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‘No evidence’ that asymptomatic Covid-19 cases were infectious: analysis of post-lockdown Wuhan

RT | November 21, 2020

A paper that analyzed the results of a massive post-lockdown Covid-19 testing drive that included nearly every eligible resident of Wuhan, China has found no evidence that positive cases without symptoms spread the disease.

The analysis, published in the scientific journal Nature, looked at the results of a screening initiative held between May and June in Wuhan, the city where the first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected in late 2019. The origins of the virus have yet to be determined, with new studies suggesting that the disease could have been in Italy as early as September last year.

Nearly 10 million people were tested, consisting of 92 percent of all residents aged six years or older.

Incredibly, no new symptomatic cases were registered, and only 300 asymptomatic cases were detected. Subsequent tests of 1,174 close contacts of the asymptomatic cases found resulted in no new positives.

There is “no evidence that the identified asymptomatic positive cases were infectious,” the paper said, adding that the results of the massive screening program could help health authorities “adjust prevention and control strategies in the post-lockdown period.”

The analysis seems to confirm preliminary findings that were released during the screening program. Professor Lu Zuxun, from Wuhan’s Huazhong University of Science & Technology, said back in June that there was currently no evidence that asymptomatic people were passing the virus to other people, but cautioned at the time against drawing broad conclusions.

The paper’s authors acknowledged that previous studies had found evidence that asymptomatic individuals were infectious and could become symptomatic later, but theorized that Wuhan residents still testing positive for the virus after the city’s strict lockdown had a “low quantity of viral loads” and therefore were unable to pass the illness on to other people.

Wuhan was placed under a strict lockdown lasting more than 70 days. The tight regulations essentially cut off the city from the rest of China, with only one person from each household allowed to leave their residential compound for a maximum of two hours.

The paper comes amid a growing debate over the efficacy of Covid-19 restrictions. City and even nationwide lockdowns and mask-wearing mandates have been justified using the argument that even asymptomatic individuals could spread the disease and inadvertently overwhelm health services. However, many have argued that the social and economic costs of lockdowns far outweigh any purported benefits, and have pointed to evidence that asymptomatic people are not infectious.

Back in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) backtracked after stating that asymptomatic people rarely infect others with Covid-19, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence to back up the claim.

November 21, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Asymptomatic Spreaders, Typhoid Mary, SARS, MERS and COVID

By Christopher Brett – Fossils of Lanark – April 30, 2020

“The next pandemic virus will be present in Canada within 3 months after it emerges in another part of the world, but it could be much sooner because of the volume and speed of global air travel.  …  Given the increase, different patterns and speed of modern travel, a  new virus once arriving in Canada could spread quickly in multiple directions throughout the country. … The first peak of illness in Canada could occur within 2 to 4 months after the virus arrives in Canada. The first peak in mortality is expected to be approximately 1 month after the peak in illness.”

The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector, 2006
Dr. Theresa Tam and Karen Grimsrud, Co-Chairs

At the beginning of February I was surprised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertions that it was safe to continue to fly to China, that we would only  be testing those who self-reported symptoms, and that his plan for testing was science based. I was also surprised that Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam asserted that there was no risk from asymptomatic spreaders. It has come as no surprise to me that we have now closed our borders to China and most other countries, that we have stepped up our testing and begun contact tracing, and that studies have shown that asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19 is the norm.

I had six  main reasons for objecting to Canada continuing passenger flights to China:

– First, we were the only country continuing to fly to China.
– Second, it was all over the news that by the time Wuhan was placed under quarantine over half the population of Wuhan had fled to other parts of China.
– Third, the virus had spread to many other parts of China, including most major cities, by February 1st
– Fourth, we were not testing people when they got on the planes in China for coronavirus, we were not testing the passengers when they disembarked from the planes, there were no penalties for breaking the quarantine,  there no checks being made of the passengers to ensure that they were adhering to the quarantine, and there were no spot tests of the people coming from China. A few people arriving from China were advised to self-quarantine, but not everyone.
– Fifth, in November, 2014 during the Ebola crisis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper banned people  from Ebola-stricken West Africa from traveling to Canada. As a consequence of his actions no Ebola case arose in Canada. The USA did not ban people from West Africa and confirmed a case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States in a man who traveled from West Africa to Dallas, Texas. That patient died. Earlier Saudi Arabia had announced a travel ban aimed at preventing Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans from visiting Islam’s holy sites. No Ebola case arose in Saudi Arabia.
– Sixth, a ban works.

My main concern with  Dr. Theresa Tam’s assertion  that there was no risk from asymptomatic spreaders is that I have been aware of Typhoid Mary for over fifty-five years as she was often mentioned in side bars and fillers in newspapers when I was young. Typhoid Mary is the poster child for  asymptomatic spreaders. Her real name was Mary Mallon. She was employed as a cook in various households and kitchens in the New York area over the period from 1907 to 1915. She was the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of  typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 51 people, at least  three of whom died. (Some estimates put the death total at fifty.) Eventually she was arrested and put in quarantine to stop her working and spreading the disease. Interestingly, Marineli et al. (2013) mention that “By the time she died New York health officials had identified more than 400 other healthy carriers of Salmonella typhi.”

Intriguingly there is a fair amount of information on diseases having been transmitted by  asymptomatic carriers of diseases.    In addition to typhoid, Wickipedia mentions  C. difficile, influenzas,  tuberculosis, and HIV. Transmission of diseases by asymptomatic carriers appears to be the norm,  rather than the exception, for infectious diseases.

