Coronavirus and Avian Flu Tidbits #294, May 12, 2024


First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I'm getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don't be shy about that.

New Post:

4.95 Million People Die From Treatable Infections Annually. A New Project Tells Their Stories


Mike Hoerger, May 8: “SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater have increased marginally (2%) this week after months of decline. We expect a gradual increase through the end of May, and then a decline again around early June.”

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What is "FLiRT"? FLiRT is the clever nickname for two mutations on the spike protein of the highly mutated variant "Pirola", that accounts for >99% of all Covid right now. F->L at position 456 and R->T at 346. Both escape mutations were present last year, but never on Pirola.
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WHO declares Covid airborne...and 
At the time when @WHO was assuring the world: “COVID-19 is NOT airborne”… …a ‘return to office’-document for WHO staff in Geneva stated: Ventilation system has been modified • increased volume of external air • no recycling of air • filters rated as high as we can go…
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GI symptoms in Covid:

"Lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. These may not be the symptoms people expect with covid, but around 50% of people experience them after SARS-CoV-2 infection, and in some people they’re the only symptoms. Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms may be the first sign of infection or may develop later and persist as part of long covid."

Avian Flu H5N1:

Excellent explanation from Brenda Goodman, CNN re How viruses break into cells

"Viruses need a way to hack into cells. For the virus that causes Covid-19, the key is a receptor called ACE2. For flu viruses, it’s a sugar molecule that sticks up from the surface of cells called a sialic acid.

Different animals carry different forms, or shapes, of sialic acids...Flu viruses tend to prefer to bind to one shape over the other, he said.

Researchers think this may be one reason why H5N1, which originated in birds, hasn’t been shown to spread efficiently between people.

Until recently, nobody knew what kind of sialic acid receptors cows had, because it was believed that they didn’t catch A-strain flu viruses like H5N1.

[But tissue samples from cows showed] The tiny milk-producing sacs of the udder, called alveoli, were brimming with sialic acid receptors, and they had both the kind of receptors associated with birds and those that are more common in people. . .

That finding has raised concern because one way flu viruses change and evolve is by swapping pieces of their genetic material with other flu viruses. ... called reassortment

“If you get both viruses in the same cell at the same time, you can essentially get hybrid viruses coming out of it,” said study author Dr. Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.

In order to be infected simultaneously with two flu viruses – a bird flu virus and a human flu virus – a cell would need to have both kinds of sialic acid receptors, which cows do, something that wasn’t known before this study."

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5/8  @RickABright

The more virus allowed to enter the food supply & be shipped to processors, the more typical pasteurization is going to struggle to kill it all. There must be tests & controls placed on how much infected milk is allowed to leave the farm. There must also be tests to adjust pasteurization process to be able to inactivate increasing amounts of virus getting into the system.
["the concentration of H5N1 viruses in the milk of infected cows is 1,000 times higher than typically seen in infected birds."]
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5/8 "We have not yet tested for this particular virus (#H5N1) in swine and beef cattle," CDA says, but the USDA is looking at expanding this testing to other species.
Colorado is currently monitoring 70 people who've been exposed to #H5N1, according to the CDPHE. To their knowledge, none have developed symptoms but they are continuing to monitor them.
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Pasteurization isn’t fool proof. NYS Dept. of Agriculture recalls Chocolate Milk made by Meadowbrook Farms for “improper pasteurization - not meeting time and temperature requirements for pasteurization.” No illness reported.
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9/ We’ve never seen such a diversity of mammals infected before: not only birds & cattle, but also cats, goats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, mountain lions, dolphins, sea lions & many more.
How quickly is the virus mutating and evolving? A PB2 E627K mutation was found in the human case in Texas, but not seen in birds or cows. (1:04:50)
11/ Already, the bird flu strain that infected the dairy worker in Texas had a mutation that’s a step towards mammalian adaptation. It’s concerning that this mutation appeared so quickly.
What worries many experts is that the H5N1 bird flu virus could evolve to spread from person-to-person, causing a pandemic as bad or worse than the one from which the world is emerging.
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CDC says it's launching a public dashboard to track influenza A (which includes H5N1 bird flu) in wastewater samples. The wastewater dashboard will go live as early as Friday
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H5N1 bird flu found at 6 more dairy farms, including 4 in Michigan, 1 in Idaho and 1 in Colorado. This raises the total number of outbreaks on dairy farms in the U.S. to 42.
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Farmers resist push for workers to wear protective gear against bird flu virus.
“We offered PPE to any interested dairy and only four took us up on the offer. The offer still stands,”
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about time: USDA will also offer farmers support for biosecurity measures on the farm: to protect against potential spread between animals and people
to make biosecurity plans
to pasteurize milk
to offset costs of veterinary care for sick cattle
to offset costs of shipping samples for testing
CDC has identified $93M to support - question is what they took that from
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Large amount of bird flu virus in milk suggests asymptomatic cows are infected with H5N1
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Bacteria on the International Space Station have mutated into opportunistic pathogens never seen on Earth: several strains of a multi-drug-resistant bacterium known as Enterobacter bugandensis read more:

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Malaria mosquitoes return to Italy after 50 years Jo Lines tells @thetimes
how habitat changes have enabled a mosquito species which can transmit #malaria to re-establish itself in southern Italy via @LSHTM
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Saudi Arabia reports 4 new cases of MERS coronavirus, 2 of which were caused by human-to-human transmission in a hospital. MERS is different from COVID and first emerged in 2012. Most cases are linked to camels
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Mycobacterium abscessus
Three drug-resistant infections in US tied to stem-cell injections in Mexico
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Cow is identified with Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow) on Scottish farm


still an incredible, negligent last of testing.



