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jimmy m
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25 Oct 2023, 8:39 am

In general, COVID seems to be winding down. It is still out there but not as deadly. Those that are most vulnerable to the severe effects, such as the elderly or those who have immune deficiencies, should get the shot.


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13 Nov 2023, 7:42 pm

Pain, fatigue, fuzzy thinking: How long COVID disrupts the brain

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Michelle Wilson got COVID three years ago. She's still waiting for her brain and nervous system to recover.

Wilson's memory is spotty, she's frequently in pain, and even a short walk leaves her exhausted.

"I actually bought a cane that turns into a seat so I can go to the botanical garden," she says.

It's a big change for Wilson, 66, who had worked as a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. But after years of waiting to get better, she says she's realized something:

"This might be as good as it gets."

It's a story shared by a growing number of COVID "long-haulers" — those patients who suffer from persistent symptoms long after the initial infection has passed. Many of those symptoms, experts say, appear to be tied to COVID's effects on the brain and nervous system.

Michelle Wilson receives a coronavirus vaccine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. Wilson had gotten COVID earlier in the pandemic, before vaccines were available.

Government surveys suggest that millions of people in the U.S. are living with neurological symptoms linked to long COVID. Many, like Wilson, were infected before vaccines became available.

Michelle Wilson got COVID three years ago. She's still waiting for her brain and nervous system to recover.

Wilson's memory is spotty, she's frequently in pain, and even a short walk leaves her exhausted.

"I actually bought a cane that turns into a seat so I can go to the botanical garden," she says.

It's a big change for Wilson, 66, who had worked as a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. But after years of waiting to get better, she says she's realized something:

"This might be as good as it gets."

It's a story shared by a growing number of COVID "long-haulers" — those patients who suffer from persistent symptoms long after the initial infection has passed. Many of those symptoms, experts say, appear to be tied to COVID's effects on the brain and nervous system.

"It's a public health crisis," says Dr. Robyn Klein, who directs the Center for Neuroimmunology and Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

There are a lot of people suffering and those people need treatment yesterday," says Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, who holds positions at both Washington University and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.

But treatment remains a distant promise.

"There's still a ton we don't know," says Dr. Troy Torgerson of the Allen Institute for Immunology in Seattle. Scientists are "nibbling away" at the problem, he says.

The virus appears to do most of its damage to the brain indirectly, scientists say.

An infection in the body triggers an immune response that leads to inflammation in the brain. And the inflammation can persist long after the virus has apparently been cleared, scientists say.

The brain may be especially vulnerable to COVID because the disease appears to weaken the blood-brain barrier, which usually protects the organ from both germs and the immune cells that follow them.

Another possibility is that COVID-related inflammation affects the vagus nerve, which carries signals between the body and brain that are important to memory and attention.

From lungs to brain
Early in the pandemic, doctors tended to focus on what COVID did to a person's lungs.

In those days, Wilson was working in the post-anesthesia care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

"I got people ready for surgery, and woke them up after their surgeries," she says. "I loved that job."

But the job put her in close proximity to lots of potentially infected patients. And in November of 2020, Wilson got the disease.

When the symptoms grew worse, she went to the emergency department at her own hospital.

"I had bilateral pneumonia and I was in sepsis by that time," she says. "My blood pressure was really low and I had an irregular heartbeat”.

People with neurological symptoms do get better, he says, but full recovery is rare.

Three years after getting COVID, Wilson continues to struggle with a range of symptoms, including an unreliable memory.

"I have trouble with word retrieval, concept retrieval — and sometimes, like, remembering where I was going," she says.

Wilson also has problems sleeping at night, a condition Al-Aly says affects about 40 percent of people with long COVID.

Poor sleep can also contribute to the pain that many long COVID patients report.

When Wilson first came home from the hospital, she was in agony.

"The pain across my chest and in my arms was so bad that I slept with pillows under both arms because I couldn't stand my arms to touch my chest," she says.

Now Wilson is able to do things like make breakfast or take a shower — so long as she takes her pain meds.

Immune system gone wrong?
There's growing evidence that even a mild case of COVID can cause long-term changes to the immune system that affect the brain and nervous system.

Torgerson of the Allen Institute was part of a team that studied blood samples from 55 people who had symptoms at least 60 days after a COVID infection.

"We saw persistent ongoing immune activation in about half," he says, even though only a handful had been sick enough to be hospitalized.

Once the immune system gets fired up, Torgerson says, it can affect the brain even if the virus itself doesn't infect brain cells.

