Survivors of Covid-19 show increased rate of psychiatric disorders

Here you have it. The bridge that may finally make people see that “mental” conditions are in fact physical and that it’s the mental health stigma that is bonkers.

(Also, could we be trying too hard to stamp out the human aspects of what it means to be human – to be alive – and turning people into perfect little robots? What would life be like if we never had ups and downs? At all? Btw, one guy – I won’t mention his name; he is a geologist – once told me that when he smoked cigarettes – not weed, but cigarettes – his ups were less high and his downs less low.)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/03/survivors-of-covid-19-show-increased-rate-of-psychiatric-disorders-study-finds

(31% of COVID-19 survivors suffer from depression. Read the article in The Guardian to find out what else plagues them. We already knew that psychosis is linked to COVID-19 as well. Psychosis is also linked to the recovering from physical brain trauma.)

SARS-CoV2, wastewater and seashores

A few months ago, someone in Florida sent me a link to a news item – I think it was from Yahoo News – in which a professor in California was warning people to stay away from the seashore as she was sure that they would get infected by the ocean surf there.

I dissected the article and had to dismiss it as panicky nonsense. It for example mentioned the rapid spread (in Wuhan) as an argument but Wuhan is nowhere near the sea and everything that was ascribed to marine spray could much more easily be explained through asymptomatic spread. The existence of the latter was not even mentioned in the item. I did not expect the virus to be able to play a big role in the marine environment on the basis of my very limited knowledge in this area.

Just now, I spotted an article written by Kristen Kusek, who I know from my time in Florida. She is now the communications director at the place where we both were into marine science, while she also pursued journalism at the Poynter Institute a bit further down the road.

USF’s College of Marine Science has started the first American program to look at the virus in wastewater. I had earlier heard about the virus having been detected in sewage in, I think, Venice.

https://www.usf.edu/marine-science/news/2020/usf-partner-in-costa-rica-launches-the-countrys-first-program-to-detect-coronavirus-in-wastewater.aspx

It is very important to keep in mind that the virus having been detected waste water (or anything else) DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CAN CATCH COVID-19 from it.

I also saw this:
https://coloradosun.com/2020/07/21/poop-early-coronavirus-warning-colorado-wastewater/

It was time for a quick update.

I found this:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004313542030436X

At first glance, this seems to confirm my assessment. Good.

Here is more on the topic:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896972033151X

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S004313542030436X?token=01D96FD19564AA8CCAF293E95112CB80711556EDFB30B8701D6895EEEAECA0747FB112F019F2BDD2877DDAC55EE331B7

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S004896972033151X?token=7D077B4CFF621AF2C66AAE410611192580B09C4F7AFA638CD1CBE5BB26F6121305BABE2F25608A43C70A06F0D6BC74B0

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666016420300049

As I live in an island city, with a stormwater sewage overflow to the east of us and a (treated) sewage outlet slightly to the east of that, along the seashore, such questions have local relevance. So far, nothing to worry about.

(Please note that this does not mean that the situation will stay this way, but at this point, there is nothing to indicate that it won’t. That’s okay. We have plenty on our plate as it is.)

Need a face mask for in public transport?

If you need a simple face cover for use in public transport or because you are looking after someone who is medically vulnerable to COVID-19, and aren’t able to make your own fabric mask, you could get one of these washable face masks with replaceable filter from Vistaprint.

They are not manufactured to any medical standard. The designs are a bit dull; this white one with the drawn hearts on it may be the nicest, but there is also for example a light blue one with smilies and a dark blue one with dinosaurs. They cost £17 and a pack of 10 filters cost £6 and delivery is free (checked on 8 May 2020). No, I don’t get a commission. https://www.vistaprint.co.uk/masks/

Why I am no longer talking about COVID-19

Simple.

I’ve found out just about everything that I wanted find out, for myself. The NAM/APHA webinars have also started to repeat themselves. I don’t think they already know everything there is to know about whether getting infected confers permanent immunity, but we’ll learn that in due course.

