Health Care

14% eh?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection has found that 300,000 excess deaths were recorded in the US this year – 66% of which are accounted for by the official coronavirus death toll of around 220,000. Excess deaths refer to how many more deaths have been reported in total this year compared with the same period last year. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it is closer to 2.2 million – a 14.5% increase. The remaining deaths, the CDC wrote, “provide information about the degree to which Covid-19 deaths might be underascertained”.

So, is that more or less than the normal variabilty seen over time?

Quite so, but we do need to get this the right way around

Piers Mitchell, a paleopathologist at Cambridge University who worked on the study, said ancient latrines could become a key source of biomolecular information and allow scientists to explain how modern lifestyles affect human health.

“If we are to determine what constitutes a healthy microbiome for modern people, we should start looking at the microbiomes of our ancestors who lived before antibiotic use, fast food, and the other trappings of industrialisation,” he said.

Sure, let us compare ancient shit with new in order to find out. But:

One of the big challenges in working with an archaeological dig was differentiating what was faeces and what was dirt. However, researchers were able to identify a wide range of bacteria, parasitic worms, and other organisms known to inhabit the intestines of humans.

Imagine, say, that antibiotics cause asthma. I’m sure there’s someone out there that claims they do. It is not then true to say that we want to stop using the antibiotics in order to avoid the asthma. Rather, we need to balance the costs of the asthma against the benefits of the absence of parasitic worms.

After all, that we live longer and healthier now is rather proof that we’ve a better or more health microbiome these days.

This means Africans should be less susceptible to Covid

Modern humans and Neanderthals could be forgiven for having other issues on their minds when they interbred in the stone age. But according to researchers, those ancient couplings laid a grim foundation for deaths around the world today.

Scientists have claimed that a strand of DNA that triples the risk of developing severe Covid-19 was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans. The genetic endowment, a legacy from more than 50,000 years ago, has left about 16% of Europeans and half of south Asians today carrying these genes.

The origins of the risk genes came to light when scientists in Sweden and Germany compared the DNA of very sick Covid-19 patients with that from Neanderthals and their mysterious sister group, the Denisovans. The stretch of DNA that makes patients more likely to fall seriously ill closely matched that collected from a Neanderthal in Croatia.

The Neanderthal component of African genes being only a small backwash rather that that larger amount – and Denisovan – in European and Asian.

Genes matter, eh?

Depends love, depends

‘Frail’ people like me should not be denied lifesaving Covid care
Patience Owen
A frailty index is rationing treatment for older and disabled people who catch coronavirus. We are not sacrificial lambs

No one’s suggesting exposure on a hillside. Well, given that we’ve not allowed the Fabians to institute eugenics we’re not.

So no one is saying you shouldn’t get treated. Except if we get into a triage situation where we have to ration the available treatment – machinery, ICU space, whatever. And then, yes, you are at the back of the queue. And why wouldn’t this be true?

Modern Life

The treatment is in its “early days”, but she believes that it is potentially life-changing. It is also a treatment that is the subject of division within the dwarfism community, with many believing that achondroplasia, along with other forms of dwarfism, is not something to be “fixed”.

The belief that you’ve the wrong gonads is something to be fixed with surgery at our expense, hater.

Dwarfism is not something to be fixed by a few injections, hater.


So that seems to be settled then

The gold standard of medical research is the randomised controlled trial. Back in May, we had no such test for vitamin D and Covid-19. Now we do. The world’s first randomised control trial on vitamin D and Covid has just been published. The results are clear-cut. The trial, which took place in Spain at the Reina Sofía University Hospital, involved 76 patients suffering from Covid-19. Fifty of those patients were given vitamin D. The remaining 26 were not. Half of those not given Vitamin D became so sick that they needed to be put on intensive care. By comparison, only one person who was given Vitamin D requiring ICU admission.
Put another way, the use of Vitamin D reduced a patient’s risk of needing intensive care 25-fold. Two patients who did not receive Vitamin D died. And while the sample is too small to conclude that Vitamin D abolishes the risk of death in Covid patients, it is nonetheless an astonishing result, and corresponds with Prof Backman’s assertion that correcting vitamin deficiency might cut mortality by half. The Government should now act on this latest evidence.

The medical side is interesting, of course it is. But it’s the political side that’s of more importance. For now we’ve got our explanation of why the BAME peeps have been so hard hit. Which also means that we don;t need to overturn capitalist free marketry to reduce the BAME death rate for Covid – as so much of the Guardian has been claiming – instead we treat the actual cause. Some Vit D tablets.

Being wholly and entirely fair about this. Yes, the higher BAME death rate could have been due to structural inequality. But it ain’t and claims that it is, from now on, will be lies.


Follow Covid rules or see UK deaths return to spring levels, minister warns

We might well see cases rise to former levels. But those elderly with comorbidities are already dead and we’ve not aged into a new crop of them yet.


Young Cloggies

Well, they speak Cloggie, so are Cloggies:

At least 67 young Belgians, aged 18-20, are infected with Covid-19 after returning from holiday in Albufeira earlier this month and are in home isolation in Belgium, the authorities announced on 16 September.
The news was reported by the governor of the province of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé, who quoted was in the Belgian press as saying that the young people were infected on holiday in the Algarve between 2 and 12 September.

Our usual infestation is earlier in the year, June/July sorta time. There’s a bar just around the corner that caters almost exclusively to these Young Cloggies too. This year that bar was open a couple of weeks longer than usual. And we’d noted that the Cloggie infestation seemed to be having a second run this year.

Dear Mr. Snowdon – Tsk!