Long COVID also has some striking similarities to autoimmune diseases, which occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, Torgerson says.


A mouse model of COVID
To learn more about how long COVID affects a human brain, scientists have been studying mice that develop a mild version of the disease.

"Those animals have cognitive deficits a month after they were infected," Klein says. "They no longer have virus, they're no longer ill. But they can't remember and recognize things."

One reason may be that the infection weakens the blood-brain barrier in these animals, Klein says, allowing the body's immune response to affect brain cells.

The result is inflammation that causes subtle but significant changes in the brain.

"It's not like there's a multitude of dying neurons," Klein says. "What there is, is elimination of the connections between neurons."

Klein suspects that something similar is happening to the synaptic connections in the brains of people who get long COVID. And she says it appears this can happen even in people who don't get very sick.

"You and I may handle viruses differently," she says. "I may end up getting more inflammation in my brain than you because we have a different genetic makeup."

One way to protect the brain after an infection may be with drugs that reduce inflammation — and studies to test that idea are already underway. In the meantime, vaccination offers a way for people to reduce their risk of developing long COVID.

Michelle Wilson, though, got infected before vaccination was an option. And she'd like a treatment that can undo what COVID has done to her brain.

"We don't know everything about COVID yet," she says, "So I have hope."


Study suggests Covid rebound is far more common with Paxlovid than without
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A small and preliminary study published Monday seems to indicate that patients receiving the drug Paxlovid are far more likely to experience Covid rebound than those who did not take it.

That conclusion runs counter to previous statements by Pfizer, which makes Paxlovid, and by researchers at the Food and Drug Administration who have argued that while it is not uncommon for people with Covid to have symptoms reemerge after they seem to have recovered, it is not clear that Paxlovid increases the risk of this occurring.

The study’s authors and outside experts emphasize that there is no question that Paxlovid is a useful drug that can help keep patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus from being hospitalized. But some also wondered if the results might be an indicator that the current dosing duration of Paxlovid — daily, for five days — is not long enough.

In the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, researchers followed 142 people who were enrolled in an ongoing study of Covid from March 2022 to May 2023. Participants were not randomly assigned to receive Paxlovid or a placebo, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions

The 72 people in the study who received Paxlovid were on average almost two decades older, had received more vaccinations, and were more likely to have suppressed immune systems than those who did not.

But the difference was stark. Fifteen people, or 21%, of those who took Paxlovid had their viral levels increase again after they seemed to have gotten better. That compared to one, or 1.8%, of those who did not receive Paxlovid.


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14 Nov 2023, 7:56 am

I will receive my next COVID booster shot tomorrow. These shots have been slow in reaching my area. I suspect that I have been vaccinated from a variety of variants. So in general my resistance is probably fairly strong at this point.

I suspect that the reason why immunity is waning is not that it is getting weaker with time but rather the variants that are in a dominant position keep on changing. SO EVERY SHOT COUNTS. And for those that became infected, EVERY INFECTION COUNTS ALSO. As a result, COVID is on the decline.


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14 Nov 2023, 1:28 pm

We got shots for Flu, COVID-19, and RSV in October, all on different days.

(Different days because, apparently, of availability issues for the hospital where we get our healthcare.)


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14 Nov 2023, 4:27 pm

Double Retired wrote:
We got shots for Flu, COVID-19, and RSV in October, all on different days.

(Different days because, apparently, of availability issues for the hospital where we get our healthcare.)

I got my RSV shot last month. I got my COVID and Senior Flu vaccines the on the 3rd of this month. The usual bit of soreness at the injection site.


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16 Nov 2023, 8:48 am

I went in yesterday and received my COVID booster shot. This is my 6th Moderna booster shot thus far. It seems to work well. I have never gotten COVID. Because of my age (75) I need to stay on top this because I am more vulnerable.

The shot went well. I could hardly feel it. My arm is a little sore this morning but that is to be expected.


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20 Nov 2023, 10:14 pm

COVID is not a concern for Americans heading into Christmas, other holidays, says survey: 'Just another virus'

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Being concerned about spreading COVID-19 is reportedlysooo last season.

As the U.S. heads into the fourth holiday season since the pandemic's onset, most Americans aren’t worried about COVID-19 spread or prevention during the holidays this year, a new study has revealed.

Many people have not received the latest vaccine, according to KFF’s latest COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey — which could be a reflection of the decreased concern.

About half of adults surveyed said they do not plan to get the newest COVID vaccine that was released this fall.

