Friday 10 May 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th May 2024

 COVID-19 Coronavirus and other virus UK and World News Update 10th May 2024

"Hospital admissions with Covid in England increased by 33% in the last week of April, having been low and stable for a month.
Most regions saw significant in-week increases. The fasted increases were in NE+Yorks (+52%), Midlands (+39%) and South East (+38%)."
Stuart McDonald, COVID Actuary. 
This is a pretty rapid increase, and while it started from a low point, it's not great.
It implies the highest 'R' number since last Summer, and sadly this surveillance is only reported once a month now, so we'll have to wait a while and delve into UK HSA (Health Security Agency usually have a big lag in reporting) stats to find out what happens next.
Variant surveillance does suggest the FLiRT variant has already taken over in the UK, despite me being so blasé about it last report, so that may be a factor and it might be a bit more easily shared than it previously suggested, and hardly vaccinating anyone won't bring down numbers either.

On the positive side, despite bank holiday reporting being likely to have a lag, mortality in England and Wales is below expected levels for 2024. Up until week ending 26th April, 6% below expectations. 

100524 England COVID hospital admissions by area chart

I've mentioned the Whooping Cough outbreak already, and it's getting worse. For most people Whooping Cough will be a nasty cough that can make you vomit, break ribs, cause hernias and generally make your life miserable for weeks or even months, but for our most vulnerable, including small infants, it can be deadly. 
1,319 UK cases were confirmed in March, bringing the total for the first 3 months of 2024 to 2,793. Very sadly 5 infants have died. This compares to 858 cases for the whole of 2023. 
Whooping Cough (also called Pertussis) vaccination is very effective protection. Babies in the UK (and much of the world) are vaccinated at 2,3 and 4 months and as part of pre-school boosters. Pregnant women are often offered a vaccination to protect your tiny baby when it is first born. Getting vaccinated between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy will offer your newborn 92% protection against dying if they do catch Whooping Cough.
If you have a bad cough that isn't going away, or you are short of breath, contact your doctor. Antibiotics can reduce symptoms and severity of illness, and you'll be contagious for a far shorter time. If you or your child missed out on vaccinations, please speak to a health professional. 

The Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is being withdrawn globally. Manufacturers say this is a commercial decision as it has been superseded by newer vaccinations. That's completely true, it has.  
Does this mean the AstraZeneca jab was a failure? Heck no.
There are many, many safety features and lifesaving gadgets from the past that we don't use any more. It doesn't make them a failure, it means that we found something better.
The AstraZeneca jab, because of the speed it was created and rolled out, at such a low cost (under £2.50 a dose), is estimated to have saved around 6 million lives worldwide. It was a success. 

100524 UKHSA COVID stats chart with figures showing increases in almost all areas and age groups

51 UK victims of vaccine injury and their families had gone to court for compensation over the rare blood clotting side effect (TTS) from AstraZeneca vaccines. They have withdrawn after learning they were unlikely to win. Victims were asking for adequate financial recompense, but the side effects were known and publicised in early 2021, which is why they were unlikely to win a case for negligence.
Your chance of developing any sort of blood clot from vaccination (approx 18 per million) was always substantially smaller than from COVID itself (approx 1,526 per million - Hippsley-Cox 2021 peer-reviewed study). The Times has delved into this and according to the MHRA figures, in the UK 81 people in total appear to have died from TTS. It's fatal in around 1 in every 5 cases, so we can assume a total of around 400 people have been affected.
We all take a risk getting vaccinated, just as we take a risk eating a new food or using a new shampoo, but in this case victims were not only doing it for their own benefit, they were helping protect everyone else - including the 1.5m people in the UK who can't gain their own immunity. I'm sorry for the relatives and victims that they didn't win a more realistic compensation than the £120,000 paid out by the UK Government. We will always owe them gratitude and respect.

In the words of Hans Kluge (Regional Director of WHO Europe):
"What we really want to do is to prevent the next pandemic, not just respond to it.
An aspiration of the new Pan-European Network for Disease Control - a network of networks convened by WHO Europe.
UKHSA, a key partner, hosted the NDC's London launch."
Until it happens, it is just words, but the groundwork is being laid. Maybe next time Europe as a whole can better protect itself against outside threats to our health. 

75% target for Cancer diagnoses within 4 weeks reached

The Economist have been crunching the numbers as regards Long COVID.
They calculate that in the US alone 1.5 billion work hours will be lost in 2024 – at a potential cost of over $152.6 BILLION. 
In the UK 251.8m work hours are likely to be lost in 2024 – costing over $15.5bn. In GBP that is over £12 BILLION. 
So much for reopening and saving the economy. New Zealand, China and a few other places looking cleverer than ever now. They didn't allow COVID to run rampant before vaccinations, and don't have the significant problems with long term damage to humans that we do. 
It is a fascinating report which looks at several countries, although as they say themselves, it'll always be an incomplete picture. In part because, as we've seen before, there are lots of people struggling on, and lots who don't even realise the reason they are too tired or brain fuddled to continue working as they used to. 

And while we're on Long COVID... I mentioned the ONS Winter Coronavirus Study last report, but missed the news that 111,816 children (3-17) in England and Scotland have Long COVID - almost double the rate in March 2023. 30.6% of them have had symptoms for over 3 years. 

