the worst of them - staphylococcus.

October 31, 2007 01:46 PM  ·  Permalink

Another blow against anti-vaccine hysteria -- or is it?

By Michael Fumento

The vaccine preservative thimerosal has jumped the safety hurdle. Again. So indicates the Sept. 27, 2007 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. But as I write in my TCS Daily piece, "again" is the problem. One huge study after another has cleared thimerosal as a cause of child developmental disorders, but there is a powerful lobby that couldn't care less.

Jenny McCarthy
You can see why Jenny
McCarthy is treated as an expert
on childhood vaccines and autism.

There are over 150 anti-vaccine web sites. None will disappear as a result of the new findings. After all, who cares what a multitude of huge epidemiological studies from all over the world say when former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, with her 38 C IQ, claims on Oprah and in the new book she's hawking that her son got autism from a vaccine?

The major problem with this hysteria? It scares parents away from vaccination programs, even mandatory ones. And only mandatory programs can confer "herd immunity," meaning that immunization rates in the wider population are high enough (for example, 85 percent for diphtheria) to protect those not immunized.

Those who encourage parents to avoid vaccinating their kids are telling them to become free riders, relying on those parents who do vaccinate. But if enough people try to free ride, then herd immunity is lost and what follows is the return of childhood diseases we hardly think about anymore. Diseases like pertussis have made comebacks in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan, and Sweden after anti-vaccinationist scares.

Better known as "whooping cough," pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. Pertussis cases went from fewer than 8,000 in the U.S. in 2001 to over 25,000 in 2005.

Reaching parents who have already been practically brain-washed is hard, but for the sake of our children we must do so.

October 24, 2007 02:25 PM  ·  Permalink

Agent Orange and New Zealanders who fought in 'Nam

By Michael Fumento

In an e-mail from New Zealand with the subject line: "At last," Rex Barron wrote:

It's nice to see and hear commonsense at last. I'm referring to your AO [Agent Orange] articles, of course. I'm a New Zealand soldier (infantry) who served in Vietnam 68-69. It may interest you to know that the NZ soldiers and families are a close knit family and therefore we know exactly how many went and how many have died since. I have been banging my head against a brick wall trying to convince my fellow veterans that they are not about to keel over with some dreaded lurgy brought on by TCDD. [TCDD is the trace dioxin that's present in AO as part of the manufacturing process. "Lurgy" or "lurgi" is British English slang for an unspecified or mythical disease.]

By using the population mortality graphs I have proved, successfully, that of the 3300 who went the 575 dead of various causes is quite normal.

At first glance it seems high but the percentage of Maori [The tribe native to New Zealand] soldiers serving was 20% higher than than the general population and tragically Maori die two and a half times faster than Caucasian. So unlike the scaremongers I used both population tables. Both Australia and the US used conscription and consequently have found it hard to come up with measurable numbers. In our case we were all volunteers and coming from a small country everybody is accounted for.

We were attached to the Australians so where they went we went.

There are too many fingers in the pie dish now with all the money that has been thrown around. It was your Mark Twain who said, "A man will not understand if his salary depends on him not understanding."

Cordially yours,
Rex Barron

Dear Rex,

Thanks for the info and thanks for having fought alongside our troops in a nasty war.

BTW, in future writings to people you suspect get a lot of e-mail you need to have a more detailed subject line. Something like "at last" sounds like it's for "At last, there's a penile enlargement pill that really works!"

All the best,
Mike

October 19, 2007 12:08 PM  ·  Permalink

BBC Newsflash! "Evil" avian flu seeks "world domination!"

By Michael Fumento

Somehow I missed it, but a BBC video from June of this year, now available on YouTube, is the most alarmist thing I have seen or read on pandemic avian flu.

"If you were a terrorist wanting to design a biologic weapon, you couldn't do better than designing a virus like this," claims Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic within the first few seconds. "This is really nature's bio-terrorism." Later he informs us that, "The best scientific evidence is that one or two mutations will be enough to allow this virus to attach easily to human cells and thereby spread from one human to another."

We know now, from the research of David Finkelstein and his colleagues, it would actually take 11 or 12 mutations. Perhaps news of this research hadn't reached Poland in time, but his "best scientific evidence" is a pure fabrication.

Poland also informs us that what "really sent chills through the spines of virologists and vaccinologists, was the recognition that this virus [avian flu H5N1] had now jumped species from birds into mammals." Doubtful. Birds and non-human mammals (particularly swine, apparently) appear to play a vital role in each year's seasonal influenza. A team of researchers led by St. Jude's Robert Webster wrote in the journal Virology that, "most of the influenza virus genes that have appeared in mammalian gene pools over the past 30 years have been shown ultimately to have an avian origin."

Yes, some people will do or say anything to appear on the "telly."

Repeatedly the fear-umentary makes bizarre personifications of the virus, with the narrator more than once insisting the virus seeks "world domination." A Scots doctor tells us, "The human population has never been faced by a virus like this before. This is an utterly evil virus." Do these tiny pieces of protein come complete with Adolf Hitler mustaches?

The narrator also claims, "The virus has started to jump from birds to humans." Actually, the first reported bird-to-human cases were in 1997. It's said that Europeans have a longer view than Americans, but I suspect even Britons wouldn't consider events of a decade ago to be "just."