A quarter of the respondents said they intend to get the latest vaccine — but only two in 10 adults have already received it.

The largest adopters of the vaccine include Democrats and people who are age 65 and older, the survey revealed.

About half (52%) of people who were previously vaccinated admitted they haven’t received the latest vaccine due to a lack of worry about COVID-19.

Only about three in 10 people are worried about spreading COVID to friends and family over the holidays or becoming seriously sick from the virus.

The public is divided on taking precautions, the survey found: Half of adults say they plan to attempt to limit the spread with at least one safety procedure, including avoiding large gatherings, wearing a mask or testing for COVID before visiting friends and family.

The other half do not plan to implement any precautions at all.

The KFF report findings are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of roughly 1,400 adults who were interviewed online and by telephone between Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, the group's website says.

Fox News contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier reacted to the survey results in an exchange with Fox News Digital, noting that concern about COVID during the holidays has "certainly evolved" over the last few years.

As we enter this holiday season, the majority of people have already had at least one COVID infection, most of which likely only experienced mild to moderate symptoms," she said.

Saphier pointed out that the greatest fear at the beginning of the pandemic was the unknown — which prompted the public to take extra care when heading into the 2020 holidays.

The doctor added that, as with every holiday season, other viruses such as the flu and RSV are also waiting to "wreak havoc," which has pulled COVID out of the spotlight.

"COVID is no longer the outlier, [but] rather just another virus among the masses," she said.


4 more free COVID tests will be available to each household ahead of the holidays
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Ahead of the approaching holidays and a potential rise in cases this winter, the government is once again allowing households to order a fresh wave of four COVID-19 tests for free online.

The website, covidtests.gov, remains one of the last remaining ways Americans can secure free at-home rapid test after the end of the public health emergency last spring ended the requirement for insurance companies to cover eight tests per month.

The test ordering site relaunched last month, offering four tests per household, and will now offer an additional four tests per household for anyone who has already ordered -- or eight tests per household for anyone who hasn't placed an order yet this fall.

Since September, about 14.5 million households have ordered tests, for a total of 58 million tests shipped, according to the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, or ASPR, a department within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Some of the free tests that the government has stockpiled are also up against impending expiration dates, another reason to move the tests along, O'Connell said. The Food and Drug Administration recently extended expiration dates for many at-home tests, but they still have a relatively short shelf life.

"We know that the tests are going to be good for the next several months. They're not going to be good forever. And so we think it's important that we go ahead and have them in the hands of the American people so they can use them and protect themselves as we head into the winter," O'Connell said.

The tests will come from a $600 million investment in domestic test manufacturers, which will yield around 200 million tests and replenish the federal stockpile. Tests ordered from covidtests.gov will be pulled from that stockpile.

The funding for the $600 million investment will come from money that was left over from a past supplemental COVID-19 bill.


Personal Note:
If I’m going to get COVID it is going to be this week. I was a naughty boy. Saturday was my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah meaning for the first time in a looong time I was in crowded indoor spaces with people talking loudly. Worse I had my mask down a lot of the time. Due to my tongue replacement operation it is hard to understand me with the mask on. For the people that see me all the time they kind of understand me. Problem was I was seeing a bunch of cousins I have not seen in 15 years or so they would not understand me especially over the loud music at the post Bar Mitzvah bash. I am hoping the vax I intentionally got 15 days earlier protects me in some way. I admit I am nervous not only for me for the kid. I don’t want the memory of his big day tarnished by it being a superspreader event.


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jimmy m
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27 Nov 2023, 2:39 pm

On 15 November, I received my latest COVID booster. The next day we visited my primary doctor. She had just returned back from being off BECAUSE SHE HAD COVID. It takes approximately 2 weeks for vaccine immunity to reach full effect. So I was exposed. It is lucky that I had a second line of defense (UVC protection and HEPA air filtration). So all is well. Still COVID free.


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29 Nov 2023, 5:41 pm

Cases of this COVID variant tripled in just two weeks, CDC estimates

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Incidence of a COVID-19 variant appears to have increased threefold in the U.S. in recent weeks, federal tracking showed.

The BA.2.86 variant – a mutated COVID-19 strain previously thought to be uncommon – is projected to account for nearly one-tenth of circulating viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Nowcast variant tracker posted Monday. Two weeks ago, the variant made up 3% of cases. These figures are based on estimates of circulating variants.

“The numbers are less important,” Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey, told USA TODAY. “The pattern is more important. And it looks like it's growing.”

