On Monday, Jamie Morton, who calls himself a science reporter, penned an article called, “Your winter flu will count this year”. Jamie Morton’s twitter account, described himself as a, “Scribbler at NZ Herald. Enjoys irrelevant music and coffeehousing. Dislikes Nazis and any concept of a NZ celebrity culture. Views are his own.” Quite what qualifies him as being “scientific” is inscrutable, but at least he doesn’t describe himself, as an “investigative science journalist”, for if he had, I would have choked.
Why? Because I’ve read everything on the SHIVERS website, and apparently Jamie Morton has not. What Jamie writes as fact, are according to SHIVERs' data, pure fiction.
How could this be, ... from a “science reporter”? His title is half correct. He “reported” something. That is fact. Was it science? No it was not. Did he "investigate" SHIVERS? Seemingly not.
Note the black interspersings amongst the red text from Jamie Morton’s article.
The Government spends around $18 million a year on vaccines to protect the at-risk population from the flu, and employers and individuals might spend another $10 million on top of that. (Supposition)
Efforts to curb the cost to hospitals appear to have been working, with the cost of flu-related hospital admissions dropping from $7.3 million in 2010 to $1.5 million last financial year. (How so? What was the remedy that dropped the costs five-fold?)
But work by the Shivers project last year found more people were hospitalised with severe acute respiratory infections caused by flu viruses than previously thought. (What were the “previously thought” figures?)
Researchers tracking viruses in real-time among patients admitted to Auckland and Counties Manukau hospitals last year recorded the fourth-highest rate of flu-related hospitalisations over 12 years. (Meaning what, exactly? And if it was the fourth highest, how did the costs drop so markedly?)
Between late April and early September, there were 1370 cases of severe acute respiratory infections caused by flu viruses, including 38 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and seven deaths. (Really? Here is the SHIVERS infographic for the whole of 2012: )
Infants aged younger than one year had the highest influenza hospitalisation rate of 228.7 per 100,000 age group population, followed by people aged 80 and older (128.6 per 100,000), people aged 65-79 years (81.1 per 100,000) and children aged one to four years (54.9 per 100 000).
(see below for the population incident rates... and....how much of that “influenza hospitalisation” was influenza? Answer in table 4 of this SHIVERS document, also shown below Table 3.)
And ultimately, the research found more people were hospitalised with severe acute respiratory infections caused by flu viruses than previously thought. (Too important not to repeat…)
Shivers results have already been used as justification by Pharmac to offer free immunisations for under-fives, who have been hospitalised or have a history of respiratory illness.
So, what might happen, should Jamie check the SHIVERS website, read the facts for himself, and realise that something had gone badly wrong somewhere????? (Just dreaming here....)
If Jamie investigates the science on the SHIVERs website seriously, might he write a follow-up email to Dr Sue Huang? What might the replies be to these hypothetical, but scientifically accurate questions?
From : Jamie Morton,
New Zealand Herald.
To : Dr Huang
Head of SHIVERS, ESR.
Dear Dr Huang,
I’ve just realised that the article in Monday’s paper, is full of errors. The Herald wishes to publish a clarification article in the interests of our readers being supplied with accurate data, and would appreciate your answers to the following inconsistencies:
QUESTION ONE: Dr Huang, you lead me to believe that there were 7 deaths from the flu in the 2012 Shivers data. Why is it then, that your 2012 infographic above, states that only one death was caused by the flu?
QUESTION TWO: I was led to believe that there were 1,370 cases of severe acute respiratory infections caused by flu viruses, when the same infographic above clearly shows that for the whole of 2012, of the 1,684 SARI people tested for the flu, only 299 patients were caused by flu viruses. Can you explain the big difference between the actual 299 flu cases, and the information you supplied… that 1,370 SARI cases were caused by flu viruses?
Because this statistical difference is stark, I located the closest SHIVERS report to that data. For the time frame you were discussing, the relevant report showed the following in the text, and table 4:
Plainly there were also some extra positives in the September 9th 2012 SHIVERS REPORT, which by the end of the year infographic, had been ditched.
QUESTION THREE: Why was it not made clear to me, Dr Huang, from your own data, that ONLY 13.2% of those "FLU" SARI cases above ,… were actually the flu?
Why was I told seven people died, when only one died... from influenza?
QUESTION FOUR: Dr Huang please can you explain why your SHIVERS data, does not match your words?
Dr Huang, you said to me, that your research shows that MORE people ACTUALLY got the flu than previously thought.
QUESTION FIVE: If this incredibly low proportion of 13.2% of SARI cases in much of Auckland being “the flu” is “much higher” than previously thought, then how do you justify your past published statements to the media since 1997, that...... 400 New Zealanders die from the flu, every year, out of “thousands of flu cases”?
I note in this report here you say: “Despite reasonably high levels of patient immunisation with the seasonal influenza... Five of seven patients who died had been vaccinated with the seasonal influenza vaccine.“
QUESTION SIX: If this is the death rate in vaccinated residents in one rest home in Southland, what is the TOTAL INFLUENZA death rate in the vaccinated elderly, nationwide? Will this data be taken into account when SHIVERS analyses the EFFICACY of the flu vaccine?
QUESTION SEVEN: Can you please explain the bizarre maths in the ESR March 2013 supplementary data (PDF, in case bizarre maths suddenly goes walkabout....) about these five elderly deaths?
QUESTION EIGHT: Does some similar mathematical genius, explain the discrepancies between the 2012 SHIVERS infographic above, and the September 9, 2012 data above?
QUESTION NINE: Given that we now know that the influenza vaccine doesn’t prevent the flu in vaccinated, but does provoke a huge increase in other respiratory infections of non-flu origins, would you like to comment on ESR information which appears to agree with Cowling 2012, …. that the flu vaccine could well be killing the very people it’s supposed to protect, and might provoke an excess of respiratory infections in both the very young and very old?
QUESTION TEN: Dr Huang, given that your own data would indicate that “the flu” appears to be a figment of the public’s medically manipulated conditioning by yourself, how did you manage to con PHARMAC into funding a flu vaccine for children?
(Are PHARMAC analysts also incapable of finding and reading your data, .... just like I was before I published my factually incorrect article?)
QUESTION ELEVEN: Dr Huang, in the light of the previous TEN questions, can you tell me ….what the purpose of this $5 million SHIVERS study really is?
Sincerely, blah blah…
However, .... such an email is unlikely to be sent, because the Herald has been notorious for sacking journalists who read, investigate, and then dare to bite the vaccine hand that feeds them. Neither has the Herald been prepared to print such substantial corrections, or information, which indicates that scientists might at best, not read their own data, or at worst, tell lies.
And you have to admit that it’s a brilliant strategy - when neither the pro vaccine public nor pro vaccine “science reporters” bother to check whether Dr Huang’s words, match her own data. After all, scientists and science reporters can always be trusted can’t they?