You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today.

Those words were spoken by Meryl Dorey, arch-antivaxer and chief fallacy-pusher of the Australian Vaccination Network, on Channel 7's "Sunday Night" programme. The segment was discussing measles and pertussis outbreaks here in Australia, and focused on the tragic death of little Dana McCaffery from pertussis.

The non-factual basis of this quote is beyond question, however just for good measure, let's look at some mortality figures for measles and pertussis. First, let's see about 30 years ago.

Here are some figures from the mid-1970s, a time when I, a 30-something, was making my first faltering steps into the world. The figures are from the US, and the abstract reads

During 1971-75, an average of 35.4 measles-related deaths were recorded each year; one death for every 1,000 measles cases reported

an annual average in the US of 35.4 doesn't sound like zero to me. Then again, Meryl has "a brain" and apparently that makes her qualified. But that was 30 years ago. How about now?

Well, again, here are some figures.

During 2000–2008, global mortality attributed to measles declined by 78%, from an estimated 733,000 deaths in 2000 to 164,000 in 2008 (Table 1, Figure), but the decline leveled off during 2007–2008 (Figure

This is, of course, worldwide. You work witrh the figures you've got, I suppose, but again, we're looking at an emphatically non-zero number.

So that's measles done. What about pertussis?

Again, some figures.

Now, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients in the United States and in Europe is about 1 per 500 cases (<0.2% of those reported). The overall infant mortality rate is 2.4 per 1 million live births. The CDC reported 39 deaths from pertussis in 2005; 32 (82%) occurred in infants younger than 3 months. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 294,000 children died from pertussis worldwide in 2002.

Earlier in the article, we get some historic overview

The rate of pertussis peaked in the 1930s, with 265,269 cases and 7518 deaths reported in the United States. This rate decreased to a low in 1976, when 1010 cases and 4 deaths occurred. The rate recently peaked to 25,616 cases (8.7 cases per 100,000 people per year) reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2005

Again, busted. Meryl, of course, is lying. People die from measles and pertussis.

Worse than that, though, given that we know Meryl lies, was that this quote was blurted out within spitting distance of the grieving parents of little Dana McCaffery. Not only is Meryl a liar, she's a callous, heartless one.

Of course, this is old news, but I've re-raised it specifically for the "That Meryl!" video series, which highlights some of Meryl's finest moments for a visual audience. Please do subscribe, there'll be a lot more to come, if we know Meryl.

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