The most recent estimate that BA.2.86 makes up 9% of COVID-19 cases is not a firm number. Health officials say the variant probably accounts for 5% to 15% of circulating variants in the U.S.

Testing is considered a less reliable indicator of disease prevalence. But the increase in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 should cause concern, Halkitis said. Colder temperatures in densely populated regions such as the New York area may account for increases in the Northeast in recent days, he said.

The COVID-19 virus, like other viruses, is constantly changing through mutations that make it easier to spread or are resistant to medicines or vaccines.

BA.2.86 comes from the BA.2 lineage, and it’s a subvariant of omicron, which came to dominate cases two years ago. BA.2.86 also has an offshoot, JN.1, but it appears rare for now.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to increase protection against BA.2.86, the CDC said.

BA.2.86 doesn’t appear to be driving increases in infections or hospitalizations, the CDC said. The CDC and the World Health Organization believe the variant’s risk to public health is low for severe illness compared with other variants. But on Aug. 21, WHO reclassified BA.2.86 as a "variant of interest" amid global increases.

CDC data showed the Northeastern region, including New Jersey and New York, saw 13% of cases derived from BA.2.86, the highest figures recorded for the variant.

In a statement, the New York State Department of Health said the BA.2.86 variant has been detected in state wastewater, a tool for COVID-19 surveillance, since late August and has been increasing in proportion over recent months.

New York health officials said BA.2.86 cases are increasing across the state. But they added they anticipated the increase because BA.2.86 reportedly is more transmissible than other circulating variants.

The New Jersey Department of Health has noted increasing numbers of BA.2.86 specimens since mid-October, department spokesperson Dalya Ewais wrote in an email. New Jersey is expected to see similar trends as the CDC's Nowcast estimates for the region, she added. Still, she said, BA.2.86 isn't likely to reach levels of the first COVID-19 outbreak in spring 2020, or the omicron variant.

Health officials from New Jersey and New York encouraged people to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines. If symptoms develop, people should get tested and stay home.


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15 Dec 2023, 2:54 am

What to Know About the New COVID-19 Variant JN.1

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A new COVID-19 strain has emerged that appears likely to stick around in the U.S. through the holiday season.

JN.1, which is a close relative to BA.2.86, is the fastest growing variant in the U.S. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, JN.1 was responsible for more than 1 in 5 new coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

“We continue to see this COVID virus change,” CDC Director Mandy Cohen said during an event on Tuesday. “In August of this year, we probably saw one of the larger changes to the COVID virus at that time, and what we've seen lately in the last couple of weeks is an offshoot of that August variant.”

The August variant Cohen referred to is BA.2.86, also known as “pirola.” When the strain emerged, organizations like the CDC and the World Health Organization were warning that its high number of mutations made it one to watch.

But now, it appears that JN.1 could be more of a problem.

N.1 is very similar to pirola.

“Even though BA.2.86 and JN.1 sound very different because of the way variants are named, there is only a single change between JN.1 and BA.2.86 in the spike protein,” the CDC said in a recent update on the strain.

The new strain was first detected in the U.S. in September. Since then, it has grown to represent an estimated 15%-29% of new infections, according to CDC data. The agency expects that JN.1’s prevalence in the U.S. will continue to increase.

COVID-19 tests and treatments are expected to work on JN.1. So far, it doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease, but it does seem to have advantages over the other strains.

The continued growth of JN.1 suggests that it is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems,” the CDC said.

Despite this, the CDC assesses that “at this time, there is no evidence that JN.1 presents an increased risk to public health relative to other currently circulating variants.”

As of now, it’s not known if JN.1 causes different symptoms from other strains.

“In general, symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be similar across variants,” the CDC said. “The types of symptoms and how severe they are usually depend more on a person’s immunity and overall health rather than which variant causes the infection.”

The updated COVID-19 shot is expected to offer protection against JN.1.

Vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez called JN.1 a “bad” strain, noting its high transmissibility and immune escape capabilities.

“This new XBB annual immunization that became available this September should offer some cross protection to keep you out of the hospital,” Hotez said on social media.

COVID-19 metrics are on the rise. New hospital admissions have been increasing for a month, surpassing the peak numbers during the late summer wave.


