By: Myles Power Edited by: Hannah & James Gurney
As many of you know, when I make a video or write an article about pseudoscience opponents, I like the points I make to be articulate and eloquent. I do this because I realise that as soon as you step away from making valid points with well reasoned arguments and resort to petty name calling you run the risk of having people tune you out. Having said that, I would like to say that Heidi Stevenson is an uneducated moron who needs to keep her unscientific and idiotic theories to her stupid self.
Yesterday, a friend of mine (Tom) sent me a link to one of her blog posts, where she discussed the current measles epidemic in Wales. The website it was posted on looks like a reputable health site but is actually a pro-homeopathy, anti-GMO, anti-nuclear power, let's-all-eat-organic-food bullshit spewing website in disguise. On it, quite unbelievably, Heidi claims that the current epidemic is fake and nothing more than “fear mongering people into rushing out for the MMR vaccine.” She also insensitively insults the Welsh people who have now received the MMR jab, by respectively calling them sheeple. “Far too many sheeple have been stampeded to the clinics. Baaa!”
You might be wondering what kind of background Heidi has to give her the confidence to write such a bold blog post. Medical background? Journalistic background? Scientific background? Nope! Heidi is a homeopath and a member of the homeopathic world community. Homeopathy, for those who don’t know, is an alternative medicine based on the theory that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people. They then take this substance and repeatedly dilute it down, long past the point where it could contain even a single molecule of the original substance. It goes without saying that any one who believes this should not be giving out any medical advice or be respected.
Heidi begins her blog post by talking about the death of Gareth Colfer-Williams, a young man from Swansea. She links to a BBC news article and says with confidence that Gareth did not die of measles, even though the article she linked to said that tests were inconclusive. The truth is that at this moment we do not know what killed Gareth, but what we do know is that he had measles. For this reason, an inquest into his death has now been opened, which plans to carry out further tests on his body to discover the cause of death. But even if we later find out that Gareth died of unrelated causes it does not mean that we should be less worried about the disease. Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and in some cases can have serious complications, including blindness and death. Measles is also extremely dangerous whilst pregnant as it can be passed on to your baby and can cause miscarriage or premature labour. You also cannot be given the MMR jab during pregnancy.
Heidi then tells us that the 446 measles notifications reported between January 1st and March 31st of this year were “merely reports” and that only 26 cases were actually confirmed. She also believes (in her professional opinion as a homeopath) that the 83 people reported in on the BBC who needed hospital treatment in Wales for the illness must be fibbing. As proof, she gives links to two NHS monthly reports which she calls “Wales Official Reported Measles Cases” and “Wales Official Confirmed Measles Cases“. The actual titles of the reports are “All Wales surveillance of notifiable communicable diseases” and “All Wales surveillance of laboratory confirmed infections”.
Regarding the number of confirmed cases, she is kinda correct; there have only been 26 cases of measles in Wales which have been truly confirmed by laboratory analysis. However, the fact is that you don’t have to have a laboratory test to diagnose measles. One of the main (and defining) symptoms of the illness is the appearance of a red-brown spotty rash. The rash usually starts behind the ears, then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the legs and the rest of the body. If you visited your doctor with this rash and presented with other symptoms of the illness, your doctor would not have to wait for laboratory results to diagnose you with measles. I believe she knows this, which is why she changed the title of the report laboratory confirmed infections to confirmed measles cases.
If we look at the data itself we can see there is a sharp rise in laboratory confirmed infections, with 35 laboratory confirmed in the last six months, compared to the 3 confirmed cases six months previously. As for the 83 people who required hospital treatment, Heidi never gave any explanation for what is, in her mind, a grossly exaggerated number, nor does she give any evidence that contradicts this number. She simply says, “That, though, cannot be true”.
If we look at the data from the reported cases we can see how bad the situation in Wales is. Heidi, however, believes this is a result of paranoid doctors who aren’t “taking any chances with their licenses to practise” and are therefore “reporting anything that bears the slightest resemblance to measles”. She of course gives no examples of misdiagnosis and later goes on to say that the whole situation in Wales is a part of a plan to induce fear in the population to force them into getting vaccinated again without giving evidence.
The fact is that there is an outbreak of measles in the UK at the moment and South Wales is not the only place affected. Here in my home town of Middlesbrough we are also in the middle of an epidemic (albeit not as severe), many children and young adults are suffering because of the mistakes of their parents. These parents listened to people like Heidi, who have no medical training or scientific background, but do have an Internet connection and a website, where they can post their paranoid, unethical and uneducated bullshit.