March 13, 2015
Anti-vaxxer bets $100k measles doesn’t exist, loses
A German biologist and anti-vaxxer who offered €100,000 ($106,300) to anyone who could prove that the disease was a virus has been ordered to pay a doctor who took him up on the offer.Stefan Lanka, who believed that the ailment is actually psychosomatic, promised the reward on his website four years ago, according to BBC News. The bounty was later claimed by a German doctor named David Barden, who presented evidence from six different scientific studies.
That evidence was dismissed by Lanka, the British news agency added, but a court in the town of Ravensburgh declared that the evidence put forth by Dr. Barden was sufficient enough for him to earn the money. Following the verdict, Lanka told local media that he would appeal the ruling.
Probably bad timing
In comments made to regional paper Suedkurier, Lanka said measles was “a psychosomatic illness” and that people “become ill after traumatic separations.” However, a court spokesman told The Guardian that that the judges disagreed, and that after hearing more than three hours of expert testimony, they had “no doubt about the existence of the measles virus.”
According to The Local, when Lanka first posted his offer online, he wrote, “Because we know that the ‘measles virus’ doesn’t exist, and according to biology and medical science can't exist, and because we know the real cause of measles, we want the reward to get people to enlighten themselves, for the enlightened to help the less enlightened and... influence those in power.”
However, as Time and the BBC reported, Germany and much of Europe is in the midst of a measles outbreak. The disease, which highly infectious and marked by fever and rash, was to blame for the death of an 18-month old boy in Berlin last month. Some 22,000 measles cases have been reported throughout Europe since 2014, the World Health Organization said.
In Berlin, 782 cases reported since last October, and health officials are considering making vaccinations against the disease mandatory, according to reports. Roughly 20 new cases are being reported every day, and the increasing number of adults refusing to vaccinate their children against the disease is being blamed for outbreaks in Europe as it has in North America.
“In the US, public health officials are struggling to persuade more parents vaccinate their children,” the Daily Mail reported on Friday. “In some states, the number of parents seeking exemptions from school attendance vaccination requirements has been inching up. The rise has come despite unsettling outbreaks of some vaccine-preventable diseases.”
“The belief that measles vaccines cause autism, rooted in a discredited scientific study published in 1998, is common among them. But a denier of the measles virus altogether is comparatively rare,” the International Business Times added. However, as the publication noted, a 1995 study published by Lanka questioned the validity of another prominent pathogen, the HIV virus.