Dr. Theresa Tam stated that she followed and implemented The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector , 2006 (“Canada’s Pandemic Plan”), of which she was the co-author. If she had followed the plan she should have noticed that “Transmission by asymptomatic persons is possible but it is more efficient when symptoms, such as coughing, are present and viral shedding is high (i.e. early in symptomatic period).” and that the “potential for asymptomatic infection and spread from asymptomatic individuals greatly limits the effectiveness and feasibility of most traditional public health control measures.”

If she had done a bit of research Dr. Tan might also have located an article by Fraser  et al. (2004) discussing factors that make an infectious disease outbreak controllable, in which they argue that “Direct estimation of the proportion of asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections is achievable by contact tracing and should be a priority during an outbreak of a novel infectious agent.” noting that “no confirmed cases of transmission from asymptomatic patients have been reported to date in detailed epidemiological analyses of clusters of SARS cases, which suggests that, for SARS, there is a period after symptoms develop during which people can be isolated before their infectiousness increases. Actions taken during this period to isolate or quarantine ill patients can effectively interrupt transmission.”

She might also have noted a paper by Myoung-don Oh et al. (2018) analyzing the 2015 MERS coronavirus outbreak in Korea in which they mention that “the potential for transmission from asymptomatic rRT-PCR positive individuals is still unknown. Therefore, asymptomatic [persons who test] positive for MERS-CoV should be isolated and should not return to work until two consecutive respiratory-tract samples test negative.”

Another paper that Dr. Tan might have located without much trouble is a 2018 report by the World Health Organization providing guidance for asymptomatic persons who test positive for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). She should have noted the paper in part because Katherine Defalco, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Canada contributed to the WHO’s report. In this report WHO state that the potential for transmission from asymptomatic  positive MERS-CoV  persons is currently unknown  but still recommended that “asymptomatic RT-PCR positive persons should be isolated , followed up daily for development of any  symptoms and tested at least weekly – or earlier, if symptoms develop – for MERS-CoV. The place of isolation (hospital or home) shall depend on the  health – care system’s isolation  bed capacity, its capacity to  monitor asymptomatic RT- PCR positive persons daily outside a health-care setting, and  the  conditions of the household and its occupants.” WHO also recommended that “When providing home isolation of asymptomatic RT-PCR  positive persons, the person and family  should be provided with clear instructions on:

•  adequate physical separation from potential householdor social contacts, especially those with risk conditions for severe MERS-CoV illness (e.g. separate room and toilet);
•  having  food in the room and avoid sharing food or  being in the same room with others as much as possible;
•  avoidance of visitors and travel; …

WHO also cautioned that “sometimes it is difficult to classify a case as ‘asymptomatic’ because although the person may not have any symptoms at the time of testing, he or she may develop illness during the course of infection.”

In contrast to WHO’s recommendations for asymptomatic MERS-CoV coronavirus persons, Canada did no testing to find asymptomatic COVID-19 coronavirus carriers. Instead we were told that they posed no threat, and that it was only those that developed symptoms who required testing. As noted above, recent studies have shown that asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19 is the norm. More importantly, Lai et al. (2020) report that “the transmission of COVID-19 through asymptomatic carriers via person-to-person contact was observed in many reports” citing reports published on the web by Rothe on January 30, 2020; by Liu on February 12, 2020; by Yu on February 18; and by Bai on February 21, 2020. Surprisingly, despite these warnings no effort was made in Canada in February or March to test for asymptomatic carriers.  In fact, we still don’t test for asymptomatic carriers.

There have been further reports of asymptomatic spreading. On March 23 Qian et al. reported a COVID-19 family cluster in China caused by a presymptomatic case. On April 1st Wei et al, reported on an investigation of all 243 cases of COVID-19 reported in Singapore during January 23–March 16 and identified seven clusters of cases in which presymptomatic transmission is the most likely explanation for the occurrence of secondary cases. Ten of the cases within these clusters were attributed to presymptomatic transmission and accounted for 6.4% of the 157 locally acquired cases reported as of March 16.

Dr. Tam was on the CBC News the other night reporting that only ten cases in Canada could be traced to origins in China. However, we only tested those who self-reported symptoms. As we never  tested for  asymptomatic spreaders , we will never know how many asymptomatic spreaders from China (or other countries) were in Canada. Further, we have only traced a fraction of those who have developed the disease, and will only know that many people contracted the disease while in Canada, without knowing the source for their disease.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

References and Suggested Reading

Anonymous, 2003
Learning from SARS – Renewal of Public Health  in Canada. A report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health October 2003. 234 pages https://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/sars-sras/pdf/sars-e.pdf

Anonymous, 2020a
Asymptomatic carrier
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptomatic_carrier

Anonymous, 2020b
Mary Mallon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Mallon

Anonymous, 2020c
Subclinical infection
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subclinical_infection#List_of_subclinical_infections

Y. Bai, L. Yao, T. Wei, F. Tian, D.Y. Jih, L. Chen, et al., 2020 Feb 21
Presumed asymptomatic carrier transmission of COVID-19
J Am Med Assoc (2020 Feb 21), 10.1001/jama.2020.2565

Filio Marineli, Gregory Tsoucalas, Marianna Karamanou, and George Androutsos, 2013
Mary Mallon (1869-1938) and the history of typhoid fever.  Ann Gastroenterol. 2013; 26(2): 132–134.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959940/

Fraser C, Riley S, Anderson R et al. 2004
Factors that make an infectious disease outbreak controllable. Proc Natl Acad  Sci USA 2004;101(16):6146–51.
https://www.pnas.org/content/101/16/6146

Lai, Chih-Cheng; Liu, Yen Hung; Wang, Cheng-Yi; Wang, Ya-Hui; Hsueh, Shun-Chung; Yen, Muh-Yen; Ko, Wen-Chien; Hsueh, Po-Ren (2020-03-04).
Asymptomatic carrier state, acute respiratory disease, and pneumonia due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2): Facts and myths”. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection. doi:10.1016/j.jmii.2020.02.012. ISSN 1684-1182.