The only "just" aspect of this video is that it's just plain awful.

September 23, 2007 07:50 PM  ·  Permalink

One Flew Over the Bird Flu's Nest

By Michael Fumento

New scientific discoveries keep eating away at the prophecy that "bird flu," avian influenza type H5N1, will become readily transmissible from human to human and unleash a disastrous pandemic. This leaves little but rhetoric and those big, terrifying, huge, terrifying (Did I already say that?) numbers that panic purveyors throw around based on nothing more than extrapolations from baselines of their own choosing. Read about it in my new American Spectator piece.

September 16, 2007 09:40 PM  ·  Permalink

Avian flu wipes out Sydney, Australia!

By Michael Fumento

Okay, not exactly.

Last December one blogger whose website was devoted entirely to avian flu predicted a 50-50 chance of a pandemic within the next year. I offered the blogger and any other taker not 2 to 1 odds but rather 10 to 1 odds that it wouldn't happen.

Curiously, each entity I specifically challenged chickened out. They couldn't get permission from their mothers, stuff like that. One of the chickens was a crank named Crawford Kilian who authors the - or shall we say the, H5N1 Blog. He pretends to be the ultimate resource on avian flu developments but refuses to link to anything I write. On the other hand, he has now seen fit to link to an online novel in which pandemic flu kills the entire population of Sydney, Australia (4.3 million) save for 300 souls. After all, in tackling such an important issue you have to have priorities.

September 3, 2007 11:31 AM  ·  Permalink

Canada's wonderful robo-surgeon. But can they afford it?

By Michael Fumento

The neuroArm, as I write in TCS Daily, is a wonderful Canadian invention that goes beyond robotic surgery, the main advantage of which is no shaky scalpels. It also allows neurological operations inside an MRI machine, sending the surgeon a continuous stream of 3-D images as well as video. This could revolutionize brain surgery. I'm certainly going to hold off on getting a brain tumor until they're commercialized. Unfortunately, it may be almost entirely an export item. You see, one thing Michael Moore didn't mention in his schlockumentary "Sicko" is that Canada's vaunted socialized medical system isn't keen on expensive medical equipment. In fact, Canada ranks thirteenth among 20 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries with only 4.6 MRI scanners per million people, while Japan and the United States had the highest number with 35.3 and 19.5 per million respectively. Without MRIs, neuroArm is just another robo-surgeon. But the issue will be moot if the nation's health administrators decide they can't afford the neuroArm either. Socialized health care sucks.

August 16, 2007 12:13 PM  ·  Permalink

Update on the Avian Flu Pandemic Panic

By Michael Fumento

As the months go by the chances of an avian flu pandemic diminish, as does the potential severity if there is such a pandemic. Among recent developments:

1. The FDA has approved the Sanofi-Aventis H5N1 avian flu vaccine. It is not as effective as seasonal flu vaccines; moreover, two injections are required with about a month in-between. Nevertheless, this is an obvious milestone. The U.S. has stockpiled enough for 6.5 million people, namely first responders, but could order more if need be. Meanwhile the U.S. government is funding six different companies to come up with superior vaccines while in all at least 12 companies and 17 governments are developing H5N1 influenza vaccines in 28 different clinical trials. Incidentally, this is notwithstanding Mark Helprin's rebuttal to my response to his utterly ignorant pandemic panic piece in the Spring issue of The Claremont Review of Books. In the current issue he states: "It is possible that continuing research will extend the hopeful progress to date, and that the newly emerging pathogens will be (almost) neutralized by antiviral vaccines. But these vaccines are not available now." I recently read his novel "A Soldier of the Great War" and thoroughly enjoyed it. But he needs to stick to what he knows, rather than stringing together headlines from the MSM.

2. Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, shown effective against H5N1, has announced it has filled all orders from all countries. It is now in position to quickly fill any new orders if the need arises.

3. Meanwhile, new WHO data show an incredibly low resistance rate of around 0.3 percent to Tamiflu.

4. Researchers have just discovered they can successfully inoculate mice with antibodies from persons exposed to H5N1. In other words, those exposed to the disease are living vaccine machines. This is not a surprise insofar as such inoculations were used way back during the 1918-1919 pandemic.

5. WHO figures through May 30 show that after three years of increases, cases of H5N1 are coming in at a slightly slower pace than last year. Since cases don't distribute themselves evenly through the year and the first four months of the year are especially large contributors, this figure is even better than it looks. Many of the pandemic panic purveyors last year, including Robert Webster of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital specifically cited the annual increases in H5N1 cases as cause for alarm. What's a decrease cause for? Yup, they'll find a way for that to be alarming as well.

May 30, 2007 02:10 PM  ·  Permalink

Future weapons against malaria - and the one we have now

By Michael Fumento

O death, where is thy sting? Far too often it comes at the end of a mosquito's proboscis. The worst mosquito-borne disease, malaria, infects about 400 million people worldwide each year (90 percent in sub-Saharan Africa) and kills about 1.3 million of them. Compare that to the histrionics we've suffered over avian flu, which as of 2 April had infected 25 people and killed 12 this year. Or SARS, which killed 774 people worldwide before petering out.

