The Snake Oil Bulletin: Have Some Miracle Ginseng With No Ginseng

Step right up, ladies and gents! Your friendly la Volpe has returned for another edition of The Snake Oil Bulletin, your weekly fix-er-up of all the best in bunk, woo, and assorted nonsense to grace the interwebs. Let's get right into it by reminding you AGAIN to vaccinate yourself and your kids.

Herd Immunity and How It Can Work for You

Your Wonkette has been on kind of a kick lately, going off on anti-vaxxers because those people are responsible for getting a metric ton of kids sick for absolutely no reason. Who knew that hurting children was one of our triggers?

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Your correspondent realized in all this rigmarole that what is lost to these people, and even to those of us who actually listen to doctors, is the actual science of vaccinations, specifically what scientists and news reporters mean when they talk about "herd immunity."

"Herd immunity?" your anti-vaxxing nephew is saying, "More like TURD immunity, am I right?" No, you are not. Go get a job.

So what is herd immunity exactly? To put it simply, herd immunity means that if a certain majority of the population is immunized against a particular disease, their collective immunity can stop outbreaks from occurring, even among those in the population who aren't vaccinated. How does this work exactly? The long answer is full of math and science and other boring stuff, so we'll Wonksplain it by throwing in a few crotchety dick jokes and a video game to spice it up.

You see, no single vaccine offers 100 percent immunity to a disease. Rather, receiving a vaccine drops the chance of being infected with the disease to a manageable number, generally in the single digits, and that number can be reduced even further with booster shots later in life. This is a big honking deal for a disease like measles, which unprotected has an infection rate of over 90 percent and can linger in an area for hours or even days after an infected person has visited. Vaccination drops this infection rate from 90 percent to about 5 percent, and that's just with the first initial vaccine. So what does this mean for herd immunity?

If Cheryl and Steve's pwecious wittle snowfwake, Aishleighynn or however the fuck they're spelling it now, doesn't get her vaccine, then catches measles from her cousin, she can go to school and potentially expose other kidlings to the disease. However, if almost all the kids in the school are vaccinated, each one of them has a 95 percent chance of repelling little Aishleighynn's marvelous measles, meaning that the chance of the disease spreading is pretty damn low. Will certain children still get the measles? Of course, there's still a 5 percent chance that some of them will catch it, but thanks to the vaccine their symptoms will be much milder, they'll recover faster, and there's a significantly lower risk of suffering from brain swelling, blindness, or death (all of which are much, much worse than autism, anti-vaxxers).

The children in our school exhibited herd immunity, acting as a buffer for our little indigo child* to prevent her disease from spreading. If the virus has to come up against a 95 percent successful firewall every single time it tries to spread, eventually the disease is going to die off before it gets very far, and that's very good for kids who can't get vaccinated, such as tiny cancer patients whose immune systems are too weak to be vaccinated.

*We'll get to indigo children in another edition. Hoo boy; if you hate my generation now, just wait.

Let's look at an example:

Here is a fun little simulation game in which you can infect a fictional population with a fictional disease and then track the disease's progress as it ravages these people's lives. You can even watch a fun video about it from the fellow who designed it! Your Volpe would like to take this moment to mention that he's one of those weirdos who enjoys games like Plague, Inc., so this kind of stuff is "fun" to him. There's something viscerally satisfying about naming a disease "My dick" then receiving in-game messages like "My dick has mutated and now grows cysts" or "My dick has evolved to cause explosive diarrhea."

This simulator doesn't give us that option but we'll do it anyway. Here, green dots represent people vaccinated against a certain contagious disease ("my dick"), red dots represent people who are NOT vaccinated against it, and black dots represent people who've been infected by it. You can even set the infection rate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. For our purposes we'll set them to the same rates as measles, so 90 percent for the unvaxxed, 5 percent for the vaxxed. Let's see what happens when an infected person enters a population with ideal herd immunity (about 95 percent vaccination), and throw in apologies to anyone reading this on a mobile device:

The disease spread to three people. Now a looksie down to the stats will show that two thirds of the people infected were actually vaxxed for the disease, so that means vaccines don't work, right? Well, one of those infections was just your Volpe clicking on a green dot to infect a vaccinated person manually, but still, that seems like a pretty high number of vaccinated people getting a disease, right? The anti-vaxxers are certainly making that claim, with most of the dumber Facebook comments asking "herp derp, why were 50 percent of the kids who got measles at Disney already vaccinated?" First of all, it was 12 percent; it's only 50 percent if you round up to the nearest fifty. Second, let's see what happens when we drop the vaccination rate closer to what we see in a lot of anti-vaxxing communities, ~70 percent:

Fuck, right? My dick exploded! Now let's take a look at the stats. About 26 percent of the 155 infected were already vaccinated for the disease, but look at the individual rates. Only 7.5 percent of the total vaccinated population got infected, whereas a whopping 45.6 percent of the total unvaccinated were infected, and your Volpe tried to start that in a green-heavy area. Vaccinated people still managed to get infected because they were surrounded by just so many infected people that eventually they were overcome. It's nothing to do with the vaccine; it's just simple math.

