Coronavirus and Avian Flu Tidbits # 296, May 26, 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.


Wastewater data:

Infections are growing, esp in Hawaii, Delaware, Nevada, and Minn

Biobot data has disappeared, likely d/t loss of funding

We are flying blind: (as of May 1): US hospitals do not report Covid hospital admissions, hospital capacity, or hospital occupancy data.

May 24th update: Infections up 11% this week off of very low numbers. FLiRT mutation group is dominant including KP.3. NWSS data only since Feb 2024. 170,000 new infections/day 1 in every 196 people currently infected

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Major Study on Masking--An extensive review:

First, there is strong and consistent evidence for airborne transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory pathogens. Second, masks are, if correctly and consistently worn, effective in reducing transmission of respiratory diseases and show a dose-response effect. Third, respirators are significantly more effective than medical or cloth masks. Fourth, mask mandates are, overall, effective in reducing community transmission of respiratory pathogens.

Fifth, masks are important sociocultural symbols; non-adherence to masking is sometimes linked to political and ideological beliefs and to widely circulated mis- or disinformation. Sixth, while there is much evidence that masks are not generally harmful to the general population, masking may be relatively contraindicated in individuals with certain medical conditions, who may require exemption.

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WHO's latest:

#WearAMask when in crowded indoor spaces to help you stay safe from #COVID19, flu and other respiratory illnesses.”

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The connection between SARS-CoV-2 and neurodegeneration “ SARS-CoV-2 infection should be considered as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, even though the distinction between causation versus disease acceleration is not clear.” - Eric Topol

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Survey for Covid and Novid patients:

Mask restrictions:

The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Wednesday not to concur with the Senate on a bill that would reinstate mask restrictions in North Carolina. It would eliminate an exception to the state’s ban on masking that’s been in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and has allowed people to wear masks for health and safety reasons.

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Estimate of 43% rate of multidrug resistance in COVID patients

meta-analysis of 173 studies involving nearly 900,000 COVID-19 patients in more than 50 countries finds that 42.9% were infected with multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), which the authors say underscores the urgent need for stronger antimicrobial stewardship strategies.

The study, led by Sun Yat-sen University researchers in China, was published in the Journal of Infection.

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Avian Flu:

Important perspective:

Scientists call new measures to control bird flu in cows ‘a drop in the bucket’

So far, FDA has tested  (only ) 297 samples of milk and milk products such as cottage cheese and sour cream from 38 states. Samples that tested positive for the virus with PCR were then injected into embryonated chicken eggs to see whether any virus could be grown from it. (None did)

Scientists say much more could be done. “At milk processing plants, every incoming tanker load of milk is checked for adulterants, including antibiotics, and quality and safety standards,” says veterinarian Kay Russo, who played a key role in the first detection of H5N1 at dairy farms. Testing for H5N1 as well could reveal “the pervasiveness of this virus almost overnight.”

Of all actions we should take to limit spread of H5N1 to prevent it from becoming a human transmitted virus / pandemic… Surveillance should be top priority. There is NO reason every single shipment of milk isnt being tested. Testing is easy and cheap. @michaelmina_lab


Virus can persist on milking equipment surfaces

The H5N1 avian influenza virus infecting dairy cows can persist and remain infectious in unpasteurized milk on milking equipment surfaces for a long period, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Emory University reported yesterday in a preprint study.

In experiments designed to help flesh out the risk to dairy workers, they examined the persistence of H5N1 in unpasteurized milk on surfaces found in milking equipment, including the inflation rubber liners and stainless steel, which make up the "claws" in milking machines that attach to udders.

The group noted steps involved in attaching the milking machine to the udders can spread contaminated milk to the workers at several points, including when the milk is stripped by hand—producing spatters and aerosols — before the machine is attached. Release of the machine at the end of milking can spray workers, and surrounding equipment can also release aerosols.

"Milking often takes place at human eye level, with the human workspace physically lower than the cows, which increases the potential for contact of infectious milk with mucus membranes. Currently, no eye or respiratory protection is required for dairy farm workers," they wrote.

