Category Archives: Corona Virus – Covid-19

Covid-19 Dr John Campbell update

The first frame of Dr John’s video is a photo of a bus in Sweden. It’s chock-a-block full, with everyone jammed up against everyone else. And no face masks either. Apparently the messaging about the virus is…laidback.

Bizarre and rather frightening. 😦

By contrast, I found the news from my state, Victoria, very heartening. It comes in a video from an Australian nurse that Dr John included in its entirety. The nurse is here in Melbourne, and she began with the news that our Premier, Daniel Andrews, is putting his foot down. Can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

You can also find the latest news about Victorian restrictions on the VicEmergency app. The app provides real time info on all threats from bushfires to storms etc. The virus info is under ‘Warnings’. If you don’t have the app. you can download it for free from the Google Playstore. Oh, and the Australian video is spliced in at around minute 11:45 of Dr John’s update:

The Offspring and I are well. In fact, we’ve been eating very well because of the need not to waste anything! The Offspring is making fruit deserts, and I’m making ‘No Knead Bread’ to reduce our dependence on outside sources. Friends and family seem to be doing much the same so I’m sure we’ll come out of this okay. I do fear for those who aren’t taking the threat seriously though. All I can say is #StayHome .

I hope all my online friends are safe and well. That means you. -hugs-

Meeks

 


Covid-19 – update 26/3/20

By now, just about everybody should know about Covid-19, and the danger we all face, but sometimes small, important things get lost in the overwhelming negativity. These are the points I took from Dr John Campbell’s video this morning:

  • At minute 6:56 – if you have pneumonia – don’t lie flat – try to stay sitting up in bed.
  • At minute 7:19 – drink lots of fluids because when the body becomes dehydrated, the mucous in the lungs becomes ‘thicker’, making it harder for the cilia to waft it out. Cilia are hair-like things that help clear the lungs.
  • At minute 8:03 – stop smoking because smoking can slow or even paralyse the cilia in the lungs.

Please watch the entire video as these are simply the points that caught my attention.

Two more things:

Apparently Prince Charles has tested positive for Covid-19. I’m not a monarchist, but I have huge respect for the humanitarian principles that have guided the Prince’s actions for decades. I wish him a speedy recovery.

And finally, a huge THANK YOU! to the wonderful people who work for Woolworths. The drivers who home deliver my shopping, and the people who pack it, have made it possible for me to self-isolate properly. And that has meant that I won’t be bringing this bloody virus home to the Offspring.

I don’t like sharing personal, family information on this blog because I don’t believe I have the right to talk about other people’s problems. This once, however, I’m going to break my unbreakable rule and tell you about the medication the Offspring takes to control ulcerative colitis. There are two kinds. One is in tablet form and has to be taken all the time. The second is an infusion – i.e. a chemical pumped straight into the bloodstream – that has to be administered in a hospital once every eight weeks. BOTH of these medications suppress the immune system because ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease.

So is Crohns. Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis are both Inflammatory bowel disease s, and require much the same medication.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune condition as well.

And lupus

And Rheumatoid arthritis

And Multiple sclerosis

And Guillain-Barre syndrome

And CIDP or Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.

And Psoriasis.

And Graves’ disease

And Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

And Myasthenia gravis.

And Vasculitis.

In all of these diseases, the immune system is either not working well enough, or working against the body’s own cells. Often the medication used to treat the condition suppresses the over-activity of the immune system.

But what about Asthma?

Asthma doesn’t attack the immune system the way the autoimmune diseases do, but it’s in the extended ‘family’, and similar medications are often prescribed to treat it [e.g. Prednisolone]. As such, Asthma sufferers are in as much danger from Covid-19 as any of the above.

All of these people have next to no defence against Covid-19.

And that’s not counting people with MCS. Or cancer. Or cystic fibrosis. Or COPD. Or Emphysema. All vulnerable. All at risk.

So when politicians reassure voters that most of them will only experience a mild disease and ‘only’ a percent of vulnerable people will suffer complications, they are misrepresenting the figures. There are a lot of people with immune related conditions or other vulnerabilities that make them sitting ducks. And these people come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny kids and strong young plumbers through to Boomers and the elderly.

Every time you break isolation because you’re bored, because you’re going stir crazy, because you’re just plain stupid, you risk getting and passing the Covid-19 virus on to someone who will end up dead.

