Coronavirus Tidbits #223 12/11/22
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.
Which Respiratory Virus Do I Have?
— There's a range of possibilities, and it's not easy to tell them apart
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Nanobody treatment shows promise against SARS-CoV-2 infection
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41.6 percent of adults have serology indicative of past COVID-19 infection
More than 40 percent of U.S. adults have serology indicative of past COVID-19 infection, of whom 43.7 percent report never having had COVID-19,
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Paxlovid Has Been Free So Far. Next Year, Sticker Shock Awaits.
Currently $530 each, a discount for buying in bulk. Pfizer's Covid shots will quadruple in price, from the discount rate the government pays of $30 to about $120.
Federal law restricts Medicare Part D — the prescription drug program that covers nearly 50 million seniors — from covering the covid treatment pills.
[Why would this be? Makes no sense to not cover the elderly, the people most at risk, unless you want to knock them off]
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COVID-19 vaccines halve the risk of reinfection, study finds
Among those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, vaccinated people have a halved risk of becoming infected a second time or contracting COVID-19 again with severe symptoms compared to those who are not vaccinated.
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New receptor 'decoy' drug neutralizes COVID-19 virus and its variants
Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have developed a drug that potently neutralizes SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 coronavirus, and is equally effective against the Omicron variant and every other tested variant. The drug is designed in such a way that natural selection to maintain infectiousness of the virus should also maintain the drug's activity against future variants. [It is not an antibody, but an ACE2 receptor decoy.]
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China eases strict COVID measures as global cases hold steady
China's National Health Commission (NHC) today announced the lifting of many of its signature "zero COVID" measures, which comes in the wake of widespread protests and ongoing outbreaks in several cities.
In other global developments, the World Health Organization (WHO) in its regular weekly update said activity remained stable last week, with levels on the rise in just one world region: the Americas.
Some of the changes announced today include allowing people with mild or asymptomatic infections to isolate at home, rather than in state facilities, and no longer requiring people to show proof of a negative test for entry into public places, according to the BBC.
Other steps include allowing rapid tests to replace polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in most instances, limiting lockdowns to narrowly targeted areas, shortening the lockdown period for outbreak areas, and allowing schools to remain open unless there are outbreaks on campus.
Authorities today also emphasized the need to vaccinate older people.
In the US, one of the hot spots is Los Angeles County, where cases have doubled since Thanksgiving, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hospitalizations are rising but haven't reached a level that would trigger an indoor mask mandate.
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11% of COVID-19 survivors have residual lung damage, study finds
A new study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reveals about an 11% incidence of residual lung damage—known as interstitial lung disease—after COVID-19 hospitalization. Interstitial lung disease is a broad category of lung damage and disease defined by fibrotic scarring. The damage is often irreversible.
"For some people these fibrotic patterns may be stable or resolve, while for others they may lead to longer term lung fibrosis progression, worse quality of life and decreased life expectancy. Earlier detection of progression is essential to improving outcomes," said study lead author Iain Stewart, PhD, of Imperial College London in a press release.
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Models predict massive wave of disease and death if China lifts ‘zero COVID’ policy
Country’s severe approach to pandemic is inflaming the populace, but lifting it carries huge risks
Science BYDENNIS NORMILE 6 DEC 2022
Surprised and stung by protests against draconian “zero-COVID” policies, Chinese authorities are gingerly moving to ease the burden of lockdowns, quarantines, and constant testing. But 3 years into the pandemic, China shows no sign of planning a major course change. Mathematical models suggest why: The country is still ill-prepared for living with SARS-CoV-2. Easing restrictions today would likely trigger a massive wave of infections, overwhelm health care facilities, and bring a high death toll.
“China has not achieved high vaccination rates, has not used the best type of vaccines, and it has been very slow in communicating [to the public] the eventual need to transition from elimination to suppression and mitigation,” says public health scientist Nick Wilson of the University of Otago, Wellington, in New Zealand. Other countries that initially followed the zero-COVID strategy, including New Zealand, used it to buy time to ramp up vaccination rates, stockpile antivirals, and boost intensive care capacity.
The fierce protests have triggered some changes. Several provinces have started to allow people to enter public transportation, restaurants, and shopping centers without proof of a negative COVID-19 test, for example, and some close contacts of patients will be allowed to isolate at home instead of being sent to quarantine centers. Those measures are “a small but important step, and I believe more steps will follow,” says a Chinese scientist who asked to remain anonymous. “This will alleviate some of the pandemic fatigue and reduce the burden on the economy and society.”
But models show why the Chinese government still wants to keep a lid on. A study based on vaccination rates in March, published in Nature Medicine in May, found that lifting zero-COVID restrictions at that point could “generate a tsunami of
COVID-19 cases” over a 6-month period, with 112 million symptomatic cases, 2.7 million intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and 1.6 million deaths. Peak demand for ICU beds would hit 1 million, more than 15 times the current capacity.
The unvaccinated would account for 77% of the fatalities, according to the authors, primarily at Fudan University. Boosting vaccination rates could slash the toll, but China’s elderly population has remained wary of vaccination. Even today, only 66% of those ages 80 and older have received two doses—versus 90% of the population as a whole—and just 40% have taken boosters.
Hong Kong provides a cautionary tale: A big Omicron outbreak early this year caused nearly 6000 deaths, 96% of them in people 60 or older. At the time, Hong Kong’s vaccination rates were even lower than the mainland’s. In the first 3 months of this year, the city had a COVID-19 death rate of 37.7 per million population, among the highest anywhere.
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Severe COVID could cause markers of old age in the brain
Key genes that are active in the brains of older people are also active in the brains of people who developed serious COVID-19.