As I write in TCS Daily, biotechnology may eventually come to the rescue. Scientists have announced they've built a better mosquito, one that doesn't become infected with the parasite that causes malaria. Ultimately, it's hoped, these mosquitoes will outbreed natural ones. A biotech malaria vaccine is also in the works. Aye, but there's the rub. A malaria vaccine has been in the works for decades. For now what we need is something that's tried and true and readily available. Yes, that means insecticides and yes that means DDT. Fortunately, pro-DDT activists are finally starting to gain the upper hand over spoiled brat environmentalists who think the deaths of black- and brown-skinned people don't count and know nothing more about DDT than that Rachel Carson made all sorts of horrible claims about it of which none have proved true.

April 2, 2007 09:30 PM  ·  Permalink

Perform Miracles with Your PC

By Michael Fumento

"Distributed computing" could theoretically lead to such massive supercomputers as to cure every disease known to man. It works by tapping into the unused portion of your PC's CPU. One percent of all CPUs so linked would absolutely blow away the most powerful stand-alone supercomputers in existence. Read more about how this works and why you need to become a part of it in my new TCS.daily article, "An Idle Computer Is the Lord's Workshop."

March 26, 2007 07:53 PM  ·  Permalink

Human avian flu cases at lowest level since outbreak began

By Michael Fumento

Yes, I'm the guy who has written that it's not so much the number of humans infected by birds that counts in determining the likelihood of a human avian flu pandemic but rather whether the disease changes so as to become more transmissible between humans. As I observed in my December 15 Weekly Standard article, "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong:"

The latest "scary news," promulgated in the November 23 [2006] issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by uber-alarmist Robert Webster of St. Jude Memorial Children's Hospital, is that human cases of H5N1 contracted from birds are continuing to increase. Indeed, confirmed cases for 2006 are running ahead of those for last year. But the difference is slight; 97 worldwide for all of last year versus 111 through the end of November 2006. This difference could be entirely explained by better surveillance. Moreover, the real concern is not sporadic bird-to-human transmission, but human-to-human transmission.

The Chicken Littles, conversely, have cited bird-to-human cases for no other reason than that those cases have been rising yearly since the latest outbreak began in 2003 and that generally speaking there's really nothing new with which to spook people. To that, I've pointed out the rise has actually been slowing. But now, while it's a bit early to say, it looks like they're now actually falling. Specifically, human avian cases flu spikes at around this time each year as this bar graph shows clearly. Cases for the last season were 12 in November, six in December, and 25 in January 2006. For this season it's 2, 5, and 7 respectively.

Mind you, in 2004 the peak month wasn't until March so we won't know until the WHO releases its March data to see how mild the season may turn out. But at this point, the lack of cases is looking to be quite tragic for the doomsayers. Stay tuned.

January 29, 2007 01:49 PM  ·  Permalink

What's ailing Castro?

By Michael Fumento

According to new reports Fidel Castro may be dying from the same disease that almost killed me in April, 2005 in Fallujah. Called diverticulitis, it occurs when pouches (diverticula) in the large intestine (which in and of themselves are relatively common in adults) become perforated and flood the peritoneal cavity with germs. Prior to any such perforation, areas of colon with such pouches can be cut out and the colon reattached. But if perforated, this technique virtually guarantees continued infection and so standard procedure is to run the colon out the side through a colostomy. (Temporary in my case.) Castro's Spanish doctor assuredly knew this but was probably ordered by El Jefe to skip the colostomy. For his troubles, he ended up with one anyway. Between the disease and the surgery all of this is horribly painful - which is why I'm glad Fidel has it, notwithstanding that it gives us something in common besides smoking cigars and having ugly beards.

January 17, 2007 11:34 AM  ·  Permalink

FluWiki editor displays dishonest of his site and himself

By Michael Fumento

FluWiki pretends to be an encyclopedia of that which we should know about avian flu and the possibility of it becoming a human pandemic. It is not. It is a propaganda site, dedicated to spreading alarmism. I pointed out in a previous blog that it even
carries advertising. To this, the editor responded:

Apparently, you are going around the internets [sic] spreading false information about Flu Wiki. On your blog, you state:

(There are actually a number of such dedicated sites, primarily FluWiki, which refuses to post my material but has no problem posting opinion pieces like A Severe Pandemic Is Likely and running ads from pharmaceutical companies that make flu drugs.) Similar claim [sic] is made on Crawford Kilian's blog, H5N1.

Flu Wiki has no ads whatsoever, and never has had ads. It's a non-commercial site and always has been. It does not endorse products. Simple inspection will verify that. Perhaps you have us confused with another site.

Please correct this in the various places you are posting, including your blog.

DemFromCT
Editor

My response:

You can stop squawking. I didn't say you blatantly posted ads. But you have them nonetheless. Under "Authoritative sources of background information" there is:

"Bird Flu is a Real Pandemic Threat to Humans," described as "An essay by Leonard Crane, author of Ninth day of Creation (2006)" It's hardly relevant to avian flu that he wrote this novel about biological terrorism (published in 2000, by the way) but it is relevant that you see fit to plug it. More importantly, in clicking on the link you provide we find it's nothing more than an advertisement for a book called "How To Protect Yourself And Your Loved Ones from BIRD FLU." In it we're warned in super-sized type: Right Now, Bird Flu Is Killing Entire Families in Indonesia -- Infecting a 2 Year Old Girl in Djibouti Africa and Forcing Quarantines in Romania!"

