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How a Press Release Became a Media Measles Sensation

On July 2, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health issued a press release titled, “Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years.”1 Within hours, the release began to be picked up by numerous media sources, including ABC News,2 BuzzFeed News,3 CBS News,4 CNN,5 Forbes,6 Fox News,7 NBC News,8 Reuters,9 Slate,10 the Detroit Free Press,11 The Huffington Post,12 The New York Times,13 the Puget Sound Business Journal,14 The Seattle Times,15 The Verge,16 the Washington Examiner,17 and The Washington Post.18

(Don’t forget to note the lead-off to each story—those scary microscope images of the measles virus. There’s the peachy pink one that looks like rivers draining into a lake, and then there’s the orange one with the big purple blob. They’re meant for effect… you know, to set the tone.)

Be assured that this is just the tip of iceberg. The story will continue going viral for some time, and it will spark yet another national debate about the need for mandatory vaccinations for both children and even adults.

On June 30, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed the controversial SB 277 bill into law mandating all students attending public and private schools (as well as daycare centers) in his state to be fully vaccinated. No more personal and religious exemptions. Three days later, the headlines read, “Washington State Woman Dies of Measles,” or “Washington Woman Is First US Measles Death In More Than A Decade,” or “Twelve Years Later, Measles has Returned, Causing Death of One,” or “Woman 1st American to die of measles since 2003,” or “Woman in Washington died from measles, becoming first U.S. death from disease in 12 years,” or “Washington: Measles Kills Woman.”

Sounds pretty darn bad, doesn’t it? The fear machine has been properly oiled, fueled up, and switched on. Now the wonderfully unbiased, independent, and thoroughly professional and astute U.S. media can be counted on to spread the story that isn’t a story at all. It’s not a story because there are almost no facts from which to develop a newsworthy story.

Let’s take a look at the press release which generated all these articles, headlines. “Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years.”1 Sounds pretty definitive. So let’s look at the structure of the release. Eight paragraphs. But let’s not count the last one, because it reads:

The Department of Health website (doh.wa.gov) is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.1

Nothing newsworthy there. So we’re down to seven paragraphs. Let’s look at the seventh one. It reads:

The last confirmed measles death in the United States was reported in 2003. More information about measles nationwide is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.1

Nothing newsworthy there either. Let’s look at the third, fourth and fifth ones. They read:

This tragic situation illustrates the importance of immunizing as many people as possible to provide a high level of community protection against measles. People with compromised immune systems often cannot be vaccinated against measles. Even when vaccinated, they may not have a good immune response when exposed to disease; they may be especially vulnerable to disease outbreaks. Public health officials recommend that everyone who is eligible for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine get vaccinated so they can help protect themselves, their families, and the vulnerable people in their community.1

Measles is highly contagious even before the rash starts, and is easily spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. If you’re not protected, you can get measles just by walking into a room where someone with the disease has been in the past couple of hours.1

Children should be vaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four-to-six years. Adults born after 1956 should have at least one measles vaccination; some people need two. The state Department of Health immunization program has online information about measles and measles vaccine.1

Hardly newsworthy. So that leaves us with the opening paragraph, the second one, and the sixth. The opening and the second read as follows:

The death of a Clallam County woman this spring was due to an undetected measles infection that was discovered at autopsy.1

The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County. She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles. The woman had several other health conditions and was on medications that contributed to a suppressed immune system. She didn’t have some of the common symptoms of measles such as a rash, so the infection wasn’t discovered until after her death. The cause of death was pneumonia due to measles.1

The sixth one goes like this:

The measles diagnosis for the Clallam County woman brings the state’s case count to 11, and is the sixth in Clallam County for the year. The last active case of measles in Washington this year was reported in late April. Within about three weeks of exposure to someone with measles, it’s possible to develop the disease. Since more than three weeks has already passed since the last active measles case, no one who had contact with one of the known cases is any longer at risk for developing measles from those exposures.1

The paragraph doesn’t deal with this particular story directly, but it does provide some information to help give some context to the story. It notes, for example, that this is the sixth case of measles in Clallam County this year, and that the last case was reported in April.

So any average reporter should’ve looked at the press release and thought, “Hmm, not much here with which to work.” First thing he or she should might’ve done is pick up the phone and dialed  (360) 236-4076 and asked to speak to Don Moyer, the contact person noted on the release. The conversation may have gone something like this:

Reporter: Hey Don, can you tell me the name of this woman who died?

Don: Sorry, can’t disclose that.

Reporter: Well, could you tell me how old she was?

Don: Sorry, no.

Reporter: Hmm, well can you tell me anything about the other health conditions she was suffering from?

Don: No, not at liberty to tell you that.

