Friday 29 September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 29th September 2023

World COVID Statistics: 695,939,792 reported cases and 6,921,077 losses of life.

Get your flu and COVID jabs UK NHS

Hospital admissions with COVID in England increased by 10% in the week ending 22nd September. Biggest increases are in the NW (+33%) and NE&Yorks (+29%).

290923 CMI hospital admissions England

The UK is still losing more people each week than anticipated, but it isn't at the lofty heights (and extra 8-10%) that it was last year. 
The Continuous Mortality investigation (CMI) weekly Mortality Monitor (week ending 15th September) for England and Wales shows rates were 4% higher than the equivalent week in 2019, based on death registrations data.
"CMI calculates 204,200 excess deaths in the UK since the start of the pandemic. That total has increased by 32,600 in 2023.
Cumulative mortality rates YTD (year to date) are 5.4% of a full year’s mortality worse than 2019."
Better news for this year (but worse for last year), the CMI note that there are far more late registrations than usual, so many of December 2022's registrations were actually added in with January 2023's figures.

I'd love to tell you what variants are doing in the UK - but the latest stats HAVE NOT YET been published... so that exciting news will have to wait... 
The news from last week was that:
As of 18 September 2023, there are 48 BA.2.86 sequenced cases in England.
"Based on pseudovirus and live virus data from multiple UK and international centres, BA.2.86 is distant antigenically from previous Omicron viruses and is likely to have similar antibody escape to XBB.1.5 in the UK population context (moderate confidence)."
So, early data suggests BA.2.86 (Pirola) is no more able to bypass our current vaccines or immunity than previous variants.
"Based on data from 2 laboratories, BA.2.86 appears to have slightly higher human ACE2 binding affinity than those XBB variants tested (low confidence). ACE2 binding affinity may be a factor in transmissibility."
Early signs are that it may be slightly more able to latch onto our bodies, so it might be more catchy. 
We still have nothing much to go on, and very little idea of how many cases are out there - or how fast it is spreading. It's likely to be 'lots' and 'quite swiftly', but hospital figures (although rising) are not going through the roof. 

290923 CMI cumulative excess deaths 2023
Over 1 million appointments have now been cancelled in England alone because of NHS strikes.
This won't help clear the backlog of over 7 million people waiting for treatment, but it does make a clear point about expecting people to work their backsides off while putting their health at risk during a pandemic, and then not bothering to adequately thank them for their service.
Booking cover for missing staff can often cost 3 times as much as regular wages, and is often done through private agencies. That isn't just for strikes - it also applies when there simply aren't enough staff or to cover absences. Some people might think it would be easier to just give sensible annual wage increases and keep your experienced fully trained employees happy instead, and return to the 'bank' system where staff could be offered the chance to cover shifts without paying an agency premium, but where's the profit to be had from that? 

290923 CMI cumulative mortality late registrations

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has been counting for us - and discovered that in England from January 2022 to February 2023, a whopping 399,908 people (not final figures) waited 24 hours or longer in A&E (emergency department).
The lead on the report is quoted by PA News as saying "we just don’t have enough beds in hospitals".

290923 CMI cumulative mortality 2023

The UK Government are apparently dithering over whether or not to extend the COVID vaccination scheme to anyone over 50, in order to try and protect NHS capacity over Winter.
A very clever maths guy from Oxford, Devan Sinha, has done the maths for us, and it's really not going to protect the NHS. A huge number of the more vulnerable people over 50 will already be fully boosted anyway, so even if every over 50 was re-boosted and all caught COVID once each, you are only going to prevent:
Less than 250 hospitalisations.
Less than 20 severe hospitalisations.
Less than 20 deaths.
Worth it for each of those 20 people (and all of the long term effects for the other people who catch it), but unlikely to save the NHS, or be financially cheaper in the short term.

