Friday 9 February 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 9th February 2024

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 9th February 2024

World COVID Statistics: 702,882,810 officially reported cases and 6,980,637 losses of life.

In England the unusual second peak in hospital admissions for flu over the last few weeks seems to have finally eased (although this cold snap won't be helpful in keeping it down, and we are still likely to see some increased mortality due to having a lot of very sick people already). From Stuart McDonald (COVID Actuaries):
"Today’s surveillance report from UKHSA shows hospital admissions from flu are within the medium threshold and are no longer on the rise. 
Other indicators such as primary care consultations and ICU admissions are consistent."
Thank goodness for that.

England COVID Actuaries chart Hospital admissions by area
via COVID Actuaries

In other good news, hospital admissions with COVID are down 20% on last week... ahhhh... and relax (but not too much!).

090224 Hospital beds occupied COVID by week England COVID Actuaries
Via COVID Actuaries

A couple of weeks ago it was erroneously reported by the BBC that Birmingham had a 5% Measles vaccination rate. Huge thanks to StatsStudent on Twitter for investigating this one, getting an admission of error from the UK Health Security Agency, and discovering it was accidentally based on just 19 two year old children at a single Birmingham GP Surgery. This is why you have to be careful about WHERE statistics come from. In fact Birmingham overall has a rate of MMR vaccination by age 5 at about the same as the UK average of 85% - still lower than the 95% required for herd immunity, but far FAR higher than reported. 

Measles is still running rampant. England and Wales reported 360 cases and suspected cases in the whole of 2021, 735 in 2022, and 1,603 in 2023.
In just England in January 2024 there were 240 cases which have been confirmed by a lab test - this doesn't even include suspected cases or those where the results haven't come back and been recorded yet. Most of these cases are in the West Midlands. 
If you have measles and sit in a room with 10 unvaccinated people, an average of 9 will catch it. It has transmission skills COVID can only dream of.
2 in every 10 people who catch Measles will go to hospital - it regularly makes you incredibly poorly, and you have a 1 in 1,000 chance of your brain swelling. Brains don't have a lot of room to expand inside your skull, and brain damage is never funny.
If you or your child are ill with cold symptoms and a fever, stay at home. If you don't swiftly get better, and especially if the fever gets worse and/or you develop a small red bumpy rash - get medical advice over the phone.  

UK NHS poster with rough drawn image of young woman holding up her sleeve to show a plaster following vaccination and text stating measles isn't just a disease for children

Trump of the Week:
The person on Twitter who tried to tell me that Measles (a virus we can look at and watch replicate in a petri dish with a microscope) is caused by separation anxiety (a mental health issue). They hadn't ever actually met anyone with Measles, let alone had it themselves. Because of thinking like that, a whole lot more of us will now be reminded of just how nasty a virus Measles is, and some people will die.
If you delayed or missed your MMR jabs or your children's MMR jabs, please speak to a health professional. The Measles jab is 97% effective at preventing you even catching Measles, let alone becoming ill, and the UK NHS will let you catch up with your MMR at any time.
As a reminder, Measles is most dangerous if you are under 5 or over 20, or already not in robust health.  

WHO Image of 2 young children in shadow silhouette and text stating 2 doses of measles vaccine 97% effective at preventing infection

I'm guessing Scarlet Fever is also on the rise in the UK, as I'm seeing a lot of UK NHS/Government posts mentioning it. Symptoms can include red face, swollen neck, sore throat and swollen tonsils, swollen red tongue, feeling pretty poorly with a fever, and later a red rash with tiny bumpy spots that feel like sandpaper.
Scarlet Fever can sometimes cause more serious symptoms, but is usually easily treated with antibiotics - which will also dramatically reduce the amount of time you're ill, and contagious.

Text and small illustrative drawings depicting symptoms of scarlet fever - including fever, spots,, sore throat, swollen tonsils and red swollen tongue

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) polled people on the most important issues facing the UK right now. The cost of living came first, with 87% of people concerned about that, and the NHS came a close second at 84%.
17/20 of us are very rightly worried that the NHS won't be able to look after us when we need it. According to Statista's polling (December 2022), 22% of people in the UK (more than 1in5) had already paid for private medical insurance, up from a steady 12% throughout 2019 - 2021. 