There is a massive effort underway to develop vaccines and treatments and the huge sums of money that are being pumped into it means that the development process is sped up immensely. I saw a graph last week that illustrated that very well.

I regret that animal models – proverbial “lab rats”- are still being used to test treatments and vaccines. A truly sophisticated society would have no need for that.

When I am in “scientist mode”, I tend to forget that me feeling that there is nothing left for me to contribute in this area – I mean, people have finally caught up on the droplet stuff and the purpose of wearing face coverings – is not necessarily true in a broader sense.

(I like being on the cutting edge of developments and like having momentum, so I have a tendency to transfer momentum to something else once the momentum in one area runs out. A very practical example of that is not getting bogged down by the various hiccups we experienced during the installation of an ICP-MS in a new lab, years ago. I couldn’t just sit down, wait and do nothing. It occasionally meant we were stuck. I transferred the momentum. I arranged for the lab’s Mac to get an upgrade. I had a different card installed which was also very useful, but the kind of thing that easily gets ignored when you have something much bigger in focus.)

There will still be people who I can help by translating some of the science into plain English, for example, or with whom I can walk through a building to identify bottlenecks with them and find solutions.

I could do this in a Skype, Zoom or Telegram video session or I could travel to places like Basingstoke, Littlehampton, Andover, Salisbury and Winchester.

One way of dealing with COVID-19 measures is to turn them into positive experiences. What do I mean by that? Supermarkets and other places are already supplying hand sanitizer etc. If you have a long waiting line, why not get a busker to entertain people? Not all the time, but say, between five and six every day. This could be any kind of busker, does not have to be a musician. Someone to entertain your customers and put a smile on their faces.

You don’t catch COVID-19 from smiling. 

Worse, I’ve been dreading the end of lockdown measures because during the strict lockdown, people were much friendlier and much more considerate. The occasional jackass who pretended there was no line quickly got sent to the end of the line and his loud muttering ignored by everyone who was waiting to be allowed into the supermarket. Aggressive behaviours were suddenly not done. Bliss!

Let’s keep some of that, shall we? 

Supermarkets could also have a few umbrellas to hand out to people standing in line in the rain. (Yes, disinfection needed.)

I also remind people that cleaning is not needed of any surfaces that go unused for 7 days or longer. So instead of cleaning, in some cases, you may be able to set up a rotation system, with for example objects being used by one (different) person only each day and different objects for each of the 5, 6 or 7 days of the week that get stored for a week. In some cases, in which cleaning might be complicated or simply too much work, this may be a solution.

This could be a solution for libraries, for example, to allow limited lending again. It is hard to clean books swiftly without damaging them. Patrons would not get access to the lending materials, but staff would instead collect items from the shelves and hand them over. Any materials that are returned can be left on a cart for a week to be returned to the shelf without risk to staff after that week.

 

The corona virus crisis. COVID-19

Do you still know what you are allowed to do and what not at the moment? Yeah, me neither.

Although I’ve been relatively quiet about it for a little while on this site and I find myself behaving a little bit more relaxed about it all, the topic hasn’t slipped my mind.

Being more relaxed about it all makes me feel that I am sloppier about it all, but perhaps social distancing is merely becoming an automatic habit now.

Continue reading

Excellent COVID-19 resource for decisionmakers at various levels

I started attending various webinars some time ago, like lots of people, and like lots of people, I also got a little webinar fatigue at times.

A great series continues to be organised by the National Academy of Medicine and the American Public Health Association in the US, looking into many topics such as the science of the virus, finding vaccines, health inequalities and so on.

Today’s session, on mitigating direct and indirect impacts in the coming months, was excellent for decisionmakers at all levels – also in the UK! – because it addressed a lot of practical aspects and many angles of the pandemic.

