Whooping Cough Outbreaks: Correlation is Not Causality

September 23, 2014 10:04 PM

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The outbreak of pertussis, or "whooping cough," in California this year (about 8,000 cases so far) has again spawned countless articles in newspapers throughout the United States blaming the unvaccinated community for the outbreak. The headlines provide a sense of the obvious bias. Headlines such as "Did Poor Vaccine Response Contribute to California's Whooping Cough Outbreak?" in WIRED, or "Anti-Vaccination Beliefs are Contagious Like a Disease" in The Washington Post.

The bias is troubling, because it reflects superficial thinking. That's dangerous, particularly when it involves the health of one's children. The articles imply or outright say that the reason there have been so many cases of whooping cough in California is that vaccination rates for children in th...

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