Y.C. Liu, C.H. Liao, C.F. Chang, C.C. Chou, Y.R. Lin , 2020 Feb 12
A locally transmitted case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Taiwan.
New England J Med (2020 Feb 12), 10.1056/NEJMc2001573

Myoung-don Oh, Wan Beom Park, Sang-Won Park, Pyoeng Gyun Choe, Ji Hwan Bang, Kyoung-Ho Song, Eu Suk Kim, Hong Bin Kim, and Nam Joong Kim, 2018
Middle East respiratory syndrome: what we learned from the 2015 outbreak in the Republic of Korea.  Korean J Intern Med. 2018 Mar; 33(2): 233–246.
Published online 2018 Feb 27. doi: 10.3904/kjim.2018.031

Qian G, Yang N, Ma AHY, et al. Epub March 23, 2020
A COVID-19 Transmission within a family cluster by presymptomatic infectors in China. Clin Infect Dis 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32201889

C. Rothe, M. Schunk, P. Sothmann, G. Bretzel, G. Froeschl, C. Wallrauch, et al. (2020 Jan 30)
Transmission of 2019-nCoV infection from an asymptomatic contact in Germany
N Engl J Med, 10.1056/NEJMc2001468

Theresa Tam and Karen Grimsrud, Co-Chairs, 2006
The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector.  Public Health Agency of Canada.
550 pages. https://www.longwoods.com/articles/images/Canada_Pandemic_Influenza.pdf

W. E. Wei; , Z. Li; C. J. Chiew, S. E. Yong, M. P. Toh, V. J. Lee,  2020, April 10& April 1
Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 69(14);411–415. On April 1, 2020, this report was posted online as an MMWR Early Release.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6914e1.htm

World Health Organization,   2018
Management of asymptomatic persons who are RT-PCR positive for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV): Interim guidance . 3 January  2018
WHO/MERS/IPC/15.2 Rev.1 Geneva:
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/180973/1/WHO_MERS_IPC_15.2_eng.pdf?ua=1&ua=1

P. Yu, J. Zhu, Z. Zhang, Y. Han, L. Huang, 2020 Feb 18
A familial cluster of infection associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus indicating potential person-to-person transmission during the incubation period
J Infect Dis (2020 Feb 18), 10.1093/infdis/jiaa077

Peter Zimonjic, Rosemary Barton, Philip Ling, 2020
‘Was it perfect? No’: Theresa Tam discusses Canada’s early pandemic response. ‘Could we have done more at the time? You can retrospectively say yes,’ Canada’s top doctor says CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2020

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

Is ivermectin effective against covid?

By Sebastian Rushworth M.D. | January 17, 2021

Over the last two months I’ve literally been bombarded by people asking me about my opinions on ivermectin as a treatment for covid, so I figured I’d better look in to it. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug, used primarily to treat infections caused by parasitic worms. It was discovered in the 1970’s, and the researchers who discovered it were awarded the Nobel prize for their discovery in 2015.

The interest in ivermectin as a potential treatment for covid-19 is likely due to a study published way back in June of 2020, that showed a large reduction in SARS-CoV-2 in a cell culture after addition of ivermectin. If ivermectin were shown to be effective against Covid, that would be great, because it’s generic, cheap, safe, and widely available, so it would be easy to start treating people quickly. Unfortunately, that also means western pharmaceutical companies have zero interest in doing research on ivermectin, because there is no way to make a decent profit from it.

Who does have an interest? Poorer countries, that can’t afford expensive new drugs. That means the research on ivermectin as a treatment for covid has been pretty much entirely carried out outside the west.

I’ve managed to find four reasonably large randomized controlled trials looking at ivermectin for covid, and those are the trials we’re now going to discuss (I also found a fifth one, but it only enrolled 12 patients in each group, which to me is so small it’s not even worth looking at). Note that (as far as I’m aware) none of these studies has yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Personally, I don’t think peer-review is worth very much, so that doesn’t bother me at all, but it’s just something to be aware of.

The first trial was carried out in Bangladesh and completed in October. It included patients over the age of 18 with mild to moderate covid confirmed with PCR. Patients with severe covid were excluded from the study. According to the researchers the study was double-blind and placebo-controlled, although it is unclear from the study protocol whether the control group actually received a placebo, and what the placebo consisted of.

The intervention group received a single 12 mg dose of ivermectin plus 100 mg of doxycycline twice a day for five days (doxycycline is an antibiotic). Thus this wasn’t really a trial of ivermectin, it was a trial of ivermectin + doxycycline.

A total of 400 people were recruited in to the trial, and they were divided evenly between the intervention group and the control group. The average age of the participants was 40 years. The primary end point for the study was recovery within seven days, which the researchers defined as follows: absence of a fever for at least three days, significant improvement in respiratory symptoms, significant improvement on lung imaging, absence of complications requiring hospitalization, and an oxygen saturation above 93% .