It mentioned the need to provide free wifi, talked about telehealth (telemedicine) and developments expected to take a decade suddenly being realised in a mere three weeks, about the complications food deserts pose, about the politicizing of the pandemic, about how to cope with emergencies such as hurricanes and related evacuations, how to remedy the impact the pandemic is having on non-Covid-related healthcare (such as people with heart attacks not seeking help out of fear of catching the virus), the healthcare clinics getting into financial difficulties as a result (as, I think, we saw earlier with those two doctors in California who owned a small chain of facilities and saw their turnover drop so dramatically that they resorted to unorthodox action), the challenge and need to communicate well and perhaps have ambassadors explain the purpose and reasoning behind social distancing, the massive impact social distancing has on the infection rate and the risk of people that people will no longer observe distancing when lockdowns are relaxed and developing a false sense of safety, and so on and so forth.

Here is a link for a model (simulator) that people can play with to explore the effects of lifting lockdowns: https://budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu/

The video recording of the webinar will be online soon, at covid19conversations.org:
https://covid19conversations.org/webinars/summer.

The slides have already been uploaded, but not all presenters used slides and the Q&A of course is not online yet either. I’ll post the unedited transcript below.

Continue reading

COVID-19 makes me lucky

This morning, I read that there appears to be a genetic connection between dementia risk and severity of COVID-19, here:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/26/research-reveals-gene-role-in-both-dementia-and-severe-covid-19

That makes me very lucky, should I catch it, if it hasn’t already caught me at some point without affecting me.

Dementia most definitely does not run on either side of the family that I come from. Neither does heart disease, by the way.

Cancer does, but as I’ve already survived almost all of those relatives who succumbed to cancer I have little to worry about. I have already lived ten to twenty years longer than they did.

Good.

And you, where do you stand?

Whoa

Greece: 150 deaths
Population: 10.5 million

The Netherlands: over 5,000 deaths
Population: over 17 million

Canada: almost 5,000 deaths
Population: almost 38 million

UK: over 30,000 deaths
Population: 63 million

Vietnam: 0 deaths
Population: 97 million

US: over 75,000 deaths
Population: almost 329 million

Conclusion: Important lessons to be learned and applied. Because these differences cannot be explained – although some might wish – by some of these countries’ populations being in better health.

I should add population density next.

Working from home

It’s all over the news now that companies do not expect to return to the daily 9-to-5 commuter drudgery.

It will be better for the environment and yes, also better for the work/life balance.

I believe that if you see work as something that needs to be separated from life instead of something that is part of life, work is likely to be experienced as stressful.

As someone who’s been working from home for over twenty years, I know both the benefits and the downsides of working from home. Continue reading

Another COVID-19 resource, on vaccines

By STAT

  • Part 1: Antibody drugs that target the coronavirus: A conversation with George Yancopoulos, the co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, on their antibody drugs in development to treat Covid-19.
  • Part 2: Fighting on multiple fronts: A discussion with Mikael Dolsten, the chief scientific officer of Pfizer, on the multiple routes the company is taking to fight Covid-19.
  • Part 3: Vaccines — can they come soon enough? With a sponsor introduction by Clem Lewin, Ph.D., associate vice president of R&D strategy for vaccines at Sanofi, as well as Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna and Matthew Herper, senior writer, medicine, and editorial director of events at STAT

Rights and measures in a pandemic

If you feel that the measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 violate too many of people’s rights, then consider the following.

Many rights exist only by the grace of other people respecting them. This means that rights also create duties.

You observing measures can stop you from harming other people. That’s the duty you may have that translates into other people’s rights.

COVID-19: What’s next?

This is a short video I created for Twitter, without intro as Twitter videos have to be short. I’ll make a longer one and a few short ones after this one. There is much more to this topic.