Threat to workers, clues for cow-to-cow spread

They found that H5N1 remained infectious in unpasteurized milk on rubber liners and stainless steel for more than an hour.

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H5N1 avian flu case in Australia, involving a child who contracted the virus in India

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Store-bought milk could be another way to track the bird flu outbreak in cows

Scientists from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center have managed to generate a full genetic sequence of H5N1 virus from milk, a development they suggest means commercially purchased milk products could be used to monitor the progress of the bird flu outbreak in dairy cattle and to check for important changes in the virus over time.

With dairy farmers still reluctant to allow testing of their cattle, scientists trying to assess whether the outbreak is increasing or waning are in the dark. Likewise, their surveillance for important changes in the viruses — changes that would signal the virus is evolving to be better able to infect mammals — has been hampered by the limited data being shared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Analyzing store-bought milk could provide a work-around, the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson researchers suggested, similar to the efforts underway to analyze wastewater from around the country to check for presence of influenza A viruses. (H5N1 is a member of that large family of flu viruses.)

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No known dairy or poultry links in South Dakota cats

A few H5N1 detections in cats were reported earlier in the US dairy farm outbreaks, and some of the animals were known to have consumed raw milk from infected cows. However, officials have now reported two infections in domestic cats without links to poultry or dairy cow outbreak farms.

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“One study produced during the current outbreak, …showed the cells in cows' mammary glands can be infected by both avian and human influenza viruses, perhaps giving it opportunities to further adapt in ways that could one day facilitate human-to-human transmission.”

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In a May 10 response update, the CDC said more than 260 people have so far been monitored for H5N1 symptoms following exposure to infected or potentially infected animals. Of at least 33 who had flulike symptoms,

(now 2 cases w conjunctivitis)

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In a new JAMA Dermatology report, researchers describe 11 Trichophyton indotinea infections in New York City from May 2022 to May 2023. The fungus represents a new emerging public health threat that causes extensive tinea infections often unresponsive to terbinafine, a first-line oral antifungal.


still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

Study: repeated vaccination with original COVID vaccines followed by Omicron vaccines created a breadth of antibodies against SARS2 AND elicited cross-reactive antibodies to SARS1 and pangolin coronavirus (but not MERS).

Suggests regular re-vaccination with updated COVID-19 vaccines might give people the tools to fight off not only the SARS-CoV-2 variants represented in the vaccines, but also other SARS-CoV-2 variants and related coronaviruses, possibly including ones that have not yet emerged /2

“We do not know for certain whether getting an updated COVID-19 vaccine every year would protect people against emerging coronaviruses, but it’s plausible.” 3/

“These data suggest that if these cross-reactive antibodies do not rapidly wane — we would need to follow their levels over time to know for certain — they may confer some or even substantial protection against a pandemic caused by a related coronavirus.” 4/



Epidemiology/Infection control:

A systematic review of airplane flights and Covid infections: duration of flight correlated with infection risk, long flights> 6 hours markedly increased risk (25X) and mask use blocked them

Tips, general reading for public:






CDC study on their own superspreader event last yr: "Based on a survey of about 1,800 attendees (at CDC' Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference) with an 80% response rate, 27% either tested positive for COVID or reported COVID-like symptoms." Masks were not required.

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I found what CDC is now releasing for COVID data. It's pretty bleak. The data comes from 98 counties in 13 states. They even made a surprising admission.
Even someone with zero statistics training would realize that this is not a representative sample by any means and does not characterize meaningful trends, except perhaps in MD (24 counties).
More info is available on the page describing their methodology. It looks to me that they are really just gathering clinical data and not bothering with population impacts.
If you think having COVID hospitalization data is beneficial, it might be worth writing to your representative to pressure the CDC...
or maybe your governor to at least get your state public health department to collect it again and make it available.
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HICPAC - a glimmer of good news. National Nurses United lead industrial hygienist Jane Thomason has been invited to join the @CDCgov HICPAC workgroup!
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More farms w/ more infected cows. Each time increases risk level for viral mutations, adaptation, & spread to humans. Each time increases risk to food supply/commerce. Lack of transparency around risk & food safety is very concerning. Lack of rapid genomic data & serology studies inexcusable. -- Rick Bright
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Rachel Maddow on what Republicans are doing to Fani Willis, "This is Republicans using their political power to try to shut off the legal system, to try to shut off the rule of law here so it cannot be used against their guy, against Trump."

