Tag: polio

How Obama’s Drones Spread a Deadly Disease

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

American’s were so proud that Pres. Barack Obama had found and killed Osama bin Laden in an Abbottabad, Pakistan and continues to defend its illegal drone program that kills more innocent civilians than it does terrorists. The killing of bin Laden and the drone program have had an impact on a deadly disease that was about to be eradicated world wide, polio. The distrust in the vaccination program was created when the brilliant minds came up with an appallingly bad scheme to set up a fake vaccination program to find bin Laden:

As reported by the Guardian and subsequently by the New York Times, intelligence operatives funded a sham vaccination program in hopes of obtaining a sample of DNA to prove that bin Laden, then rumored to be in the area, was actually living in the compound where he was subsequently found and killed. From the Guardian:

   DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

   So agents approached [Shakil] Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

   The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children…

   In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

There is no evidence the “vaccinations” produced DNA that helped identify bin Laden. The physician named in the article has been arrested by the Pakistani security forces. The CIA has understandably refused any comment. But the allegation that a vaccine program was not what it seemed – that it was not only suspect, but justifiably suspect – has been very widely reported.

This is awful. It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm.

This unethical scheme had its deadly consequences in more ways than one. The rumor that the vaccine program was a covert campaign by Western powers to sterilize and kill Muslim children. It’s also put health care workers with the vaccination program at risk:

Foreign Policy has the exact numbers. Up to 22 workers may have been killed-one of the incidences was a roadside bomb, so it might have just happened to catch vaccinators-while 14 others have been bombed, taken for ransom, tortured, or otherwise injured. The violence likely stems from the Pakistani Taliban’s opposition to vaccination, Foreign Policy reports.

Taliban leaders have a variety of reasons they’re suspicious of the polio vaccine. They think vaccinators could be spies for the U.S. military–more on this later–or that they could be part of a plot to sterilize Muslims. Last year, Pakistani Taliban groups questioned why Americans fund both fatal drone strikes and life-saving vaccination programs. Leaders said they would ban vaccinators from reaching them until the U.S. stops using drone strikes. [..]

One doctor, a Muslim, took a journalist on a tour in April and talked about a fatwa placed upon him. In May, a gunman killed him and injured his one-year-old daughter.

Despite all of this, the battle to eradicate polio in Pakistan continues but the impetus is a rivalry with India, where polio was eliminated two years ago

After India’s success and hints from the World Health Organization that it might issue travel warnings, Pakistan’s government went on an emergency footing. A cabinet-level “polio cell” was created. Vaccinators’ routine pay doubled to $2.50. More than 1,000 “mobilizers” were hired to visit schools and mosques to counter the ever-swirling rumors that the vaccine contained pork, birth control hormones or H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Mullahs were courted to endorse vaccination. They issued 24 fatwas, and glossy booklets of their directives were printed for vaccinators to carry.

Perhaps most important, local command was given to deputy commissioners, who have police powers that health officials lack.

Pakistan is closer than ever. Although cases will not peak until after the summer monsoons, there have been only 21 so far this year. A few years ago, 39 substrains of the polio virus circulated; now only two do. About 300,000 children live in areas too dangerous for vaccinators, but almost all the sewage samples from those areas are clear of the virus.

Ultimately, though, success will depend on more than political will and the rivalry with India. In the wake of the recent killings, it will rely most of all on individual acts of courage, like those by prominent imams who pose for pictures as they vaccinate children.

This is an uphill fight, especially in the Peshwar region where anti-American sentiments are very high due to the barrage of drone strikes on the isolated mountain villages where just about every adult male has an AK-47. Lack of sanitation and clean water supplies, along with few government services such as health clinics, garbage pick up and schools add to the complicated picture.

Peshawar worries even Dr. Elias Durry, a normally optimistic polio specialist with the W.H.O. “You can get 90 percent vaccine coverage, and come back a few months later, and it’s 50 percent,” he said. “People just move so quickly.”

Shaheen’s sewers are concrete trenches about a foot deep, into which wastewater, rendered milky white by dish soap, flows from pipes exiting mud-brick houses. A child reaching into one for a stick to play with showed how easily the virus, carried in fecal matter, could spread.

Though the area has clean water from a well, the steel pipe it flows through at times dips inside the sewerage trench. It has dents where trucks have banged it, and it is pierced by connectors, some attached just to rubber hoses. [..]

Pakistani children suffer diarrhea so often that half the country’s young are stunted by it. Polio immunity is low, even in vaccinated children, because other viruses crowd the gut receptors to which the vaccine should attach.

At the clinic in Shaheen, the doctor running the polio drive, an ophthalmologist, complained that he got too little police help.

In the middle of last year, it became known that in 2011, the C.I.A. had paid a local doctor to try to get DNA samples from children inside an Abbottabad compound to prove they were related to Bin Laden. Even though the doctor, Shakil Afridi, who is now serving a 33-year sentence for treason, was offering a hepatitis vaccine, anger turned against polio drops.Leaders of the polio eradication effort could not have been more frustrated. They were already fighting new rumors that vaccinators were helping set drone targets because they have practices like marking homes with chalk so that follow-up teams can find them. Now, after years of reassuring nervous families that the teams were not part of a C.I.A. plot, here was proof that one was.

What Charles Pierce said:

It is possible for the vast United States intelligence apparatus to go 15 minutes without fking up in the most egregious way possible?


Pique the Geek 20110227: Polio

Anterior poliomyelitis, mainly called polio (the old name was infantile paralysis) was a scourge for centuries, but was not recognized as a specific disease until comparatively recently.  This piece is in honor of the huge immunization program that was begun 56 years ago last week in the United States, that fact kindly pointed out by our good friend ek hornbeck at TheStarsHollowGazette.com a couple of days ago.

