Sunday, October 5, 2014

Could Ebola Save Your Child's Life?

And just like that, it's here.   Ebola.  The awful, but still-on-the-other-side-of-the-world-in-a-far-away-place-so-I-don't-have-to-worry-about-it, ugly virus.  One person.  One plane ride.  One day.  That's all it took.  Shows just how small our world is, doesn't it?

It seems that this case will most certainly be contained, that the people who were around the ill gentleman are being observed appropriately, and that there is no cause for panic.  But what if that weren't the case?  What if he exposed the entire airplane full of people who then went on to their destinations and exposed dozens, if not hundreds, of others?  What if this were the beginning of an epidemic?  As horrid as this virus sounds--you can read about it on your own, but let's just say hemorrhaging from multiple places in your body is never fun--there is good news.  Ebola is not contagious before the person is sick.   So the airplane was safe.  It also isn't spread through the air, so those who happened to be near him somewhere when he sneezed or coughed are also ok.  It is spread by close contact with body fluids, so anyone caring for him as he is ill can take the necessary precautions and remain relatively sure of their health.  So, no worries, right?  We can slowly exhale, let out that breath we've been holding, move on with life while Ebola remains a problem only 'over there'.  

Or can we?  

Is there maybe something we could learn from this?  (I'm not even addressing the disparity between medical care here and there--that's for another day.)

The last few weeks have held for me a big discussion about our children's safety, health, and care.  Sparing the details, it has been a frustrating time of seeing how skeptical people are of me and my profession.  They don't believe me or the science behind what I say, I get frustrated that they believe Dr. Google or their Facebook friends' opinions more than those of us who have gone to school to learn about this stuff, tempers flare, and heart rates go up. 

Let's take the gloves off for a minute.  

Now, recent studies show that simply stating facts or scientific evidence isn't a good way to discuss an emotional issue.  So, let's think through a scenario.

Say Ebola was just the same awful virus that it is--again, read it on your own, I don't want to put those details here.  Let's give it a few differences, though.  We'll call it Ebolo.  Say it was highly contagious-easily spread through air simply by being near someone who had it.  Say it was even contagious a day or two before they showed symptoms.  And what if it were even more dangerous and lethal in children than in adults.  And, like Ebola--Ebolo is hugely lethal with no cure.  You have already seen friends, neighbors and maybe family members succumb to this terrible disease.  Scary, right?

Now, what if some genius, in the midst of the outbreak that is spreading across the country like wildfire, comes out with a cure--or even better--a prevention? 

Want it?

Want your kids to have it?

No doubt every parent would say yes!! Absolutely!!

Here comes the statement that will cause many of you to stop reading, but please bear with me.  


Back to the science/logic argument. (Because, sorry,  that's how my brain works.)  Science is not infallible, but it is reproducible.  An object will fall to the ground when dropped.  Every single time.  Our world is created with order.  We have been given the intellectual ability to discover and understand that order.  Some people (who are much smarter than me) are able to do this genuine research to study the order in creation.  To study health.  To study illness.  To study bacteria and viruses.  To understand that penicillin will kill bacteria.  To make an effective, safe, life saving vaccine.  What a gift.

Through a series of unfounded statements and non-reproducible experiments, people like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy have unraveled years of progress.  And it came in a time when the effectiveness of vaccines was so good that this generation of parents has no fear of the illnesses they are protecting against.  Ask your grandparents about polio.  Ask any pediatrician about meningitis.  They should be feared. 

In recent years, our country has developed pockets of children who are so under-vaccinated that it rivals sub-sarahan Africa.  Where there is NO medical care.  We used to take trips to poor, inner city areas to vaccinate children who had fallen through the cracks.  Now we would need to go to upscale areas in California and New York.  

We are asking for a disaster. 

Now, read this--I completely believe that parents who choose to not vaccinate are TRULY doing what they think is best for their child(ren).  

But how those decisions are made is what I am continually frustrated about.  'Doing research' doesn't mean Googling 'childhood vaccines'.  It doesn't mean talking to a friend or family member who has a child with autism.  It doesn't mean making a decision on emotion/feeling/gut.  