290923 COVID Actuaries Bed Use England

A COVID and "short term sickness" outbreak amongst Air Traffic Controllers at Gatwick Airport has seen around 50 flights cancelled this week. This hasn't pleased Ryanair, who have been heavily affected and are asking for the boss to be sacked over his inability to provide adequate sickness cover...

...And children in school years 8,9 and 10 at Uppingham Community College in Rutland have been working from home this week, after 17 of their teachers tested positive.
Thank goodness COVID is all over, eh... 

UK NHS Womb Cancer symptoms to get checked by your GP

A UK study released in The Lancet late last week has made the news - it's been reported that 'Long COVID can cause multiple organ damage'. Well done for noticing. It's actually not so much 'Long COVID' causing this, it's simply COVID.
Around 1 in 10 people who have symptoms will go on to have noticeable long term effects.
The Chinese were already pointing this out back in Spring 2020, but mostly we chose not to pay attention. It was a bit grim, we could hardly be blamed, but it's beginning to reach the point where no-one can ignore it now.
The study discovered around 1 in 3 patients with Long COVID show multiple organ damage 5 months after their infection. If you were hospitalised when you caught COVID, then the chance of multiple organ damage is 3 times greater than your average Long COVID sufferer.
Basically - the more poorly you were, the more likely COVID has left you damaged, and partly because we can't just rest up a heart, brain, kidneys or lungs, it will take a very long time to repair - and may never be as good as it was beforehand. You aren't making it up, and you are very much not alone. 

Staying with Long COVID, and there is some really great new research from Mount Sinai Hospital and Yale School of Medicine. 
They want to find out the differences between people who seem to make a full recovery after infection, and those who don't. 
They had 3 really important findings:
1. Many of the Long COVID patients had low levels of cortisol. Our levels vary throught a 24 hour day - being lowest at night, when we are asleep. Low levels can mean we feel incredibly tired, all of the time.
2. The immune system of many Long COVID sufferers shows signs it's been fighting for a long time. Previous studies have discovered virus months later, hidden within the body, and keeping the patient's immune system working hard to try and defend.
3. In some Long COVID patients latent viruses (such as Epstein Barr) appear able to reactivate because the immune system is already busy and exhausted, and simply doesn't have the capacity to cope.
Although none of this offers a magic fix, it all adds up and offers us more starting points for diagnosis and treatment.

measles is common abroad get vaccinated

Measles vaccination rates have been falling since 2014, and in some areas it's really beginning to look worrying. Across England less than 80% of 5 year olds have had both doses. This drops to under 75% in London, and Hackney is faring worst of all, with less than 60% of children receiving both MMR doses.
If you're unsure, speak to your medical professional, or someone elderly, who can tell you just how much fun Measles really was.
According to US CDC figures for unvaccinated people who catch Measles:
1 in 5 is hospitalised
1 in 20 children develop pneumonia
1 in 1,000 children develop encephalitis (brain swelling)
1-3 in 1,000 children will die
7-11 in 100,000 will later develop SSPE - a deadly brain disorder  
Back in a previous lifetime, when I used to hang out at Derby Deaf Club with my deaf mates, Measles was the most commonly given response to "why are you deaf?". It is particularly dangerous during pregnancy and the first 2 years. 

Syphilis in the UK is at it's highest levels since 1948.
Syphilis is pretty nasty and can take years to really make its effects known. Left untreated it can cause irreversible long-term health effects (such as death, or brain damage).
Age will not protect you, but barrier methods such as condoms can. Be sensible with new sexual partners, and if you are an unrestrained type of person, get tested regularly (in many areas you can even get NHS home testing kits), because it is easily treated with antibiotics. 

UK NHS STI testing information

A joint research team including the Francis Crick Institute, Imperial College, Cambridge, Cape Town and Liverpool Universities, and the UK HSA have been studying Molnupiravir - the anti-viral which is given to around 30% of hospitalised COVID patients in the UK.
We have discussed before that mutations occur most often within people who take a long time to beat COVID, and while anti-virals help a lot of people survive, it can take a long time for them to recover fully.
The team discovered that patients given Molnupiravir can develop some really exciting/worrying mutations, and this has to be taken into consideration whenever such treatments are used.

