Friday 7 June 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus, Avian Flu and other virus UK and World News Update 7th June 2024

COVID-19 Coronavirus, Avian Flu and other virus UK and World News Update 7th June 2024

"If H5N1 does jump to efficient H-H transmission in the future, we would probably look back and say: "The cow farms with PB mutations, the sea lions with an a-2,6 favorable mutation, the infected workers... the signs were there, and we didn't do enough to stop it"
Jay.P.Weiland, Infectious Disease Modeller and Data Scientist.

Advice for food safety following an emergency

In the UK excess deaths have levelled off at the recent low figures, and are now steady and close to 2019 levels.
"So on any reasonable calculation basis it is clear we are no longer experiencing the significant excess deaths seen from 2020 until early 2023."
Stuart McDonald of the COVID Actuaries:
Ahhhh, that's better. 

Actual current COVID information in the UK is becoming hard to come by. The Winter COVID Infection Study ended on 14th March, the SIREN Healthcare COVID Study was 'paused' on 31st March, and reporting of NHS COVID Hospital Activity has been reduced to monthly reporting. Professor Christina Pagel of indieSAGE has been making educated guesses based on what's happening in Europe: 
"There isn't much data on what Covid is doing in England, but wastewater monitoring from Germany, Finland, Denmark and Netherlands up to end of May all show low flat levels.
So I suspect nothing major going on here but will need to wait for updated England hospital data next week."
Good news for Europe, and hopefully the UK... 

The UK's Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are holding their annual conference and the opening speeches set out just what a dire position we are in.
Acting General Secretary Professor Nicola Ranger called for mandatory reporting of patients being treated in corridors, so that we can actually see the extent of how bad everything is. We know we don't have the staff, and we also don't have enough beds. A recent survey of 11,000 nurses asked about their last shift, and 2 out of 5 said they'd treated patients in inappropriate areas including corridors, car parks and store cupboards. 

Well, this'll be fun. Junior Doctors in England will stage a full walkout from 7am on 27th June to 7am on 2nd July.
They were hoping to get a better offer from the UK Government and avoid strikes, but according to the British Medical Association (BMA) the "opportunity has not been taken up".
COVID no 1 cause of death 2022 23

Those pesky Omicron FLiRT variants of COVID (KP.2, KP.3 and KP.1.1) do seem to be causing an 'uptick' in positive cases in some parts of the world, as was anticipated due to their increased ability to latch on once inside a body. No signs of them being any more dangerous, but any increase in cases inevitably causes an increase in people needing medical care. The US advisory board VRBPAC have voted unanimously to advise the US FDA that this Autumn's COVID jabs should be specific, but they've chosen JN.1 - which was the most abundant strain found in US wastewater as late as 25th May, but it seems is already being overtaken by the FLiRT variants regarding individual infections. In March less than 5% of US infections studied were FLiRT variants, and by 25th May they account for over 50%. 

Lots of long term COVID studies coming out now. Lets start with one of the least positive. No real surprises, we've seen evidence of this before, but a study by neurologists which brings together data from lots of other studies for The Lancet has found that:
"...SARS-CoV-2 infection should be considered as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, even though the distinction between causation versus disease acceleration is not clear."
They can't yet prove precisely why, but COVID infection is not good for your long term brain health.
The results of two big 3 year studies into mortality risk after COVID have been published.
A US study looked at data from war veterans, and compared 20,000 hospitalised and almost 115,000 not hospitalised, as well as a control group of 5.4m (pre-COVID).
Over the first year risk of death in non-hospitalised people rose to around an extra 19 people per 1,000, and that has remained static over the last 2 years. Risk of death in hospitalised people rose to an extra 60 per 1,000 over the first year, and continued to rise up to around 80 per 1,000 by the end of the 3 years. 
Thankfully it does look like at 3 years it's levelling off and won't rise higher, and they didn't find any fresh new problems since the 2 year results, just a continuation of what was happening.
An Italian study of 32,000 people, compared to 32,000 people pre-COVID, looked specifically at cardiovascular (heart and blood, e.g. heart attack) and cerebrovascular (brain and blood, e.g. stroke) events over the 3 year period. Results were very similar to the US vets study. They didn't split the COVID severity groups, but overall there is still a clear increase in risk of dying 3 years after infection.

