“My dog would never do that….” by: Gerald Brenner

Working in the veterinary field, I have encountered hundreds of pet owners who claim that their dog or cat would “never” bite anyone. “My dog would never do that, he (or she) knows better!” claimed a pet owner who I posed the question, “Does your dog mind strangers or has he been known to bite?” Then as I proceed to examine their dog, the dog snaps at my hand(s) or face. Luckily, I know better but I still get a kick out of proving these “experts” wrong that their dog, is still an animal, and animals are capable of biting. Just because your dog or cat likes to wear a shark costume and ride around on a Roomba, doesn’t mean they’re not capable of biting and leaving more damage than just bite wounds. So, where am I going with this you ask? What does this have to do with Public Health, Health Risks, or Health Communication in general? Try all three!

Even though it is rarely reported and hardly found in the United States, Rabies is still a major public health concern that is often overlooked. To bring you up to speed, Rabies is a zoonotic, acute, viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Merriam-Webster.com (2016) defines “zoonotic” as a disease communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions; also defines “acute” as very serious or dangerous: requiring serious attention or action. Chernet and Nejash’s article (as cited in Blackmore, 2014) mentions that “once symptoms of the disease develop, it is invariably fatal and deadly viral disease that can only be prevented but not cured.” Depending on the species, presentation of symptoms can range, though generally we are talking days to weeks.

Now let’s forget the statistics and definitions; everyone (for the most part) knows about Rabies and what it is capable of. Can we all agree on that? Ok, good! My opinion to why this is a health risk: simple, a breakdown in public health communication. As an advocate for veterinary medicine, it is our job to inform the public and pet owner’s about this deadly virus and why it is important to properly vaccinate our pets. Since there is no anti-virus to protect us, prevention is key. The breakdown of communication results from the following, a.) Veterinary professionals are poorly educating the public or pet owners of proper vaccination protocols and the risks of animals who lack vaccination or b.) pet-owners de-value or ignore the professional advice, and fail to get their animal vaccinated because of cost or think “this is never going to affect my animal!”

Even though it is rare, Rabies is still being reported throughout the U.S. every year. All it takes is a bite from an infected, fox, raccoon, bat or any other wild mammal. Pet owners often feel that all of these vaccines that veterinarians recommend are just “money-makers” or ways for the veterinary practices to keep client’s coming in every year. Unfortunately, when their pets’ aren’t vaccinated and affected by these viruses that are highly-preventable; it is often too late for the veterinarian to save these furry family members. Treatment of suspected rabies cases can involve 10-day quarantines and even worse, euthanasia with the head sent off for laboratory testing of the brain if the pet was involved in any bite cases during the suspected rabies time-frame.

In summary, this deadly virus is very preventable. Veterinary professionals need to make sure they’re communicating properly with their pet owners on the risks that their pets and the public face, if their animals go without vaccination. Pet owners need to trust their veterinary professionals, vaccinate their pets properly and know that any animal can bite, and if infected, make a very bad day for the person who got bit. In the long run, the $15-20 Rabies vaccination is hands down the cheaper and safer route rather than risking a deadly virus upon you, your pet, and or the public.

By: Gerald Brenner

“Zoonosis.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.

“Acute.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.\

Balcha Chernet and Abdela Nejash (2016) Review of Rabies preventions and control, International J. of Life Sciences, 4(2): 293-301



Why is the Anti-Vaccine Movement Successful? by Gerald Brenner

In light of our discussion in class about communication in health care, we covered the topic(s) such as health narratives, biomedicine vs. social construction, qualitative vs. quantitative and in the past decade there have a major controversy that highlights all the topics we covered in lecture. The controversy; the anti-vaccine movement.


Starting back in the 1800s, the anti-vaccine movement has come and gone from time to time but raises awareness whenever a possible vaccine related death has occurred. More recently in the past decade, the anti-vaccine movement has been very active and attracting a lot of attention. One of the bigger stories mentioned that a chemical preservative called, Thimerosal, which was possibly a link to Autism. Other vaccines like the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) was possibly linked to neurodevelopmental disorders.