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15 Dec 2023, 11:38 pm

COVID and flu surge could strain hospitals as JN.1 variant grows, CDC warns

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Hospitals and emergency rooms could be forced to ration care by the end of this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday, saying recent trends in COVID-19 and influenza are now on track to again strain America's health care system. The new COVID variant JN.1 is making up an increasing share of cases, the CDC's tracking shows.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising quickly," the agency said in its weekly update. "Since the summer, public health officials have been tracking a rise in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which is caused by COVID-19. Influenza activity is growing in most parts of the country. RSV activity remains high in many areas."

The CDC has been urging people to get vaccinated as the peak of this year's mix of three seasonal respiratory viruses — influenza, COVID-19 and RSV — is nearing.

In pediatric hospitals, the CDC says beds "are already nearly as full as they were this time last year" in some parts of the country. Data from emergency rooms published Wednesday tracked emergency room visits nearly doubling in school-age children last week.

The increase, driven largely by an acceleration in flu cases, follows weeks of largely plateauing emergency room figures nationwide ahead of Thanksgiving.

Similar to this time last year, influenza emergency room visits are now outpacing COVID-19 for the first time in months across most age groups. Only in seniors do rates of COVID-19 remain many times higher than influenza.

Nursing homes have seen a steep rise in reported COVID-19 across recent weeks. In the Midwestern region spanning Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, infections in nursing home residents have already topped rates seen at last year's peak.


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17 Dec 2023, 3:22 pm

It seems like COVID is still on the move.

JN.1 is now the fastest-growing variant in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It currently accounts for more than one-fifth of all infections in the U.S.

The HV.1 subvariant is still the dominant strain right now — but JN.1 is not far behind. During the two-week period ending on Dec. 9, HV.1 accounted for about 30% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., per the CDC’s latest estimates. JN.1 was the second-most prevalent strain, making up about 21% of cases, followed by EG.5.

In early November, JN.1 accounted for fewer than 1% of COVID-19 cases and now, only several weeks later, it makes up over 20% of cases, Dr. Michael Phillips, chief epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health, tells TODAY.com.

JN.1 does not pose an increased public health risk compared to other variants currently in circulation, the CDC said.

Source: What to know about JN.1, the fastest-growing COVID-19 variant in US: Symptoms and more


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18 Dec 2023, 4:47 pm

Why Covid is still flooring some people

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What is it like to catch Covid now? It is a question I have been pondering since a friend was surprised by how roughed up they were by it. Their third bout of Covid was significantly worse than the previous time they caught it.

"I thought every time you catch an illness it's supposed to be a bit better each time?" was the message from his sickbed.

That has certainly been said a lot during the pandemic. But I also know work colleagues and people I have interviewed or chatted to at the school gates, who have been hit hard by Covid in the past few months.

A familiar tale has been a week of coughing, headaches or fever followed by a lingering fatigue.
It is important to stress that Covid has always caused a wide range of symptoms. Even before vaccines, some lucky people barely got sick or did not even develop symptoms.

For some of us, Covid is just a sniffle - not even enough to make you go digging around in the bathroom cabinet to see if there is a lateral flow test hiding in there.

But scientists specialising in our immune system warn Covid is still causing stonking infections that may be worse than before and knock us out for weeks.

So what is going on?

How we fare after being exposed to Covid comes down to the battle between the virus itself and our body's defences.

The earliest stages are crucial as they dictate how much of a foothold the virus gets inside our body, and how severe it is going to be.

However, waning immunity and the virus evolving are tipping the scales.

'Feel pretty rough'
Prof Eleanor Riley, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, has had her own "horrid" bout of Covid that was "much worse" than expected.

She told me: "People's antibody levels against Covid are probably as low now as they have been since the vaccine was first introduced."

Antibody levels are relatively low because it has been a long time since many of us were vaccinated (if you are young and healthy you were only ever offered two doses and a booster) or infected, which also tops up immunity.

Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London, told me: "The thing that made the huge difference before was the very wide and fast rollout of vaccines - even young adults managed to get vaccinated, and that made an absolutely huge difference."

This year even fewer people are being offered the vaccine. Last winter, all over-50s could have one. Now it is only the over-65s, unless you are in an at-risk group.

Prof Openshaw says he is not a "doomster", but thinks the result will be "a lot of people having a pretty nasty illness that is going to knock them out for several days or weeks".

"I'm also hearing of people having nasty bouts of Covid, who are otherwise young and fit. It's a surprisingly devious virus, sometimes making people quite ill and occasionally leading to having 'long Covid'," he says.

He thinks there is a "good chance" you are susceptible if you have not caught Covid in the past year.

