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Measles data from Wales – a closer look

21 Apr

Yesterday I wrote a quick post about a report of spiking measles cases in Wales as reported by Wales Online. What troubled me was the manner that the data was being presented. In the graph presented in the article, the y-axis is labeled ‘cumulative number of cases’. What bothered me is that this is not ‘new cases’ and I had to go searching through a lot of reporting and data to clarify what the numbers really were.

– Regardless of what I found, it is true that there is a very worrisome spike in Measles cases, but I do not think it serves people well to misrepresent data. Or, perhaps I could state it more clearly as “I still think the data is being presented in a way that does lead to misinterpretation, but not as bad as I thought.”

The BBC shows the epidemic this way:

Since the outbreak began in November, 77 people have needed hospital treatment for the illness.[I’m not sure if this means hospital admission or not.]

Health officials said 1,825 had been seen at four hospitals in Bridgend, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot on Saturday.

The breakdown of people vaccinated were:

  • Morriston Hospital, Swansea 341

  • Singleton Hospital, Swansea 302

  • Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend 727

  • Neath Port Talbot Hospital 455

  •                                         -From BBC News

The news has increased in urgency with these high numbers of potential cases, and also became more grave as”Gareth Williams, 25, died at his home in Swansea on Thursday.”

In the years prior to the current epidemic, which began in November of 2012, there was a distinct trend of increasing cases, but this has been increased by an order of magnitude over even the worst years. Data from the Public Health Wales Health Protection Division (analogous to the CDC here in the States) show the trend starting, but these data do not include many of the current cases as it cuts off just as the epidemic struck:

Image

note: this only contains data for the first two months leading into the currernt epidemic

So… my original fear was that data was being unjustly ‘massaged’ in order to present the problem as possibly more serious than it is. After looking at the data, I still think it may not be the best way to present the data, but it does communicate the right message. One thing that I must admit is the difficulty in finding good, raw data that is up to date.

Questions I would like to see answered from this outbreak are:

How are immunized vs partially immunized vs unimmunized people faring? i.e. how protective is the vaccine?

Has herd immunity been doing much of the ‘protection’ up to this point – also, do/would booster shots  really provide any protection for previously immunized people? (somehow these two go together in my mind)

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Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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