The person talking about dialing up and dialing down any measures taken to halt the spread of COVID-19 and who believes that this should be done on a relatively small scale (and not mandatory but in the form of a recommendation) is Lindsay Wiley, by the way. (Who was very patient with me when I kept asking strange questions, I should add. A little bit too patient perhaps… She’s much more a legal scholar than an epidemiologist, I realised later when I looked into her. That may explain a lot.)

 

 

I can see what she means and why it might be needed – we’ve just seen Hokkaido dial measures up again after the infection numbers went up – but if you do this country-wide or island-wide as in the case of Hokkaido, it’s a very different story than if you do it regionally.

Regionally, though, has been the approach in the US so far as far as I can tell. I don’t know whether that has led to any problems with people travelling from a location with no or limited restrictions to a location with strict measures. County borders, state borders, city borders.

People have been protesting against various measures – unfortunately partly inspired by the hogwash spread by two doctors in California who would lose their licences if it were up to me – but these protests make bigger headlines than the news about Americans who have been defying their governor who eased or lifted a lockdown.

(And if you keep people in a lockdown too long, their physical health will start to decline because their lives have become so much more static, particularly for people who live in small apartments. That might make them more susceptible to COVID-19. When does that effect start to kick in and make a real difference? After two months? Three?)

What I don’t know is how it would work out longer-term if you were to dial up and dial down measures regionally or locally.

Would it cause chaos, such as when someone has a job interview or a project planned for which he or she needs to be in Chicago and then all of a sudden, the recommendation changes?

If it is not mandatory, then how effective would such measures be? Effective enough, presumably, as this is the approach that’s most strongly endorsed by expert panels in pre-pandemic plans/studies, so I understand.

If such measures are not mandatory and you have a job interview, then not many people are involved and the situation can be resolved.

But for anything involving more people – say, a large company – it may be tricky. If the company does not follow the recommendations, it may be sued by its staff. If the company does follow the recommendations, it may be sued by its clients.

Imagine having to construct a hotel for a famous real estate mogul and not showing up because the recommendation for the location in question has changed (been dialed up). Or having to install new computers and networks for a bank or a call center.

(There is also the question of how you would keep people informed. I think it could be part of the weather predictions, just like UV radiation and pollen counts are. If you travel, you usually check the weather at your destination before you travel or on the way.)

If, on the other hand, you limit people to traveling within their own city or county or state, you cause fewer problems for people who normally never travel beyond those geographical borders.

But how would you ensure that people would do that? If it costs them their job if they follow the recommendation or if their job is ten miles away but in a different county, how likely are they to follow that recommendation?

Then you might have spreading from the borders of your geographical area, inward, if the neighboring counties have a higher rate of infection. Do you use travel permits?

Do you test everyone within a certain distance of such a geographical border to identify new cases and quickly isolate them?

From a purely epidemiological point of view, it probably all makes perfect sense.

Does it also make sense from a practical point of view? That’s less easy to figure out. What does small-scale dialing up and down of measures mean for Joe and Jamie Public when they get up in the morning and prepare to take their kids to school? I can’t get a clear response to that question.

Besides, there also is a strong cultural angle to this. In some countries, citizens will be more likely to follow recommendations than in others, I’ve noticed. Socioeconomic aspects – level of inequality – as I’ve mentioned, play a role as well.

I have to conclude that the experts don’t have all the answers yet either. The experience is new for almost all of us, with the exception of people in parts of Asia that have gone through MERS and through SARS aka SARS-CoV-1.

The previous whopper of a pandemic we had occurred a century ago, after all (Spanish flu). Even the Hong Kong flu that hit around 1968 happened too long ago to be able to translate that experience into the way we are living now. In those days, most women in my home country stayed at home all the time anyway because they were home makers, for example.

But that’s for the here and now and short term. How about the longer term?

Continue reading

Hang on to your umbrella against COVID-19

Two doctors in California have been telling everyone that COVID-19 is not a problem at all, that they have tested lots of people and that most had the virus and that many were not ill.