Nature Heidi Ledford 05 December 2022
Severe COVID-19 is linked to changes in the brain that mirror those seen in old age, according to an analysis of dozens of post-mortem brain samples1.
The analysis revealed brain changes in gene activity that were more extensive in people who had severe SARS-CoV-2 infections than in uninfected people who had been in an intensive care unit (ICU) or had been put on ventilators to assist their breathing — treatments used in many people with serious COVID-19.
The study, published on 5 December in Nature Aging, joins a bevy of publications cataloguing the effects of COVID-19 on the brain. “It opens a plethora of questions that are important, not only for understanding the disease, but to prepare society for what the consequences of the pandemic might be,” says neuropathologist Marianna Bugiani at Amsterdam University Medical Centers. “And these consequences might not be clear for years.”
COVID vaccine hesitancy linked to 'nocebo' side effects
Vaccine hesitancy about COVID-19 vaccines is a positive predictor of negative side effects with vaccination—an example of the "nocebo" effect—according to a study today in Scientific Reports.
Nocebo, a play on placebo, is a phenomenon in which people experience negative effects on health when they have negative views or expectations surrounding medical interventions.
The study was based on surveys of a representative sample of 756 older Israeli adults (mean age, 69 years) who were questioned following a second Pfizer vaccine dose and after their booster at least 6 months later. Older adults were selected for the study because they have the highest vaccine uptake because they are most likely to suffer complications from COVID-19 infections, the authors said.
The authors found that hesitancy about the second Pfizer dose resulted in nocebo side effects for 16% of study participants. There were sex differences seen among those who reported side effects, with women reporting increasing side effects after both the second vaccine injection and the booster dose.
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Infections 10 times higher in unvaccinated than those receiving Jynneos
In the first study, researcher show mpox cases were 9.6 times higher among unvaccinated men compared to those who had received two vaccine doses, and 7.4 times higher than in those who had received only the first dose.
Of note, the researchers said the evidence indicates there was no difference in protection between subcutaneous and intradermal injections, which were introduced this past summer as a way to stretch vaccine supply.
In the second study, safety monitoring of the Jynneos vaccine was gathered after 1 million doses in the United States, administered from May 22 to Oct 21. Only 14 reports were classified as serious.
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Uganda receives first Ebola vaccine trial doses
the doses arrived just 79 days after the outbreak was declared and that the clinical trial will be conducted by a team from the University of Makerere, with support from the health ministry and the WHO. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines or treatments for the Sudan Ebola strain.
The doses are from the Sabin Vaccine Institute (SVI), according to Reuters. The SVI vaccine is a modified chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAd3) vector vaccine. Health officials had earlier cleared plans to study three candidate Ebola Sudan vaccines. The others are from Merck and Oxford University.
In the middle of November, a WHO working group recommended that ring vaccine trials prioritize the Merck candidate first, owing to the safety and efficacy of the VSV-EBOV platform used for the Zaire Ebola vaccine, followed by the SVI vaccine, then the Oxford vaccine.
A sharp decline in Uganda's Ebola cases presents an obstacle to ring vaccination trials.
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New virus discovered in Swiss ticks
The Alongshan virus was discovered in China only five years ago. Now researchers have found the novel virus for the first time in Swiss ticks. It appears to be at least as widespread as the tickborne encephalitis virus and causes similar symptoms. The team is working on a diagnostic test to assess the epidemiological situation.
still an incredible, negligent last of testing.
Drugs and Vaccines:
FDA OKs updated COVID booster for kids as young as 6 months
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it has authorized emergency use of both updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine boosters in children as young as 6 months old—with a caveat excluding those who have already received three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The step comes ahead of a potential rise in COVID activity surrounding the holidays and amid large spikes in other respiratory viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still needs to sign off on the recommendation before the youngest kids can receive the new bivalent (two-strain) boosters.
I've been using an Aranet 4, which is good but pricey.
On my trip this week (first flight) with United, CO2 levels were horrid.
Outdoor air is ~415. It steadily rose on the ramp and boarding to a high of 2895. Common rec is to leave a room if CO2 level goes > 800-1000. Normally, after boarding/in mid-flight, I've been told the air quality is pretty good. On our flight it plateaued at 1600-1700. We never removed our masks even for a sip of water.
A thread from Dr. Jeff Gilchrist, a biomed researcher:
said masks are unnecessary. Unforgivable lies from people I had respect for. #COVIDisAirborne
Thermostats and Fans:
Tips, general reading for public:
Dearborn man charged for ‘anti-semitic’ rant outside synagogue Temple Beth El
A police officer originally let the man go and even fist-bumped him
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"We would be in trouble without the United States."— DW News (@dwnews) December 3, 2022
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin says Russia's war in Ukraine shows that the European Union isn't strong enough. pic.twitter.com/KIkwT9HVEO
Feel good du jour:
I don’t know who needs to hear this but Neil Diamond, who retired from performing five years ago because of Parkinsons, just had a Broadway show of him open and it at the opening night he did this pic.twitter.com/eJ02YUAzr5— Ben Phillips (@benphillips76) December 6, 2022
Wrapping up intro biology lab research presentations in style. Hand knitted and designed- every major phyla covered in the class ... and a few prokaryotes and viruses because the microbiologist in my department insisted 😊 I'm sure @markowenmartin would approve of the decision pic.twitter.com/kRQWP0YQh3— Tierney Brosius, PhD (@TBrosuis) December 6, 2022
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Healthcare's Unspoken Sick-Day Rules Unchanged by the Pandemic
Bits of beauty: