Dept. of corrections: The phantom $10 million measles outbreak

February 23rd, 2011 → 9:26 pm @ // No Comments

Earlier today, I got an email from Randy Dotinga, who writes regularly for Voice of San Diego, an online watchdog news site. One of the site’s regular features is called “Fact Check,” and Randy was factchecking something I said on Anderson Cooper 360 on January 5:

In 2010 alone, 10 infants died of whooping cough in California, which is astounding that that is happening today. There are children that have died of Hib, diseases that I have always assumed were definitely in the past in this country. There was a measles epidemic several years ago in California, in San Diego, that cost $10 million to contain, and resulted in a quarantine of dozens of children. That meant that those parents then had to find some way to take care of those kids, either not go to work or pay for day care. So, even when you have a case like with that measles epidemic, where it’s true that children didn’t die, you had one infant that was hospitalized for a serious amount of time, and dozens of families that had to pay an enormous amount of money because of this.

Randy thought the $10 million sounded high — and he was right. His question prompted me to re-calculate my figures, which were based on a public sector cost of $10,376 per case. I multiplied that figure by the 839 people who were exposed to the measles virus during the outbreak and not the 12 total infections. (There were also more than $15,000 in medical costs and more than $35,000 in costs to the families who had to quarantine their children.)

The initial error was made in the text of the book itself, on page 272, and it’s now posted on The Panic Virus corrections page. (I also posted corrections for for Hard News and Feeding the Monster.) This is a significant enough error that I wanted to draw more attention to it to make sure word got out.

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4 Comments → “Dept. of corrections: The phantom $10 million measles outbreak”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nancy Parmalee, Seth Mnookin. Seth Mnookin said: Dept. of corrections: Mistake in the Panic Virus about '08 CA measles outbreak […]


  2. Catherina

    13 years ago

    While you are at it, Seth – on page 20 of The Panic Virus (which, btw, was a most riveting read 🙂 ) you state that “each year rubella infections results in more than twenty thousand infants who were born blind, deaf, or developmentally disabled”

    That only applies to the two epidemic years 1964/5 (with 20’000 CRS cases in total) but was not generally the case number in non-epidemic years.


  3. Twyla

    13 years ago

    Thanks, Seth. There’s an excellent article about you by Dan Olmsted today which, as I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, draws attention to more of your errors.


  4. Wes

    13 years ago

    It’s a bitch writing a book about a topic you know not a damn thing about, isn’t it?


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