Friday 15 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 15th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,289,957 reported cases and 6,915,596 losses of life.

Massively mutated COVID variant (current estimate is 33 mutations) BA.2.86 Pirola is agitating a lot of people and causing an upset to our calmly steady COVID stats. It is visibly worrying health officials in the UK, US, Canada, Europe and beyond - although we still see no signs it is more dangerous or deadly, just more easily caught and very quick.

150923 weekly England hospital admissions by age UK HSA

The latest UK Technical Briefing on Variants:
"As of 11 September 2023, there are 37 BA.2.86 sequenced cases in England, an increase of 3 cases in the last week. Cases were in East of England, London, North East and North West England. Of 37 total cases in England, 7 were hospitalised (1 has unknown hospitalisation status), and no deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported."
Most sequenced cases in England are people who are tested because they're in hospital already, so the hospitalisation rate can't be estimated from this data. It includes 28 cases from an outbreak in a care home where most of the elderly residents and some staff were infected.
"As of 11 September 2023, 5 BA.2.86 cases have been reported by Public Health Scotland. There are no cases reported by Wales or Northern Ireland."
The wider world view on variants depends on testing and what is uploaded to GISAID tracking.
"As of 12 September 2023, there are 99 sequences from human cases identified as BA.2.86 available in GISAID from 14 countries. The earliest collection date is 24 July 2023, and the most recent collection date is 30 August 2023. Of the 99 sequences, 36 are from the UK. The remaining UK sequence data will be uploaded to GISAID in due course [+6 or more to be added]. There are also multiple reports of BA.2.86 detected in wastewater in other countries though limited sequence data is available." 

The UK's outbreak of Pirola in a care home has had a massive impact on stats, because we hardly test anyone except hospital patients nowadays. It's certainly not a good sign that so many of the residents became infected, but these people all live closely together all of the time, and we don't know what air filtration or opening windows or playing outdoors policies this home has.
One outbreak just doesn't tell us much - we're back to the old phrase 'we don't know for sure yet'. 

Share your own experiences in the UK Gov women's healthcare survey 2023

With relief Moderna and Pfizer have said their new targeted COVID vaccines ARE effective against BA.2.86 Pirola. 
Moderna were first to announce the good news. 
In clinical trials, Moderna found human subjects had an 8.7-fold increase in effective antibodies against BA.2.86. 
All of the main vaccine manufacturers had specifically designed their new Autumn boosters to target Omicron XXB.1.5 - which was dominant variant for most of last year, but has unexpectedly and suddenly become 'last year's news'. Both Moderna and Pfizer have already tested these updated vaccines against the USA's current surprise leading variant, EG.5, and found they are effective against that too.
Obviously we have yet to find out how all of this will play out in real life, but it's looking good in the lab. 

And following on from that, the UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Association) and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have approved both Moderna's (Spikevax) and Pfizer/BioNTech’s (Comirnaty) adapted COVID-19 vaccines, which were both designed especially to target the XBB.1.5 variants.
The UK currently has approval for 9 different COVID vaccines (I believe). It doesn't mean that we will be buying them, but it gives us choice in case of shortages or allergies (or if they ever actually look at prices, maybe they might decide to go for a less expensive  but still equally effective option). 

150923 England hospital admissions indieSAGE

"Our fortnightly COVID19 surveillance report shows that hospital admission rates have increased in all age groups except 15- to 24-year-olds. The highest admission rates continue to be seen in the over 75s."
UK HSA commenting on English figures.
It's up, but no big leaps and we are still at relatively low levels after the dip - back up to where we were around the end of April.
Scotland had a bit of a rise over the past 3 weeks, which may have levelled off a bit hopefully this week, although wastewater monitoring detects more COVID than since this time last year. Scottish schools went back 3 weeks ago, and very often what happens after Summer in Scotland gives us a good indicator of what will happen next UK-wide, so it's not the most promising of signs. Give it a couple of weeks to see what happens in England, and fingers crossed it doesn't keep rising at this rate ... 

COVID hospitalisations are also steadily rising in the USA, with 18,871 people admitted in the week ending September 9th, compared to 6,464 week ending July 8th. Nothing like the lofty heights of big waves yet, but the highest it's been since March. 

The UK's attempt to reduce waiting lists for hospital treatment isn't going too well. COVID backlog and the effects of strike action have added to the severe shortages of staff, and the hospital waiting list has risen again this month to a record high of 7.6m people. 
389,952 people have been waiting for over a year - which costs a fortune in temporary treatments and medicines, and GP and A&E visits, and all too often destroys quality of life for those involved. 

150923 Excess Deaths UK

The UK HSA has said they will be bringing back some form of COVID monitoring before Winter. They have realised we're actually excellent at this when we bother (plus we can sell data to all kinds of other countries), and we'd taken our eyes off the ball. The ONS random survey stopped in March, which was always a pretty stupid move, as it gave us valuable insight and alerted us to unusual patterns very swiftly.
The SIREN study of 45,000 healthcare professionals will also be expanded to include COVID antibody testing (as well as flu and RSV), in order to check efficacy of current vaccines (healthcare workers are eligible for all boosters). 
COVID testing won't return in large number, or be increased to cover more of us. Rapid COVID tests are widely available to buy, and the price has come down to under £2 each, and as low as 50p each if you shop around.