Authoritative, huh? No. The question is, why run something this insipid if it doesn't pay a kickback?

Under "Other sources of background information," you have "Joel Fuhrman M.D.'s Six Steps to Protect Your Family from Avian Flu." But click on the link and the reader finds it's actually an advertisement for his line of vitamins disguised as a blog.

Yet somehow you have no room to mention sources of background information such as my two articles that bird flu is not a real pandemic threat to humans and your family doesn't need protection from avian flu.

At the same time FluWiki disguises ads for nutty books and vitamins under legitimate-looking links, it censors articles that inform readers that avian flu H5N1 was actually discovered way back in 1959 and therefore has had far more time to become pandemic than most people believe, that recent CDC tests on ferrets show that fears of H5N1 reassorting with human flu are probably grossly overblown, or that your "expert" Laurie Garrett rose to fame and fortune by prediction a pandemic of Ebola - one of the hardest human viruses to transmit.

You're a dishonest person who runs a dishonest site. And by the way, my offer of 10 to one odds of no human pandemic in the next ten years is also open to you.

His incredible response:

Spam is spam. When you run a wiki, anyone can post links. There are literally thousands of pages and tens of thousands of links there. If you see any other commercial links, feel free to write and I'll remove them. These were commercial sites and they have been removed.

Flu Wiki is, was and will be a non-commercial site. It is a resource anyone can use. No kickbacks, no moneys accepted, no charge. When we have information to share, we give it away.

I will accept readership by public health departments around the world, visits by NIH and CDC on a daily basis, and positive reviews in Harvard Business Review and Science magazine, to name two, in lieu of your approval. I think it's a fair exchange.

I don't bet on natural disasters. I prepare for them and hope they never happen.

Cheers and good luck

My response:

How stupid do you think I am? You posted those links. [Or, I should have added, allowed them to stay up. Certainly when I posted a link to one of my avian flu articles he pulled it down.] YOU. Spam is unsolicited bulk email. As I said, you are a dishonest person with a dishonest website. And your refusal to take me up on my bet also shows you don't have the courage of your convictions. You know as well as I do there's no H5N1 pandemic coming, but you've got a business to run.

January 15, 2007 06:30 PM  ·  Permalink

Everybody chickened out of my avian flu challenge

By Michael Fumento

LambertTroll
Troll Lambert waving what he
thinks is the Australian flag

It's now been a week since I threw down the gauntlet on my blog site and at Right Wing News to five avian flu alarmist bloggers who had attacked my Weekly Standard article, "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The Bird Flu Threat Flew the Coop." Since one had predicted a "50%/50%" [sic] chance of a bird flu pandemic among humans within the next year I gave him 10 to 1 odds there wouldn't be, noting that 2 to 1 odds would be even so that anything above that should be tempting. I then offered the same odds to the other four. As I expected, none of them took me up on it. Daily Kos simply ignored it; but after all they're Daily Kos so they can do whatever they like, right? A blogger who goes by "Revere" and posted "Fumento's Bird Flu Follies" at Effect Measure also ignored it. But then, his blog actually had little to do with avian flu; rather it was mostly one long ad hominem attack on me. He even referred to my article as "sleaze," a rather strange term to describe a science article. Three bloggers outright refused the bet.

One was Mr. "50%/50%," an anonymous fellow who runs "Avian Flu Diary." Obviously if your blog is about nothing but avian flu, you have an interest in promoting panic. (There are actually a number of such dedicated sites, primarily FluWiki, which refuses to post my material but has no problem posting opinion pieces like A Severe Pandemic Is Likely and running ads from pharmaceutical companies that make flu drugs.) But our diarist friend had no interest in the bet. "Possible Interstate [sic] gambling law violations aside, this is far too serious a subject to debase by making side bets on whether millions of people will die," he whimpered. Personal bets violate no gambling laws, nor do serious subjects prevent bets. Translation: "Bawk! Bawk! Bawk!" He does not have the courage of his convictions, beyond the conviction to keep his blog alive.

Another was "Mad Mike the Biologist," who posts over at "Science Blogs." From other posters and posts I've seen there it should be called "Superstition Blogs." In the event, despite the written record on his own blog site he denied having even challenged the basis of my article. Never mind that the blog post in question, which in the title called me a "disingenuous ideologue," began: "Revere, over at Effect Measure, has a solid critique of Michael Fumento's opinion piece about avian flu. What the piece shows is just how ignorant of public health Fumento really is." That's not a challenge? Translation: "Bawk! Bawk! Bawk!"

