Tag Archives: Omicron

post-Covid cognitive impairment

Just read a thought-provoking article in New Atlas about the cognitive deficits experienced by people who have had severe Covid:

‘A new study has presented the most rigorous investigation to date into the long-term cognitive impacts of severe COVID-19. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, found persistent cognitive deficits in hospitalized patients equivalent to declines consistent with 20 years of brain aging.’

https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/cognitive-impact-severe-covid-equal-20-years-brain-aging/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=1643987275-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_05_05_12_42&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-1643987275-92416841

The study followed the post-Covid recovery of 46 people who had all had severe Covid, including 16 who had been ventilated. Their cognitive functions were compared to that of ‘age and demographically matched healthy control subjects.’ It was found that the more severe the disease, the greater the cognitive impairment:

‘These COVID patients were slower to respond to tasks and less accurate in their responses, compared to their matched controls. More specifically, the COVID patients performed poorly on “verbal analogical reasoning” tasks which are designed to test particular word-based reasoning cognitive domains.’

And as if that were not enough, there is some evidence to suggest that:

A study published earlier this year from researchers at the University of Oxford found minor cognitive deficits in subjects experiencing mild COVID-19 up to six months after an acute infection.

You can find the complete article here.

I know everyone wants to believe that the worst of Covid is over, but with Omicron morphing into BA.4 and BA.5 already, it’s not done with us yet. Please treat this disease with the caution it deserves. Even if you’re fully vaccinated. Even if you’ve had it before. Because there may be outcomes worse than death. 😦

Meeks


BA.2 may be worse than BA.1

Bananas in Pajamas? No, BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron and it’s mooted to be even more infectious than other variants. Now there’s research coming out of Japan that suggests it could also be a whole lot more virulent:

‘When the researchers infected hamsters with BA.2 and BA.1, the animals infected with BA.2 got sicker and had worse lung function. In tissues samples, the lungs of BA.2-infected hamsters had more damage than those infected by BA.1.’

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/17/health/ba-2-covid-severity/index.html

The CNN article contains a link to the actual journal article so I clicked it. Doing so gave me access to the PDF of the research. I understood the abstract, kind-a, and the discussion, kind-a, not much in the middle, but what impressed me was the dogged persistence of the researchers. Every time their experiments came up with unexpected results, they changed the focus of the experiments to investigate the new leads…like detectives.

That dogged persistence, and the quality control the Japanese are known for, convinced me that this is no error-riddled study dashed off between breakfast and lunch. And that makes their conclusion even more chilling:

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.02.14.480335v1.full.pdf

If the Japanese research is confirmed, BA.2 could become our worst nightmare at a time when most states here in Australia are easing up on restrictions and opening their borders.

In NSW :

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-17/nsw-eases-covid-19-restrictions-face-masks-to-be-scaled-back/100839260

In Victoria, some restrictions on density and QR codes will be eased but ‘… mask requirements are to remain in place for the time being.’ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-17/victorian-government-covid-restrictions-new-deaths-cases/100838490

Thank you, Dan Andrews. At the rate that BA.2 is spreading, there should be definitive data available long before we throw caution to the winds.

“It looks like we might be looking at a new Greek letter here,” agreed Deborah Fuller, a virologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who reviewed the study but was not part of the research.

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/17/health/ba-2-covid-severity/index.html

Since the beginning of February, 2022, Denmark has removed all pandemic restrictions. Denmark also happens to be the only country in Europe where BA.2 is well and truly the dominant strain. This is a graph of the death toll in Denmark:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/denmark/#graph-cases-daily

If you click the worldometers link and hover your mouse over the very end of the line on the graph, you will see that the data is for February 18, just two days ago. Only time will tell exactly how virulent BA.2 really is, but I’m not dumping my mask any time soon.

My thanks to Mole for bringing the Japanese research to my attention…our attention. Stay safe my friends.

Meeks


How do you measure success in a pandemic?

I’m writing this as someone who lives in the most locked down city on Earth – Melbourne. We suffered through the first wave of Covid-19 and lost 820 people to the virus, but that death toll could have been much, much worse; during the first wave in Italy, 35,142(1) Italians lost their lives.

Returning to the first wave of Covid-19 in Melbourne, we eliminated the virus and kept it from spreading to the rest of Victoria and the other states by putting ourselves into a VERY strict lockdown. That lockdown included a curfew and a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Melbourne. It worked. In fact, the same restrictions continued to eliminate the virus from Victoria until NSW, with the tacit approval of the Federal government, decided that we all had to ‘live with Covid’. Thanks to our long border with NSW, we could no longer keep the virus out.

The other States and territories – Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT – continued to keep Delta out until Omicron came along. Western Australia is now the only state still trying to keep Omicron out. Across the ditch, our New Zealand cousins have not given up the fight against Covid-19 either. The battle may have changed from elimination to a fighting retreat, but it continues. The battle also continues in many of the countries of Asia, but we hear so very little about them.

I created the following spreadsheet from data published by https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries The website provides covid-19 related information about every nation on Earth.

That’s a lot of data and the forest tends to get lost in the trees so I created a subset(2) of the data to show the difference between the Asian approach to Covid-19 and that of most Western countries. I’ve included Australia and New Zealand as part of Asia, because that is what we are.