This is a problematic end point, because a couple of the things in that list are not very specific, which leaves it up to the researchers to decide whether someone has recovered within seven days or not. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a problem if we could be 100% confident that there was complete blinding of the participants and the researchers, but based on the information provided I’m not even remotely certain that that was the case. And if there wasn’t blinding, then the researchers could easily have manipulated the results to make them appear more impressive.

Ok, let’s get to the results.

In the group treated with ivermectin + doxycycline, 61% had recovered within 7 days, and in the control group, 44% had recovered within 7 days. The difference was statistically significant (p-value <0,03).

At the two week mark after recruitment in to the study, participants had a second PCR test performed. In the group receiving ivermectin + doxycycline, 8% had a positive PCR test at two weeks. In the control group, 20% had a positive PCR test. Again, the result was statistically significant, in fact highly so (p-value <0,001).

Three people died in the control group, compared with zero people in the treatment group. However the result was not statistically significant (which of course doesn’t mean that there isn’t a difference – even if there is a real difference in mortality, this study simply was not large enough to be able to detect it).

So, what can we conclude?

This study suggests that ivermectin + doxycycline can shorten symptom duration, and also decreases viral load. If the results are real, the effect is actually pretty impressive. However, it is not clear from the published data that the study really was effectively blinded, and that means we can’t be very confident that the results are real. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the researchers chose to combine two separate drugs in one study, because it muddies the waters and makes it impossible to know whether it was the ivermectin or the doxycycline that was producing a benefit. Let’s move on to the next trial.

This was an open-label trial (i.e. both the researchers and the patients knew who was in which group) involving 140 patients, and the results were posted on MedRxiv in October 2020. As with the previous study, the treatment being tested was ivermectin plus doxycycline. The study was carried out in Iraq.

In order to be included in the study, patients had to have confirmed covid (based on a combination of symptoms, radiology, and PCR). All levels of severity of disease were admitted in to the study. Those with mild symptoms had to have been symptomatic for three days or less, while those with severe symptoms had to have had severe symptoms for at most two days, and those with critical symptoms had to have had critical symptoms for at most one day. The researchers motivate this somewhat weird set of inclusion criteria by saying that they wanted to see how effective ivermectin plus doxycycline is at the earliest stage of each phase of the disease.

Patients were randomized to either 200 ug/kg of ivermectin per day (roughly 14 mg per day for an average 70 kg person) for two days, and 100 mg of doxycycline twice a day for five to ten days. Unfortunately the researchers decided to break randomization because they felt it would be “unethical” to put people with critical illness in to the control group (personally I think it’s unethical to break randomization, because the results become less scientifically valid and thereby less useful to all the other millions of patients around the world). So all participants with critical covid recruited in to the study ended up in the ivermectin + doxycycline group. In the end there were 48 people with mild to moderate disease in each group. In the ivermectin + doxycycline group there were 11 people with severe disease and 11 people with critical disease, while in the control group there were 22 people with severe disease and no people with critical disease.

So, technically, this study wasn’t actually randomized at all. However, the fact that everyone with critical illness was placed in the treatment group should make the treatment look worse, not better, so if there is a positive effect of treatment in spite of that, then it’s likely bigger than this study shows.

The average age of the patients was 50 years in the treatment group and 47 years in the control group. Among those with mild to moderate disease, symptoms had started a median of three days earlier, while those with severe disease had first become symptomatic seven days earlier, and those with critical disease had started having symptoms nine days earlier.

The primary end point was time to recovery. This is very problematic in an unblinded study, because “time to recovery” is quite subjective, and it is very easy for the researchers to manipulate the results in whatever direction they want. Anyway, let’s look at the results.

The average time to recovery was eleven days in the group treated with ivermectin plus doxycycline, and 18 days in the control group. The result was highly statistically significant (p-value < 0,0001). That would mean that ivermectin and doxycycline together shorten the time to recovery by almost 40% in relative terms! If the study had been double-blind, and it was very clear exactly what the criteria for “recovery” were, that would be a very impressive result, especially considering that the people in the treatment group were on average sicker to start. However, since neither of those things are true, the result is highly questionable.

Two people died in the ivermectin + doxycycline group, compared with six people in the control group. This also seems impressive, but again, the study isn’t statistically powered to show an effect on mortality.

So overall so far we have two studies that suggest that the combination of ivermectin and doxycycline can be beneficial when used to treat patients with covid-19. However, both studies have flawed methodologies that make the results suspect. And if there is a real benefit, then we still don’t know whether to attribute that benefit to ivermectin or to doxycycline, or to some combination of the two. Let’s move on.

Next up we have a trial that went up on MedRxiv at the beginning of January 2021. The study was carried out in Nigeria. It was double-blind, which is good, but unfortunately it was very small. 62 patients were included in total, and randomized to three different treatment arms, so there were only around 20 patients per group.

Participants were included in the study if they had a positive PCR test. There was apparently no requirement that they have any symptoms. Obviously, this is a problem, since we know that the risk of a false positive result rises enormously when asymptomatic people are being tested. Funnily enough, even though they included asymptomatic people, they excluded people with severe covid, so this was really a trial of people with mild to non-existent disease. Why they tested people without symptoms is unclear, and why they then went even further and decided to try treating asymptomatic people with drugs is even less clear.

After inclusion in the study, participants were randomized to one of three treatments. The first group received a 6 mg dose of ivermectin which was repeated every 48 hours. The second group received a 12 mg dose of ivermectin, also repeated every 48 hours. The third group was the “control” group, but for some reason the researchers opted to give the “control” group lopinavir/ritonavir rather than a placebo. No explanation is offered for this strange decision. Since the control group was given an active drug rather than a placebo, we can’t say for certain whether the ivermectin is helping the patients, even if there is a positive treatment effect. It’s equally possible that the lopinavir/ritonavir is hurting the patients.