Finally we have Tim Lambert, whose original post criticizing my article is here. Lambert is one of the most obnoxious trolls on the Internet. He produces nothing; he exists to tear down other people to make up for some perceived deficiency on his part. Perhaps it's a deficiency that can be measured with a three-inch ruler; I don't know. Some people buy a flashy sports car in his case, but Troll Lambert uses all his spare time to write fraudulent Wikipedia biographies about people who get more attention than he does (approximately 6.3 billion) and to try to poke fun of them on his blog. In his desperation he often makes an utter fool of himself and this was no exception. Aside from refusing the bet, Troll Lambert claimed that my giving 10 to 1 odds meant I believed there was a ten percent chance of pandemic flu over the next ten years. Right, Troll. And my saying "The sky is sunny" means that I believe Al Qaeda will set off a dirty bomb in Wichita, Kansas. I picked the 10 to 1 figure for the rather obvious reason that people like round numbers and we have a base 10 system. Now, Lambert is an Aussie and maybe Australia doesn't use the decimal system - but I'm pretty sure it does. I know they have chickens over there; Troll Lambert is proof.

And they're we have it; five flu alarmists offered the chance to make a chunk of change and all five refused it. What does this tell us? They'll spew and spew and spew, but they know that what they say just isn't true.

January 10, 2007 06:19 PM  ·  Permalink

Bloomberg News's Attempted Backlash on Avian Flu

By Michael Fumento

"Bird flu infected fewer humans in the second half of the year, prompting experts to point to a new enemy in the fight against a possible pandemic: complacency." So begins an end-of-year Bloomberg News article by By Jason Gale and John Lauerman. But most of the article shows why there is, indeed, no great cause for worry. ["Complacency," of course, has a negative connotation suggesting there is a real threat.] Indeed, the very next line explains, "The lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza was reported in people every two days in the first half [of the year]. Since July, the number of cases has slowed to about one a week and scientists say the virus hasn't yet found a way to easily infect humans."

Actually, I have never read an article or quote by anyone saying this is a reason to worry less. Indeed, the article provides a good quote from my December 25 Weekly Standard piece about the lack of mutation being a good sign and it provides another good quote from Peter Palese, chair of Mount Sinai School of Medicine's department of microbiology in New York. "The virus hasn't really gone in a major way into humans. That is a very important fact, which makes it doubtful that H5N1 is really the next pandemic strain," he states.

I specifically wrote that the number of infected humans has gone up slightly from 2005 to 2006, but that's probably the result of better surveillance and in any case irrelevant. What really matters is whether it becomes readily transmissible between humans, not how many humans catch it from birds.

Indeed, it's that very increase (both cases and deaths) that pandemic panic-mongering websites have used against me, indicating that they didn't actually read the article, didn't have the intelligence to understand the article, or didn't have the honesty to relay to readers what was in the article. For example, Daily Kos reprinted a World Health Organization (WHO) graph showing human avian flu cases by month since 2003 shown on both a cumulative line chart and a bar graph with each bar representing one month. All the bars show is that avian flu cases, like human flu cases, are seasonal. But the line graph may look scary because it shows more human cases this past year than the previous year and the previous year before that. In fact, as I pointed out, it's only a slight increase from last year to this and - once again - it's not bird-to-human cases that we should worry about.

But if you are worried about them, here are some interesting statistics from the WHO year-end statistics. Cases from 2003 to 2004 increased about 1100 percent; from 2004 to 2005 they increased about 100 percent; but from 2005 to 2006 they increased less than 18 percent. In other words, by the alarmists' own fake standards the increase in cases among humans would appear to be reassuring based on the limited number of years of data available. Further, as I pointed out in my article, "Far more people die of tuberculosis in an hour than all those known to have died from H5N1."

Ultimately, no matter how you look at it, the pandemic panic-mongers don't have a chicken leg to stand on.

January 1, 2007 01:45 PM  ·  Permalink

My avian flu challenge to the leftist bird-brained squawkers

By Michael Fumento

Flu cover

This month, the Weekly Standard published my article "The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The Bird Flu Threat Flew the Coop." It was a follow-up to my cover piece from the year before, "Fuss and Feathers: Pandemic Panic over the Avian Flu."

After the blogger at Avian Flu Diary, whose expertise in the disease stems from being a former paramedic, declared me a fool on his website for writing that second article, he later made the mistake of making a prediction. Specifically, he said there was a "50%/50%" chance of such a pandemic in the next year. He didn't realize that one of the most important rules of alarmism is to never allow yourself to be pinned down by actual dates. You just say we're all doomed and leave the time frame open, allowing yourself a permanent escape hatch. In any case, I took advantage of Mr. Paramedic's oversight to bet him 10-1, with him picking the dollar amount, that there would be no such pandemic in the next 365 days. Odds of 2-1 would be even, so this is an offer you'd think he'd snap up. So far no reply. Now I'm extending the challenge to all bloggers who've ignored my flawless track record on disease scares dating back 20 years and who have said in no uncertain terms that I've been grossly irresponsible and a total idiot on the subject of pandemic flu. That includes Daily Kos, "Revere" at Effect Measure, ("I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and say something about this sleaze." Science as sleaze?) and Mike the Mad Biologist at Science Blogs ("What the piece shows is just how ignorant of public health Fumento really is.") Naturally it also includes Mr. Troll himself Tim Lambert at Deltoid.

