Friday 23 February 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 23rd February 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 23rd February 2024

World COVID Statistics: 703,586,078 officially reported cases and 6,985,448 losses of life.

"This week, Member States from around the world are meeting in Geneva to discuss the new Pandemic Accord.
This agreement is being developed, shaped and decided on by the 194 Member States that make up the World Health Organization.
Building on the lessons of COVID-19, I broadly see 3 key benefits; the agreement would help countries drive a more equitable response, it will boost collectively health safeguarding and it will enhance cooperation."
Dr Tedros, Head of WHO (World Health organisation). 
Word is that the talks haven't gone entirely smoothly, with some disagreements and failure to commit, and frankly a jaded response - seems everyone is a bit bored with pandemics right now and can't really face having to learn from their mistakes and get ready for the next one... 

Infections hurt people quote from UK doctor

In the UK all of the COVID stats are going down - positives, hospitalisations and mortality. The unusual double wave has passed, and so has any fear about JN.1. It could have been responsible for the extra peak, but it hasn't got out of control and it's not proven any more dangerous than previous variants. Ahhhh... 

UK Spring booster jabs will be available from April for most people within the following groups: 
- aged 75 years old or over
- live in a care home for older adults
- aged 6 months old or over and have a weakened immune system
(Seems like a very short list...)
Some folks, including Professor Christina Pagel of indieSAGE, are asking if the JCVI considered the £229m (that's 229 MILLION POUNDS) of vaccine doses the UK will soon be throwing away (or not collecting) because they're out of date, and whether we'd have been better off having a broader vaccination list and protecting some of the kids who haven't yet had any vaccinations, and the folk who missed out on Autumn boosters. Vaccinations reduce risk of Long COVID by 30%-50%, and it's been proven time and again that boosters prop up your immunity and lower your chances of severe illness, even if you've previously been infected. When yo consider the working and education time lost to Long COVID and illness, and how much it'll add up to over the next few years (decades), it appears some of this maths may not add up. 

As mentioned in the last report, if you are not eligible for an NHS COVID booster, then you will be able to purchase COVID vaccinations in UK pharmacists within the next month or so. Pfizer and Novovax will be available at an expected cost of around £45 each initially. 
£45 is insanely expensive and beyond the reach of many people of average income or below, and personally I think it stinks. It just carries on the disparity between wealthy - who mostly got to stay at home and avoid COVID until they were safely vaccinated and we knew much more about it, and those essential low paid workers who risked their health to go out to work all through the first 2 years of COVID, didn't get to sit around crocheting on furlough, and have never been thanked enough, despite dying and contracting Long COVID at a far higher rate than the richer folks they were keeping clean, fed and looked after.
So yeah... 
Lets hope Superdrug or another bargain chain can negotiate a fairer price for the people, like their own staff, who have to work with the public and would also like a chance to live a healthy life into their 80's. 

230224 COVID stats chart from UK HSA

Ever see a report about weather saying "the worst rain/temperatures/snow since records began... in 2020" or some other date which makes little sense? We've had weather forever, and we've definitely been taking note of it for hundreds of years, so how can records have begun much more recently?
The UK loves to change the way it measures things. Usually it's because they have found a more precise or better way to do it, but sometimes it's a change to what day data is collected or some other cosmetic reason... and sometimes it can prove very handy for someone somewhere, because it makes it impossible for us to compare data over time. 
COVID may only be 4 years old, but it has fallen victim to changes in measurements many times, and most recently we've (again) changed the way we measure excess deaths - the number of people who have died above and beyond what would be expected.
Going forward the 4 UK Health Authorities have agreed a standardised way of measuring excess deaths, which takes more notice of our aging population and other changes, such as increase in population. It should be more accurate and allow us to spot differences more precisely, and we are promised we'll be able to compare to pre-pandemic figures, as well as what happened during and after 2020.
Fingers crossed we aren't left wondering how things are going for too long. 

Finally, over 3 years after the COVID vaccines began their rollout, we have definitive information about the risk of vaccine side effects. The truly MASSIVE Global COVID Vaccine Safety (GCoVS) Project was established in 2021, and has studied the anonymised data from over 99 million vaccinated people.
The good news is that there are no big surprises. Adverse events (side effects that aren't just a sore arm for a day or so) are VERY RARE, and without a study so incredibly huge, we'd never even see most of this. COVID vaccines are very clearly far, far safer than infection and reduce chances of serious illness dramatically. Infection is almost impossible to avoid, so common sense says vaccinate when offered.
The study included data on the following vaccination doses:
- 183,559,462 PfizerBioNTech
- 36,178,442 Moderna
- 23,093,399 AstraZeneca
- plus smaller quantities of other vaccinations e.g. 84,460 Sputnik, 134,550 Sinopharm, 1,137,505 Johnson & Johnson etc.
Subjects were followed until 42 days after vaccination, and results pooled together assess risk after traditional viral vector vaccines such as Oxford AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson, and the new mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna. 
We've known for a while that COVID vaccinations can increase risk of some conditions, and now we have precise figures, as well as a couple of very rare conditions which could only be measured in a study of this size:
- Risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome (immune system disorder that affects nerves) - 66 cases were expected, 190 occurred. Risk was only increased with traditional viral vector vaccinations.
- Risk of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (blood clot in the brain) - 21 cases were expected, 69 occurred. Risk was highest with viral vector vaccines, and with the first dose of any vaccination.
-  Risk of Transverse Myelitis (inflammation in the spinal cord) - Risk was highest with viral vector vaccines (1.82 cases per million doses). 
- Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (inflammation and swelling in the brain and spinal cord) - 2 cases were expected, 7 occurred. Risk was highest after mRNA vaccinations (0.78 cases per million doses).
-  Risk of Pericarditis (inflammation of tissue around the heart) - Risk increased with each subsequent mRNA vaccination.
- Risk of Myocarditis (heart inflammation) - Risk was highest after the second dose of Moderna's vaccine. Risk of Myocarditis was considered to be between 1 and 10 per million depending on age, sex, number and type of vaccinations, compared to 40 per million in unvaccinated people who caught COVID.
Bear in mind these rare events occurred among more than 99 million people, and while these conditions can be serious, patients almost always fully recover.