And then there are the health professionals who are fighting Covid-19 without adequate protections. They are risking their lives every single day, and many are starting to fall prey to this virus themselves. These quiet heroes are dying because of selfish people who don’t care about anyone but themselves.

Don’t be a waste of oxygen. Stay-the-fuck-at-home.

Meeks

 


Virus Buster Heroes (March 22, 2020)

We all need good news, and we all need heroes, especially in these times of fear, so here are my first candidates for Virus Buster Heroes:

The Formula 1 racing teams that have turned their expertise, manufacturing and knowledge to the production of ventilators!

You can find more details here: https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/51963897

The actions of the Formula 1 teams stand in stark contrast to the self-centred morons who :

  • packed pubs and clubs in the UK before Boris shut them down,
  • flocked to the beaches in Florida
  • flocked to Bondi beach in Sydney despite the new law restricting public gatherings to 500.

I’m sure there are heaps more examples worldwide, and it’s time we called them out for what they are – potential killers. They are not heroes, and history will not remember them kindly.

But this post is about individuals and companies who really are heroes in the fight to save lives. If you know of one of these heroes in your part of the world, please post it under the tag of #VirusBusterHeroes. Then we can all use the tag to spread a little good cheer over Twitter and other social media channels.

And remember, heroes can be quiet people, selflessly performing a small act of kindness to help someone else. For me, that quiet person is Amie, the girl who works in Leo’s bakery in Warrandyte. When Amie realised why I was wearing a mask, she offered to deliver fresh bread to my door. And she did.

Amie is my local #VirusBusterHero. Thank you, Amie.

I wish you all a safe and happy Sunday!

Meeks


Covid-19 – drilling down

There is nothing specifically new in Dr John’s update today, yet in some ways I found it even more compelling than previous videos because he’s talking about what this virus means for us. What it means for our lives. And why our behaviour can cause the death of people we may never see.

We have to move past the…inconvenience that Covid-19 may cause us to a concern about others.

Some will think this is Care Bear stuff, but the bottom line is that no society or culture can survive if we’re all just in it for ourselves.

The compassion and integrity we show now, to others, will determine what kind of society we have when this pandemic finally ends.

No comments.

Meeks


Covid-19 – some potential good news

Just a very quick one today. According to Dr John Campbell, there may soon be a simple test to see if someone has developed immunity to the Covid-19 virus. This is important because it would mean that those who test positive for the antibody [the ‘warrior’ part of the immune system that remains after the virus is killed] could then safely go back to normal life. Safely for us, that is.

I hope some enterprising person comes up with an official button or arm band or something that would identify these ‘safe’ people so the rest of us don’t have to fear everyone on the outside. That would be a huge relief.

No comments.

cheers

Meeks


Covid-19 & Magical Thinking in OZ

First up an important video from Dr John Campbell – remember, he’s a PhD in the medical field, not a doctor Dr – on immunity and the immune system:

The second video is a world, Covid-19 update, and this is where the title of this post comes from:

When Dr John gets to Australia [1:38 of the video] his understated disapproval is embarrassingly obvious. To quote just a bit that I managed to transcribe:

‘Scott in Australia…Scott Morrison…well, it’s not for me to go around judging world leaders but..[snip]…not too much pre-activity in Australia.’

So today I want to talk about my country, my Australia. I know what this crisis feels like on the ground, but until today, I had no real idea of what we were doing about it. The following screenshots are what I found:

This is the official Federal government website from which both screenshots were take: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers

The bit highlighted in red – ‘The source of infection for 26 cases is currently unknown’ is the most worrying because it shows that Covid-19 is already out in the community…as at March 18, 2020. And that’s only the cases we know about, perhaps because these are the cases needing medical help.

But what about those cases where people are asymptomatic – i.e. without symptoms – or suffering from only very mild symptoms?

These people are going about their lives, ‘business as usual’, and spreading the infection to god alone knows how many others.

It’s hard to predict how many other people are becoming infected because the ripple effect will be different for each person, a bit like this video of ripples in water:

If you were to slow the effect down and freeze it, you might get something like this:

The big circle in the middle is PERSON 1. If PERSON 1 infects just 3 other people, and each of them infect just 3 more people, you would quickly have 148 people infected. I’m no mathematician so if I’ve got that wrong PLEASE tell me in comments.

