All of a sudden coronavirus is everywhere again. According to the ONS, 1 in 16 people in England had the infection last week and an astonishing 1 in 11 in Scotland. Family and friends have had it, and it seems to be everywhere.
Following the junking of all public health measures by the UK Government, cases have increased just as the B2 (and 3) Omicron variants are getting around. It reminds me of those Chicken Pox parties where parents of young children intentionally shared the varicella virus causing Chicken Pox in order to get an infection which is both inevitable, and milder at a young age. At a national level, this is now what we are doing, a viral free for all.
Thanks heavens for Omicron
I like to think that Omicron has evolved in wild populations which select milder strains, and thank heavens for that. It is less harmful though incredibly infective. This study of 1.5 million people shows that, even accounting for vaccination and previous infection, we are 60% less likely to be hospitalised with Omicron compare to Delta, and 70% less likely to die, which is good news. This still means that we have a new, and still more potent flu like illness to deal with. When infected, boosted vaccination reduces your risk of hospitalisation by an impressive 70%.
It seems that everyone will, sooner or later, get the infection and now in many ways, with a milder variant and recent vaccinations, it may be as good a time as any to have the illness. Infection now can be like another vaccine, albeit it with more side effects. However, there are costs….
This free for all means 2000 admissions a day to hospitals and 1000 deaths a week. My local hospital is admitting 20 patients ( a ward full) every day.
Further, we have no idea whether Omicron causes less long COVID. There are hopes that it may not, but this is also a risk we are taking right now with such huge numbers of people with infections.
This is with the vulnerable having access to rapid PCR testing, (my last one came back in 12 hours) and the availability of effective antivirals. Molnupiravir is just not worth having, Paxlovid is more useful though remains scarce, more so in poorer communities.
In the pipeline are vaccines which will provide better immunity against all coronavirus strains and will be the next big leap forward. I hope they will be available next winter when vulnerabilities again come to the fore and likely to be piggybacked with flu vaccines, even though this years vaccine seemed to offer little protection against significant illness. We only find out afterwards, so for me the flu jabs continue to be, as the Americans say, worth a shot!
So this is the choice we are making. We make these all the time, the ‘economy’ versus ‘health’. We tolerate poor respiratory health of millions due to our economic dependency on road transport, we tolerate widespread metabolic disease due to our dependence on dreadful cheap food like substances on supermarket shelves, and we tolerate, future horror of climate change for our comforts today.
Nevertheless getting back to normal does make sense, even if a few simple measures, like infection control at airports and judicious mask wearing could help. Air transport is terrible for health in every way. In many ways, significant restrictions have been done away with for some time, and now free testing will go too. Hang onto those last LFTs for when you really need them, though they do seem to miss some barnstorming cases of COVID.
The government needs to increase their income to deal with the COVID debt as well as our various ongoing structural economic weaknesses. The recent budget, for me was a sorry sign that dogma persists at the highest level of government, economic growth as an answer to everything and the real cans are kicked down the road which, in climate terms is increasingly looking like heading towards the edge of a cliff. What we need, surely, is less wealth and less poverty, less carbon consumption, but the budget, as with every budget for the last decade, will sadly increase all.
The new normal
So COVID19 is perhaps settling into an endemic infection, mild enough to be mainly seasonal, like flu. It will be another way many of us older and frailer folk will meet our end, nipping off the frail like a pack of wolves following their prey, watching for laggards, the elderly and of course the unlucky. Living with COVID also means dying of it. Vaccines will help, but there will always a price to pay.
Vitamin D update
On the subject of staying well, Ive been an advocate of Vitamin D replacements for most of us, not because I know they work, but due to an understanding of its benefit for people with MS and the common sense science that our modern indoor life is not something our white skins, or the temperate climes not something our darker skins have evolved to.
Having had to sadly realise that high quality trials of such a simple intervention as a daily Vit D supplement are almost impossible to fund, along comes the CORONAVIT trial of 6,200 people from St Marys in London, set up to answer the question “Does taking a Vitamin D tablet prevent COVID19?” They tested people with Vitamin D, treated those with deficiency with reasonable doses and waited to see how this affected subsequent infections. So what did they find?
Vitamin D supplements did not seem to have much effect on preventing COVID19. Perhaps sun is the better option?
In a word, no, it didn’t have any measurable effect. They conclude:
“Among adults with a high baseline prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency, implementation of a test-and-treat approach to vitamin D replacement did not reduce risk of all-cause ARI or Covid-19.”
Clearly there is more to the Vitamin D story than meets the eye. The reasons why people are deficient are more likely to be important than vitamin D itself. There are I believe, good reasons to be Vitamin D replete, but according to this study, it doesn’t have the benefit many of us hoped for. I shall continue to take it as it makes sense for those with MS, and has benefits for many people, but preventing COVID, its looks not. Eat my hat time!
Ivermectin fading star.
Trial after trial has shown no benefit from Ivermectin, and this is the latest to show no benefit from treatment for 1,300 high risk patients given Ivermectin versus placebo. Andrew Hill, an early proponent of the drug, has published an interesting analysis showing how poor studies can corrupt science, and Paul Sax, an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine also honestly revealing why he now feels Ivermectin is of no use.
Anyone who still believes this drug has a place in treatment of COVID 19 has their head in the sand.
The future remains increasingly unpredictable with the deadly European war utterly depressing. Staying well might seem off the agenda for millions of Ukrainians for whom survival is good enough, but we have to somehow keep our heads about water. Staying well is more complex than ever, we all need to be well informed and make good health choices to what degree we can. Writing the blog helps me keep things in some sort of perspective, I hope reading it has been of some use to you.
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