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Leprosy - Fearporn, Facts and Fiction
Fifth Generation Warfare, weaponization of public health, shoddy peer review, and shoddy journalism
Image from WHO website describing leprosy and it’s diagnosis. Credit: Tom Bradley,
Child with Leprosy symptoms
My friend and respected colleague Jeff Childers did a nice job summarizing the main-stream and alternate media fear porn surrounding one recent case of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in Florida. This case was written up and published as a case study by a recently graduated medical student/trainee in a CDC-affiliated medical journal last week. I wanted to just cross post his otherwise excellent Substack article, but… Jeff is one hell of an attorney. However, by his own admission, he is not a physician or a scientist, and he got just some important details wrong regarding the science and medicine. But his calling attention to the ginned up fear porn is super important and for that, I acknowledge his great work.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is extremely rare in the USA. Using the official CDC tracker, there is no evidence that the disease is becoming more widespread anywhere in the USA. Here are the facts about the disease from the CDC website:
Before moving on, let’s look at some of the related corporate media fear porn from this past week in August 2023:
Even the UK “Guardian” gets into the act, regurgitating the same fear porn found in earlier articles with some minor edits.
Getting to the Facts.
First off, there is no “surge” of Leprosy cases in central Florida, greater Florida state, or the USA in general.
From the Florida Health Department website:
Do these numbers looks like a crisis? Nope!
Here are the numbers of cases in the USA for the past decade:
So, two hundred people get leprosy in the USA a year, each of which take years to develop into anything serious, and is an entirely curable disease with drug treatment. Again, this is not a disease that deserves front page headlines for a week! In contrast, another mycobacterium-associated disease, tuberculosis, and in particular multi-drug resistant tuberculosis certainly merits attention. But last time I checked, TB is a major problem in major urban areas like Chicago. But that apparently does not fit with the political agenda which is in play in Florida. Cutting to the chase, to my eyes what we have going on here is yet another case of weaponizing public health by corporate media and various politicos to support an agenda, compounded by what can only be termed gross reporter incompetence.
What started all of this? An article titled “Case Report of Leprosy in Central Florida, USA, 2022” launched this whole mess.
This case report was published in the journal of Emerging Infectious Disease. The authors are not affiliated with the CDC. The Emerging Infectious Disease is a peer-reviewed, monthly peer reviewed journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is a publication from a medical trainee in a scientific journal, not a policy statement from the CDC. Big difference. This journal does not offer guidance from the CDC. In that article, the authors state their opinion that:
“Florida, USA, has witnessed an increased incidence of leprosy cases lacking traditional risk factors.”
Note the phrase “lacking traditional risk factors”.
In another portion of the article, the lead author, Dr. Bhukhan -who just graduated medical school and is about to start a residency at the University of Central Florida/HCA Osceola Hospital - states that cases in the Southeastern USA have doubled in the last decade. However, the citation given for the statement doesn’t actually state that. In fact, that website lists that the 159 cases in the USA in 2021 is a significant decrease from the year before. This whole house of cards is built upon a flawed citation in a recently graduated medical student’s case history which was apparently not well peer-reviewed and got pushed into the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID). As if we needed even more evidence that EID is really more of an in-house rag than it is a real peer-reviewed scientific journal.
This disease is SO exceedingly rare in the USA, it is hard to believe that this has been front page news for the past week! I can only conclude that we are seeing another case of weaponized public health fear porn, much like what happened with monkeypox, but even more blatant. Or a case of sloppy peer review compounded by grossly incompetent reporting. It is always hard to tell the difference between nefarious intent and garden variety incompetence.
All this propaganda over a single sentence that was read incorrectly by a single reporter (apparently working for Fox News) which then went viral throughout corporate and alternate media. Based on her bio, the journalist in question appears to be a fear porn specialist with a degree in journalism and english. No scientific or medical background. Color me shocked.
Helpful note to Fox News: Kansas City University- Graduate Medical Education/Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Consortium, Orlando is NOT the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Then corporate media went even deeper into cra-cra land. Do none of these “reporters” know how to pick up a cellular device and place a call, or even just google “Hansen’s disease” and “CDC”?
The CDC website has explicitly clarified that there is no travel advisory:
This again appears to come from a journalist reading the flawed case study article above, whose authors are not CDC employees. Then inferring that if something is published in this CDC-associated, “peer-reviewed” journal, then it represents the official policy position of the CDC. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how peer-reviewed scientific review process and literature works. After the distortions of the peer review process during the COVIDcrisis, it is no surprise that an english/journalism major would be confused on this point.
What is needed is more facts, not more fear porn. So lets take a moment to do some reality testing.
Starting with some facts from a government website.
Here is what the WHO has to say concerning human to human transmission of Hansen’s Disease:
The disease is transmitted through droplets from the nose and mouth. Prolonged, close contact over months with someone with untreated leprosy is needed to catch the disease. The disease is not spread through casual contact with a person who has leprosy like shaking hands or hugging, sharing meals or sitting next to each other. Moreover, the patient stops transmitting the disease when they begin treatment.
You should be afraid. Very afraid. Well, maybe not so much.
For a fascinating history of leprosy in the USA, including details of the mandatory lifetime quarantine that used to exist before there was a cure - go here. But it is important to note, that even before there was a cure for leprosy, the number of cases in the USA was exceedingly low.
As described by the WHO, leprosy is hard to catch, most people are not susceptible and most cases in the USA are from migrants who contracted the disease elsewhere. If there actually was a spike in Florida lepers, it would most likely be the consequence of in-migration from Asia and Latin America. But there also genetic evidence that a minority of cases in the USA are zoonotic. That is, people catching the disease from armadillos. To be clear, that would be less than 50 people a year catching the disease from armadillos. Yet another reason to not pick up armadillos or roadkill, in case you needed a reason.