Okay guys, put your bucks where your blogs are! Ten to one odds for each of you; each gets to pick the amount in question. I say the year 2008 will roll around and there will be plenty of terrible problems in the world, but pandemic avian flu won't be among them. Naturally some of these anti-scientists have insinuated that somebody must be paying me to say pandemic avian flu is a bunch of bird droppings -- that's also how the alarmist game is played; if you can't counter the facts, attack the messenger. Well this time I am going to make some money! Or at least try. If the year-long period sounds a bit short, keep in mind that it's our paramedic friend who suggested it and that I've been writing about pandemic avian flu alarmism since my "Chicken Little Gets the Flu" article in the Wall Street Journal in January of 1998 -- yes, nine years now. They've had their time. I'll let you know at my website if anybody has the courage of their alleged conviction to take me up on my generous offer. Of course, maybe they'll think this is "sleaze" too, since naturally I along with everybody else will have chirped my last chirp by then anyway.

December 29, 2006 11:28 AM  ·  Permalink

Erin Brockovich is again full of . . . um . . . it

By Michael Fumento

Brockovich
Erin Brockovich hasn't had much to laugh about this year

This hasn't been a good year for "America's Sweetheart." In one recent setback, in which she acted as plaintiff, she sued 31 hospitals she claimed were making unfair claims against Medicare. Her payoff would have been tremendous. But two separate judges tossed out all 31 cases, asserting that among other things Brockovich has no standing since she has no involvement in any way with Medicare nor was ever even treated by the hospitals in question. Any first-year law student could have told her that.

Far worse for Brockovich was the November 22 Los Angeles County Superior Court decision to reject the first 12 cases in litigation her firm of Masry & Vititoe began in 2003 against the city of Beverly Hills, the school district, and a slew of oil companies. The suit claims an oil rig on the campus of Beverly Hills High School caused extraordinary high rates of several types of cancer among the approximately 11,000 alumni who attended between 1975 and 1997. Yet the firm never proffered the least evidence that, while some alumni certainly have suffered from cancer, the rig had or even was capable of causing the diseases in question.

Now Brockovich is on the warpath against a proposed composting facility near the town that made her rich, Hinkley. She sides with those who insist that the material collected from municipal sewage systems would send harmful bacteria, viruses, or at the least nasty smells and flies towards the tiny California town. She's done radio shows on the subject, as always has gotten tons of media attention, and she even paid to bring in a bus load of activists.

But again, Brockovich is on the wrong side of reality.

The compost company, Nursery Products of Apple Valley, California, only takes in biomass from area sewage systems that has already gone through a four-step clean-up process. After it arrives at the composting facility, the biomass is mixed with wood fiber and heated to 131 degrees as mandated by the EPA to kill bacteria.

"The site without a doubt carries zero risk to public health and the environment," Alan Rubin, chief author of the EPA's regulation-setting standards on using and composting biosolids, told me. He's now a consultant to Nursery Products but worked at the EPA for 28 years. "There will be no impact to groundwater, no impact on surface water, and windblown pathogens wouldn't survive more than a few seconds" he said.

As to smells and flies, the closest edge of Hinkley to the facility would be eight miles away - plenty of space for odors and insects to dissipate. On the other hand, the town has a dairy farm right next to its school. Thus on a daily basis the dairy exposes kids to raw manure with accompanying bacteria, smells, and flies. Ah! But that's homegrown manure, bacteria, smells, and flies. Still, anything that embarrasses Brockovich and further reveals her as all breasts and no brains can't be all bad.

December 29, 2006 12:01 AM  ·  Permalink

The NY Post informs me I have a terrible illness.

By Michael Fumento

In its effort to push "World Trade Center Syndrome," though it never actually uses that term, the New York Post tells us of an allegedly dying nun who attended to victims of the 9/11 attacks and "now suffers from asthma, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease -- all severe illnesses that have plagued WTC workers." Gee, I had no idea that my heartburn -- clinically known as gastroesophageal reflux disease -- that I readily treat with one over-the-counter pill daily was a "severe illness." There is also little evidence that "reactive airways dysfunction syndrome" is a real disorder. Asthma when treated properly isn't fatal. All that leaves is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Meanwhile, asthma and hearburn can be caused by or certainly aggravated by obesity. COPD can be aggravated by obesity because of all the bulk on the lungs and diaphragm. Take a look at the picture of the nun. If she doesn't want to die, she should consider losing about half her weight.

August 13, 2006 09:04 PM  ·  Permalink

Another strike against an avian flu pandemic

By Michael Fumento

Worries that avian flu would combine with human flu to become a pandemic human strain have been knocked down more than a notch by the failure of scientists to succeed in doing so intentionally, much less through the happenstance that occurs in the wild. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists made two hybrid viruses and infected ferrets with them. No uninfected ferrets caught the disease. Moreover, the hybrids "were also not as able to cause severe disease as the original H5N1 virus," according to one of the researchers, Jackie Katz. The most important lesson, she said, is "the knowledge that this process isn't simple, the procedure for the virus to acquire the properties of transmissibility."

As you might guess, CDC Director and avian flu alarmist Julie Geberding was miffed. So we're not all going to die after all. Can't win 'em all, Julie!

