Are these flu vaccines good enough to shield the District from Rotavirus?

A New York Times map on Monday warned of a mysterious, potentially deadly disease sweeping the nation: Rotavirus, a nasty bacterium that causes vomiting and diarrhea, has ravaged “the Mexican underground food system” and is “on the verge of attacking our nation.”

If New Yorkers have heard this song before, it’s because the paper has been warning for months about how the flu epidemic is hitting South America especially hard – and, indeed, in Haiti where kids are hospitalized every week because of Rotavirus.

But this time, the latest Times warning and study is about Washington – specifically, a possible Rotavirus outbreak in Washington, D.C.

The problem with picking and choosing places for stopgap flu vaccination campaigns is that the flu spreads to any area on the planet, from London to New York. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation teamed up to conduct a “Rotavirus Vaccination Campaign” to prevent those epidemics from spreading to the District, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. They even brought in a hospital specialist to talk the City Council and the mayor about those potential disasters. But as it turned out, there wasn’t any need for the campaign.

The Rotavirus figures show that the virus was just coming into America after a few years of being mostly confined to the Central American favelas and the surrounding grasslands, and therefore were only found in flu tests in the rural areas of our American border states. The CDC has repeatedly said that Rotavirus is no threat to the masses of people at any time – just sick kids.

That hasn’t stopped New York Times, following its usual Timesian pattern of strident argument by editorial-board member David Carr, from turning this into yet another issue of why vaccinations are dangerous. And why anti-vaxxers should know better. No one thinks Rotavirus is any big deal, they wrote, but the American Dairy Board needs to make sure its cows are as immune to the Rotavirus as Japanese ones. It might save lives. “The Dairy Board,” they wrote, “should take this and other advice from the Centers for Disease Control seriously.”

But let’s get back to the individual risks. All the Rotavirus vaccines are similar in side effects and efficacy, and they do exactly the same thing: They protect the kids from the ravages of that Rotavirus bug.

The difference between a frozen dinner and a Rotavirus bug is that it’s much, much easier to put out a fire with water and money – and fortunately, the creators of American Rotavirus vaccines have given these diseases much, much less to worry about.

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