Eric Topol (Executive Vice-President at Scripps Research Institute) and Ziyad Al-Aly (Chief of Research and Development at Veterans Affairs) have put together a great round up of loads of long term studies on Long COVID symptoms and mortality risk - search "substack Ground Truths May 30th". 

NHS Waiting List chart Financial Times

Bit of a disaster courtesy of the BMJ and the Telegraph. The BMJ published a paper about excess mortality during the last 4 years, which The Telegraph reported on, but The Telegraph for whatever reason added a bit about vaccine injuries. This has led to lots of people putting the 2 together, and the British Medical Journal has had to publish an apology.
Confirmed deaths from COVID pretty accurately cover the extra early deaths, and despite more vaccinations and the NHS having collapsed, in 2023 excess deaths begin to drop. There is no relationship between vaccines and excess deaths in the UK since 2020. 

A third US dairy farmer has become infected with H5N1 Avian Flu. The previous 2 patients had conjunctivitis, but the third individual has respiratory problems. There is an implication there that the first 2 patients may have 'got dust in their eye' or something similar, and the virus hasn't necessarily taken a stronghold in other areas of the body. They may have posed little threat to anyone else, but the third patient may be exhaling virus. As we know from COVID, this can make transmission between humans difficult to control, and it's also far more dangerous for the patient. 
Avian flu strains have throughout the years regularly infected individual humans, but none have as yet ever been known to transmit from human to human (it's never happened). HPAI H5N1 spreading between other mammals is very recent (e.g. seal to seal or cow to cow) and still needs more proof before scientists tick it off.

Talking of which, there is a new paper on the massive outbreak of HPAI H5N1 in seals at Península Valdés, Argentina last October. Around 17,000 Southern Elephant Seals died, and the pups fared worst. 
"Moreover, genomic characterization showed viruses from pinnipeds and terns in Argentina form a distinct clade with marine mammal viruses from Peru, Chile and Brazil. These mammal-clade viruses share an identical set of mammalian adaptation mutations which are notably also found in the terns."
So basically, the family tree for the H5N1 bird flu that killed the seals in Argentina has direct relationships with the H5N1 bird flu found in marine animals in Peru, Chile and Brazil. The implication is that they're all so closely related, we'd struggle to say none of these animals passed it directly to each other. It also has mutations that, on paper, look more 'mammal-friendly', and terns (a type of seabird) had the same mutations in their virus. It's all pretty strong evidence to suggest H5N1 has found a way to move from one mammal straight to another (e.g.seal to seal) and possibly even from one type of creature to another, as opposed to occasional mammals catching bird flu by eating infected birds or their droppings. 

Bird flu what to report DEFRA image of bird and text

Like humans, birds don't just spread a single type of flu, there are different strains. H5N1 avian flu is the one causing all the problems right now and affecting cattle in the USA. It's full title is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1, or HPAI H5N1 for short, and it is a Type A flu virus.
Highly pathogenic means it's very dangerous. HPAI H5N1 has killed over 100 million birds in the past 2 years. When it's been detected in humans, HPAI H5N1 has had a fatality rate of over 50%. Without random testing we can't be sure if any (or many) humans or other mammals have caught it and had mild or undetectable symptoms. We learnt this with COVID. On paper it can look incredibly dangerous, but the reality can be (hopefully) far less so. 
This is important because on Wednesday news broke that a gentleman in Mexico has died from HPAI H5N2 - a different strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza. He is the first human known to have become infected with HPAI H5N2, and had no known contact with birds or infected animals, although lived near to an infected poultry farm. His human contacts were negative when tested around a month later.
Advice is DO NOT touch sick or dead birds. Ring the authorities, who will come and collect them if they deem it sensible. 

