The Whooping Cough Epidemic & Fear

The Centers for Disease Control are reporting that Whooping Cough is reaching epidemic levels (CDC: Pertussis Epidemic). This epidemic is growing quickly in the Pacific Northwest, but this is also happening in the suburban Chicago area (Illinois Department of Health: IDPH Alerts Public to Pertussis Outbreak). This is a disease that was almost eliminated in the US, but thanks to fear, it is coming back.

Recently, there has been a fear of vaccines. People have let their fear of vaccines get in the way of the fear of disease. We have solid knowledge about germ theory and disease, but we are letting our fear of the unknown (that vaccines cause some mystery disease) get in the way of our knowledge that Whooping cough and other diseases have killed millions of people in the past. Diseases like Smallpox, polio, and whooping cough have become pieces of history that do not seem so frightening. If scientists announced a vaccine for cancer millions of people would line up to get a shot, because all of use know someone who has suffered and died of cancer.

Right now, an epidemic of pseudoscience and fear is causing an unnecessary epidemic of whooping cough. Our beliefs are trumping our knowledge.

This is a reminder of this presentation given in our library last February: What BigFoot Can Teach Us About Belief.
Description: Knowledge and belief are intertwined in surprising ways. Troy Swanson discusses how the mythic creature Bigfoot can teach us about knowledge and belief.

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