Friday, January 05, 2007


In 2002 there was an outbreak of infection in the UK. Nearly 200 people were affected and there were seven deaths. This outbreak of disease was well publicised and there were calls for punishment for those felt to be to blame for it. Every year in the UK there are around 100-400 cases and up to around 40 deaths due to this infection. Most cases of this disease are preventable and effective drug treatment is available. After the 2002 outbreak the people considered responsible for providing the conditions which allowed the infective agent to multiply and infect members of the public were fined for breaching health and safety legislation. Manslaughter charges against them were dropped.

In the first five months of 2006, in the UK, there were 449 cases of another infection, and one death from it, over five times the number of cases in the same period one year previously. Worldwide this disease affects around 30 million people per year and kills around 1200 people per day. Most cases of this disease are preventable, lucky as there is no specific treatment for it and only supportive care can be given. Nobody was charged or prosecuted in relation to this disease in the UK and there was less publicity and little public outcry about it.

Have you guessed what they are yet?

The first condition is Legionnaires’ disease. Read a news report about the outbreak here and see the UK case statistics here.

The second is measles. It is a worldwide problem as described by the WHO and is on the rise in the UK. The Health Protection Agency has some statistics on cases in the UK here and here.

I wouldn’t fancy catching either of these diseases. There is no vaccine available for Legionella pneumophila, the cause of Legionnaires’ disease but there is an effective vaccine freely available in the UK for measles. As a healthcare worker I regularly get blood tests from occupational health departments in the hospitals I work in, to check that I am immune to common and potentially dangerous infections. A couple of years ago one showed that I wasn’t immune to measles. Luckily there is a solution to that – I went and got my MMR jab.

Dr Crippen has more thoughts and interesting links on the subject of vaccination, as well as a request for other bloggers – check it out.


At 18:14, Anonymous Bypass Lass said...

I have never been able to understand why parents are so reluctant to vaccinate their children, especially when the benefits far outweigh any complications to do with the vaccination itself.

The doctor who published research on possible links between MMR and autism has a lot to answer for, especially seeing as his research was duff.

When I have children, they'll be vaccinated against everything. I won't be taking any chances.

A very interesting point about Legionnaires and Measles in your post. The media do know how to whip people up into a frenzy of mis-information, don't they?

At 19:56, Blogger Dr K said...

Legionnaires' seems to be seen as 'somebody's fault' maybe because it tends to be associated with buildings, corporations and health and safety legislation - 'the big money-grabbing owner of the building doesn't care about people's health' scenario.

Measles is more difficult, who do you blame - the parents for not vaccinating their children, the media for helping to produce an anti-MMR campaign, Dr Wakefield, The Lancet?

I'm often amazed by the inaccuracy of health reporting in the media, and by the way so many people believe it all without question.

At 20:44, Blogger Shinga said...

I have to blame the media coverage for making it seem as if Wakefield had more support that he did within the scientific community. I do blame them for not giving equal prominence to the Wakefield rebuttals as Wakefield's original 'revelations' got.

My father was possibly the first UK mortality from Legionnaire's - we didn't sue anyone. It had so recently been identified that it was difficult to diagnose and frankly, as a family, we're not the litigious sort.

Regards - Shinga


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