Anti-ScienceScienceSkepticism

Swine Flu: Cutting Through the Hype

Email is a great thing. In one movement I can stay connected to friends and family all over the world, and that’s pretty neat. The problem with email is the ease with which people can be solicited by nonsense. I can just not answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, but when I log into my email they’re waiting for me there, too. In this case it wasn’t I who received the email in question, but the ever lovely Surly Amy, who promptly forwarded the junk mail on to the rest of the Skepchick hive.

Let’s start with the introduction:

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The only “hype” about the flu is coming from the woo-side. “Many ads promoting vaccination have been produced by the pharmaceutical companies involved in the production and distribution of the vaccine.” Homeopaths and other pseudoscience proponents live for the type of situation in which they can amp up the Big Pharma argument, and this is a sitting duck for such accusations because of the swift action that had to be taken since the first outbreaks earlier this year. As usual, the CDC does an excellent job of explaining common questions regarding the vaccine. “Other articles play upon your fears and are not based in facts.” Well it’s a good thing this was sent out, then! Thank you, Dr. C. Evers Whyte, for keeping all of us in the know concerning rational, science-based medicine.

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Here’s a rundown of the links included in the next portion of the e-mail:

  1. An opinion piece written for American Association for Health Freedom, whose mission statement is, “Protecting the right of the Consumer to choose and the Practitioner to practice.” The AAHF is currently merging with the Alliance for Natural Health.
  2. Reasons to not get your child vaccinated for H1N1. These people really think they’re doing a public service by spreading this nonsense. DISCLAIMER: reading that article is going to piss you off.
  3. This leads to a required registration before you can move on to the article. I didn’t do it.
  4. RED FLAG ALERT: How to avoid Swine Flu by boosting your immune system.
  5. C. Evers Whyte (I refuse to call him Dr at this point) answers FAQs about Swine Flu. (hint: not helpful.)

I don’t even know where to start with Triple Flu Defense. I have the website’s embedded video playing right now, and it’s full of unexplained graphs and a stumbling, rambling narrator. Seriously, this is painful to listen to. “Let’s talk about how you can defend yourself and your family from influenza using homeopathic medicines,” stated in true salesman tone, leads right into how homeopathy is the most effective way to prevent viral illnesses. According to the video, Triple Flu Defense is the only reliable source of nutrients needed to fend off seasonal flu as well as H1N1… and apparently they change the formula annually in anticipation of which nutrients will be needed for each year’s strain of influenza. How are they getting away with this?!

Oh, and by the way – 1 oz of this stuff is $30. Taken in 60 drop-per day doses, I doubt you’ll need only 1 bottle in the duration of the flu season.

Here’s where it gets beautiful: Untitled2

They directly state that Triple Flu Defense is regulated by the FDA because it’s manufactured in an FDA registered laboratory. A quick Google search showed no evidence of the FDA regulating this stuff. This is where we can help stop the madness. Promoting a “natural” or homeopathic product as a safe, effective treatment that works better than the mainstream, common treatment AND having the balls to say that it’s regulated because the lab is registered (I would like to see documentation on that matter) is ample reason for us to report them.

Amy sent me a list of links that are helpful in this matter:

Contacting one or all of these institutions with a complaint about such a company can get the ball moving towards getting them shut down or at the very least fined. Homeopaths and Naturopaths generally come in two flavors: those who know what they’re doing is bullshit but want to make a buck off the gullibility of the general public, and those who actually believe that what they’re doing is right and that science just doesn’t understand. Either way, what they’re doing is harmful to all of us and they need to be corrected.

A tip from The White Coat Underground: Before jumping to conclusions, make sure they don’t say, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” anywhere on their site, bottle, box, ad, whatever. This statement is a loophole that protects them from punishment – kind of like psychics and the “for entertainment purposes” crap.

The folks who fail to attach a disclaimer to their products are fair game and we need to do something about it. If you find an example like this and feel that they should be reported, don’t hesitate to do so! Also, if you find one that you’re just not quite sure about, don’t hesitate to send a link to us and one of us can let you know if they’re reportable. You’re not a tattletale, nor are you being nitpicky about the fact that they left out the Quack Miranda Warning – if they can’t remember to cover their own asses, they deserve every complaint they get. What they’re doing is harming people all over the world, especially children… reporting them is more of a public service than they’ll ever hope to produce.

[A huge “Thank You” to Skepchick Surly Amy for making this available to write about, and for the linkage!]

Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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38 Comments

  1. My husband and I had swine flu. I’m still hoping we don’t get pneumonia. I had just had the regular flu shot a week before and I think it helped a little, but the flu was the sickest I have been in recent memory.

    Get the flu shot! (Both of them!)

  2. @lemsroberts: Excellent, I’ll check it out!

    @Tanstaafl56: Haha, I thought to myself as I was linking to their site, “How many fake orders can we place before they catch on?” I’m going to make what I think is a pretty safe assumption, though: places like this are more concerned with your credit card number than any other information. But it would be nice!