The actual spread of the virus will be far more complicated than my pretty little diagram, but if we already have 26 cases for which there is no known source, it means the spread through the community could be far, far worse than the figures imply. Many sources I’ve read say the actual number should be the official figure multiplied by 10 or even 20.

But of course, the governments figures would be suspect anyway because they haven’t done anywhere near enough testing. Only those with clinical symptoms of Covid-19 who request help are being tested. Those who only suspect they may be infected aren’t tested at all.

I tried to find out how much testing Australia has done and is doing, but the government sources provide next to no information. The following quote is from The Guardian:

‘Speaking at the council of Australian governments meeting on Friday, Australia’s chief medical officer, professor Brendan Murphy, said supply problems with coronavirus testing kits was a “temporary issue” but one that was hampering the scale of testing in Australia and across the globe.

“It’s a temporary issue, but it relates to the fact that a number of countries, where these consumables are made have probably put export controls over them to keep them for their own use,” he said. “We will work through it. We’ve got world-leading medical technology and will fix that issue, but it has caused a temporary issue with the scale of the testing that we can do at the moment.”

Quote taken from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/mar/13/global-shortage-of-covid-19-test-kits-hits-australia-as-other-nations-limit-exports

So the take home message seems to be that we don’t currently make enough [or any?] test kits in Australia, but medical manufacturing is ramping up to produce home grown test kits.

The question, however, is how long will these homegrown test kits take to manufacture? The CDC in the US tried to do the same thing, and failed. Just exactly how are we, with a fraction of the resources, going to do better?

A related question is: why didn’t we start this process earlier, like when the deadly potential of Covid-19 first became apparent?

So… nowhere near enough testing happening in Australia. But then what data are the modellers basing their advice on?

The lack of testing is like the general of an army saying, ‘don’t bother sending out reconnaissance; we know the enemy is out there.’

But where is the enemy?

How many of them are there?

Do we know where they’re going?

The lack of adequate testing is not only hindering our ability to fight this pandemic, it’s leaving individuals with the frightening idea that everyone is potentially a carrier.

We’ve already seen the panic buying. Some of that is profiteering by disgusting people who should be hung up by their balls, or whatever part of their anatomy that hurts the most. But by and large, most of the panic buying is by people like me who take the threat seriously and want to protect their vulnerable loved ones.

Frankly, when #ScottyFromMarketing gets on his high horse and says ‘dont do it!’, like some kind of stern, all-knowing father figure, my first instinct is to flip him the bird. How dare he?

Despite the evidence of China, South Korean, and Italy, the Australian government is still treating us like mushrooms and pretending that we can do better than every other country on Earth.

Past experience has shown that by ‘better’, this government means ‘survive the virus without damaging the economy too much’. First stimulus package – protect industry and ‘jobs’. Second stimulus package…protect more jobs??

How about a commitment to give those made unemployed by the virus enough to live on [so they can self-isolate without starving to death]?

How about taking control of the distribution of essentials like food and medication? If people with existing conditions can’t get their normal medication, many will die. And you can’t protect the vulnerable when they have to break self-isolation to stand cheek-by-jowl in long queues to buy food and other essentials.

The logistics of keeping people alive are being left to the marketplace, but the for-profit sector is making hay while the sun shines. The one exception to this is IGA. I’m not sure if all IGA stores are doing the same thing, but my local store has already instituted a strict rule for customers:

1 of each product per customer

At the very least, every single distributor of essential items should be doing the same.

And how about providing real information so that fear and confusion does NOT lead to hoarding? So far, the messaging from the government has been either pathetic or contradictory. To get through this, we need to work together, but we can’t work together when we don’t have leaders we can trust.

I’m prepared to make sacrifices, but only if I believe that the government is more concerned with my survival than my contribution to the economy. At the moment a part of me believes that #ScottyFromMarketing is still enamoured of Boris’ bogus ‘herd immunity’ strategy…and bugger the consequences.

We can’t fight what we can’t see, and we can’t follow leaders we don’t trust.

Meeks


Covid-19 & why fever is good

I’m linking to Dr John Campbell’s excellent video at the end of this post, but this information is so important, I want to provide a quick summary first.