Most people do not know anyone who was infected with the paralytic form of this disease these days, partly because they either died or got better, but mostly because of the most successful vaccination program against an infectious disease ever attempted.  I have first hand experience with two cases, and will turn 54 on this coming Wednesday.  Few people younger than about my age will have known anyone who had it.

Death In The Time Of Cholera

Haiti, ravaged for centuries and suffering long before its enormous, destructive earthquake, now braces for a huge cholera epidemic.  The cholera epidemic on Saturday had already killed more than 200 and there are more than 2600 reported cases.  Today the news is still bad.  The NY Times reports:

Diarrhea, while a common ailment here, is a symptom of cholera. And anxiety has been growing fiercely that the cholera epidemic, which began last week in the northwest of Haiti, will soon strike the earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

The Public Health Care Experiment in the 1950s

We once had a Public Health Care Program.

It was in the 50s.

We needed it because our children were dying. And those that didn’t die were often disfigured and horribly crippled.

And it affected rich and poor alike. Those with and without insurance, jobs, and money.

In fact, it is still a threat in the third world.

As you can tell, that Health Care Program was a failure….because nobody remembers.

It was Polio, Infantile Paralysis.

One Reason I support Universal Health Care

There was a time when most Americans had no medical insurance. It was as recently as in the 1950s. You got sick: you dealt with it. You treated yourself. You lived with it.

My mother was born in 1918. She got polio in the same year as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her Medical provider was Shriner’s Hospital in Chicago. They tried the latest techniques to help her walk and stand. My grandmother even begged them to take the muscles from her own legs and give them to my mother so she could walk.. Modern medicine still cannot do that.

This is not to denigrate Shriner’s or any hospital, but the theory was that since one of her legs was weaker than the other, it would be a good thing to strengthen the weak one. They did this by breaking it and setting it so that the bones would thicken and strengthen. They broke both long bones in her leg. Unfortunately, the next day it was discovered that the wrong leg had been broken, So they broke the bones in her other leg and set them. The scars on her thighs resembled huge railroad tracks from all the surgeries done to get her to be able to stand.

Pony Party, A Little Good News

Sometimes, I just have to go to The Good News Network and see if anything positive is actually happening in the world.  Just one of their current stories:  

Celebrate a Birthday memory of my mother with me!

It is my Birthday.

It is the reason my Dad joined the marines…that and the fact he was drafted. And when he returned from the Pacific and got married, his first child was born on December 7….to remind him of things he would never speak about.

So what did I do on my Birthday?

I remembered my parents and missed them. Contemplated on how I look like my mother now that I am the age that she was when I remember her best. I even sound like her.

Well, today we went to a luncheon where the speaker was FDR! An actor dressed and imitated FDR, quoting from his speeches and answering questions from the audience. It was obvious he didn’t like Republicans…too bad.

What got me was the old wheelchair and the braces! He even wore the old-style braces!

My mother contracted polio(infantile paralysis) in the same year FDR did. He was 39, she was 3. Like FDR, she had gone to the beach (at Lake Michigan in Chicago, probably Rainbow Beach,) to swim and cool off in the water. The next day she was sick. It was painful. Her Aunt and her mother were by her bedside day and night. She was totally paralyzed for a time. She even went blind. Then she began to recover. Slowly she regained movement in her arms and hands. Her sight returned. She could even move her legs, a little. One foot could even show some movement in the toes and flex her foot. However, the movement was slight and the other leg was totally immoveable. It was only a movement paralysis, since there was still pain, and hot and cold sensations. She always felt paralysis was an inappropriate term because she still had feeling sensations in her limbs.

The cute little three-year-old, sitting in a chair with a kitten would never run and dance again. When the five-year-old is managing the stairs withher new doll(whose head is ceramic), she falls and drops it and the head breaks. She is still sad after 50 years.

It was strange the way the muscles atrophied on her body. No muscles in the legs, just skin and bone with huge knobby knees. Her back seemed to have some muscles missing. The ripples of thick muscles next to grooves of absent ones was always a mystery. Even her hand displayed the ravages of polio. The thick, fat, muscle of the thumb was totally absent.

My Mom used heavy braces and crutches all her life. The braces made of steel and leather weighed 10 pounds. She used the same braces until one broke from metal fatigue about five years before she died. That means the braces were close to 40 years old. When my parents found a brace-maker, he remarked at how well-made they were. Her new pair were not quite as good.  

Studies have shown that polio victims experience a relapse around the age of 60. She became very weak and died of congestive heart failure at that age.

My mother was very strong, she used her arms to walk, and used to be able to navigate stairs and ride buses with ease. My parents met at the Art Institute. She was a professional artist working for the WPA for many years. A pattern maker for work uniforms and a commercial free-lance artist in Downtown Chicago.

It was funny to see her walk on all fours down the hall when she did not have her braces on.

Her greatest worry was that her children would contract polio and she made sure we received all the vacinations. She was so glad that a vaccine had been found! Salk and Sabin were her heroes.


Although Roosevelt was good…he really didn’t move well with his braces….he had a few of the movements down. The tappinf of the side of the knee to straighten the races as he stood up and the swaying from side to side using the back and chest muscles to walk with the heavy braces.

My best memories are of my conversations with my mother and her teaching me how to draw, showing me techniques that I still use today.

My favorite memory is of her holding my first son, her first grandchild.

My memories are the best part of my birthday. They are a way of keeping her close to me.