Reporter: What about the medications, the drugs she was taking. You know, the ones that contributed to suppressing her immune system?

Don: Nope, sorry.

Reporter: Don, had the woman been vaccinated?

Don: Not sure about that.

Reporter: So she could’ve been vaccinated, and if she had been vaccinated recently then it’s possible the infection found in her body could’ve come from the measles vaccine itself, right?

Don: Uh, what?

Reporter: Oh… forget it.

Any average reporter should’ve then gone to his or her editor and said, “Sorry boss, no story there.” A good reporter, however, would’ve kept digging and eventually may have been able to piece together some sort of newsworthy story. The reporter would have, for example, quickly found out from reading a piece in The Seattle Times that the woman was in her 20s.15

The good reporter would have found out from reading the news of Clallam County over the past few months that the previous case—the fifth—of measles in that county involved a man who had been vaccinated against the disease. The other four measles cases in the county in February involved people who had not been vaccinated.19 These included a 14-year old boy (the fourth case) and his 5-year old sister (the second case),20 and two men ages 43 (the third case) and 52 (the first case).21 Two of the individuals involved in the first four cases are apparently related to the man in the fifth case.19

According to Clallam health officials, both the fourth and fifth case individuals were quarantined during their infectious period, so they could not have spread the disease.19 20 21 22

All five cases occurred at the same time there was so much national commotion over the outbreak of measles at Disneyland… which explains why the Clallam County Health and Human Services officials started issuing public health advisories urging people to get free shots of the measles vaccine (MMR) at local clinics.20

It’s possible that the 20-some year old woman (the sixth case) caught the measles virus from one of the other five people (although we know that at least two of those individuals had been quarantined). But it is also possible that the woman, who never actually developed measles symptoms, simply responded to local health advisories and drove over to a clinic and got her MMR shot, and that what the autopsy found was traces of the vaccine strain measles virus in her system. Remember, MMR is an attenuated  (weakened) live virus vaccine, and those who get live virus vaccines can be infected with it.

Now that’s a story. Heck, anyone can copy a press release.

Update: The Associated Press reported on July 3 that the Clallan County woman had received the measles vaccine as a child.  The AP report quotes Dr. Jeanette Stehr-Green, the Clallam County health officer, as saying that “the woman had been vaccinated as a child, but because she had other health problems and was taking medications that interfered with her response to an infection, she was not protected.”


References:

1 Moyer D. Measles led to death of Clallam Co. woman; first in US in a dozen years. Washington State Department of Health July 2, 2015.
2 Bellisle M. Washington Woman’s Measles Death Is First in US Since 2003. ABC News July 2, 2015.
3 Wells J. Measles Kills First Person In U.S. In 12 Years. BuzzFeed News July 2, 2015.
4 Kraft A. Woman’s death from measles is first in US in 12 years. CBS News July 2, 2015.
5 Ford D. Washington reports first US measles death in 12 years. CNN July 2, 2015.
6 Haelle T. First Confirmed U.S. Measles Death In More Than A Decade. Forbes July 2, 2015.
7 Q13 Fox News Staff. Woman in Washington died from measles, becoming first U.S. death from disease in 12 years. Q13 Fox July 2, 2015.
8 Fox M. Washington Woman Is First U.S. Measles Death in 12 Years. NBC News July 2, 2015.
9 Johnson EM. Washington state reports first U.S. measles death in 12 years. Reuters July 2, 2015.
10 Plait P. Washington State Woman Is First Measles Death in U.S. in 12 Years. Slate July 2, 2015.
11 Szabo L. Measles kills first patient in U.S. in 12 years. Detroit Free Press July 2, 2015.
12 Bellisle M. U.S. Confirms First Measles Death Since 2003. The Huffington Post July 2, 2015.
13 The Associated Press. Washington: Measles Kills Woman. The New York Times July 2, 2015.
14 Zak A. First U.S. measles death in 12 years was in Washington state. Puget Sound Business Journal July 2, 2015.
15 Aleccia J. Undetected measles led to death of Clallam County woman in her 20s. The Seattle Times July 2, 2015.
16 Grush L. Washington woman dies of complications from measles. The Verge July 2, 2015.
17 King R. U.S. sees first measles death since 2003. Washington Examiner July 2, 2015.
18 Izadi E. The U.S. just recorded its first confirmed measles death in 12 years. The Washington Post July 2, 2015.
19 Q13 Fox News Staff. Man vaccinated against measles in 1970s comes down with the virus, Clallam County says. Q13 Fox Mar. 13, 2015.
20 Teenager confirmed as fourth case of measles in Clallam County. Sequim Gazette Feb. 23, 2015.
21 Latest Clallam measles victim was believed to be immune to disease. Peninsula Daily News Mar. 14, 2015.
22 Public Service Announcement: Clallam County Health Measles Updates, Vaccination Clinics. Port Angeles School District Mar. 13, 2015.
23 Fisher BL. The Emerging Risks of Live Virus and Virus Vectored Vaccines: Vaccine Strain Virus Infection, Shedding and Transmission. NVIC November 2014.