When the immune system detects an invader – i.e. a virus or bacteria – it starts a cascade of important steps to fight that invader.

  1. It sends a signal to the brain to turn up the body’s thermostat. The reason for this is that all of the immune system’s ‘weapons’ work better and faster when the body temperature is higher. So we get a fever.
  2. At the same time, the immune system sends out all sorts of white blood cells to detect the invader, to warn other body cells that an invader is coming, to surround the invader and to ‘eat’ it.
  3. If we take drugs to reduce the fever, we’re hobbling our own immune systems and making them less efficient.
  4. So a temperature of about 39 degrees C or 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit is good. It will not do an adult any harm. [Children and fever will be covered in a later video].

What does all this mean in a practical sense?

First, it means we have to change our expectations. We will not be able to ‘soldier on’ because a good fever will probably make us feel lousy.

I say ‘probably’ because it’s been so long since I’ve had a fever, I can’t really remember what it feels like. And that brings me to the second point, the reason I can’t remember what a fever feels like is because I always took something to bring it down. That. Must. Change.

We must allow the fever to run its course because it’s actually helping us fight off the virus.

And this brings me to my final point. Modern technology will help us eventually. There will be a vaccine, eventually. There will be new anti-viral treatments, eventually. But for now we’re on our own.

The only weapon we have in the fight against Covid-19 is the immune system we were all born with. We have to help it help us. So if you’re an adult, and you get a fever, whether you think it’s Covid-19 or not, be brave and let the fever come. If you have access to things that help support the immune system, by all means, take them! But leave the fever reducing drugs in the cupboard.

“So suffer in silence, huh?”

No, drinking lots of fluids will help you feel better. Weak tea with lots of lemon and honey is delicious and good for you because the honey contains a mild antibiotic which may help stop secondary bacterial infections, and lemon juice contains vitamin C which is one of the things that help support the immune system.

Soup is good too. It’s easy to swallow, gentle on the stomach and contains nutrients that provide the energy the immune system needs to keep fighting.

Rest is also vital. While you’re sitting or lying in one place, your body isn’t wasting any precious energy that could be used by your immune system. Feel sick and exhausted? Don’t fight it. Your body actually knows what it’s doing.

And finally fresh air and sunshine. Just because you’re sick it doesn’t mean you have to be cooped up in a stuffy room with all the windows shut. Back in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, health workers discovered that patients in well ventilated wards, or outside on cots in the sunshine, recovered better than patients in stuffy wards.

Bundle up, sit outside if you can, and let the sun shine on your face. That’s vitamin D you’re soaking up.

I know these are all old fashioned remedies. Some of you will think they’re rubbish, but right now, old fashioned is all we’ve got. Stay healthy.

Much love
Meeks


Covid-19: Dr John update

A couple of interesting videos from Dr John Campbell. The first is the most recent Covid-19 update, the second is a short video about what drugs not to use when/if you do get Covid-19.

An important take-home-fact from the second video is that paracetamol will bring down the fever, and it won’t make the disease worse. So even if the evidence is still largely anecdotal, it won’t hurt you to give the NSAIDs a miss. Why play Russian roulette with your life if you don’t have to?

On the prevention side of things, the Offspring and I started taking Olive Leaf Extract and Sellenium supplements last night. Also eating fresh capsicum [well washed] because it contains more vitamin C than an orange. Stood outside in the sun this morning for some vitamin D. Didn’t have much skin exposed as it was a bit chilly so I’ll put on a t-shirt and get a better dose once it warms up.

If there’s sun where you are, why not go outside and get some free vitamin D? You will need to expose some skin. Streaking, however, is not recommended. lol lol lol Ahem…

And finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we will cope in isolation for the next who-knows-how-many months. From there, I started wondering about the generational gap between those of us who cook, and those who don’t. If all these people are stuck at home, how are they going to eat if they don’t know how to cook?

In the next few days I’m going to search through my recipes for very simple meals that can be prepared by people who don’t normally do much cooking. As the availability of ingredients will be different in other countries, perhaps you could post simple recipes as well.

It’s not a big thing, but we’re fast reaching a point where every single one of us has to start thinking about the wider community. We have to support each other in whatever way we can.

Let’s use this pandemic as an opportunity to do good. There are so many ways we can help our communities. All we need to do is think outside the box.