Basically the chances of catching leprosy are less than getting hit by lightning (yeh, I looked it up).
There is no question that being immunosuppressed is a key factor to contracting leprosy.
Therefore, as mRNA inoculations cause immunosuppression, it has been hypothetised that in some individuals this could pose a higher risk of contracting the disease after vaccination. But this has not been studied in countries where leprosy is endemic. That said, there is small study that suggests that those who already have leprosy, may be more susceptible to more severe leprosy reactions after repeated COVID-19 “inoculations”.
Now on to the rumors of a vaccine against leprosy…
Twitter is on fire with “experts” and organizations who wish to vaccinate people in the USA against leprosy, now that cases are “surging” in Florida. As this is a “LIFE LONG” disease that “spreads like COVID”…
Wow - who knew?
There are a handful of clinical trials that show some efficacy (“50%”) against leprosy using the BCG vaccine, which is a vaccine developed and used outside of the USA to reduce risk of contracting clinical tuberculosis. Because 95% of people can not catch leprosy and in the USA, there are almost no cases of leprosy, widespread use of this “vaccine” for Leprocy would not be an effective prophylactic. This vaccine is not licensed for any purpose in the USA, except for those individuals who are at high risk of exposure to TB. Basically, the widespread claims repeated in corporate media during this current round of fearporn claiming that BCG represents a vaccine for Leprosy is fake news. A clear fraud.
In general, all clinical Mycobacteria infections are difficult to treat. They often require multiple antibiotics administered over a long period of time, and particularly so in the case of multi-drug resistant TB. Hansen’s disease is actually much easier to successfully treat than most modern cases of TB. To speak plainly, the modern challenge with Hansen’s disease is training doctors to recognize it, as it is extremely rare. Treatment is fairly straightforward, although expensive and requires close monitoring to insure compliance. Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is fairly common in the Amazon, and the government of Brazil cannot readily afford the costs of the antibiotic treatment for all of the indigenous persons with Leprosy migrating into urban areas from the jungle, so they have historically manufactured and administered thalidomide, which is a cheap treatment alternative. Which may have played a role in the “Zika virus” birth defect scare. Often drugs are shared within these poor indigent families. That is just the harsh reality of being poor in Brazil.
Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) was developed as an attenuated live vaccine for tuberculosis control nearly a century ago. According to the WHO, is the most widely used “vaccine” in the world. I know quite a bit about BCG from my time serving as head of business development and project management at the (now defunct) “Gatelet” organization “AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation”.
First off, BCG is a preparation of live attenuated mycobacteria. It is (arguably) an attenuated tuberculosis bacillus. It can cause disease in some cases where recipients are severely immunosuppressed. As a close genetic relative of the Tuberculosis bacterium, if you accept the BCG vaccine, you will test positive for TB (by the common “purified protein derivative” or PPD test). Therefore, for that reason alone, it is not recommended for general use in the USA, as general administration of BCG would make it very difficult to identify persons who actually have TB infection.
As a live mycobacterium, BCG is highly sensitive to manufacturing and culture conditions. Some manufacturing “lots” seem to work much better than others, and no-one really understands why. Consequently, clinical trials involving BCG (or recombinant BCG designed to have more effectiveness (such as AERAS developed and tested- unsuccessfully) yield highly variable results. Basically, this is not a well controlled product, and despite years of research and big funding, AERAS could never develop a reliable method to develop a manufacturing process which would yield a well controlled product. The CDC knows all of this, because they were teamed with AERAS in much of this work.
But BCG seems to have some odd and inexplicable ability to augment a variety of immune responses - particularly cellular immune responses. It is commonly used for treating bladder cancer, and there are many reports of association between BCG administration and breast cancer regression. But this is not really “vaccination”, it is more of an “immune therapy”. Which brings us back to the claims of effectiveness against another mycobacterium - Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of Leprocy or Hansen’s disease. Hansen’s disease is hard to contract, as discussed above, except in persons who are either repeatedly exposed to large amounts of Mycobacterium leprae or are immunosuppressed. So to the extent that a particular batch or “lot” of BCG shows clinical effectiveness against Leprosy, it is probably acting as an immune therapy.
Once again, just to be quite clear, the BCG vaccine is not approved for use against leprosy in the USA. This story is truly “fake news”.
Saving the best bit for last.
Main-stream (corporate) media is now suggesting that somehow Governor DeSantis is not doing “enough” to stop the “surge” of leprosy cases in Florida. Which surge is not actually happening, except in the minds of reporters with no scientific or medical training, and in political “chaos agents” active in their dark basements on the internet.
Could this be what all the fearporn was really about? Getting another dig at Governor De Santis and the state of Florida?
But it gets worse-
You can’t make this stuff up.
As public health has become a weaponized tool for political gain, we all lose. So lets all get together and spread the word. This whole fake news story is built on a house of cards- on a poorly peer-reviewed case study published by a recently graduated medical student. It is not based in fact, and in fact is chockablock full of “Fake News”; mis- dis- and malinformation propagated and weaponized for political purposes.
This is not just more corporate media fearporn. This is yet another example of fifth generation warfare deployed on US citizens.
No matter whether you are left or right, Republican or Democrat, socialist or libertarian or constitutionalist, weaponization of public health for political purposes hurts us all. We should all be able to agree on this, or the entire public health enterprise will never be able to recover from the COVIDcrisis fiasco.
This will never stop until we all decide that this will not be tolerated, and act to make it stop.
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