August 1, 2006 05:28 PM  ·  Permalink

"Pacemakers" for the brain

By Michael Fumento

People think that since I've written a whole book on biotechnology that I'm less keen on other areas of life sciences. By no means. I haven't gotten around to writing on nanotechnology, but bionics is fascinating -- and the subject of my latest piece in TechCentralStation.

March 17, 2006 05:56 PM  ·  Permalink

Another "non-discriminatory" disease

By Michael Fumento

I was flacked today by a PR agency declaring in the subject line, "Breast Cancer Doesn't Discriminate" and then stating in the body, "Statistics show that although African American women have a lower rate of breast cancer compared with white counterparts, their mortality rates are at least 9 percent higher."

In other words, in two very important ways breast cancer DOES discriminate. Is nothing so important that it's safe from political correctness?

January 26, 2006 05:15 PM  ·  Permalink

13-year-old newsflash! Cell phones are safe!

By Michael Fumento

It was 13 years ago, writing in Investor's Business Daily, that I became the first reporter in the country to present evidence that cell phones have no link to brain cancer. Now the biggest study ever on the issue has been released and it finds . . . cell phones have no link to brain cancer. Was I a genius? No, everybody else involved was just plain dumb. And this makes an especially good example of the incredible poverty of health and science reporting in the country, then and now.

It started when Larry King invited a man onto his show who claimed that since his wife developed a fatal brain tumor three months after she began using a cell phone and the tumor began on the same side of the head as she held it, the cancer simply must have resulted from phone emissions.

Yes, it really was that insipid. And it set off a panic. I had to point out that, believe it or not, people were getting brain tumors before cell phones were ever invented. I further noted that the American Cancer Society says 17,500 brain cancers are diagnosed each year, of which about two thirds are fatal, and already at that time about 4% of the population was using the type of cell phone that had an antenna attached to it (as opposed the older types with antennas on the car). That meant simple chance dictated 180 cell phone users would die of brain tumors. Larry King left unaccounted for 179.

Further, I had to point out that brain tumors simply don't manifest in three months. In fact, the average time from what's called the "insult" to diagnosis is nine years. Averages are just that, but three months? What an utterly bizarre claim. Yet no other reporter in the country bothered to look for these numbers, either because they didn't have the brains or they didn't have the integrity to dig up the evidence they knew would kill their own stories. Either way, trust me, nothing has changed with them.

January 21, 2006 07:21 PM  ·  Permalink

So much for that "50%" avian flu fatality rate

By Michael Fumento

In my Weekly Standard "Fuss and Feathers" piece of 21 November 2005, I ripped the "50% death rate" experts claimed avian flu victims suffered.

"First, all avian flu deaths so far have occurred in countries with medical systems that are dismal compared with ours. Would you choose a Cambodian hospital to treat your flu? Second, that more or less 50 percent death rate comes from those ill enough to require medical attention--the sickest of the sick. Our experience with normal influenza is that many who become infected have no symptoms at all, nary a sniffle. So we know the numerator, but without the denominator it's useless."

Almost two months later, researchers reporting in the Archives of Internal Medicine found "Our epidemiological data are consistent with transmission of mild, highly pathogenic avian influenza to humans and suggest that transmission could be more common than anticipated, though close contact seems required." If I knew that, why didn't top health officials and pseudo-expert Laurie Garrett? Either they did and decided not to let us in on the secret or they didn't. Neither answer is reassuring.

January 10, 2006 08:18 PM  ·  Permalink

Chuck Colson and Scottish Chickens

By Michael Fumento

In a column today kindly discussing my Weekly Standard article, "Fuss and Feathers," Chuck Colson notes, "What's more, there is no evidence as yet that H5N1 has mutated into a form that can be transmitted from person to person. It's not for lack of time: Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, H5N1 has been around since at least 1997 and possibly as far back as 1992."

Actually, I wrote (based on a discovery that floored me when I made it) that it was first recognized in Scottish chickens in 1959! So here's a virus that's been mutating and making contact with humans for at least 46 years and in all that time hasn't yet become transmissible between humans. That's not to say it won't ever; but if it hasn't in the last half century there's no good reason to think it will in the next half century, much less the few years needed to stockpile mountains of antiviral drugs and develop an effective vaccine. Never has a Scottish chicken been so important; why do our health officials refuse to mention them?

December 1, 2005 03:10 PM  ·  Permalink

Medical Journals Join Criticism over Herceptin "Cure"

By Michael Fumento

In the wake of three studies published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, news outlets around the world pronounced the highly-expensive drug Herceptin to be literally a "cure" for breast cancer. As I pointed out in my column last week, for about three-fourths of women it's utterly useless. It only helps if the tumor emits a certain protein that most do not. Yet even for such women, on whom the studies were conducted, the studies were far too short and the data far too unconvincing to possibly justify such hype. Now Britain's Number One medical journal, The Lancet, and America's Number Two medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), have weighed in. Conclusion. We're looking at Herceptin Horse Hockey.

"The available evidence is insufficient to make reliable judgments," The Lancet stated in an online editorial. "It is profoundly misleading to suggest, even rhetorically, that the published data may be indicative of a cure for breast cancer." The editor told reporters, "Study results are preliminary, inconsistent and raise extremely serious concerns about safety."