But they were testing people who were screened and suspected of having the virus. It means that there are many more people out there that do not have the virus yet (and preferably should not get it either). I could say a lot more about these two doctors, but I won’t.

I also see a lot of confusion about what is called the prevention paradox. If you prevent something bad, some people will stop believing that it exists (or think it’s not actually that bad).

That’s like noticing that using an umbrella stops you from getting wet and then concluding that there is no rain.

That Kern County Dr Erickson who talks about COVID-19 on YouTube

Update 3 May 2020: YouTube has meanwhile removed the two doctors’ “presser”. YouTube also sometimes deletes videos and channels when it shouldn’t. This time, I am very pleased that it did.

To my dismay, I had also received these doctors’ rubbish as news in an email a few days after I posted the stuff below. (If you subscribe to news media other people follow, people whose views may not overlap with your own, you get a much better idea of what is out there, what people outside of your own circles are thinking.) So I emailed them.

Continue reading

COVID-19 resources at US National Academy of Sciences and elsewhere:

First of all, here are two living documents elsewhere:

https://rega.kuleuven.be/if/pdf_corona

https://covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/

Here are some resources at the US National Academy of Sciences:

https://t.co/ezodPowbg6 (lab testing)
https://t.co/QHR4Gjborg (effectiveness of fabric masks)
https://t.co/iDArCYuk99 (viral shedding)
https://t.co/19VZuy0Oz5 (effects of temperature etc)
https://t.co/djGokzK7Eg (bioaerosol spread)
https://t.co/pwmYVxfX38 (stability on surfaces)

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

“Ministers declare the NHS Nightingale project a great success”, but staff tell The Independent’s health correspondent Shaun Lintern they want to do more – and they fear prominent PR is not helping.”

We’ve now also had the cheerful optimism beyond what is medically rational about a delayed shipment of gear from Turkey to protect frontline NHS staff against corona virus that apparently contained only 32,000 gowns. Worth several hours of protection.

And now US President Donald Trump has suggested injecting disinfectant may be a good treatment for COVID-19 patients.

With Boris Johnson sharing the optimism of Trump and wanting to cooperate with him closely on tackling the corona virus crisis, we should all be afraid, very afraid.

In spite of having all the information that was coming from China, the UK took TWICE AS LONG to respond effectively than China. Because on 3 February 2020, ten days after the lock-down began in Wuhan, Boris Johnson declared very loudly that he did not feel a need to respond strongly and swiftly to the virus. He said that imposing a lock-down went “beyond what is medically rational”.

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

Okay, now I can retire to Checkers

The UK government is finally really catching up with the information I have had on my website for… I don’t know how long!

It’s not rocket science! It’s all practical common sense. You do not need the latest minute scientific details before you can start applying plain common sense.

But has it updated the information for those who are advised to shield or is that still many weeks out of date?

Let’s check.

No, it has not been updated.

Okay, no retirement for me yet, then.

(I’ve meanwhile provided my criticisms to .gov.uk.)

 

About politicians failing to lead (sad parody)

I duct-taped this together today. I hope that YouTube won’t take it down. I have a shorter version, but the music is so cheerful and that’s what we all need lots of. And I didn’t want to leave any of the names out.

I was both crying and laughing while I made this. See for yourself. You’ll have to watch to the 3-minute point to get it.

There was more or different stuff that I could have added such as Trump having called pharmaceutical companies, “big ones with offices in London”, and them having “contacted all of Boris’s doctors” and doctors standing ready to help the doctors in London and “we’re getting more than we ever bargained for”, but hey, it’s all obvious anyway.

And here is a shorter, tweetable version:

The corona virus crisis: My message to the police in the UK

In this video, I ask British police to be understanding toward us when enforcing the social distancing rules because, in spite of the fact that the lock-down resembles being imprisoned to some degree, we haven’t actually done anything wrong.

Police officers should also comply with the rules themselves.