Wastewater surveillance in the USA is actually great, and has been ramped up in light of the Avian Flu in cattle outbreak. The CDC really are doing a grand job with this one. 
They can't sift through billions of gallons of water, put together all the broken bits of virus and tell us exactly which strain they've got, but they can tell the flu type. Over the past month really high levels of Influenza type A have been detected in 5 states. In the heavily populated UK we are used to this meaning people are passing it out through their bodies, but it can also be due to run off from hosing down farmyards, poultry cages or slaughterhouses, or spilt milk in dairies. 
Bad news is, 3 of the states where Influenza type A was detected knew they had H5N1 in cattle (Idaho, Michigan, Texas) but at the time results were published on Wednesday, 2 did not (Iowa, Minnesota). That had changed within hours though, as Iowa was that evening added to the list of states with infected herds. 
Wastewater really can be a brilliant early warning system (watch out Minnesota).

As of 8pm GMT yesterday, despite no random testing and great reluctance from dairy farmers, the total US herds known to be infected with HPAI H5N1 are 84 across 9 states (Michigan 23, Idaho 20, Texas 18, New Mexico 8, South Dakota 5, Colorado 4, Kansas 4, North Carolina 1, Ohio 1). 

The USDA (United States Department for Agriculture) are also moving now, and as well as birds and poultry, humans and cows, have compiled a list and map of the US mammals in which (so far) they have detected HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or dangerous strains of bird flu). It's a big list, and the US picture is not the full picture (for example HPAI can also be caught by domestic dogs):
Big, domestic and bob cats. Black, brown and polar bears. Mountain lion. Bottlenose dolphin. Grey and harbour seals. American martens and mink. Coyote, red fox, fisher. North American river otter, raccoon, skunk. Albert's squirrels, Virginia opossum and the latest and possibly the most worrisome so far, the house mouse. 

Be tick aware UKHAS advice for removal using tweezers

While the US dairy industry seems to prefer the Trump method of 'don't test, don't have a problem', Canada is being more proactive. They've established the Pan-Canadian Milk (PCM) Network and as of 3rd June 2024 had tested 34 retail milk samples from five Canadian provinces (NL, NS, PEI, NB, QC, MB, and AB). All have tested negative for influenza A virus RNA (like human DNA, but with viruses it's RNA).
Testing is ongoing and results will be updated on rolling basis.
"Routine surveillance of retail milk on a national scale will allow for monitoring of infected dairy cattle on an ongoing basis in a cost-effective, standardized, scalable and easily accessible manner. Our network and testing will act as an early warning system which will enable rapid responses necessary to contain an outbreak should any samples test positive." 
Nice one Canada. 
Since we still don't even know exactly how it's passing from one cow to another. Seems only sensible to keep a close eye on it.  

Finland really are on the ball. It's been reported in Stat News that they have ordered 20,000 Avian Flu vaccines to give to people who may potentially be exposed. Watch this space...

The US are having their own COVID Inquiry, and Dr. Anthony Fauci was accused of suppressing the theory that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak in China. He strongly denies influencing research on the origins of the virus, and maintains that he believes COVID originated with animal to human transmission.
It is true that US Government funded science was happening in the Wuhan lab, we know that, it's common for scientists to go and work in different labs for months on end, or for Governments to fund research in specialist labs. It wasn't a secret. 
It is true that the Wuhan lab was studying coronaviruses. Several labs around the world are also studying coronaviruses. This is a good thing. When SARS emerged it took us by surprise and it was very deadly. No-one likes coming up against a threat that's completely unfamiliar to you. Learning about your potential enemy is a thing scientists do. It wasn't a secret. 
Somehow this was reported in some press and repeated online as Dr Fauci admitting that COVID was a US funded Government project carried out in secrecy by people working in China. 
Errrrmmm, nope. Staggering. Never play Chinese Whispers with these people, you'll definitely lose.