JAMA, meanwhile, ran a letter critiquing the policy of cutting drug trials short simply because it looked like the group receiving the medicine was doing better than that which wasn't. The Herceptin trials (which were originally announced last May) were examples. The idea of "breaking the code" and giving everybody the drug is that it's the ethical thing to do; but in reality you lose a tremendous opportunity to distinguish the value -- and potential harm -- of a drug over a longer period of time. In some cases a drug that in the short run appears effective in a slightly long trial loses its effectiveness.

Now I'm getting letters from women with breast cancer (or who have friends with it) blasting me for NOT lying to them. Go figure; they can't tell the difference between a responsible science writer and a politician.

November 11, 2005 05:14 PM  ·  Permalink

Update on Avian Flu piece in Weekly Standard

By Michael Fumento

"Fuss and Feathers: Pandemic Panic over the Avian Flu Threat" will be the cover of the Weekly Standard on November 14. When I found that out last week I wrote to my editor and asked him, "If it turns out I'm wrong and we all die of flu before the piece comes out do I still get a kill fee?"

November 11, 2005 04:53 PM  ·  Permalink

You dirty rotten non-liar!

By Michael Fumento

It's not too often readers accuse me of not lying, but one has regarding my "Breast Cancer Herceptin Hype" piece.

Dear Michael.

Please tell me what good came out of your column this morning. All you did was take away any hope women had of recovery. Did you give them an alternative to Herceptin?

Will it help them to know they may die? You certainly didn't do anything for their quality of life. All you did was try and be the big shot on the block with news that kills the hope of dying women. You are a grand stander---no one cares that you disclosed information that may or may bit be true. Right now you don't have anything better to offer. Obviously you have never been faced with a life threatening disease yourself, or you would know that hope is sometimes all anyone has. I'm sick for anyone reading your column today. I happen to have a good friend on that new medicine and it has given her hope. Thanks for nothing.

Sandy

Leominster, Massachusetts

November 6, 2005 05:46 PM  ·  Permalink

Who leaked my upcoming Weekly Standard "bird flu" piece?

By Michael Fumento

From a blogsite posting of November 2:

The Truth About Avian Flu
Michael Fumento has written an excellent article about the 'avian flu':


Actually, this is about my 1998 piece for the Wall Street Journal, as the blogger points out at the end. I guess panics are like fashions; wait long enough and everything comes back in vogue.

November 3, 2005 02:03 PM  ·  Permalink

Mosquitoes, DDT, and repellent bloggers

By Michael Fumento

Deltoid's Tim Lambert, a blogger whose ranking has been dropping dramatically over the last year, has a vendetta against me because I've repeatedly made him look like a fool. That's so unfair; after all, making him look like a fool is like shooting blue whales in a coffee cup. His latest attack goes back to my piece at the beginning of year regarding the awful South Asian tsunami in which I noted the possibility of pestilence and said that, using the section Lambert lambastes, "The best answer would be spraying with DDT. Unfortunately, environmentalists have demonized DDT based essentially on unfounded accusations in a 1962 book, Silent Spring. DDT should be sprayed on water pools, tents, and on people themselves -- as indeed was once common in Sri Lanka and throughout most of the world."

Lambert quotes from a WHO report that, "Endemic sporadic malaria close to the affected areas transmitted by [the mosquito] An.culicifacies, which has been considered DDT-resistant for many years, but is still sensitive to organophosphates, such as malathion, and pyrethroids." Comments Tiny Tim, "Yes, the mosquitoes in Sri Lanka have evolved resistance to DDT. It doesn't work any more."

Being a little insect himself, you'd think he'd know a bit more about this. Resistance doesn't mean "immunity." Often it simply means using more insecticide in the spray than you would otherwise. It's the same with antibiotic resistance. Further, because resistance is a drain on an insect's physiology, after a time that resistance begins to fade. It has certainly been long enough since mosquitoes in those areas were sprayed with DDT that many will have lost resistance. But there's more yet.

Mosquitos "are almost certainly not going to become immune to DDT's most valuable attribute: its repellency," writes DDT expert Paul Driessen. Even in tiny quantities "DDT keeps up to 90% of the mosquitoes from even entering a home. It irritates those that do come in, so they don't bite; and it kills any that land on the walls, before they can infect another person. No other insecticide, at any price, can do that or do it for six months or more with a single application."

He knows whereof he speaks: The Journal of Vector Borne Diseases last June concluded: "The overall results of the study revealed that DDT is still a viable insecticide in indoor residual spraying owing to its effectivity in well supervised spray operation and high excito-repellency factor."

Now, you'd think that if there were one thing Lambert would know about it would be repellency.

October 19, 2005 10:57 AM  ·  Permalink

"Epidemic" has now officially lost all meaning

By Michael Fumento

"Indonesia on brink of bird flu epidemic," blares the headline in the online version of the Courier-Mail, one of Australia's largest-circulation newspapers. Total deaths? Uh, one possible but none confirmed. Okay, total infected? Uh, seven possible but none confirmed. Total population of Indonesia? 220 million. Still, it's never too soon to panic, eh mates!

September 21, 2005 06:48 PM  ·  Permalink