The participants were re-tested with PCR at four days, seven days, ten days, and 14 days, and this was used as the basis to determine how successful the different treatment arms were. PCR-positivity isn’t even a remotely patient-oriented outcome, so as with so much else to do with this study, this is problematic. Anyway, let’s take a quick look at the results and then move on to the next study.

On average it took nine days for participants in the control group to become PCR negative, six days for participants in the low dose ivermectin group, and five days in the high dose ivermectin group. If the two ivermectin groups are combined, the average time to PCR negativity becomes five days, and the reduction compared with the control group is four days (42% relative risk reduction), which is statistically significant (p-value 0,007). There were no deaths in any of the groups treated, which isn’t really surprising since it was a small study and many of the participants were completely asymptomatic to begin with.

So, what can we say about this study?

Not much. The number of participants is tiny, the control group isn’t a real control group, and the results are based entirely on the flawed PCR-test, not on any real reduction in symptoms or in any other outcome that actually matters in any way. The results are somewhat promising, but that’s really all we can say.

Ok, let’s get to the final study.

Like the previous study, this was posted on MedRxiv in early January 2021. It was double-blind, and it was carried out in India. In order to be included in the study, potential participants had to be over the age of 18 and have mild to moderate covid, with the diagnosis confirmed by PCR.

I’m not sure why these studies keep focusing on people with mild disease, since it’s more important to find an effective treatment for severe disease. I guess it stems mainly from a hypothesis that ivermectin is unlikely to be effective if given later in the disease course. But we still need to know whether it’s a good idea to give it to people with severe disease, so it’s unfortunate that this group was excluded in three out of the four studies.

A total of 115 people were recruited in to the study. The average age of the patients was 53 years. Half received 12 mg of ivermectin on the first and second day after inclusion in the study, while the other half received an identical placebo pill (ivermectin has a long half-life in the body, which is why it’s generally enough to just give one or two doses and then stop).

The primary end point chosen for the study was whether or not participants had a positive PCR-test at six days after inclusion in the study. Just as in the previous study, the researchers have chosen a totally meaningless end point, that tells us nothing about whether the drug in any way actually helps patients. Luckily, they did actually measure some other things too, that actually do matter, like length of hospital stay, ICU admission, and death.

So, what happened?

At the six day time point, 68% in the control group still had a positive covid PCR, compared with 76% in the ivermectin group. So the control group seemed to do better than the ivermectin group according to the irrelevant metric chosen by the researchers. However, this difference wasn’t even close to being statistically significant (p-value 0,35). Let’s look instead at some metrics that actually do matter.

In terms of symptoms, 84% in the ivermectin group were symptom free by day six, compared with 90% in the control group. So again, the control group seemed to do better than the ivermectin group. However, again, this result was not statistically significant (p-value 0,36).

If we look at invasive ventilation and mortality however, we do see an apparent benefit in the group treated with ivermectin. Five people in the control group ended up receiving invasive ventilation, compared with only one person in the ivermectin group. Four people died in the placebo group, compared with zero in the ivermectin group. So in terms of the more serious end points, that actually matter to patients, ivermectin seems to be better than placebo. However, as with all three previous studies, this study was far too small to say whether that difference was really due to ivermectin or just due to chance.

So, the final study gives a weirdly mixed message. In terms of PCR-positivity and likelihood of being symptom free at six days, the placebo seemed to be better, but in terms of invasive ventilation and death, ivermectin seemed to be better. However, none of the differences were statistically significant and could easily just be due to chance. So, overall, the final study is not able to show any benefit to treating patients with ivermectin.

Ok, let’s wrap up. Three of the four trials did produce some signal of benefit. However, all four trials had major flaws, and two of the trials that did find a benefit were also giving doxycycline, which makes it impossible to disentangle whether the potential benefit was coming from ivermectin or doxycycline. But these trials were all small, so it’s perfectly possible that there is a benefit but that the trials were just too small to detect it. What we really need now is a big, high quality, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of ivermectin as a treatment covid.

However, lacking that, we can try to put the results from these four trials together in to a little meta-analysis of our own, just for fun, to try to compensate for the fact that these studies were small, and therefore not really statistically powered to find anything but the biggest effects imaginable. When we do that, this is what we get:

I’m sure you’re all as nerdy as me, and love looking at forest plots. What this one shows is a 78% reduction in the relative risk of dying of covid, if you get treated with ivermectin!

The result is statistically significant (p-value 0,01). If the result is real, that is pretty damn amazing. That would mean that four out of five covid deaths could be avoided if everyone was treated with ivermectin (potentially together with doxycycline), a dirt cheap generic drug that’s been around for decades, and which we know is safe. It blows all the currently approved drugs for covid out of the water in terms of effect size.

There is of course, as always, a risk of publication bias. In other words, there might be more studies of ivermectin out there that haven’t had their results published, because they were less impressive. So let’s have a quick peek over at clinicaltrials.gov, and see if there is anything suspicious going on.

There are currently five trials of ivermectin for covid listed as completed at clinicaltrials.gov, but for which results haven’t yet been published. However, four out of those five were completed less than two months ago, and one was completed three months ago, so most likely they just haven’t gotten around to posting their results yet. So the risk of publication bias seems to be relatively low. It will be interesting to see what those studies show, when they do get published.