  3. Grrrr….angry…hulkitty…SMASH!

    I want to send them an email like “Hey douchnoozles, if protecting the kiddies is so important, why do I have to sign up for your stupid site to get this info?”

    No worries, all 9 reasons can be found here:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2116#more-2116

    I’m a bit freaked these days. My favorite cousin, the one I love like a bestest-ever friend has heard both sides and decided not to get the H1N1 vaccination. Worse, she’s pregnant. Worse still, there is some indication that H1N1 hit pregnant women harder.

    Before you judge, she’s not stupid and she understands medicine far better than I do. She just feels that there is too much hype on both sides and that she is being cautious. Deciding what to put in your body when it’s hosting a baby is a tricky thing.

    But then again, she researched sushi for hours and through multiple doctors. So grrrr.

  4. @James Fox: Thanks for the link! And if it makes you feel any better, you only have to be older than 25, I think, to not need it unless you have a medical condition that deems you susceptible. Haha, ooooold. ;)

    @Bookitty: I get pretty Hulk-smashy over this kind of thing as well. That’s craptastic about your cousin!! It wouldn’t seem so cringe-worthy if she wasn’t preggo. My OB pretty much told me I have to get it, no questions asked, so I am willing to comply in an effort to protect myself and the baby.

    I get the whole “being put off by the media frenzy” thing, as they are known to add drama to friggin everything they touch, but things like this are different to me. When it becomes a matter of public and personal safety and there have been known cases which took a turn for the worse, I become a little less hard-edged about not falling for the hype. Well I wish her “good health” and hope she doesn’t get exposed to it unprotected!

    (also I’ve researched the hell out of sushi as well but only because I miss it terribly and wish I could find a loophole, haha.)

  5. @Bookitty:

    She just feels that there is too much hype on both sides and that she is being cautious.

    I can understand where she’s coming from even though I disagree with her. I feel like this on a lot a political issues, especially any time an election is imminent. The problem is, you can’t just opt out of the flu problem. By not “taking sides”, she is putting herself at risk. Maybe you could try explaining to her that it’s not like a political debate or an argument about whether short hair is in this year. I agree that the swine flue has been overhyped relative to the normal flu (or maybe common strains have been underhyped), but it’s not the wisest choice to put yourself at risk as some form of protest. If you can’t convince her, at least tell her to wash her hands often and stay out of public as much as possible.

  6. You were quite right. It did make me angry. I’m seething at my keyboard. I hope that the guy who came up with triple flu defense gets the flu and has to be hospitalized. I also hope the FTC fines him or somebody sues his ass. And no, “doctor”, extremely tiny amounts of cash dissolved in water won’t suffice as payment. Just to be clear.

  7. @Chelsea: That’s odd, her doc said sushi was fine. There’s one fish that is to be avoided (and of course I can not remember which one. Will ask)

    @James Fox: Great article and matching conundrum. It’s anecdotal evidence, one woman’s story. So how can I say “anti-vaxers rely on anecdotal evidence and oh by the way, here’s some that supports my side” without coming across as a hypocrite?

    @QuestionAuthority: Very true. The percentage of the pregnant population that will get swine flu is smaller than the percentage that could be exposed to toxoplasmosis via cat poop.

    But everyone knows about toxoplasmosis. C’mon, great excuse to make someone else clean the cat box, how do you forget that?

    My cousin’s job exposes her to a number of different people daily. But she wont go near the cat box. So she is in more danger from H1N1 that toxoplasmosis.

    But WHO CARES? This is a manufactured controversy. I shouldn’t even be having this conversation!

    smash..smash!

  8. @Bookitty:

    But everyone knows about toxoplasmosis. C’mon, great excuse to make someone else clean the cat box, how do you forget that?

    Toxoplasmosis is a preggo conspiracy.

    Luckily, we have a dog, which handles most of the cat box duties.

    I am a Hedge

  9. What a coincidence! I work in “Big Pharma” (for the NHS, Pharma don’t come bigger) AND I had my seasonal flu and first (of two, the next one’s in two weeks) swine flu vaccination today.

    All NHS staff are expected to get it as we’re more likely to come into contact with people who have it or are old/sickly (i.e. circling the drain already).

    I’d expected there to be a long queue for jabs (well, hoped for a long queue to kill a few hours between tea breaks), but there was no one there.

    Chatting to the Occupational Health bods I was amazed to discover that the NHS is struggling to convince the majority of its staff of the safety of vaccinations!

    My straw poll of 4 nurses: all 4 said that they would tell people not to have vaccinations because the “give you autism” FUCKING NURSES! Front line staff who interact with the public all the time. I could hardly believe my ears!

  10. @russellsugden: They give you autism? As an adult? Wow.

    So why isn’t Big Pharma & Evil Medicine teaming up to study these new autism cases? Surely if autism can be caused just like that, it would be pretty easy to use these newly autistic people to study/cure autism.