We have a warning that overall people are becoming quite lackadaisical about using the rapid COVID tests. Remember the first time you did one? Be as careful today as you were then.
There are also some folk suggesting that they are being careful, but the lateral flow tests are not as effective with newer variants as they were originally. No proof on that either way right now, but if 3 of you are equally ill and 1 tests positive, it rings obvious warning bells.
Use common sense. Just because you test negative doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID - and if you are ill, whatever it is, be respectful of people you interact with.

Now that COVID is all over, the UK Commission on COVID Commemoration’s final report on how the pandemic should be remembered has been published. 
They have 10 recommendations, including preserving existing memorials (such as the National COVID Memorial Wall in central London), holding a national day of reflection every year, and identifying green spaces across the UK to serve as COVID memorial spaces (with specific funding for local authorities). 
They suggest a national symbol be created to represent the pandemic, and a COVID commemoration website be set up to promote the proposed day of reflection and provide details of local memorials.
Schools and colleges should teach future generations about the pandemic, highlighting people’s experiences, the role of science and the importance of a resilient society.
They also suggest development of a postdoctoral fellowship to enable researchers to support preparedness for risks posed by natural hazards.

In other news:
Will Rishi Sunak delaying the electric car and gas boiler changes affect you? Mostly only if you are a landlord who was going to be compelled to upgrade their properties, a renter who won't get cheaper fuel yet, a car manufacturer or their suppliers, or were about to buy a brand new electric car because you felt obliged to. 
Will removing inheritance tax affect you?
Mostly only if the estate was worth over £1m, and you were too poor or normal to have accountants to advise you before the person died (personal allowance is £325k, you can take your spouses if you outlive them, and property exemption is £175k - be like the billionaires and sort it out before your time expires).
Only 3.76% of estates in the UK pay inheritance tax (less than 1 in every 25).

Get your eye test every 2 years VisionMatter

Last week was National Eye Health Week, and here's their puntastic reminder for us all:
"Don’t lose sight of what matters. 4.7Million NHS sight tests have been lost since the pandemic started. Half of sight loss is avoidable so if you haven’t had an eye test in the last 2 years Eye Week is the perfect time to get back into the habit & book one, because vision matters."

It is the weekend again, I hope you did something fun last weekend, and you have something nice planned for yourself for this weekend (or whenever your weekend is). We all need a lift at times, and doing something to treat yourself is never time badly spent. Care for your mind and soul as well as your physical self. 

Eat Veg, Drink Water, Save The NHS.

Some people. They look like numbers here, but they are all people.

Countries: Officially Reported COVID Cases / Losses of life:
World: 695,939,792 / 6,921,077
USA: 108,706,444 / 1,176,771
Brazil: 37,796,956 / 705,775
India: 44,998,701 / 531,930
Russia: 23,029,404 / 400,047
Mexico: 7,649,199 / 334,472
UK: 24,704,113 / 229,089
Peru: 4,519,976 / 222,161
Italy: 26,043,870 / 191,586
Germany: 38,491,696 / 176,058
France: 40,138,560 / 167,642
Indonesia: 6,813,429 / 161,918
Iran: 7,616,791 / 146,386
Colombia: 6,378,000 / 142,961
Argentina: 10,070,247 / 130,608
Spain: 13,914,811 / 121,760

Womb cancer month image UK NHS
Bed occupancy

Hospital stats
Winter prep cunk
Deaths stats CMI


NHS backlog/cancelled appts
A&E waits
Staffing costs

Covid vaccination

Air traffic controllers cancelled flights
Rutland school





Covid tests 

UK Commission on COVID Commemoration:

.Will Rishi Sunak delaying electric car and gas boiler switch affect me?
Inheritance tax:

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