The official government decision in the UK is to vaccinate those at risk of dying from Covid or needing hospital treatment. This relieves pressure on the National Health Service.
Prof Riley argues: "But that's not to say people who are under 65 are not going to get Covid, and are not going to feel pretty rough.

"I think the consequence of not boosting those people is we have more people who are off work for a week or two or three over winter."

Decisions on who gets vaccinated are not the only thing to have altered - the virus is also changing.

‘Little immunity'
Antibodies are highly precise as they rely on a close match between the antibody and the part of the virus to which they stick. The more a virus evolves to change its appearance, the less effective the antibodies become.

Prof Openshaw said: "The viruses circulating now are pretty distant immunologically from the original virus which was used to make the early vaccines, or which last infected them.

"A lot of people have very little immunity to the Omicron viruses and their variants."

If you are feeling rough with Covid - or rougher than you have done before - it could be this combination of waning antibodies and evolving viruses.

But this does not mean you are more likely to become critically ill or need hospital treatment.
A different part of our immune system - called T-cells - kick in once an infection is already under way and they have been trained by past infections and vaccines.

T-cells are less easily befuddled by mutating viruses as they spot cells that have been infected with Covid and kill them.

"They will stop you getting severely ill and ending up in hospital, but in that process of killing off the virus there's collateral damage that makes you feel pretty rough," says Prof Riley.

Relying on your T-cells to clear out Covid is what results in the muscle pain, fever and chills.
So where does this leave the thought that Covid is on a trajectory towards becoming a mild, innocuous infection?

There are four other human coronaviruses, related to Covid, that cause common cold symptoms. One of the reasons they are thought to be mild is we catch them in childhood and then throughout our lives.

Prof Openshaw is clear "we are not there yet" with Covid, but "with repeated infection we should build up natural immunity".

In the meantime will some of us have to suck up a grotty winter?
"I fear so," says Prof Riley.


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20 Dec 2023, 8:22 pm

I came across an interesting article today. It provides some data about the origins of COVID. Was COVID a man made virus? Did it begin in the wild or was its origin from Wuhan Institute of Virology? Was the U.S. involved? Well maybe some of the answers are finally coming out.

The article was published by Emily Kopp an investigative reporter from an organization called "U.S. Right to Know"

American scientists misled Pentagon on research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology

American researchers concealed their intention to conduct high-risk coronavirus research in Wuhan under lax safety standards from the Pentagon the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know.

A 2018 grant proposal called Project DEFUSE, coauthored by the Wuhan Institute of Virology and American scientists, has stoked concern that the pandemic resulted from a lab accident.

It proposed engineering high-risk coronaviruses of the same species as SARS and SARS-CoV-2. Most worrying to some scientists: The proposal involved synthesizing spike proteins with furin cleavage sites — the same feature that supercharged SARS-CoV-2 into the most infectious pandemic pathogen in a century. Indeed, some scientists have likened DEFUSE to a blueprint for generating SARS-CoV-2 in the lab.

New documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know now show that these experiments were proposed to occur in part in Wuhan with fewer safety precautions than required in the U.S. — apparently to save on costs. American scientists at the center of the “lab leak theory” controversy appear to have concealed this from their desired funder — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — in order to evade any national security concerns about doing high-level biosecurity work in China.

The documents call into question the credibility of these scientists’ assurances that the pandemic could not have sprung out of their collaboration on coronavirus engineering research with the lab in Wuhan.

U.S. Right to Know has obtained an early draft of DEFUSE with comments from “PD” and “BRS.” Emails show these commenters to be “Peter Daszak” and “Baric, Ralph S.”

Daszak leads EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that discovers novel viruses. Baric helms a University of North Carolina lab with a focus on coronaviruses. Both Daszak and Baric have worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology on gain-of-function research making coronaviruses more deadly or infectious.

The formal DEFUSE grant proposal states that Baric in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, will engineer the coronavirus spike proteins and test their ability to infect human cells.

But in a comment on an early draft of the proposal, Daszak clarifies that the Wuhan Institute of Virology will in fact do much of this work, but that this is excluded from the formal proposal to make DARPA “comfortable.” The comment is addressed to Baric and Wuhan Institute of Virology Senior Scientist Zhengli Shi.