Better news about Measles this week if you live in London or Birmingham, as spread of the outbreaks there does appear to have slowed down and stabilised. Bad news elsewhere though, as we have other small clusters in the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the East Midlands.
Jabs are best way to prevent Measles infection - they're around 97% effective. That's why people today have very little fear of Measles - most of the population can't even remember how bad it is. 

Measles information UK HSA collage of 6 images

Corporate Watch have totted up the sums and discovered that since 2013 the UK has awarded contracts to private health firms to the value of £70.59 BILLION. That's 70,590,000,000 pound sterling - and only covers the 5 biggest companies with the biggest contracts.
Just imagine if we had used that cash to pay for NHS scanners, staff, beds etc. rather than repeatedly renting them at exorbitant cost.
The annual NHS budget for 2024-2025 is approximately £162 Billion - up from £161 Billion last year. I guess we can already see how well that's going to go. Best of luck if you are one of the 7.7 million people currently on a waiting list... 

A man in Alaska has become the first known human to die from Alaskapox. It is suspected he caught it from a stray cat he had been feeding. The man who died was elderly and receiving treatment for Cancer, so his immune system was not in great shape, and all other known patients have fully recovered - although it has taken up to 6 months for the spots/lesions to fully heal.
Don't begin to panic just yet, Alaskapox was first spotted in 2015 and only 7 people have ever been diagnosed with it. The patients were all in Fairbanks, Alaska. Alaskapox is related to other pox viruses, and symptoms include swollen lymph nodes (e.g. in the armpits), aches and pains, and deep, sore spots, which seemed in this case to begin close to a scratch, which was potentially from an infected animal.
Because there are so few cases, we really know very little about Alaskapox. It is known to infect smaller mammals, and in 7 cases has passed into a human, but no human to human (or human to other animal) transmission has ever been detected. 

Not virus news, but it does affect our wellbeing. The English Government has issued guidance on mobile phone use in schools. They do NOT like it.
Designated school staff have the power and right to search for and/or confiscate phones, lock them away all day, and even ban them outright.
What your children's school decide will be up to them, but it's very plausible students in future may be banned from using a mobile phone on school property. 
If your child needs to contact you during the school day or vice versa, it should in most cases be done through the school office. Schools do have a legal duty of care for pupils, so should always be aware of any emergencies or important issues that arise. 

WHO advice on dementia

Four years ago I was reporting on the Diamond Princess floating petri dish, where 634 passengers had confirmed COVID. China’s Center of Disease Control told us that to date COVID had a 2.3% fatality rate, and after 54 confirmed/suspected cases in 48 hours, Italy announced they were closing public spaces in 10 large towns. Japan reassured us that the Olympic Games would be going ahead (sadly they did not), and the UK had 9 confirmed cases.
Oh how innocent we were... 

If you do fancy a reminder of the history of COVID, and an insight into just how bad those first months were on the NHS frontline, Dr Oxford, otherwise known as Dr Rachel Clarke, has her story told in the ITV telly drama 'Breathtaking'. She's someone I respect and have quoted more than a few times over the last 4 years, and reviews are sombre but great, so I might even watch it myself... 

It is the weekend. Hurrah! I am so looking forward to a lie in. This has been a long Winter, but Spring is definitely here - give or take a few cold, damp and windy patches. Get yourself outside if you can, and grab some sunshine and fresh air. It's good for the soul, and the body. Don't forget a treat, you know you earnt it. I shall be back in 2 weeks, and hopefully no tricky maths next time. I haven't had to do any for ages, and I'm very much out of practise! 

Play Outdoors, Wear A Hat, Save The NHS... 

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

Country: Officially Reported Cases / Losses of life:
World: 703,586,078 / 6,985,448
USA: 111,401,806 / 1,199,333
India: 45,028,565 / 533,476
France: 40,138,560 / 167,642
Germany: 38,819,650 / 182,470
Brazil: 38,407,327 / 709,765
S. Korea: 34,571,873 / 35,934
Japan: 33,803,572 / 74,694
Italy: 26,716,804 / 196,257
UK: 24,898,914 / 232,112
Russia: 23,957,146 / 402,264
Turkey: 17,232,066 / 102,174
Spain: 13,914,811 / 121,760
Australia: 11,815,394 / 24,229
Vietnam: 11,624,114 / 43,206


Infections hurt people
Measles images UK HSA screenshot

UK stats
Spring boosters
Excess deaths methodology
Global vaccine safety study
Clusters of measles cases emerging in multiple areas of UK
Private healthcare costs
Mobile phones in schools

Breathtaking TV drama Dr Oxford Rachel

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