  11. Damn it, Bookitty! You’re using sense to ruin a perfectly good conspiracy theory!

    @RusselSugden: For the record, my wife is an RN/BSN and thinks the autism/vaccine link is bullshite.

    @I am a Hedge: Ewww. I’d hate to smell your dog’s breath. There’s cures for coprophagia, you know.

  12. @Bookitty: Not so much anecdotal as the clear hard evidence that supports this womans position that this would have been significantly less likely to have happened to her (and her baby) had she had the vaccination. An illustration is not necessarily an anecdote or evidence, but can help make a point and I think this story makes a strong point.

  13. @Bookitty: I know thats not the case. I was shocked that they thought that was the case. Religious beliefs and horoscopes I could just about live with, but the whole anti-vax and homeopathy thing I was genuinely shocked/worried about. That and trying to persude them to wash their hands on a regular basis. How do these people get through nursing school?

    @QuestionAuthority: I said it was a straw poll of a couple of nurses, I’m sure that there are lots of nurses who know the truth about vaccinations.

  14. This so makes me want to hurt people. I can’t believe people deliberately put other people’s lives at risk just to make money. So. Angry. Can’t. Think.

    I’ve been trying to find out where to get get the H1N1 vaccine. It just isn’t available anywhere at the moment. My OB’s office won’t be getting it in for at least a month. I have a feeling by then it’s going to be too late…. It’s already in the schools around here and my co-workers kids go to those schools. I’m very concerned since I’m 20 weeks pregnant and tend to get the flu badly under normal circumstances.

  15. @catgirl: Yeah, I actually saw that video clip a couple weeks ago because a friend of mine was trying to fend off some anti-vaxxers she happens to know and they sent her that. It’s laughable. Well… it’s not funny at all, but in this type of situation you either laugh at their stupidity or cry over the future of humanity.

    @meatyphil: Something tells me that the creator of Triple Flu Defense is probably aware of their own bullshit. Even if they don’t get vaccinated, they’ll be the first one at their doctor’s office when they get the sniffles.

    @Bookitty: There are certain kinds of sushi that I can still eat, like California rolls. I miss the stuff I can’t have, though, like the raw stuff. And oysters. I could house some raw oysters right now just because I can’t have them, haha.

    @Im a Hedge: If it is a conspiracy theory, I’m so into it. :)

    @russellsugden: You’re in on it! ZOMG he’s going to try to make us healthy, everyone! Run for your lives! The same problem is happening here in areas where healthcare workers are being told they have to get it. The more mandatory something is, the more people are going to try pulling away. But healthcare workers should be required to get vaccinated. I wish I could say that I’m surprised by the results of the poll you took, but I’m not. Of all of the anti-vaxxers, pro-wooers I’ve met, almost all of them have at one point or another been backed up by a nurse. I don’t understand it. And that’s not at all saying that nurses don’t know or don’t care about the patients – please don’t tear me apart because that’s not what I mean at all – but the ones who stray from literal medical science give more ammunition to the folks who think doctors are out to get them.

    @Pinkbunny: I’m having the same problem. I’m 27 weeks pregnant now and getting antsy over the lack of availability. I had to go to LabCorp earlier today for a glucose test (warning: you’ll need it in a few weeks and the drink is gross – chug it in 1 go if you can) and I felt SO paranoid sitting in the waiting room, like everyone was covered in germs I’m not protected from yet. My OB was supposed to have it but when I called the other day they said now they’re not even sure they’re getting it, so I have to find it elsewhere. Ugh.

  16. @Chelsea: Thank you so much for doing such a wonderful job reporting this and everyone please consider reporting people selling unregulated products that claim to treat or cure “swine flu”. The FDA is actively going after these people but they need our help to find them all.

  17. I’m fairly certain we’re doing a poor job of educating our fellow health professionals, but i gotta say that I LOVE the roving bands of nurses with needles showing up at every dept with shots.

  18. @PalMD: It unfortunately seems to come down to personal belief, regardless of profession. A nurse who is fully trained in every sector of her job will still have personal preferences, and if they’re strong enough, they’ll leak out in the form of [bad] advice.

  19. @russellsugden: I know your poll was a straw poll (and not scientifically valid). ;-)

    I think Chelsea has it about right: It’s personal opinion/preference as far as the nurses you talked to.

    @PinkBunny: Sad to say, a lot of what passes for business these days is exactly that. That’s always been the case, as far as I can tell.

    I just did some checking and discovered that both MD and WV are OUT of BOTH flu vaccines until late next month. Why do I have the feeling that will be too late? We just had a second person come down with it this week.

  20. Nothing to add to this, I agree with the general drift.

    But I have an off-topic question for @Chelsea, @Sam Ogden, @Pinkbunny, and @Amy, which is: “Where did you get your cool avatars (or whatever you call those little pictures of yourself)?”

    Thanks!

    Ernie

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