Other concerns by the anti-vaccine movement included: pain associated with the shot of the vaccine or multiple vaccines at one time, people who were already vaccinated were still getting sick, parents were afraid of any vaccine reactions or unknown immunocompromised children. Accusations and beliefs by the anti-vaccine movement have been reviewed and none deemed to cause the issues that they’re suspected to.


Why are they so successful at attracting everyone’s attention?


Anti-vaccine supporters are very successful at persuasion because even though they don’t have any research to support their reasons, the power comes from the use of personal narratives. The media, including celebrities like Jenny McCarthy is a very avid activist for the anti-vaccine movement. Their approach fits within the qualitative approach where as the pro-vaccine movement will use the quantitative approach with documented research. Even though the presentable research disproves the anti-vaccine movement’s belief’s, the protestors don’t back down.


In summary, the interesting part of this is how the anti-vaccine movement is very successful though uses personal narratives, twitter, Facebook, to address their supporters. Multiple anti-vaccine movement websites will actually delete pro-vaccine comments. Pro-vaccine supporters have been performing sociological studies to see how the protestors are so successful and actually had ideas to mimic the anti-vaccine movements approach since there wasn’t any success with the quantitative research posted.



Shelby, A., & Ernst, K. (2013). Story and science: How providers and parents can utilize storytelling to combat anti-vaccine misinformation. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 9(8), 1795–1801. http://doi.org/10.4161/hv.24828


Faith? By: Gerald Brenner

What is Faith? Thats the question I ask. As a member of this society I would be out of line to not give the other side to speak on the matter. I don’t ask to be mean, make fun, and/or even come close to making it a joking matter. I ask, this vague, yet powerful questions that would get multiple different answers, and that’s great. I am all for it, if it makes you feel complete and whole, but I ask because even though both are being analyzed, I question whether they both can be classified in the same category. Let me explain….

I was raised Catholic my whole childhood, no choice in the matter, my parents made me go. Which was good and all, because I didn’t know any better. My parents were not college educated, it was a small town, and going to church is what you did. But as I have aged and now 27 years old, I have thought a lot about this question and how it relates to science, because I do not consider myself a religious person by any means, nor plan to be, but thats just my own belief in the matter. I am a Biology major and even though I do believe in evolution and the big bang, its important to have a grasp on what the other side believes or you can’t raise a argument when you are one sided. But getting back to the question at hand, I feel “Religion” and “Science” are not even in the same ballpark. Religion is a set of beliefs, keyword: beliefs, that there is a almighty power greater than us (no matter the form of almighty power) that is based on either a book that has been passed on for generations and generations. Again, not to sound cruel or demeaning in any way, they are a set of “beliefs”, nothing has ever been proven. Science on the other hand only comes in the form of facts, otherwise it isn’t published and/or studied immensely first. So there is where I have trouble putting both of them in the same category, because one is un-proven beliefs, and the other proven facts.

My best friend is very religious and we have this talk all the time. With all of the kings, rulers, emperors, etc. and especially, who’s to say the bible, the koran, and any other religious literature isn’t a very old game of “phone tag;” interpreted differently by generations. Who is to say that something didn’t get “tweaked” by some king to use this power of religion for personal gain. It’s just something I think about. For example, William Shakespeare’s work wasn’t all published by Bill himself, other play writers had found some of his work and published it themselves as co-authors; who’s to say the same thing didn’t happen.

Not trying to make anyone made, I do believe religion and faith are useful and beneficial, as long as they are used personally and not used to try to sway another’s beliefs and/or harm anyone because they do think differently. To me religion and faith is here in our lives, to give us some comfort and basically a guideline on how to live peacefully with one and other and how to be a better person for yourself, your family and others around you or in the world.

But to finish, again I ask “What is Faith” from the non-religious standpoint, because I question whether religion and science should even be debated on the same level. Again, this blog was to not offend anyone, but to maybe look at it from a different standpoint, rather than trying to compare two things that may not even been comparable with each other.