“Ralph, Zhengli. If we win this contract, I do not propose that all of this work will necessarily be conducted by Ralph, but I do want to stress the US side of this proposal so that DARPA are comfortable with our team,” Daszak wrote. “Once we get the funds, we can then allocate who does what exact work, and I believe that a lot of these assays can be done in Wuhan as well…”

In another comment, Daszak said that he sought to “downplay the non-US focus of this proposal” to DARPA by not highlighting the involvement of the Chinese researchers, Shi and Duke-NUS Medical School Professor Linfa Wang.
EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak

“I’m planning to use my resume and Ralph’s,” Daszak wrote. “Linfa/Zhengli, I realize your resumes are also very impressive, but I’m trying to downplay the non-US focus of this proposal so that DARPA doesn’t see this as a negative.”

In addition to the national security risks, conducting coronavirus engineering and testing work in Wuhan entailed greater biosafety risks, the American researchers privately acknowledged.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has conducted research on SARS-related coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 in biosafety level two (BSL-2) conditions. Biosafety levels range from one (BSL-1) to four (BSL-4), with BSL-4 being the most stringent.

BSL-2 labs involve ventilated biosafety cabinets, with researchers in surgical masks and lab coats. Many scientists say viruses that may be transmitted through the air should at minimum be studied in BSL-3 conditions with ventilation and with researchers in more protective respirators.

An early draft of DEFUSE acknowledged that the engineering and testing of novel coronaviruses would occur at BSL-2. The proposal advertised this approach to DARPA grantmakers as “highly cost-effective.”

But “BSL-2” was edited to “BSL-3.”

In a comment on the document, Baric acknowledged that U.S. researchers would “freak out” if they knew the novel coronavirus engineering and testing work would be conducted in a BSL-2 lab.

“In the US, these recombinant SARS-CoV are studied under BSL3, not BSL2, especially important for those that are able to bind and replicate in primary human cells,” Baric wrote.
Recombinant viruses are viruses made by combining different genetic elements of interest.

“In china, might be growin these virus [sic] under bsl2. US reseachers [sic] will likely freak out,” he said.
University of North Carolina virologist Ralph Baric

Justin Kinney, a quantitative biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and co-founder of Biosafety said “BSL-2 experiments are more convenient and less expensive than BSL-3 experiments … However, BSL-2 provides a far lower level of biosafety than BSL-3 does. This lower safety level is especially dangerous for experiments involving viruses that can be transmitted by air,” Kinney said. “It is very concerning that Daszak and Baric appear to have considered it legitimate to move high-risk experiments from BSL-3 to BSL-2. It is also concerning that they appear to have considered doing so in secret, instead of disclosing this important change of experimental plans and biosafety precautions in their grant proposal.”

DARPA rejected the DEFUSE proposal, despite the scientists apparently whitewashing the national security and biosecurity dangers.

The documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know suggest the gain-of-function work of concern was not funded before the grant submission in 2018. However, questions remain about whether the work was subsequently completed without the DARPA funding.

Daszak has insisted that the experiments proposed in DEFUSE were never carried out.

“The DARPA proposal was not funded. Therefore, the work was not done. Simple,” Daszak said last year.

However, Daszak had the ability to push forward with research without funding when a separate National Institutes of Health grant was halted, an email obtained by U.S. Right to Know shows.

A progress report for that NIH grant for the year ending in May 2018 shows that the Wuhan Institute of Virology and EcoHealth Alliance conducted gain-of-function research on coronaviruses and tested them in mice engineered to express human receptors.

(The article then goes on to say.)

Daszak’s apparent effort to deceive DARPA fits a pattern of nondisclosure around the DEFUSE proposal. Despite its potential relevance to the origins of the pandemic, as well as Daszak’s role on the World Health Organization mission to uncover the origins, Daszak never disclosed the proposal to the public. It only became known to the world because of a leak to the independent online group DRASTIC.

The documents showing American collaborators may have concealed the extent of risky coronavirus virology happening in Wuhan follows years of revelations concerning inadequate biosafety precautions and trained personnel at that lab.

(The article then goes on to say.)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci — who had endorsed gain-of-function research and whose institute had helped underwrite the collaboration between EcoHealth Alliance, UNC and the Wuhan Institute of Virology — asked in February 2020 whether certain experiments could have led to the evolution of SARS-CoV-2.

He asked whether a technique called serial passage — in which successive infections speed up evolutionary changes — had been conducted in mice engineered to express human receptors called ACE2. Baric had shared transgenic mice expressing ACE2 — the receptor that both SARS and SARS-CoV-2 bind to — with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

(This is an interesting article. Maybe soon the entire story behind COVID and the worldwide death of millions of people will finally be exposed.)