Image of a plain drawn cat and text saying Cats have to be chipped by June 10th

The World Health Organisation has been leading discussions on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This is a fancy way of saying a virus, bug or infection has mutated and our current drugs don't work any more. It is a huge problem and costs around 8,000 lives in the UK each year, while also putting medical staff and others at risk, and destroying quality of life for many times more people. 
The UK have drawn up a new action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and committed to: 
- reduce use of antimicrobials (antibiotics, antivirals or antifungals) in people and animals
- strengthen surveillance of drug resistant infections before they emerge 
- incentivise industry to develop the next generation of treatments
The plan is to stop anyone using antimicrobial treatments unless they're absolutely necessary (no routine dosing of farm animals or kids with coughs). We need to place far more importance on preventing infections in the first place, as well as routinely check, and stop them spreading if they do occur. The UK is also going to invest in finding alternatives, and support poorer nations to take the same measures.
It is estimated that globally in 2019 around 1,270,000 people died because of antimicrobial resistance, and we've seen from COVID just how easily pathogens can spread around the world. Simple measures can really work. Over the last 10 years the UK has reduced the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals by 59%, over a half. 

The BBC have discovered that agency Thornbury Nursing Services routinely charges the NHS eye-watering sums to provide cover. Thornbury is the biggest agency used, it's owned by ICS, based in Jersey.9
To cover for a paediatric nurse on a bank holiday at short notice costs £1,841 per 12 hour shift. The nurse receives around £1,050, and the rest is the agencies. Profiteering at it's finest.
Standard day shift cover rates are £946, of which the nurse gets £539. Travel expenses are charged on top.
In 2022-23 the NHS paid £3.5 BILLION for agency staff to provide cover. 
If we only paid NHS nurses properly for their expertise in the first place, retained our experienced staff and could rely on an NHS bank to fill shifts... 

Be tick aware UKHSA Image of tick and text explaining how to remove entire body with tweezers

H5N1 Avian Flu in US cattle
It appears authorities are struggling to collect data from US cattle farms in a timely manner, or else they arent telling us about it. Dr Tedros of WHO commented on Wednesday that despite 36 herds now known to be infected across 9 States, they've only tested 30 people.  
No-one really knows whether cows are passing on H5N1 to other cows through milking equipment only, by exhaling the virus, both of those, or in other ways. What is certain is that H5N1 grows rapidly in infected cow's udders and is found in large quantities in their milk.
Researchers from Denmark have found that inside the mammary glands (udders) of cows there are different receptors for the virus to try to attach itself to. Somewhat surprisingly some are 'duck-type' and ideal for bird flu, and some are 'human-type', which is not ideal for us. There is some potential for bird flu to mutate or mix with human flu to become far more easily caught by humans. Humans actually have similar 'duck-type' receptors in their eyes, and in the only confirmed cow to human case so far, a dairy worker developed conjunctivitis.
Leading scientists are really unhappy about how this is playing out (did we learn nothing from COVID?). Science magazine this week has an in-depth article, and Marion Koopmans of the Erasmus Medical Center is quoted as saying:
"The reason why this is not a big human health problem is because the virus is not that transmissible. It’s not because of our actions in response to this new situation”.
They want answers, so samples of the bird flu from cows are being sent to biosecure labs, including one in Germany, where they will infect more cows and pay close attention to what happens next. 

UK telly Doctor Dr Ranj is getting a lot of mean comments on social media after it became known he received a payment of £22,500 from AstraZeneca in 2022. 
He's not Chief Medical Officer, he is a TV personality. He's also a qualified medical doctor, but he is a TV personality. He doesn't get up, travel half the length of the country and go on the telly for free. He's paid sums we can only dream of to be a telly person, and did advertising on behalf of AstraZeneca. In the UK you couldn't even choose or buy your own COVID vaccine, so he hasn't unscrupulously convinced anyone to change brands. 
He genuinely is a massive advocate for vaccinations. He was talking about them excitedly while they were still in development and trials - pre-dating any payment by a long time. 
I've met Dr Ranj. My youngest was overwhelmed by people in costume (mostly Disney Princesses). Dr Ranj ignored the cameras and sat down with him in a quiet corner for 20 minutes until he managed to get a big smile and a chat. He's a genuinely nice bloke.
If they are on the telly and it isn't the news, and they aren't a 'public servant', they're being paid by someone.

260424 UK COVID Spring Boosters green and blue image with list of recipients as last report

There is, has been, and is likely to be, horrific flooding in so much of the world right now, you wonder where all that water is coming from. UAE, Australia, the USA, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Bradford, Eastern Africa, Iran, the list goes on. Brazil and Kenya seem to be worst affected at the moment, and it isn't just the water itself - drinking water sources can become compromised, and disease spreading insects can make the situation far worse. I really have no grounds to complain about my weather. My thoughts with everyone suffering. 

And finally, the sun has pumped out 5 X-class Coronal Mass Ejections (solar flares, big tongues of fire), and the Earth is experiencing a Level 4 event. Exciting stuff. It is not expected to do any damage or wipe out the power grid (are we still online, yes? Good stuff), but it's pearl-clutchingly close. What is expected are headaches for some of us (boo, hiss), and some pretty amazing displays of Northern Lights across Northern Europe and America, especially tonight, and possibly tomorrow. Fingers crossed on that second one... 

It's the weekend, I'm off to treat myself to a really special day out with an old friend in Belfast. Don't forget to treat yourself - and keep one eye on the sky... back in 2 weeks...

Don't Cough On People, Don't Consume Raw US Milk Products, Save The NHS  


75 per cent target met image
Covid report image
Covid stats and image 
Cats need to be microchipped image
Be tick aware UK Government image
Deaths data plus image

Covid stats
Flirt variant 

Whooping cough

patients receiving this vaccine have been informed of this side effect since 2021:
Vaxzevria was withdrawn because AstraZeneca has stopped production:

Antimicrobial resistance

Pan-European Network for Disease Control
Hans Kluge

Financial impact of Long COVID on the workforce
Long COVID kids

NHS Agency staff 

Avian flu in cattle

Dr Ranj 

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