Much love,

Meeks


Covid-19 & help for your Immune System

Covid-19 is a brand new virus, and as such, 99.999999% of us have no immunity to it. Because this virus is so completely new, we don’t have vaccines or medications against it either. That means the only weapon we have is the immune system all of us are born with.

Immune system

The immune system is mostly centred around the thyroid which produces cells that seek out viruses and bacteria, chop them up and teach other cells how to fight them. This is more or less how we become immune to new viruses and bacteria.

That explanation is at about kindergarten level, but it’s enough to explain why having the immune system working at peak efficiency is so important. It is always our first line of defence, and with the Covid-19 virus, it is also our only line of defence.

So what affects the efficiency of our immune system?

For people with no underlying diseases, the immune system gets most of what it needs from good food, adequate rest and a bit of healthy exercise. This is why about 80% of those who catch Covid-19 will experience very little in terms of ‘disease’.

Nevertheless, even young, healthy people can reduce the length and severity of their infection by supporting their immune systems while they are sick. This involves eating healthy food instead of junk food, getting lots of rest, drinking lots of fluids [NOT alcoholic fluids!], and taking some of the natural boosters you’ll find here.

I’m no nutritionist so I’m only going to talk about two things that I know something about – Vitamin D and Iodine.

Iodine

The following quotes are all taken from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/

  • ‘Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones regulate many important biochemical reactions,’
  • ‘They [thyroid hormones] are also required for proper skeletal and central nervous system development in fetuses and infants [1].’
  • ‘Iodine may have other physiological functions in the body as well. For example, it appears to play a role in immune response’.

In Australia, our old, mineral depleted soils do not contain much iodine which is why we are encouraged to used iodised table salt – i.e. salt that has had iodine added to it. It is also why our bread now has added iodine.

This lack of naturally occurring iodine means that many of us could be slightly deficient in iodine. If that’s the case, then our immune systems are not going to be performing at peak efficiency during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Where do you find Iodine?

As I mentioned before, in Australia, iodine is added to iodised table salt and bread. It also occurs naturally in fish, seafood and seaweed. So in theory, if you use iodised table salt, eat lots of bread and also eat fish, seafood and seaweed, your iodine levels should be fine.

But…

Unused iodine is peed out:

‘Iodine in food and iodized salt is present in several chemical forms including sodium and potassium salts, inorganic iodine (I2), iodate, and iodide, the reduced form of iodine [4]. Iodine rarely occurs as the element, but rather as a salt; for this reason, it is referred to as iodide and not iodine. Iodide is quickly and almost completely absorbed in the stomach and duodenum. Iodate is reduced in the gastrointestinal tract and absorbed as iodide [2,5]. When iodide enters the circulation, the thyroid gland concentrates it in appropriate amounts for thyroid hormone synthesis and most of the remaining amount is excreted in the urine [2].’

Quote taken from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/

Now ask yourself, do you eat fish, seafood and seaweed every day? If the answer is no, then you may be a little or a lot deficient in iodine.

So how do you make sure you’re getting enough iodine every day, especially when you’re sick?

There are iodine supplements that you swallow but I don’t recommend them because too much iodine can actually do you harm.

Instead, I recommend painting iodine onto your skin.

The skin absorbs the iodine and releases it into the blood stream from which it is carried to the thyroid. You do not need to ingest iodine.

In Australia, BETADINE is a well known, family antiseptic. It comes in a small bottle and you paint it onto cuts and abrasions with a cotton bud:

Image sourced from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Povidone-iodine

The following quote is taken from the same Wikipedia article:

Povidone-iodine (PVP-I), also known as iodopovidone, is an antiseptic used for skin disinfection before and after surgery.[1][2] It may be used both to disinfect the hands of healthcare providers and the skin of the person they are caring for.[2] It may also be used for minor wounds.[2] It may be applied to the skin as a liquid or a powder.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Povidone-iodine

You can also buy pure iodine online under the brand name of ‘Lugols’. I have no idea whether one is better than the other, but I’ve used Lugols for almost ten years.

How much iodine do you need?

The amount of iodine is going to be different for each person because we don’t come in a standard size. I’m 5’3″ and 65 kgs. As a rule of thumb, I paint about a fifty cent coin size area of skin when I’m feeling fine. When I’m coming down with a cold, or trying to prevent one, I increase that to about 3 inches by 3 inches. That’s quite a bit of skin.