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21 Dec 2023, 8:59 pm

Teenage Girl Left With Paralyzed Vocal Cords From COVID in First-Ever Case

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A healthy 15-year-old girl had her vocal cords paralyzed after contracting COVID-19.

The patient was admitted with "severe respiratory distress" to Mass Eye and Ear, a member of Mass General Brigham, nine days after contracting the virus. An examination with an endoscope revealed that both her vocal cords and voice box had become paralyzed, which her doctors concluded were likely the downstream effects of the COVID-19 infection.

Neurological complications brought on by COVID-19 most likely caused the symptom, researchers said in a case study published on December 19 in the journal Pediatrics.

"Given how common this virus is among children, this newly recognized potential complication should be considered in any child presenting with a breathing, talking or swallowing complaint after a recent COVID-19 diagnosis," first author Danielle Reny Larrow, a resident researcher in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Mass Eye and Ear, said in a statement. "This is especially important as such complaints could be easily attributed to more common diagnoses such as asthma."

After speech therapy failed to relieve the patient's symptoms, she was given a tracheostomy—a surgical procedure that involved creating an opening in the windpipe. She remained dependent on the tracheostomy for 15 months, although her doctors noted it was removed just in time for her high school graduation and senior prom.

"She was having her senior prom a year and a quarter to the date of when she lost her function, and she told me she was not going to go to the prom with her tracheostomy in place," senior author Christopher Hartnick, M.D., director of the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology and Pediatric Airway, Voice, and Swallowing Center at Mass Eye and Ear, said in a statement.

"We decided to intervene so that she could graduate high school and go to her prom tracheostomy-free, which she did," he said.

Neurological conditions like this are known to occur after viral infections and have previously been shown to cause vocal cord paralysis in adults. This is the first time the complication has been reported in an adolescent.

"To have a young, healthy, vibrant high schooler all of a sudden lose one of their important cranial nerves such that they can't breathe is highly unusual and took some parsing," Hartnick said. "The fact that kids can actually have long term neurotrophic effects from COVID-19 is something that it's important for the broader pediatric community to be aware of in order to be able to treat our kids well."


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22 Dec 2023, 5:18 pm

New COVID variant JN.1 surges to 44% of cases, CDC estimates — even higher in New York, New Jersey

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The new COVID-19 variant that scientists call JN.1 now makes up about 44.1% of COVID-19 cases across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Friday, marking another week of the fast-spreading variant's steep rise in the U.S.

The increase is more than two times larger than the 21.3% that the CDC now estimates the strain made up of infections for the week ending Dec. 9, after Thanksgiving.

Among regions with enough data reported from testing labs to produce these latest projections, the CDC estimates that JN.1's prevalence is largest in the Northeast region spanning New Jersey and New York, where the strain is 56.9% of cases in those states.

"JN.1's continued growth suggests that the variant is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants. It is too early to know whether or to what extent JN.1 will cause an increase in infections or hospitalizations," the CDC said Friday.

These new estimates come as other countries have also tracked a rapid ascent in JN.1's prevalence across recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to step up the strain's classification to "variant of interest" on Tuesday — its second highest tier.

Authorities have so far not reported different or more severe symptoms from JN.1 compared to previous strains.

Effectiveness of COVID vaccines against JN.1
Data from early studies of the strain cited by the WHO in a risk evaluation this week also pointed to research suggesting JN.1 "displays a higher immune evasion" compared to its BA.2.86 parent, though not enough to prevent this season's COVID-19 vaccines from being effective.

In a statement, a Novavax spokesperson said data from studies in mice and nonhuman primates showed its shot "induced cross-neutralization against JN.1" that was "similar" to other XBB strains.

A Pfizer spokesperson said that the company expects to have data in the coming weeks from tests of its vaccine against JN.1. A Moderna spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Not raising the alarm there, we're watching it very carefully, but it's possible we could see a quantum leap as opposed to a gradual erosion of the protection of the vaccine. And if that happens, we're going to have to move pretty quickly" Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview published Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Marrazzo said health authorities were closely watching "end points like hospitalizations and deaths," as they ramped up scrutiny of the new strain.

The WHO said early data from Belgium and Singapore suggest JN.1 might lead to similar or reduced hospitalization risk compared to other strains.

So far, the CDC's data has tracked rising COVID-19 emergency department visits and hospitalizations not outside of what has been seen during previous winter waves.

For now, those trends remain a fraction of the steep record surge recorded over the winter of 2021-2022, which strained hospitals after the original Omicron variants swept the U.S. over that year's Christmas and New Year's holidays.


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