Pharmadoctor have announced private COVID booster vaccinations will be available in the UK by April 1st. Pharmadoctor are a pharmacy service provider who work with over 8,000 'partner pharmacies'. 
The vaccinations will be available to anyone aged 12+ who isn't eligible for a free NHS jab, they will be Novovax vaccine, and will cost around £45.
(My guess would be that once folk like Superdrug begin offering jabs, that price will come down by at least a tenner.)
It is very likely that other COVID vaccines (such as Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines), will also get the go ahead for private use in due course.
It's great news for people who aren't eligible for a free vaccination, but would feel a lot happier with one, but bad news in that it just increases reliance on private healthcare and suggests it's very unlikely we'll all be offered free COVID boosters on the NHS in future. 

090224 UKHSA weekly COVID stats

We've got more Long COVID news, and this week research published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that fragments of COVID virus can reassemble into something more complex, which can kick start a robust and long-lasting immune response from your body. This can affect healthy, uninfected cells, and it's not seen with your old-fashioned common cold coronaviruses. The paper has been peer-reviewed, and if you fancy some reading, the fancy name is: 'SARS-CoV-2 as a reservoir of immunomimetic peptides that reassemble into proinflammatory supramolecular complexes'. 
It's yet another piece of physical proof Long COVID exists, another way to understand why it happens, and another starting point for potential treatments. 

Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but your mouth is very much the window to your health. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia, respiratory conditions, diabetes, cancer etc etc. The list is HUGE.
The BBC have fact-checked recent claims about reductions to Government spending on dentistry. Spoiler, it's bad.
If you adjust for inflation, then ANNUAL spending on NHS Dentistry in England alone has fallen by a staggering £500 million since 2014 - and the population has grown larger by 5% in that 10 years. Go back further to 2011 and you could weep - by comparison the 2024 budget for NHS Dentistry has fallen by 25%. One quarter less. Add that up over the years and dentistry provision is several billion £££££s short.
No wonder you can't get a Dentist, and no wonder Dentists can't afford to take on NHS patients... 

090224 UK Gov Plan to fix dentistry Drawn toothpaste and tooth image with text over

Great news! The UK Government have announced their Plan For NHS Dentistry (this'll save us).
The dentistry reform plan will see £200 million spent over the next year... 
(ermm hang on a minute...just £200m? I'm not being funny, but Baroness Michelle Mone's PROFIT on a PPE contract was £60m. £200m is only 3 quid per person in the UK).
The £200m will include incentives for NHS dentists to take on new NHS patients and go to work to where they're most needed, mobile dental vans, and a 'Smile For Life' children's dental programme. 
Staggeringly tooth decay is now the no.1 reason for children aged 4-10 being admitted to hospital (English stats 2022-2023), so let's hope this announcement actually happens - and the £200m is actually effective (as opposed to just being a bit insulting to dentists who are already fed up).

English Pharmacists are now able to give walk in patients more NHS treatments without you having to see a prescribing nurse or doctor first.
For a long while you've been able to get NHS treatments from a pharmacist for things like headlice and contraception, and 7 more have been added to the list:
Acute Otitis Media (middle ear infection) - 1 to 17 years
Impetigo - 1 year and over
Infected insect bites - 1 year and over
Shingles - 18 years and over
Sinusitis - 12 years and over
Sore throat - 5 years and over
Uncomplicated urinary tract infections - Women 16-64 years
Around 90% of pharmacists will offer this service and they have to follow strict guidelines, so if they can't treat you personally, it's because you don’t fulfil all of the criteria.

Scotland already has their own Pharmacy First service, and Wales has the Common Ailments Service. Available at any dispensing chemist, you can get advice and treatment for more than 30 different minor ailments. Northern Ireland has a Pharmacy First scheme covering 13 common ailments.

England NHS Pharmacy First list of treatments available and photo of smiling pharmacist

If you are fit and healthy you can usually be a blood donor, but you may also be able to register to donate platelets. Platelets help to stop bleeding, and 69% of platelets donated go to treat people with cancer. A single platelet donation can be used to save the lives of up to 3 adults or 12 children.
You may be able to donate platelets if ALL of the following apply: 
*You have given blood or platelets before
* You are between 17 and 65 (or up to 70 if you have donated blood or platelets in the last 2 years)
* You weigh more than 50kg
* You can spare up to 2 hours to donate
* You can travel to 1 of the donor centres (there are 25 in England, I'm not certain about the rest of the UK).
Search online for platelets dot blood dot co dot uk to register your interest. 