How much you use will depend upon your body size and how quickly the distinctive iodine stain is absorbed by your body. If the stain takes 24 hours to disappear from your skin, your thyroid is using a ‘normal’ amount of iodine for you. If the stain disappears in 8 hours or less, however, it means your thyroid is working harder than usual and using more iodine than usual. In that case, you may want to apply a bit more to your skin.

If you’ve never used either pure iodine or Betadine before, be careful because it will stain your clothing while it’s wet.

Vitamin D

Both the Offspring and I were found to be vitamin D deficient some years ago when we were tested. I was truly surprised at my result because I spend a lot of time out in the garden. Surely I had absorbed enough vitamin D just from the sunshine on my skin?

Apparently not. So what does vitamin D actually do, and why should you care?

According to Dr John Campbell, vitamin D reduces the ‘probabilty of contracting respiratory tract infections’. Covid-19 causes fever and a dry cough – i.e. a respiratory tract infection.

I strongly recommend that you watch this video in its entirety:

Other important nutrients for your immune system

I stumbled across this post by accident whilst researching iodine and vitamin D:

10 simple nutrients to boost your immune system for maximum protection and immunity.’

The ten nutrients include:

  • Elderberry syrup
  • Echinacea
  • Oil of Oregano
  • Olive Leaf Extract
  • Monolaurin
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Sellenium

You can find a detailed description of each of these nutrients by following the link above. I don’t know enough about magnesium and sellenium etc to comment on their efficacy, but I’m definitely going to explore them further myself, and I recommend that you do too.

Stay healthy
Meeks


Covid-19 – are we supposed to get sick?

Like many Melbournians, I was immensely relieved to hear that the Grand Prix had been cancelled due to Covid-19, but I was puzzled, and angered, by the Federal government’s continuing mixed messages about the virus. On the one hand Scott Morrison says the authorities will put social distancing interventions in place, but not until Monday [March 16, 2020]. And they won’t apply to schools, universities and public transport.

Why give the virus a whole weekend to turn up at the ‘footy’ and in churches and concert halls and theatres etc etc etc.

If these interventions are meant to stop the rapid spread of the virus, why wait?

Why encourage people to ‘go to the footy?’ And why not close schools, universities and public transport?

Is the delay all about the money?

Despite my cynical anger, there was something about all of this that simply did not add up, especially as the Premiers of all states and territories appear to be in agreement with #ScottyFromMarketing. As my state, Victoria, has a Labor government, I would have expected the Premier, Daniel Andrews, to be more caring of people’s lives than old Scomo.

It was at this point that I remembered an episode of The Drum I had watched just a few days ago [the 12th of March, 2020]. On this episode, the panel of The Drum included a guest, Professor James McCaw, a mathematical biologist and Infectious Diseases Epidemiologist from Melbourne University. Apparently, Prof. McCaw and his colleagues have been modelling the spread of the Covid-19 virus and have been advising the Federal government.

Keep that point in mind, ‘advising the Federal government’.

During the course of the discussion, the panel talked about interventions such as forced social distancing – e.g. cancelling the Grand Prix – as a way to avoid getting the virus and jet propelling it through the community.

To explain the reasoning behind social distancing, they displayed this graph:

Those of you who have been following the Covid-19 virus online will be familiar with graphs that look very similar. The sharp peak is what happens if the virus is allowed to spread without interventions. The flattened, ‘fat’ curve is what happens when you slow the spread of the virus via interventions. The important thing to note from this graph is that a slow spread allows hospitals to cope with the influx of desperately ill people infected with Covid-19.

So far so good. But if interventions slow the virus, and slowing the virus is good, why would mathematical biologists and infectious disease epidemiologists have to model anything? Isn’t it obvious?

Going back to Professor McCaw, I think I’ve found the answer, or at least understood it. This is what the Professor had to say about the virus and interventions:

“The really important thing to be aware of, though, is by avoiding that transmission [i.e. of the virus] all of the people who may otherwise have gotten ill, they are all still susceptible. So as society returns to normal…the population is still equally susceptible, and this is where the mathematicians have a role to play.”