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Just a reminder that Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed cuts of $2 trillion from Medicare, $3 trillion from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and $750 billion from Social Security. No, those are not typos. Vote!

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A Newly unsealed opinion by federal judge Beryl Howell has revealed that lawyers found 4 classified docs in Trump’s bedroom 4 months after Mar-a-Lago search

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The Appeal to Heaven flag isn't just tied to Jan 6. It's a Christian nationalist symbol. Christian nationalists believe that the law of the land is not the Constitution, but instead the law of God as they interpret it. Do you see the problem with Alito flying this flag?
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Internet access;
... one in six US households may lose internet access by June when current federal funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) ends. This puts millions of underserved people in the US, including people of color, older people, and people with disabilities, at risk of losing their ability to teleworkreceive telemedicine, attend online classes, and maintain social connections, among other daily essential activities.​ ...
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50 billionaire families have spent $600 million+ on the 2024 elections, which is .06% of their total wealth. The equivalent donation for an avg household would be ~$100. This means 50 billionaires have the political-spending capacity of 6 million American families. Oligarchy.
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"it's the summer of freedom! The following colors are now forbidden."

Only red, white, and blue lights are allowed.

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Georgia made mutual aid a crime this month by essentially outlawing community bail funds.

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Louisiana Republicans just approved a bill that would add two medication abortion pills  (mifepristone and misoprostol) to the state's list of controlled dangerous substances — making possession without a valid prescription a crime punishable by a fine, jail time or both.

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GOP tried to rush a constitutional change to crack down on future ballot initiatives. Anticipated an abortion rights measure this fall. But Democrats triggered the longest filibuster in state history to sink it in final days of session.

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Missouri AG Andrew Bailey is using unredacted medical records to identify transgender minors’ therapists. The Division of Professional Registration has been interviewing therapists and social workers about their letters of support since.

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Texas Gov Abbot pardoned a white man & convicted murderer for killing a BLM protestor Meanwhile Texas sentenced a Black man to 70 years in prison for spitting on police to “make an example out of him.” Systemic white supremacy is thriving in the GOP. -- @QasimRashid
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Ingrid Skop, a well-known anti-abortion activist who testifies in favor of bans and says women don't need abortions to save their lives, has been appointed to Texas' maternal mortality committee.
She argues that women with life-threatening pregnancies should be forced into vaginal labor or C-SECTIONS instead of abortions
Skop has also said that women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies because “it's heartbreaking, but it's beautiful too.” She said, “Life doesn’t always give us what we want."
Skop also works for the Charlotte Lozier Institute—a anti-abortion 'research' organization that regularly puts out fake studies. In fact, remember the anti-abortion studies that were used in the SCOTUS case against mifepristone & were retracted by their publisher? That's them!
There's a reason Republicans want Skop on the maternal mortality committee. She wants reports to include "abortion-related" deaths from "suicide, substance abuse, risk-taking, and other self-destructive behaviors"
In other words, if someone dies by suicide and Skop finds out that they had an abortion a few years earlier—that's an 'abortion-related death'
Youngkin just VETOED the Right to BIRTH CONTROL Act. But he did so in a sneaky way: He did so on a Friday night to sneak it by the press.
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Russian authorities have made a unilateral decision to change the sea borders of Russia with Lithuania and Finland in the Baltic Sea. This follows from the draft government resolution published on the portal of legal acts of the Russian Federation. According to the document drafted by the Russian defense ministry, Russia intends to declare part of the water area in the east of the Gulf of Finland, as well as near the cities of Baltiysk and Zelenogradsk in the Kaliningrad region as its internal sea waters. To do that, geographic coordinates of the points that determine the position of the baselines from which the width of the territorial sea of ​​the Russian Federation is measured, as well as the adjacent zone off the coast and islands will be changed.

Feel good du jour:

Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


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