'Doing research' means just that.  Research.  And it's been done.  Vaccines are safe.  Vaccines protect children against dreadful diseases.  Period.  Are there side effects?  Yes.  Very rarely.  1 in 1 million.  Do shots hurt?  Of course.  Do kids cry and parent feel sad for them.  Yes.  Do these same illnesses still threaten our children?  Yes!  Is the risk high in the US?  That depends--if we have good vaccine rates, no.  But the lower and lower they go, we are starting to see outbreaks.  Aren't some of these diseases rare in the developed world?  Yes.  So is Ebola.  One plane ride away.  Are some of these hugely more contagious?  Absolutely.  A coughing adult can infect a baby with whooping cough which can be deadly in infancy, contagious before signs of illness present, etc.

I'm not going to give all of the science and list each disease/vaccine, but I just had to say...

Will we ignore this or will we learn something from it?  Could this case of Ebola appearing in the US cause us to take a look at the decisions we make for those we love?  Can we get away from making decisions on emotion and truly use science and fact?  Could we prevent some children from getting very sick or dying from preventible diseases?  Could it be your child?   So, in reality, could Ebola save your child's life?


  1. You GT people are always so logical. How about just going with your gut for important medical decisions?

  2. Guts can be fickle--some like spicy and some don't. Science MUST be logical and repeatable. This article should be read by all the Dr. Googles out there.

  3. We have chosen to do a couple of different things with our kids concerning vaccines and did not use "Dr. Google" to get any of our advice. We talked with trained medical professionals concerning the issues surrounding vaccinations and did our share of reading articles on both sides of the debate.
    I believe on this particular hot topic that we need to be careful to remember that we have people in our churches and in our world that may feel differently and to come across with an "I'm a doctor, I went to school for this and you didn't" kind of attitude is the wrong approach.
    The doctor's office is already an intimidating place to walk into for some and to not feel welcome because they have chosen something different than what was recommended or to feel like they are not allowed to make their own decisions for their children makes it even more so.
    I believe it would be more beneficial to explain these issues in more detail to patients (putting links up to the “recent studies” that you mentioned, maybe giving a bit more explanation about Ebola) and to not respond out of anger or frustration because they are not heeding the advice of a professional (this happens all the time in my line of work too) but to lovingly and patiently walk with them and answer their questions and welcome them no matter where they land on the issue at hand.
    Hope this is helpful to the conversation. KF

  4. I know three people who do not vaccinate their children. Two things about “anti-vaxxers”: 1. They are not against vaccines in and of themselves. So the term “anti-vaxxer” is very misleading. They carefully consider which vaccines are necessary and when they should be given. They do not believe giving vaccines are morally wrong or unnecessary. 2. They have Ph.Ds in medical research so they are not all googlers or emotional decision makers as you assume. This post misrepresents people who choose not to vaccinate as innocent little uninformed ignoramuses, which is simply not true.
    I think M.D.s are so dogmatic toward vaccines for a couple of basic reasons. 1. On a shallow level, the drug companies help fund their livelihood. 2. On a deeper level, M.D.s very much care about their patients and want to give them the best care possible and want them to be well. This is why I believe they reject any research or findings that reveal that it may be possible that vaccines may actually be causing harm to some children. So, ironically, I believe their views on vaccines are tainted by zealotry (shouting in ALL CAPS their arguments and “taking their gloves off” to defend their view) and not a comprehensive view of the research or the reasons people choose not to vaccinate their children.
    The way vaccines are presented to the average person it is very difficult to obtain truly unbiased results on the research. There is no incentive to report vaccine related injuries and from my understanding doctors are not trained to look for them.
    Anyway, you may disagree with all of this and I appreciate good healthy disagreements but I agree with Kevin to take a polarizing issue and use rhetoric to increase the polar distances is not a redemptive approach.
    P.S. I intentionally waited until everyone stopped sharing this on facebook so as to not cause any dissension.