ABC, The Drum, March 12, 2020, at minute 19:55

You can find that episode of The Drum on iView
If the link doesn’t take you to the right episode, look for the episode aired on March the 12th, 2020.

So, what exactly does all that mean?

I am no expert so my reading of Professor McCaw’s comment may be completely wrong, but this is how I finally understood it:

  1. the whole world is going to get this virus sooner or later, so…
  2. if Australia stops the virus from spreading, we’ll simply postpone the deaths until a later,
  3. but if a lot of the most healthy people get the virus, they are likely to get only a mild version that does not need hospitalisation.
  4. this will leave the hospitals free to deal with those who do get very sick,
  5. so it makes logical sense to allow this younger, healthy group to get sick, recover and become immune before interventions are put in place,
  6. then, once this first pass of the virus is over, and a vaccine is available, the uninfected members of the population can be protected as well.

From a theoretical perspective, this ‘strategy’, if that’s what it is, would stagger the victims of the virus, making the epidemic manageable. I guess it would also have less of an impact on the economy.

But even in theory, this strategy can only work if the authorities actually know how many cases of Covid-19 there are in the community so they know when to apply the breaks via more draconian interventions. It also assumes that everything else needed to apply the breaks is already in place, ready to go.

Given the lack of widespread testing, I don’t think the authorities do know. I think they are guessing on the basis of how quickly the virus has spread in other countries and extrapolating that to Australia.

More worrying still is the lack of clear, public messaging. People are getting their information from social media, and they’re scared and confused. Getting them to go along with drastic social interventions ‘when the time is right’ can only succeed if everyone understands and agrees with those interventions.

Australia is not a ‘command and control’ country. How are the authorities going to enforce these interventions? Using the police? The armed forces?

People working in the GIG economy, the underemployed and those who think they are immortal will continue doing what they think they need to do for themselves.

This is human nature. Expecting people to behave like robots may work on paper; it will not work in the real world. In the real world, individuals who ignore the interventions could easily infect far more people than the ‘strategy’ anticipates. This will skew the timing and effectiveness of the interventions so when they finally do come, they may not work at all. Or they may not work well enough, allowing the curve of the graph to continue shooting up like a rocket.

But practical considerations aside, nowhere in this strategy is there a recognition of all those who will become collateral damage, the ones who will catch the virus, get sick and die.

According to the statistics, children under the age of 10 don’t die of this virus, but those over the age of 10 do start to die. It’s a small percentage, but it exists:

Taken from a video by Dr John Campbell

So who are these children and teens likely to be?

Right from the start, we’ve been told that people with pre-existing conditions will be most vulnerable to the virus. Well guess what, children and teens have pre-existing conditions too. They have asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, Crohns, ulcerative colitis, leukemia, cancers of all sorts… the list goes on and on and on.

What part of the strategy protects these vulnerable young people when they go to school or university or travel by public transport?

And then there are the older age groups. As we age, almost all of us develop some type of chronic disease. I’m pretty fit and healthy, but I’ve had cancer. If the virus gets out of control and the hospitals can’t cope, will I be triaged to die because I am less likely to survive than someone younger?

That kind of soul destroying triage is already happening in Italy.

And what of remote Indigenous communities? They are already behind the eight ball when it comes to health. How are they going to survive when they are often hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor let alone hospital?

We are people, not numbers, yet the silence about us has been deafening. Self isolation is fine, but where are the systems that will make it effective?

I went to Coles [supermarket] this morning. I arrived at 7am, thinking I’d be almost alone in the store. Thank god I was wearing my mask because there was a conga line waiting outside the entrance. What were they all waiting for? Toilet paper.

Coles is now doling the toilet paper out, one packet at a time, but to get a packet you have to stand in a queue next to people who may already be infected but not showing any symptoms.

Toilet paper aside, whole families packed the aisles of the store, stocking up, and every single cash register was open and working at a feverish pace. Instead of being in and out in ten minutes, it took me an hour and a half to get my shopping and leave. The whole time I stood there, flanked by overflowing shopping trolleys, I was acutely aware of the people around me. I didn’t hear any sneezing, but someone did cough behind me. Just a little cough… Probably just clearing their throat… 😦

Professor McCaw’s models may work on paper, but as they are currently being implemented, they are ensuring that the most vulnerable in our society pay the price if things go horribly wrong.

Meeks


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