What killed the virus eventually was a buffer zone of green dots protecting even all those left over red dots. That is how herd immunity works, folks. Getting yourself vaccinated not only protects you, but it protects everyone around you, even the people who can't get vaccinated and the people who don't vaccinate. That is what stops these disease from coming back. So next time your anti-vaxxing nephew corners you and asks the familiar canard, "if you're immune, why do you care if other people aren't vaccinated?" just say "Unlike you, I actually give a damn about those other people." Then drop the mic and strut away like a boss.

Come Get Your Ginseng, Now with 0% Ginseng!

In a development that will surprise very few, it turns out most of the herbal poultices sold in yonder snake oil carriage local GNC have exactly none of what they claim to have in them.

Just read this quote from ABC News, and know that it's okay to embrace your inner smug right about now:

Bottles of Walmart-brand echinacea, an herb said to ward off colds, were found to contain no echinacea at all. GNC-brand bottles of St. John's wort, touted as a cure for depression, held rice, garlic and a tropical houseplant, but not a trace of the herb.

In fact, DNA testing on hundreds of bottles of store-brand herbal supplements sold as treatments for everything from memory loss to prostate trouble found that four out of five contained none of the herbs on the label. Instead, they were packed with cheap fillers such as wheat, rice, beans or houseplants.

Now the attorney general of New York is persecuting these honest businessmen just because there's no fucking medicine in all the medicines they're selling. Your Volpe has been in the huckster racket for a while, and it's a sad day when a feller can't even make a dishonest living in America anymore.

Silly herbal supplement guys. If you had just slapped a homeopathic label on your snake oil, you could have gotten away with this little scheme scot-free. At least the homeopaths admit their medicines are just placebos.

Katy Perry Summons Satan at the Super Bowl. Again.

So apparently there was a "Superb Owl" that went on last weekend? Your Volpe wasn't really paying attention, but he seems to remember about five minutes of sportsball breaking up his two-hour commercial marathon. Apparently creationists were pissed about a sea cruise commercial, but what else is new? He also remembers Katy Perry doing naughty things with sharks and beach balls on stage, and remembers thinking it was actually pretty good! Little did we know, dear reader, that Ms. Perry's hypnotic shark ball orgy was in fact a Satanic plot to kill Jesus and overthrow God's kingdom. Again.

Two years ago, you had Beyonce flashing the Illuminati Triangle Sign during Super Bowl XLVII, the year before that you had Madonna as a New Age goddess gyrating on a satanic throne, and last year had Bruno Mars shouted “Illuminati Now!” during his performance. This year, we had ex-Christian Katy Perry providing the “entertainment” for us.

You gotta hand it to the Illuminati: it's pretty tough bringing on the literal apocalypse every year for the past four years without anyone noticing; or, y'know, the world actually ending.

That quote is from Now the End Begins, a Christianist news source that is TOTALLY ON TO the New World Illuminati Satan Industrial Complex. They have all the latest scoops on such diverse and totally-not-made-up topics as Illuminati in America, the LGBT Mafia, RFID Technology, and an interesting section called "EXPOSING CHRISLAM." Our original guess was that the title was just crappy kerning, and in fact the header was calling out that asshole Chris Lam down in accounting (Chris, the break-room fridge is for personal food only; please stop taking Sheila's Greek yogurt because she needs it to stop the government mind control waves). Apparently we were wrong! "Chrislam" is the bastardized gaybie offspring of Christianity and Islam, which seems to be just wingnut code for "stories about religions not actively murdering each other," and that upsets them for some reason?

Regardless, let's see exactly how Satanic Perry's performance was:

Katy Perry opened riding a golden monster with glowing-red satanic eyes. singing the lyrics to her hit “Dark Horse”, partially quoted in the photo above. Read those words closely, it’s the Devil speaking, and he is coming for you if he can.

She performed her LGBT fan favorite “I Kissed A Girl”, leading as many young women as will follow her into experimentation with the LGBT perverted lifestyle.

Perry closed with another pro-LGBT song called “Firework” where she floated over the audience riding a shooting star with the LGBT rainbow as it’s tail.

Silly wingnuts, that wasn't a gay rainbow. The shooting star was an ad for The More You Know, and the moral was remembering to thoroughly train both your sharks to dance before you hop on stage. Otherwise it's going to completely throw off the Satan summoning. Hell has impeccable choreography.

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Hokum

Now a round-up of some of the worst from this week, as brought to you by your Beloved Motherblog, Wonkette:

That's all for this week. Tune in next time when we discover just how much bottled heroin we can take before our headache melts away. It worked wonders for little Billy's rheumaticism, so we're expecting great results!

[Medscape / Center for Disease Control / Herd Immunity Simulator / CNN / ABC News / Now the End Begins]


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