By: Gerald Brenner

The power of persuasion… by Gerald Brenner

The power of persuasion…..By: Gerald Brenner
Business 101; sell your product/brand or die! Now, I am not a business major nor a business owner, though I feel it’s safe to say I’m correct in saying that being able to sell a product to a consumer is the make or break of any business. With all of the competing markets, it can be a challenge to find a “one-up” on your competitors. As we go forth in time, we evolve new ways of advertising and how we market products. In this day and age, we as consumers have grown to be very outspoken and demanding of these companies and we have developed a “You need me [as a consumer] for your business to survive, so show me what you have!” attitude, not a “You have what I need, how much can I get?” attitude. With this new way of thinking, these companies aren’t just selling the product, they are selling the product, and how it was made, what is in it, etc. This is why we “Greenwashing.”

Greenwashing is when a company and/or business advertises that their products are “eco-friendly,” “organic,” “made with out hormones,” “made up of recycled paper” etc. etc. They are doing this because society has started to FINALLY grow a care and understanding of the dangers that our environment faces now and in the future if we continue to live as wasteful, selfish human beings. So is this right or wrong? Obviously its never good to lie, stretch the truth, leave information out, and/or hide information from your customers, but it is a “dog eat-dog eat world” so if you’re not going to do it, someone else will and unfortunately that business that pulls a fast one on your market might escape under the radar and become successful, where your business is struggling to survive. To be honest, it’s kind of hard to blame them for this. It’s amazing the response of people buy into the “greenwashing” just because their favorite celebrity is advertising it, and/or because they are too naive to think for themselves and do a little homework for themselves. But obviously, when it comes down to it, honesty and making sure your customers are informed is the best thing to do.

So how can we stop companies from doing this too us? How can we trust them? Is there any solution to right this wrong? Well there are regulations and standards that for the most part, keep a checks and balances on a company, but we have to be diligent as consumers and not believe everything we hear. We need to do homework, look up a ingredient that you may not know of; find out if this product is harmful to you and the ones around you, before it’s too late because you lacked to think for yourself. Companies will use the power of the celebrity platform to sell products and try to reach you. They use catchy music and/or a advertisement that will pull on your heart strings using a puppy and horse, just to get you to buy some beer. In the world we live in today, we have to look out for ourselves and the ones around us, and that sound selfish, but… its kinda the truth. Do your homework, think for yourself and make sure you know what you’re buying, because when you buy that falsely labeled product that contains harmful chemicals, even though it says “organic”, you’re just letting the shady companies succeed.

Lastly and to look at it from another angle, do buy eco-friendly products, support the companies that are true to their word and help them succeed so they can put the “back-door” businesses out of business. Don’t become jaded, just be rational, and know that there are good people out there and they are just trying to survive just like you and me. Just cause a celebrity is on a advertisement, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being scandalous, in fact, there are a lot of celebrities who use their platform to due good in this world and should be supported. We are all here together, we are all trying to succeed in our own ways, if we have a little less back-stabbing, a lot less mis-communication, and we come together as a majority, this whole “going green” thing might just work out and help save our planet for a another couple of years for our future generations.

Entertainment and Nature…..Is it really that bad? by Gerald Brenner

Movies, Television, and Theme Parks; good or bad? Depending how you live your life and your values, different opinions arise. Majority of the opinions arise from a lot of different angles. Some people despise the idea of having Killer whales kept in captivity vs. being set free into their natural environment, and/or tourist attractions destroying the natural environment just to make a dollar off of some tourists. Obviously there are some major problems that need addressed but in my opinion, after reading this chapter, I would like to comment on how some of the concepts are beneficial to nature and the environment and maybe, just maybe they might be doing a little good.

Let me explain, yes nature is often not the forefront of communication in a movie or television show. Yes, we need to be concerned about keeping wild animals in captivity for profit and our entertainment, but….when was the last time you were able to see a killer whale in the wild? Have you ever been to a jungle environment and seen the beautiful landscape and animals that live there? Not many people can say they have. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a year or so, on a island in the puget sound that is known to have a decent amount of activity for killer whales, but I never was able to see one in person in the wild, its rare. So yes, profit is being made off of a killer whale who is kept in captivity, but if you have never experienced one of these beautiful creatures up close; you wouldn’t have the same compassion for them as you would if you haven’t seen one.