This week in the UK it is National HIV Testing Week. There are 4 main types of free HIV test available on the NHS, including a home test. If you test positive it isn't the death sentence it was 30 years ago, and nor will you have to spend your life worrying about passing it on. There are very effective medications out there to keep the virus under control. Some at risk people who test negative can also access PrEP preventative medication to reduce the risk of catching HIV.
Over half a million people globally still die from AIDS related illnesses each year - it is an ongoing pandemic that most people in Western countries have almost forgotten.
In the UK order a free test online at startswithme dot org dot uk

UK NHS HIV Testing

Throughout COVID the UK has excelled at genomics. Sequencing samples of virus and tracing COVID family trees to find out all that useful stuff, including how it travels across populations, how quickly it moves, how many of us are actually infected at any given time, and spotting new variants. Unusually we are going to build on this skillset, and the UK Health Security Agency have launched a 5 year Pathogen Genomics Study.
They'll be tracking virus and other pathogens, and watching out for brand new threats to our health. The study should enable them to map anything they find, work out if our immune systems can cope with it, choose which vaccines are most suitable (e.g. flu), detect anti-microbial resistance (when a bacteria evolves to defeat an antibiotic), and track outbreaks back (hopefully) to patient zero. 
Excellent stuff. 

Each report for more than 3 years I have referred to the COVID Actuaries, including Adele Groyer - a woman who was always very clear that no-one who catches COVID holds any blame for that. Even if you lick door handles or have always refused to wear a mask, it's because you haven't been clearly informed of the risks, have been misinformed or have learnt not to trust the people you should be able to trust. Sadly Adele died from Cancer 2 weeks ago today. A loss not only to statistics and COVID reporting, but also to humanity. Thank you for all that you did. 

It's the weekend and by crikey am I glad. I very nearly fell back to sleep this morning, and both of my teenagers did fall back to sleep after their alarms, so we narrowly avoided disaster. In many parts of the world the weather is still being overly-exciting, and here in South West Scotland it is bitingly cold in that wind - no wonder we all want to hibernate. I'll be treating myself to something nice this weekend, I hope you will remember to treat yourself - I think we've more than earnt it. If you get out and about, wrap up warm, and keep an eye out for snowdrops, because Spring is already around the corner... Back in 2 weeks...

Take Care In Snow, Ice, Wind, Flood or Lava. Wear A Hat. Save The NHS. 

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

Countries: Officially Reported COVID Cases / Losses of life:
World: 702,882,810 / 6,980,637
USA: 110,948,129 / 1,196,479
India: 45,026,753 / 533,458
France: 40,138,560 / 167,642
Germany: 38,814,063 / 182,168
Brazil: 38,338,153 / 709,407
S. Korea: 34,571,873 / 35,934
Japan: 33,803,572 / 74,694
Italy: 26,711,592 / 196,070
UK: 24,886,826 / 232,112
Russia: 23,901,489 / 402,052
Turkey: 17,232,066 / 102,174
Spain: 13,914,811 / 121,760
Australia: 11,800,629 / 24,128
Vietnam: 11,624,114 / 43,206


Childrens mental health week
Measles image
New pharmacy items image England 
Scarlet fever image
Image Hep C Home Test 
Weekly covid stats
Week 2 stats flu with image
COVID-19 hospital admissions and image 
Flu stats week 2 with image
Measles image
Dentists Image
NHS images HIV

Is this flu and pneumonia or just flu 
Error in measles stats 
Scarlet fever:
UK NHS ONS poll and private healthcare
Novovax private vaccination in the UK £45 from 1st April 2024 at the latest
For anyone over age 12
Pharmacy First
Donating platelets
National HIV Testing Week
UKHSA Pathogen Genomics Study 

Long COVID study

Stats week 1 cumulative mortality -12%  Hosp admissions plateau
Cumulative mortality down 12% week 1
Hospital admissions plateau week 1
Image flu and COVID hospital admissions
COVID stats UKHSA week 1 

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