Epidemiology/Infection control:

Check wastewater SCAN for activity

Portland, Maine. New Hamshire, Florida, California (Fremont), Hawaii, Nebraska, and Idaho are all rising.

Tips, general reading for public:





asking them to mandate surveillance and reporting of flu, H5N1, Covid, etc.
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@WADeptHealth provides rapid Covid and Flu tests and more at kiosks! Read our latest blog post to find out what they provide, and where to find them:
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"Colorado's second-highest court ruled for the first time on Thursday that COVID-19 is an 'occupational disease' that entitled the widow of a deceased nursing home employee to workers' compensation benefits."
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U Conn is banning masks at graduation.

Banning "masks of any kind" at a university graduation ceremony during a period when Covid is still circulating raises ADA issues. ADA requires public accommodations, incl. universities, to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities unless doing so would result in an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of the service provided. - Pantea Javidan

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Avian Flu:

The U.S. CDC is locked in a power struggle with key states — and the dairy industry — as it tries to better track #H5N1 in cattle and prevent another potential pandemic,

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Gen Z, Guns:



@RBReich, 5/5
50 major corporations have contributed $23 million to election deniers since the January 6 Capitol attack. They include AT&T, Comcast, Walmart, and Microsoft. Corporate America will sell out our democracy, decency, and the rule of law — all for a tax break.
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Reminder that Trump wants to cut Social Security and Medicare — supposedly to address the debt — yet supports extending his tax cuts for the rich, adding $3.5 trillion to the deficit.
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A new CBO report estimates that extending the Trump tax cuts for the next 10 years would add $4.6 trillion to the deficit. Remember this the next time Republicans propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
@RBReich May 8
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The RNC, Now otherwise known as Trump’s campaign team, Is filling lawsuits in battleground states that will force them to stop counting ballots at 11:59 pm on Election Day Since most states don’t count mail in ballots until last. This will basically end mail in voting
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Trump said he wants to round up 11 million illegals...that means somewhere between 1 of every 25 or 30 people are snatched off the street. That's someone from every neighborhood, every block, every classroom, every workplace.
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PAY FOR PLAY Trump told a group of oil executives and lobbyists gathered at Mar-a-Lago that they should donate $1 billion to his presidential campaign because, if elected, he would roll back environmental rules.
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House Republicans passed a bill overturning a ban on mining near this fragile ecosystem of the Boundary Waters. The buyer? A foreign mining company.
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GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein is worth more than $5 billion and has spent more than $200 million on political campaigns and PACs. His causes include opposing abortion access. By True North, @thelisagraves 4/24/24 1/
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four years ago today, Trump told ABC that he wasn't prepared for the covid pandemic because "I have a lot of things going on."
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Planner of Trump’s Project 2025--John McEntee, Former Director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office under Trump.--calls for repealing the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote
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Ron DeSantis signed a law that prevents municipalities in Florida from requiring that employers provide shade and water breaks for outdoor workers. A study found that heat-related deaths in FL shot up by 88% between 2019 and 2022. Folks, this is the GOP's vision for America. - Robert Reich
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The law at issue makes it a felony for any noncitizen to enter the state of Iowa if they've ever been deported in the past—even if they are now 100% legal and have a green card, asylum, or some other form of lawful immigration status. That's a clear violation of the Constitution.
Iowa's law is largely a copy-paste of the "illegal reentry" crime created in Texas' SB4.
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More than 2 million Texans have been dropped from Medicaid, leading the nation
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Russia plotting sabotage across Europe - The Financial Times European intelligence agencies warn that Russia is planning violent sabotage acts across the continent, committing to perpetual conflict with the West. They have started actively preparing covert bombings, arson, and infrastructure damage on European soil, showing little concern for civilian casualties, intelligence officials believe. "Russia now seems comfortable carrying out operations on European soil “[with] a high potential for damage,” said Thomas Haldenwang, head of German domestic intelligence. Acts or attempts at sabotage are already taking place:
two German-Russian nationals were arrested in Bayreuth, Bavaria, for allegedly plotting to attack military and logistics sites in Germany on behalf of Russia;
two men were charged in the UK in late April with having started a fire at a warehouse containing aid shipments for Ukraine and accused of working for Russian government;
In Sweden, security services are investigating a series of recent railway derailments;
Russia has attempted to destroy the signalling systems on Czech railways, the country’s transport minister told last month;
In Estonia, an attack on the interior minister’s car in February and those of journalists were perpetrated by Russian intelligence operatives, the country’s Internal Security Service has said.
“These pinprick attacks we’ve seen so far are of course to create disruption, but they can also be used for disinformation. And then there is what Russia learns from these attacks if they want to immobilise Europe for real... They’re practice runs,” said Keir Giles, senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, the think-tank. Source:

Feel good du jour:

Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


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