The NHS lies to us and we lie to ourselves about the NHS. That’s the deal. On Sunday – the NHS’s 72nd ‘birthday’ – Matt Hancock asserted that the NHS is ‘the best healthcare system in the world.’ Can he really believe this? Does anyone? It is debatable whether the NHS is the best healthcare system in Britain. Believing it to be the best in the world requires a uniquely insular form of blind patriotism.

It is a claim that can be tested with empirical evidence and there are plenty of health statistics to consult. The UK has 2.5 hospital beds for every thousand people. The OECD average is 4.7. We have 2.8 practising doctors for every thousand people, less than the OECD average of 3.5, and we have 7.8 nurses for every thousand people whereas the OCED average is 8.8.

It is outputs that matter, not inputs. Or even, the relationship between them. But it’s still not true that the size of the inputs is the defining measure of whether something is good or not.

I don;t believe the NHS is better either but the number of doctors, beds, nurses, isn’t the way to show this. It’s the outcomes of however many we do have.

Well of course it will you silly girl

New Zealand PM says Covid-19 outbreak will ‘get worse’ as Auckland cluster grows
Jacinda Ardern sound ominous tone, with expectation of a long lockdown for the country’s biggest city

The disease is endemic around the world. Other than total slicing off from that rest of the world there is no solution other than herd immunity and accepting some deaths at the margin.

Worth reading up on the history of measles in the Faroe Islands for the end result of trying to keep a nation free of a disease.

There’s hope yet

A report by the Independent Sage group of scientists criticised the new centralised system for its fundamentally wrong design, which they say sees thousands of operatives sitting at home, many doing almost nothing for weeks on end.

The group said the army of up to 25,000 staff had reached 51,524 close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus between the end of May and the end of July. That amounts, on average, to two successful contacts each across the period.
With only 91,785 names of close contacts uploaded onto the system, each staff member would, on average, have been required to reach fewer than four people during the eight weeks.
The report comes as test and trace staff told The Telegraph the Government is "delusional" if it thinks the system is working, and that many of the phone numbers given by people who have tested positive for coronavirus appear to be fake.

People are basically telling the government to piss off which is always a good sign for liberty and freedom – even if less so for epidemiology.

The probably best course of action would be to let rip and take the lumps.


So, what’s the problem here, Guardian?

One of two 90-minute rapid coronavirus tests bought by the UK government and announced on Monday has yet to be approved by regulators, while no data on the accuracy of either has been published, the Guardian has learned.

The test, from Oxford Nanopore, a young biotech company spun off from Oxford University, has not yet gained a CE mark. Before Covid-19, Oxford Nanopore had been involved only in research, not tests for patients.

We’re in an emergency, government should still only buy things that have all the boxes ticked? Or, CE is a European thing. We should be berating the bureaucrats for not pulling their thumbs out?

What, actually, is the complaint you want to make?

So here’s some fun

Areas are being locked down again.

More than 2.7m people in northern England have woken to fresh lockdown restrictions despite living in neighbourhoods which have had fewer than four confirmed cases in the last 14 days, Telegraph analysis has revealed….

We have slightly out of date information on ethnicity by area.

Further data on ethnic groups by local authority can be found from either the Office for National Statistics or Nomis.

Wouldn’t that be a fun cross correlation for someone to do?

Just for completeness sake perhaps alongside one of material deprivation?

Wonder why some newspaper hasn’t already done it really…..

Tsk Nicola, Tsk

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of misleading the UK public after she was criticised by a statistics watchdog for making unsubstantiated comparisons about coronavirus rates in Scotland and England.
Scotland’s First Minister repeatedly claimed earlier this month that the prevalence of the virus was “five times” higher in England, and opponents said she had deployed the figure to suggest her policy was working better than elsewhere in the UK
She also used the statistic to justify her controversial refusal to rule outimposing quarantine on visitors crossing the border into Scotland and taking a different approach to Boris Johnson on air bridges
But in an intervention described by her critics as “damning”, Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation, said that the uncaveated comparison should never have been made as it was not backed up by sound data.
An investigation also found that the justification for the claim provided to the media who questioned its basis was different to the one provided to regulators, after Ms Sturgeon’s officials changed their story.
The accusations of citing false figures will prove embarrassing for Ms Sturgeon, who has won widespread praise for her handling of the pandemic despite separate statistics published on Thursday confirming that Scotland has the third-highest rate of excess mortality deaths in Europe.

Politician quotes dodgy figures, well I never.

And of course what’s really important here is that how may get it is not the point. It’s how many excess deaths are avoided which is. Oddly, something that would be improved by lots of people getting it then not dying from it. Because that means we can open up again earlier and do nice things like treat cancers thereby reducing the number of excess deaths.

Herd immunity being a real thing even if we’ve not got there yet.

Dear Rhiannon

I popped down to my local when it opened and had a glance inside, but it was a mask-free zone, so I didn’t go in. It’s such a simple thing, putting on a mask. It says: “I care about your welfare, as well as my own, and do not want to infect you.”

That could be because browsing and sluicing are things done with the mouth, requiring the absence of a barrier in front of it.

Other countries haven’t needed to legislate, perhaps because they had higher levels of trust in their governments.

In both Portugal and Spain they are compulsory, by law.

Will the fact masks are now obligatory in shops in England finally – please God – mark the end of the mask culture wars? Will this spark a political and public commitment to sane and effective public health policies? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it’s a relief that the government has finally listened to what the World Health Organization has been saying in increasingly desperate tones since early spring.

And now you’re really missing the point. The earlier advice against masks was issued because the NHS is so inefficient that Ministers were convinced if we did then medical staff couldn’t – not enough masks around, d’ye see?