Do I think the huge reduction in mortality is real? I think it’s very possible. These were after all randomized controlled trials, so the risk of confounding factors is low (with the exception of doxycycline, which could be responsible for some or even all of the beneficial effect seen). And, as mentioned, the risk of publication bias appears to be pretty low. And the outcome for which there is a big effect size is mortality, which is a hard outcome that is hard for researchers to manipulate.

January 17, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Exposed: Fauci and CDC clash; can’t keep their story straight

By Jon Rappoport | January 12, 2021

Once more, dear reader, I venture into the insane world where experts falsely claim they’ve proved SARS-CoV-2 exists. Within that world, they contradict themselves. They just can’t keep their story straight.

So let’s begin with Tony Fauci. We have him on video making the following statement: “… In all the history of respiratory borne viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks… Even if there’s a rare asymptomatic person that might transmit [the virus], an epidemic is not driven by an asymptomatic carrier.” [1]

Fauci is emphatic. People with no symptoms who are carrying a virus? Not a problem. They don’t spread the virus to other people. They don’t cause or maintain an epidemic.

Now let’s turn to the CDC. Jay Butler, CDC deputy director for infectious diseases just told the Washington Post, “The bottom line is controlling the COVID-19 pandemic really is going to require controlling the silent pandemic of transmission from persons without symptoms.” [2] [3]

Just the opposite of what Fauci said.

So now we have this:

ONE: People who carry the virus but have no symptoms don’t cause or maintain an epidemic.

TWO: Those very people ARE a major problem, and the epidemic can’t be controlled without controlling them—with masks, distancing, and lockdowns.

Follow the science? What science?

On the back of this gibberish, nations all over the world are seeing their economies destroyed, and hundreds of millions of lives ruined.

It’s a freak show, and the freaks are running it.

Of course, the experts can lie their way out of this. They can say, “Well, this is the FIRST TIME in human history that people with no symptoms are driving an epidemic. We’ve never seen it before…”

Right. This is a special case. Astounding.

If you believe that, I have condos for sale on the far side of the moon.

The truth is, the experts are starting backwards from an unexpressed premise, which is: WE WANT TO LOCK DOWN THE PLANET AND WRECK ITS ECONOMY, AS THE FIRST STEP TO CREATING A BRAND NEW WORLD OF TECHNOCRATIC CONTROL. NOW, WHAT DO WE HAVE TO SAY IN ORDER TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN?

This is how official science operates. It’s political and totalitarian, and it pretends to be objective.

So Jay Butler, the CDC deputy director, rounds off his statement to the Washington Post with this: “The community mitigation tools that we have [masks, distancing, lockdowns] need to be utilized broadly to be able to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from all infected persons, at least until we have those vaccines widely available.”

Translation: We have to keep lying, to keep the global population under lock and key. Putting the Chinese model of control in place, in Western countries, takes time. Buy the con for another few years and we’ll have an iron grip on the population.


SOURCES:

[1] https://youtu.be/JIOzN03ZWXY

[2] https://www.foxnews.com/health/more-than-half-coronavirus-cases-spread-asymptomatic-carriers-cdc-model

[3] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774707

Jon Rappoport is the author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power.

January 12, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

2021: THE BRIGHT SIDE

The Highwire with Del Bigtree | January 8, 2021

The story they missed in DC; Covid injuries and deaths have begun; New Strain, New Pain; Doctor exposes testing and asymptomatic transmission; A glimmer of hope

January 11, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

What is left to say?

By Dr Malcolm Kendrick | December 30, 2020

I have not written much about COVID19 recently. What can be said? In my opinion the world has simply gone bonkers. The best description can be found in Dante’s Inferno, written many hundreds of years ago.

In it, Dante describes the outcasts, who took no side in the rebellion of angels. They live in the vestibule. Not in heaven, not in hell, forever unclassified. They reside on the shores of the Acheron. Naked and futile, they race around through a hellish mist in eternal pursuit of an elusive, wavering banner, symbolic of their pursuit of ever-shifting self-interest.

I find this description of the desperate pursuit of an elusive wavering banner rings rather true. This, it seems, is pretty much the place we have arrived at. Which banner have you decided to follow?

The ‘COVID19 s the most terrible infection ever, and we must do everything in our power to stop it, whatever the cost’ banner.

Or the ‘What on earth are we doing? This is no worse than a bad flu, and we are destroying the world economy, stripping away basic human rights and killing more people than we are saving’ banner.

There may be others.

Between these two, main, completely incompatible positions, lies the truth. It is in pretty poor shape. It has been crushed, and bent out of shape, smashed, and left as a broken heap in the corner. I search where I can, to find the fragments, in an attempt to bring together a picture that makes some kind of sense.

But what to believe? Who to believe?

I feel somewhat like Rene Descartes. In order to find the ineluctable truth he scraped everything away until he was left with ‘Cogito, ergo sum’. ‘I think, therefore I am.’

I have stripped away at the accuracy of PCR COVID19 testing. I found myself left with nothing I could make any sense of. I hacked down to establish the way that COVID19 deaths are recorded. All I found were assumptions and difficulties.

Did someone die with COVID19, of COVID19 – or did it have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with COVID19? Who knows? I certainly don’t, and I wrote some of the death certificates myself.

Have we overestimated deaths, or underestimated deaths? I do not know … and so it goes on.

So, what do I know? I know that COVID19 exists – or I am as certain of this as I can be. Was it a natural mutation from a bat, or was it created in a laboratory? Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s here, and there is no chance that any Government, anywhere, would ever admit responsibility for creating the damned thing. So, we will never know. If you asked me to bet, I would say it was created in a lab, then escaped by accident.