Researchers at the Japanese Intelligence & Technology Lab have successfully vaccinated primates using an oral vaccine administered under the tongue. It works by creating an immune response in the mucous passages - the nose and airways - where COVID enters the body.
This is early days, and the sample size was small - 2 out of 3 monkeys given a high dose, and 1 out of 3 given a low dose developed robust antibodies.
Early nasal spray COVID vaccines have had problems because some recipients have headaches and/or fevers, the under-the tongue vaccine avoids those side effects, and doesn't cause inflammation in the nasal passages.
Positive results mean more trials will follow, so fingers crossed. 

There is also news about a US-led nasal vaccine, which does seem to work successfully AND safely. The vaccine is being developed by Dartmouth Health, the NIH (National Institute for Health) and Belgian producer Exothera, and clinical human trials are planned in the US and Africa. If it proves successful on a larger scale then it will be an excellent thing, as it doesn't need to be administered by a medical professional, doesn't need refrigeration and should be comparatively very cheap. 

Scotland Wastewater Surveillance for COVID chart

Dr Jonathan Fluxman, the COVID Lead for Doctors in Unite (the union) and witness at the UK COVID Inquiry, has complained to OFCOM about a story on the BBC in April. During a live interview virologist Dr Chris Smith said: “The risk and the threat posed by Coronavirus infection now in a highly vaccinated population is lower than the risk from something like the flu.”
Dr Fluxman points out that this completely ignores that fact that while some people who survive flu are left damaged, 1 in 10 who survive COVID are left injured, and transmission is so great that we might expect to catch it on average 2 to 3 times a year. You may have more chance of surviving COVID than flu, but very thankfully we do not catch flu 2 or 3 times each year (actual flu - not sniffles or head colds or other general bugs which people sometimes refer to as flu). 

Famous People With COVID:
Jill Biden, wife of Joe, the President of the United States of America. 

Rickets is in the news. This is due to lack of vitamin D. Cases are particularly high in Scotland, but it is occurring more frequently everywhere across the UK (notably in places like Liverpool and Manchester). A study using UK Biobank data found that 1 in 5 people are short on Vitamin D. Doesn't really take a genius to work this one out.
The darker your skin tone, the harder it is to create enough vitamin D from sunshine, and the UK has an increasing percentage of population who don't have translucent pinky white skin. We are all spending more time indoors because we don't walk everywhere as much, and we increasingly choose indoor entertainment. 
Make simple changes - play and relax outdoors, wear short sleeves when it's sensible and walk rather than take the car for short journeys. Vitamin D is also found naturally in eggs or oily fish, and is added to margarine and many sliced breads. If you live somewhere you rarely see sunshine for much of the year, you are more at risk, and should maybe consider a cheap and cheerful vitamin D supplement.

India is changing it's name... or is it? In fact for the last 70 years India has officially had 2 names, and Bharat is one of them. It is a politically intriguing move to label themselves as Bharat at the G20 summit last week. Overwhelmingly most of those using Bharat say it is to distance themselves from colonial past, but Bharat has truly ancient Sanskrit origins, which is pleasing to Hindus, but not so much for Muslims living there. Hopefully this is NOT a sign of rumbling arguments.

Matt Hancock, ex-MP, home video adulterer and face of the UK COVID response is on another 'strange telly competitions between fancy people who cry a lot'... give me strength. Next week, Putin Dances On Ice and Trump appears as a giant hornet on The Masked Singer (or not). 

The income for the Captain Tom Foundation has dropped dramatically since the Charities Commission began investigating what they were spending it on. Least surprising story of the fortnight really. If you still want to make any donations to his daughter's home spa pool fund, you can, or alternatively give your money directly to NHS Charities Together instead. 

1 in every 8 uni students hasn't had their meningitis jabs

My thoughts this week are with everyone affected by horrific environmental disasters, including floods, wildfires and landslides, and the tens of thousands of people killed, missing or displaced by the apocalyptic flooding and dams breaking in Libya and China, and the catastrophic earthquake in Morocco.
We have one tiny planet with 8 billion humans spread all over it, and the worst effects of nature and climate change are not shared equally among us. 

It is the weekend - hurrah! We had the busiest weekend ever last week, so I'm looking forward to a relaxing one myself. Pizza, movies, snacks and maybe even an alcoholic beverage. Do NOT forget to treat yourself to something nice, it doesn't have to be expensive or fancy, just as long as it makes you feel good. You've earnt it. 

Back in 2 weeks... Play Outdoors, Wear A Hat, Save The NHS. 

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they all have a name and their own unique face.

Country: Officially reported COVID Cases / Losses of life:
World: 695,289,957 / 6,915,596
USA: 108,415,821 / 1,175,152
India: 44,997,975 / 531,930
France: 40,138,560 / 167,642
Germany: 38,428,685 / 174,352
Brazil: 37,789,040 / 705,313
S. Korea: 34,571,873 / 35,934
Japan: 33,803,572 / 74,694
Italy: 25,977,012 / 191,370
UK: 24,688,073 / 228,924
Russia: 23,003,453 / 400,009
Turkey: 17,232,066 / 102,174
Spain: 13,914,811 / 121,760
Australia: 11,758,693 / 22,687
Vietnam: 11,623,357 / 10,640,674
Taiwan: 10,241,520 / 19,005
Argentina: 10,064,948 / 130,576

Sexual health
New UK mental health policy link and image
Meningitis Uni

Womens reproductive health image
Mpox vaxx image UK

Latest stats

Wastewater and image??? 

Technical briefing on variants end of week 11th September

Autumn booster vaccines

US surge in hospitalisations

UK waiting lists

Non injection vaccines



Capn Tom Foundation


UK covid surveillance

UK mental health suicide prevention policy
Agenda alliance

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