Matt Drudge’s website is nothing if not consistent; they tweet an endless stream of inflammatory and eye-catching claims/statements. A couple of these tweets caught my eye:
Doctor: Feds 'Tight-Lipped,' May be From Illegals… http://t.co/L4nfmYYKpQ
Mystery illness spreads to Virginia… http://t.co/5mtQZ4TbOf
I’ve quoted the relevant items from the Drudge page:
I’ve donotlinked the Breitbart story.
Let’s start from the top.
What’s going on is not a mystery illness. It’s been defined and identified for quite some time. It’s enterovirus 68 (EV-D68). In fact, a quick google search reveals that it’s been identified as a specific strain since 1962.
Further searches find that there was another outbreak in the US in 2009.
This is a disease that has been around for some time, but has been uncommon. Now it’s spreading, with infections in at least 16 states.
The problem is that it can cause severe symptoms leading to hospitalizations, especially for kids with asthma. Doctors are suggesting if your kids get sick and they begin showing signs of respiratory distress (20 or more breaths per minute), get to a hospital ASAP.
That dispenses with the mystery part.
Now, let’s tackle the next claim. Drudge touts a Breitbart report that cites a doctor who says the CDC is hiding the source of the disease, and that it may be illegal aliens or foreigners who have brought the disease to the US.
First problem with this claim? The disease was first identified here in the US in 1962. And there have been outbreaks in the US before; they’ve come in September of those years, which seems to correlate with the return of kids to school:
Georgia and Pennsylvania reported clusters of enterovirus 68 almost exactly five years ago in September 2009, according to a 2011 CDC report. Arizona had a small cluster of cases in August and September 2010, according to the same report.
Second problem? The doctor who was cited, Dr. Jane Orient, belongs to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The AAPS is a right wing nutter organization, which has been well documented peddling nonsense. Here’s what she actually said, based on the Breitbart quotes:
Orient added “we don’t know where it’s coming from…are there immigrants from Central America, where this disease has allegedly been prevalent before? Should we be [looking at] the virus to see whether it’s like what’s been found in some of these countries that are just sending waves of children across our border and they haven’t been quarantined long enough to make sure they’re not sick?”
She also spoke about the risks posed by drug resistant tuberculosis, saying “virtually all of the cases of drug resistant TB that have been discovered in the United States are in foreign born individuals, and the vast majority of any type of TB is in a person who was born in a foreign country. It is a public health nightmare to just have one of these cases in your community because the person needs to be quarantined…and you could catch TB on a bus, there is no question about that.”
Once again, this doctor clearly isn’t familiar with the disease, let alone a basic Google search because 1) the disease was first identified in the US in 1962; 2) outbreaks have occurred in the US in the past, including in September 2009 and August and September of 2010; and 3) the states where the outbreaks occurred thus far aren’t exactly border states with Mexico. The states that have seen cases aren’t exactly border states with high percentages of illegal aliens.
Instead, what we have is just more typical fear mongering from the right, using the veneer of legitimacy by getting a doctor with questionable “credentials” to make statements unsupported by actual facts.
It’s not known how prevalent the disease has been in the US since the CDC doesn’t require reporting - the information so far has been reported voluntarily. What we might find out if testing and reporting were made mandatory is that the disease is a whole lot more common than we thought because its symptoms mirror those of many other similar diseases.
A: EV-D68 infections are thought to occur less commonly than infections with other enteroviruses. However, CDC does not know how many infections and deaths from EV-D68 occur each year in the United States. Healthcare professionals are not required to report this information to health departments. Also, CDC does not have a surveillance system that specifically collects information on EV-D68 infections. Any data that CDC receives about EV-D68 infections or outbreaks are voluntarily provided by labs to CDC’s National Enterovirus Surveillance System (NESS). This system collects limited data, focusing on circulating types of enteroviruses and parechoviruses.
There’s a natural presence of this disease in the US, which flares up from time to time. This year’s outbreak is more widespread than in prior events so it generates more news, but Breitbart and Drudge are quick to blame the foreigners for this.
On no actual evidence.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the claims about drug resistant TB. For starters, drug resistant TB is rare in the US. The rate of multidrug resistant TB cases reported in the US appears to be pretty constant, undermining the claims that there’s cases swarming the borders too.
As Gus and I have posted down in the comments, the AAPS, and their publication, The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, is a collection of libertarian and right wing extremist belief that trumps science. Moreover, they both regularly peddle racist and xenophobic statements.
And Breitbart picked up on this and Drudge approvingly touted.
It speaks volumes.
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