Is it deadlier than influenza? Well, it is certainly deadlier than some strains of influenza. Indeed, most strains. However, Spanish flu was estimated to have killed fifty million, when the world’s population was about a fifth of what it is now. So, COVID19 is definitely less deadly than that one. About as deadly as the influenzas of 1957 and 1967. Probably.

Will it mutate into something worse? Who knows.

Will the current vaccines work on mutated strains? Who knows.

Can it be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers? Who knows.

How effective are the current vaccines going to be? Who knows.

What are we left with?

At the beginning, I kept relatively quiet on how deadly COVID19 would prove to be. Because I didn’t know. The figures raged up and down. The infection fatality rate become a battle scene, with warriors lined up on either side to defend their positions.

I even got attacked by factcheckers, the self-appointed know-it-alls who are, it seems, capable of judging on all matters of scientific dispute. Truly, the Gods have descended to live amongst us. Those who can determine what is true, and what is not. No need for any further clinical trials, or any more scientific studies of any sort, ever. We just need to ask the Fact Checkers for the answer, to any given question.

Anyway, it appeared that tens of thousands died in some countries, almost none in others. What I was waiting to see, was the impact on the one outcome that you cannot alter, or fudge. The outcome that is overall mortality i.e. the chances of dying, of anything.

I did this because, when it comes to recording deaths from a specific illness, things can go in and out of fashion. A couple of years ago I looked at deaths from sepsis. At one time this was a condition of far lower priority. Doctors didn’t routinely search for it, or routinely record it, on death certificates.

Sepsis is an infection that gets into the blood, toxins are released, and people die. Everyone knew it happened. Or at least I hope they did.

Then, all of a sudden, there was a gigantic push to look for it more diligently, diagnose it more, treat it better. I think this was generally a good thing. Sepsis is eminently treatable, if you think to look for it, and lives can be saved. We now have initiatives like ‘Sepsis six’ and warnings that pop up on computers. ‘Have you considered sepsis,’ and suchlike. I love it … not. Because I do not love being told how to think, and do my job, by a computer algorithm programmed with ‘zero risk’ as their touchstone. But, hey ho.

In 2013, in the UK, a report was published by the health ombudsman ‘Time to Act – severe sepsis, rapid diagnosis and treatment saves lives.’ As the report stated.

‘Sepsis is a more common reason for hospital admission than heart attack – and has a higher mortality.’ The UK Sepsis Trust 1

That last statement is somewhat disingenuous, as many people with sepsis are very elderly, often with multiple morbidities, and suchlike. They were probably going to die, shortly, from something else.

Anyway. With all this activity, with all this increased sepsis recognition and treatment, you would expect the rate of deaths from sepsis to fall. It did not. The rate has gone up, by around 30% since 2013. Does this mean there is far more sepsis going about? Or, that it is just more often written on death certificates? I suggest the latter. I use this example, simply to make it clear that even the cause of death written on a death certificate is far from rock solid evidence.

With COVID19, this is a massive problem. In the UK, and several other countries if you have had a COVID19 positive test (which may, or may not, be accurate) and you die within twenty-eight days of that positive test, you will be recorded as a COVID19 death. I do not know much for sure about COVID19, but I do know that is just complete nonsense.

There are so many cases where – even if the COVID19 test was accurate – COVID19 would have had nothing whatsoever to do with the death. Another thing known, or at least we probably know, is that the vast majority of people who die had many other things wrong with them.

In the US, the Centre of Disease Control (CDC) found that ninety-four per cent of people who died of COVID19 ‘related deaths’ had other significant diseases (co-morbidities) 2.  This ninety-four per-cent figures would only be the co-morbidities that were known about – who knows what lurked beneath? Especially as people stopped doing post-mortems (i.e., autopsies in the US).

So yes, they had COVID19 (or at least they had a positive test – which may not be the same thing), but they were often very old, and already severely ill. Using an extreme example, someone with terminal cancer who is a week from death, catches COVID19 in hospital, and dies. What killed them? The statistics say COVID19. I say, bollocks.

When I started in medicine, ‘bronchopneumonia’ (a bad chest infection) used to be known as the ‘old man’s friend.’ For those who were very old, and frail, often demented, lying in care homes, often incontinent, a chest infection represented a reasonably painless way to die.

Very often we would not actively treat it, instead we allowed for a peaceful death. Indeed, this still happens. Less so now, as someone, somewhere, often a relative from a country far, far, away – who has not visited for years – is far more likely to sue you.

Did they really die of bronchopneumonia? You could argue yes, you could argue no. Yes, it was the thing that finally pushed them over the edge. No, they were already slowly dying as their body gave out. In the end, what does anyone actually die of? My Scottish grannie, who lived to one hundred and two, used to say ‘they die frae want of breath.’ Entirely accurate, but, alas, also completely useless.

So, what you need to do, is look beyond what is written on death certificates. You need to look at what is happening to the overall mortality. Whilst you can argue endlessly, pointlessly, about specific causes of death. What you cannot argue about is whether or not someone is alive, or dead. Even I usually get this one right. No pulse, no breathing, no reaction of the pupils to light, no response to pain… and suchlike. Yup, dead. Now… what they die of? Um… let me think.

Thus, I have tended to look to EuroMOMO. The European Mortality Monitoring project. As they say, of themselves:

‘The overall objective of the original European Mortality Monitoring Project was to design a routine public health mortality monitoring system aimed at detecting and measuring, on a real-time basis, excess number of deaths related to influenza and other possible public health threats across participating European Countries.