070624 BMJ COVID misinformation statement of apology

"There have been 4,793 cases of whooping cough this year so far, compared to 858 in the whole of 2023.
 If you are pregnant, it's important to get the whooping cough vaccine to protect your newborn baby, as they are at greatest risk."
In April figures showed 1,888 cases since the start of the year, so the UK 2024 outbreak is still increasing at some pace, and it It has already taken the lives of 8 babies.  
Whooping Cough vaccination has been used for decades. It is incredibly safe, even during pregnancy, and will protect your tiny baby until they can develop their own immunity via their 2,3 and 4 month jabs. Whooping Cough is less dangerous for healthy robust adults and older children, but can still give you a vicious cough that can last 3 months, potentially breaking ribs and causing hernias, and it can make breathing very sore and difficult. Over 40 years later, I still remember my red-faced, swelteringly hot brother coughing and sobbing day and night for weeks as a toddler, and it was thoroughly miserable and worrying for the whole family. 

UK health authorities are warning about a serious outbreak of E-Coli. It's spread across the UK, so is most likely to be something in the national food chain and not due to swimming water, farms or drinking water. E-Coli is caused by contamination with animal poo and can exist on all kinds of raw or chilled foodstuffs - it is easily killed by cooking to 160 degrees. Obviously rapid efforts to locate the source are underway.
Between 25th May and 4th June 113 cases were confirmed - 81 in England, 18 in Wales, 13 in Scotland and 1 in Northern Ireland (this person had visited mainland UK).
E-Coli can be spread person to person, and causes a really nasty upset tummy, often including bloody diarrhoea. It can be particularly serious if you are not in robust health or you are very young or old. 
Wash your hands regularly with actual soap, especially before preparing food or eating - hand gels are not the right thing to use, as it's not a bacteria. If you are unwell, don't prepare food for others, don't mix socially or go to school or work. Stay at home for 48 hours after symptoms end. Always seek medical advice via 111 if you have a very upset tummy that doesn't improve within 48 hours, you dehydrate badly, pass blood, or otherwise feel unable to cope. 

UK HSA after being ill, stay at home for 48 hours

It is the weekend! Yeeeay! We were up at 5am last Saturday to get the ferry over to Belfast for the day (Titanic Museum), so I am really looking forward to a lie in tomorrow. There will always be things to worry about, things to scare us or make us fret about the future. You can let those worries fill your every day, or you can do what you can to make the future better, keep going and deal what you can change. Sometimes we all have to let it go, leave nothing but footprints, and live for now. Treat yourself, you've earnt it. If you aren't registered to vote, get it done, you've only got about a week, and then take some time for you - something YOU want to do. Not the kids or your partner, you. 

I'll be back in a couple of weeks... 

Play Outdoors, Watch Out For Midges, Save The NHS... 


Whooping cough image 
Nhs waiting list ft analysis image

Jay.P.Weiland quote

Excess deaths UK 

COVID Europe

Patients dying in hospital corridors amid NHS ‘national emergency’

Junior doctors strikes

FLIRT variants uptick

Long term COVID studies
Neurology study 
Long COVID 3 year mortality 

Italy 3 years
Eric Topol Substack blog address

COVID vaccine disinformation

Bmj statement re misreporting

Bird Flu HPAI
Dairy worker respiratory illness
Third US worker respiratory symptoms (hundreds of humqn cases over.the years, these are just the cases where it's passed from dairy.cows to humans)

Elephant seal study
WHO info
Historically, when caught from birds, human symptoms: fever, malaise, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, conjunctivitis,  progress to severe respiratory and neurologic changes 
Avian influenza Western Pacific historical
H5N2 first case Mexico
Mammals with HPAI H5N1 including cows
Scientists want to know list 

Canadian milk testing

Fauci lab leak

Whooping cough UK

E-Coli UK

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