Entertainment and theme parks, do have to “rub a few elbows” with the “naysayers” and the people opposed, but in fact, shedding a light and giving you something “in-person” to fall in love with and to help you realize the beauty of nature and the animals that live in it. It helps bring awareness. The world isn’t perfect, and sometimes these profiters lose sight of the main goal and cut a few corners, but that is where “checks and balances” come into play. Even though the main population may not realize or are aware of the requirements these facilities have to make sure they are minding their “p’s and q’s”; for the majority of these establishments, they do follow regulations and are the biggest advocates for these creatures.

In regards to the movies and films are made and how they communicate nature. Obviously there is a main story with “nature” being a backdrop and/or a “supporting actor” but movies and television help bring a insight to some of the remote and beautiful places to your living room. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford a safari, on their own, in the African plains, and/or able to visit the jungles of the Congo. Movies help shed the light on these beautiful landscapes, even though the landscape may not be the forefront of the story. Movies that I personally have watched, I feel, shed a amazing light on nature and the beauty of it. For example, “We bought a Zoo”, a movie that stars Matt Damon, is a true story of a man and his family who bought a house, which by chance was a zoo as well. The movie obviously was a story about this man and his family’s life and this new adventure they had together, but it does shed light on what zoo’s have to do to be “within regulations” and also the amazing care these people who operate these live animal parks actually give. So yes, its a story about this family, but it does help bring awareness that even though “corporate” might be hoping to make a dollar, these animals are being taken care of by the best of business and even though are kept in captivity, these people help bring a authentic lifestyle for these creatures.

In conclusion; yes profits are being made off of nature and the wildlife that live in these environments, though in a positive mindset: its going to happen whether you like it or not, all we can do as a society is to help make sure that we hold these places accountable, but mainly, we use these advantages we are afforded to educate ourselves on the amazing creatures. Experience these “venues” that may be fake and/or not the actual landscape its portraying, but use it as a way to grow appreciation for the real thing. If you didn’t get to experience Shamu as a child, you may not have grown to care and have compassion for Shamu’s care and well-being.

By Gerald Brenner

“Extreme Ecocentrism”…..brought to you by P.e.T.A (by Gerald Brenner)

Ecocentric; an ideology that promotes a world where no species is greater than the other. Great concept right? Of course, I genuinely agree with the idea. We didn’t start the big bang nor were we the first species to be develop from it. We as humans, should be grateful and “step-back” and really look at how we fit into this large picture. Anthropocentrism, the human-centered ideology holds strong within our society, and even around the world. With these two ideologies, so very different than each other, the one common thing that they do share; extremists!

With any religion, ideology, or belief there are always the extremists. In my personal opinion, people can believe what they want….. as long as it doesn’t affect others. The world we live in today, we have multiple avenues of communication for people to get on their “soap box” and preach to the rest of us and even though the ideas or “speeches” these activists are preaching about are so far from the truth its funny; people will still believe it and take it as fact. Again, people have the choice to believe what they want, and it’s up to them to “fact check” if they want, but it’s the responsibility of the speaker to make sure their facts are straight. Obviously, from my title you can guess what group I might have in mind who fits this category of “extremists”; PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Obviously, this is a blog and I would be a hypocrite to not disclaim that this is based off of my personal opinion, though with that said, being my career is in Veterinary medicine and I have my certifications in Laboratory Animal Research, I can comment through personal experiences on PeTA. You may ask, “Gary, you work with animals; you care for animals; why don’t you share PeTA’s beliefs?” Well I do believe in PeTA’s overall goal of treating animals humanely and being a “spokesperson” for the animals who obviously can’t speak. We go our separate roads when PeTA’s facts become distorted with subjective facts and their extreme measures to bring awareness to their cause.

To be honest, they as a group, are just as convincing as Hitler was during his reign. PeTA’s biggest arsenal for reaching out and getting across younger generations is the use of celebrities. They are very influential and in their communication because of this and why it is such a issue within our world of communicating about the environment. This is a major problem in our society and I hope more people become aware of this and do their part to help right the wrongs of improper advocating and making sure “extremists” don’t get the attention they don’t deserve.

By: Gerald Brenner