In the screenshot below, the data is sorted by total deaths:

Iceland did the best with just 46 deaths while the USA did the worst with 904,038 deaths, but Iceland has a very small population while the USA has a very large one. In the next screenshot, I sorted the data according to deaths per million in order to account for differences in population size:

Iceland appears on the top of the list, again, because something is screwy with the ‘per million’ figure. I suspect a human error resulted in the decimal point being left off, but I’m too lazy to look up the population of Iceland to be sure.

Setting Iceland aside, the data suddenly reveals two surprises:

  1. China does the best with just 3 deaths per million. [Remember that China has a population of roughly 1.4 billion people]
  2. Hungary does the worst with 4,285 deaths per million.

Hungary is the country of my birth. It’s a small country with a small population [roughly 9.6 million]. That population is now smaller by 41,229 people. I’m glad my parents are no longer alive to see what has happened to their country. That said, the USA and the UK have the dubious honour of having the second and third worst results after Hungary.

So how do you measure success in a pandemic? Is it money saved? Or lives?

In a recent video, Dr John expressed disbelief that China would continue to eliminate the virus ‘in the age of Omicron’. In the comments, all sorts of theories were raised, most denigrating China’s strategy as futile, draconian and only possible in such a tightly regulated nation. The unspoken assumption was that no sane person would want to live like that.

I’m not an apologist for China because I don’t think it needs one. Yes, the Chinese government probably is guilty of human rights violations, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The murder of George Floyd in the US brought the plight of Black America into sharp focus. When police feel they can kill Black Americans without fear of consequences, that’s a human rights violation. When children can be murdered at school because there is no gun control, that’s a human rights violation.

Here in Australia, the media shone a spotlight on our asylum seekers recently, but only because a famous tennis star was locked up with them for a very short time. What we’ve done to asylum seekers in the name of ‘stopping the boats’ is also a human rights violation. Would they be treated the same way if they were white and came from a European country?

But our human rights violations aren’t restricted to asylum seekers. The ‘deaths in custody’ of hundreds of First Nations Australians doesn’t rate a mention unless there’s some political twist to the story. That’s an ongoing human rights violation, yet no one wants to haul Australia off before the Court of International Justice in The Hague. Is it because we belong to ‘us’ and everyone else is ‘them’?

I’m sure China’s strategy of elimination isn’t motivated by pure altruism, but I suspect the Chinese government has worked out that its economy depends on the health of the populace. Dead people can’t manufacture anything. Dead people can’t buy anything either. Maybe that’s a lesson all neo-liberal governments need to learn.

Vaccines are great but they’re not a silver bullet that will save us from the inconvenience of old fashioned contagion control. To save lives, we have to have both. To save our economies, we have to save lives first.

Meeks

(1) Finding the number of total deaths in the first wave [for Italy] was surprisingly hard, or perhaps I didn’t search for the right terms. In the end, I had to calculate the number of death [for Italy] from a graph put out by the WHO:

https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/country/it

If you go to that graph and hover your mouse over each column, you can see the total deaths for that period. I copied the raw numbers into the spreadsheet below so I could get a total just for the first wave in Italy:

(2) The data I used for the comparison between Asian and Western Covid-19 results is detailed below:


WHY Omicron is displacing Delta

Just watched the latest podcast by Dr John in which he explains new research out of South Africa:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYLbJ0H8zdc

This is not a three-second-sound-byte type podcast. It is nuanced and looks at the science behind the news, but it is well worth watching from start to finish because it explains the trends that we have been seeing, both in South Africa and more recently in the UK.

By trends I mean, of course, Omicron’s extremely high infection rates coupled with relatively low rates of severe disease and death. According to the research in Dr John’s podcast, these trends are not a fluke. And that spells good news for 2022.

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Delta is still around, and it is still causing severe disease and death, so going out and going nuts in the hope of catching Omicron could still see a lot of people ending up with Delta instead. Dying of Delta when the end is literally in sight would be a terrible irony so the Offspring and I are going to stay safely at home until Omicron finishes defeating Delta.

Stay well,
Meeks


Omicron may be the successor to Delta

I first heard about the Omicron variant last night, from Dr Norman Swann:

Little is known about the Omicron variant of Covid19, but it is being blamed for a sudden, sharp spike in new infections in South Africa:

Dr John Campbell explains what we know about the new variant, and what it may mean for the pandemic in this must see video:

The dot points I took from the video are:

  • Omicron has 32 mutations which may make it more infectious than Delta,
  • The mutations may allow it to elude the immunity supplied by vaccines [ALL vaccines],
  • No one knows whether Omicron will make you more sick or less,
  • It has already escaped from South Africa into Hong Kong and Belgium,
  • Most of Europe and the UK have just banned travel from South Africa,
  • The travel bans are to give scientists time to find out more about Omicron, and for Pharmaceutical companies to tweak existing vaccines to be more effective against the variant,
  • Both the US and Australia have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude,
  • By the time we ‘see’ how dangerous Omicron can be, it may well be too late.

On a personal note, I’m booked in for my second AstraZeneca jab this Monday. I was hoping to enjoy a latte before Christmas, but I guess I’ll ‘wait and see’ how bad Omicron gets before the Offspring and I emerge from self-isolation. I really, really hope this variant does turn out to be a ‘storm in a tea cup’. 😦

Meeks


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