22 Responses to How a Press Release Became a Media Measles Sensation

  1. jerbear Reply

    July 8, 2015 at 11:01 am

    All I have to say. Is Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation. Bill is on YouTube giving and lecture to his peers on vaccine’s and population control and vaccine’s is the way to do everything they want to do. No story. Yea and this is the deep one. Look no further than Bias Media doing the bidding of the Agenda of the extreme evil left. Also look what their spraying in the Skies above you head. If you do not think for a moment something else is not in those fake clouds and you trust the Gov. you have another thing coming. It would be so easy to put in “lets say a bird flu” and spread it. They would do that because our gov. cares less about us. Now we are totally expendable to them. It the culture of death we have created. God Bless. Have a great day!

  2. Kay Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Is there a way, through testing, to differentiate between wild measles and measles transmitted by a recently vaccinated person?

  3. Tanya Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    At least the reporter knew it was a female who died.

  4. April Tatro-Medlin Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Please tell every woman you know not to consent to any vaccines after giving birth. A friend of mine received 3, (MMR,Flu,& Whooping Cough), she felt terrible after. Approximately 1& 1/2 months later she was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, multiple pulmonary embolisms, Congestive Heart Failure, & her heart is at 12% of function.She is on the transplant list. They told her it was related to her pregnancy.The Mayo Clinic lists exposure to live virus,exposure to heavy metals,& a complication of childbirth, etc. as possible causes. There is a website created by women with this problem but I don’t know if they attribute it to vaccines. “My Heart Sisters” is the website. Please say no to “cocooning” for other family members as well.

  5. C. Braaten Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    It’s like the common people are chickens that are trusting the government and pharmaceutical companies to watch out for them. But the government is a ‘FOX’, the pharmaceutical companies are ‘COYOTE’, and the GMOs are ‘WEASELS’.
    Should we be trusting them???
    Some people will say “Oh, you believe crazy conspiracy theories.” But investigators will say follow the money trail. And that will lead to Big Pharma, Government, & GMOs raking in the dollars!

    • M Johnson Reply

      July 8, 2015 at 9:59 pm

      That is well stated C. Braaten.

  6. Kelly Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    If we want to talk about honesty in journalism, why is no one reporting the fact that more people die from the measles vaccine than die from measles? It’s because the media is owned by Big Pharma through advertising–sadly.

    • Mothe Reply

      July 21, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      There is an interesting link between Rockefeller, new corporations and vaccines. I recommend googling.

      Our media is controlled but luckily we have the Internet and alternative sources.

      My concern is the hysteria amongst people towards me and my concern about vaccinating my daughter.

      It is alarming

      • Mothe Reply

        July 21, 2015 at 1:28 pm

        Sorry, * news corporations

  7. Shekinah013 Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Hmmmm. The account of how she was exposed doesn’t make sense to me.

    “The woman was most likely exposed to measles at a local medical facility during a recent outbreak in Clallam County. She was there at the same time as a person who later developed a rash and was contagious for measles.”

    But…

    “According to Clallam health officials, both the fourth and fifth case individuals were quarantined during their infectious period, so they could not have spread the disease.”

    So for this to be a case of measles from something OTHER than the vaccine, she would have to have been present at the “local medical facility” at the same time as cases 1, 2 or 3. Was she? Reference article 2 says she was hospitalized, so was the person with the rash also hospitalized? If not, then how again did she get exposed? Not saying it’s completely impossible for an ER patient, for instance, to transmit something to a patient up on 4 West or wherever, but… it does begin to stretch plausibility a bit, right?

    Also, Cases 1-3 happened in February, apparently. When did this woman die? Does the timeline match for exposure to the February cases and her subsequent death?

    Needless to say, I strongly suspect this was not wild measles at all. Rather, I think it’s far more likely that a recently vaxed person spread the virus to this woman. After all, there are a lot more of the recently vaxed running around– and there were even more during the “Disneyland outbreak.” Compare that number to the 3 confirmed measles cases in that county that are supposedly the guilty ones. I mean, vectors. Odds are in favor of her illness being courtesy the vaccine.

    A test could determine which measles strain she was exposed to. But how many people think that was a) done at all, or b) that we’ll ever see/hear of the results if it *was* vaccine type virus?

    • Carrie Elsass Reply

      July 14, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Exactly. My bets are on the measles virus she was carrying being vaccine-strain rather than wild-type AND it not being cause of death in any case…

  8. crystal Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

    God save america. Please. This is ridiculous. A stupid story.all the media reports are just that stupid stories.people need to pay attention to what’s happening with all these bills that are trying to destroy us. Gmo poison s and vaccines … this all gotta end .stop

  9. Num Guy Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Sadly, vaccine makers have no incentive to change their ways. They make huge profits but are totally protected from lawsuits because Congress granted them immunity in 1986. Families are paying for the damages vaccines are causing.

    If you want to change this, please sign this petition

    petitions.moveon.org/sign/repeal-immunity-for-drug
    facebook.com/pages/Repeal-The-National-Childhood-Vaccine-Injury-Act-of-1986/693229134132332

    Protect kids, not drug makers!The law is corrupt and immoral.

    Kindly pass this on to everyone you know. Together, hopefully, we can make a difference!

  10. chemfreemom Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 9:11 am

    We should go to every one of those news story sites and post the facts in the comments section. How else are people going to know she was vaccinated?

  11. Dariusz Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 8:49 am

    The lady has been already “immunized” against measles as a child so it did not protect her. Plus, she had other health complications and was on medication that interfered with her immune system response:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3148872/Woman-died-measles-vaccinated-patient-die-disease-U-S-12-years-succumbed-disease-health-problems.html

  12. Vin Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Pack journalism at it’s worst. Perhaps they should report every time someone dies from a FDA approved drug. Never mind they simply would not have enough time.

  13. Sue Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 7:54 am

    This makes me so angry. The sensationalism and fear mongering in U.S. reporting is unbeliveably out of control and yet the masses continue to believe and swallow it whole. I didn’t even have to read this article to see how shoddy the news briefs are. They tell me absolutely nothing about how this women died, other than she was already very ill then died of pneumonia. The vaccine campaign attached to it should be illegal. As a non resident alien to this country, I can’t wait for the opportunity to leave this country for good. The health care policy in the U.S. alone is enough to make me never want to have anymore children here and to never immigrate. It’s like a social birth control and anti immigration all wrapped up in one!

    • Sam M Reply

      July 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      I agree with you Sue. I am a resident alien and before I was allowed to emigrate here (in spite of being married to an American) I was made to have the MMR vaccination. This was in spite of my having had all three diseases as a child and being able to prove this (I emigrated from the UK). They did not care and made me have it. They would probably do the same to you if you chose to stay permanently. But I am planning on leaving also.

  14. Watchmom Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I am truly sickened by the rabid media and their web of deceit. It will eventually backfire, when no one believes them anymore. Credibility is everything. Our bodies belong to us, not the govt or anyone else! If someone wants to play Russian Roulette with their own body, fine..but, stop trying to affect everyone else with the vaccine assault. Vaccines sicken, maim and kill a lot of people worldwide, but you have to dig past the mainstream to find it! God save America.

  15. Allison Reply

    July 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Excellent. Thank you. Additionally, if any reporter had called the state health department, they would have been told (as we were) that the girl had enough positive antibodies for measles such that she should have been immune and that her family believed that she had been vaccinated.

  16. Pingback: Vaccine safety | Pearltrees

  17. Redpill1 Reply

    July 4, 2015 at 8:05 am

    This demonstrates a number of things about the MSM, The Pharmetutical Industry and the Government.
    1. They will use the death of anyone to push their rabid insane agenda.
    2. Vaccines do not provide life long immunity nor do vaccines work as there have been no studies that confirm this.
    3. Immuno-compromised people can be vaccinated according to the CDC’s website on Vaccines. This woman was vaccinated and it didn’t serve her well.
    4. Immuno-compromised people will not benefit from others in their community being vaccinated.
    5. A person with Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pertussis, or any other LVV or bacteria in the case of Pertussis CAN and most likely DOES make a person an Asymptomatic Carrier as demonstrated by two current Pertussis studies:
    -Asymptomatic transmission and the resurgence of Bordetella pertussis. BMC Medicine, 2015; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12916-015-0382-8-Benjamin M. Althouse, Samuel V. Scarpino.
    -Acellular Pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model,” used infant baboons to test the hypothesis that “current acellular pertussis vaccines fail to prevent colonization and transmission” of B. Pertussis. (there is no vaccine for Bordetella Pertussis virus) http://www.pnas (dot) org/content/111/2/787.

    Lead author Tod Merkel did comment to the New York Times that when exposed to B. Pertussis after recently getting vaccinated, you could be an asymptomatic carrier and infect others, saying:

    “When you’re newly vaccinated, you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population.”

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