Mortality is a basic indicator of health. Therefore, understanding its epidemiology is fundamental for effective public health planning and action.

Mortality monitoring becomes pivotal during influenza or other pandemics for several reasons. In a severe pandemic, mortality monitoring can be a robust way to monitor the pandemics progression and its public health impact when other systems are failing, due to an overburdened health care sector. Decision makers will require data on the pandemics impact and on deaths by age and geographical area in various stages of the pandemic. Mortality monitoring can provide such estimates, which will be important to guide and prioritize health service response and decision-making, i.e. use of antivirals and vaccines.’ 3

Here are the data that you can therefore, pretty much, fully rely on. It is where I go to see what is really happening across Europe. Not all of Europe, as some countries do not participate. However, there are more than enough, to get a good picture. It encompasses key countries such as Spain, Italy, the UK (split into four separate countries), Sweden and suchlike.

Here is the graph of overall mortality for all ages, in all countries. The graph starts at the beginning of 2017 and carries on to almost the end of 2020.

As you can see, in each winter there is an increase in deaths. In 2020, nothing much happened at the start of the year, then we had – what must have been – the COVID19 spike. The tall pointy bit around week 15.

It started in late March and was pretty much finished by mid-May. Now, we are in winter, and the usual winter spike appears. It seems to be around the same size as winter 2017/18. It also seems to have passed the peak and is now falling. But it could jump up again. [The figures in the most recent weeks can always be a bit inaccurate, as it can take some time for all the data to arrive]

Two things stand out. First, there was an obvious ‘COVID19 spike’. Second, what we are seeing at present does not differ greatly from previous years. The normal winter spike in deaths.

If we split this down into individual countries, this reasonably clear pattern falls apart.

Here are the figures from England

Unlike the first graph, the scale on the left is not absolute numbers. It is a thing called the Z-score. Which means standard deviation from the mean. Sorry, maths. If the Z-score goes above five, this means something significant is happening. The red, upper, dotted line is Z > 5. As you can see, despite the howls of anguish from England about COVID19 overwhelming the country, we are really not seeing much at all.

What of Sweden, that pariah country? They did not fully lock-down, the irresponsible fools (all they did was follow WHO guidance – by the way), and we are now told they are suffering terribly, they should have enforced far more rigid lockdown, their ‘experiment’ failed etc. etc. COVID19 shall have its vengeance. Or to quote Arnie – I’ll be back.

As you can see, nothing much happening in Sweden either.

Then, if you look further, there are anomalies all over the place. Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and did exactly the same things as the rest of the UK with regard to lockdown, masks etc. At least it did in the earlier part of the year. However, it shows a completely different pattern to England. Or, to be fully accurate, it shows no pattern at all. No waves, and nobody drowning.

What of Slovenia?

As you can see absolutely nothing happened earlier in the year in Slovenia. Now, it has the biggest spike of all – apart from, maybe, Switzerland. Earlier in the year it was held up as a great example of how brilliantly effective masks were. Now… you don’t hear so much about masks. Maybe masks only work in months beginning with M. [Maybe, whisper it, they don’t work at all].

So, what have I learned from euroMOMO? First that it appears to have made absolutely no difference if a country locked down hard, and early, or did not. Everyone points at Norway and Finland as examples of great and early government action, and how wonderful everything would have been if we had done the same.

Well, look up at Northern Ireland. Then look at Finland

Spot the difference. There is none.

Of course, much of the most heated debate surrounded what happened during the so-called first wave. Who dealt with it well, or badly. Now, everyone in Europe is doing much the same things. Lockdown, restrictions on travel, restrictions on meeting other people, everyone wearing masks, etc. etc. Yet some countries are having a new wave, and others are not.

There is a special prize for anyone who can match up the severity of restrictions in various countries, to the Z-score. I say this, because no correlation exists.

So, again, what have I learned about COVID19? I learned that all Governments are floundering about, all claiming to have exerted some sort of control over this disease and ignoring all evidence to the contrary. In truth, they have achieved nothing. As restrictions and lockdowns have become more severe, in many cases the number of infections has simply risen and risen, completely unaffected by anything that has been done.

The official solution is, of course, more restrictions. ‘We just haven’t restricted people enough!’ Sigh. When something doesn’t work, the answer is not to keep doing it with even greater fervour. The real answer is to stop doing it and try something else instead.

I have also learned that, in most countries, COVID19 appears to be seasonal. It went away – everywhere – in the summer. It came back in the autumn/winter, as various viruses do.

On its return it has been, generally, far less deadly. Much as you would expect. The most vulnerable died on first exposure, and far fewer people had any resistance to it, at all. Now, a number of people do have some immunity, and many of the vulnerable are already dead.

Which means that, in this so-called second wave, COVID19 is no greater an issue than a moderately bad flu season.

If I were to recommend actions. I would recommend that we stop testing – unless someone is admitted to hospital and is seriously ill. Mass testing is simply causing mass panic and achieves absolutely nothing. At great cost. We should also just get on with our lives as before. We should just vaccinate those at greatest risk of dying, the elderly and vulnerable, and put this rather embarrassing episode of mad banner waving behind us.

Hopefully, in time, we will learn something. Which is that we should not, ever, run about panicking, following the madly waved banners… ever again. However, I suspect that we will. This pandemic is going to be a model for all mass panicking stupidity in the future. Because to do otherwise, would be to admit that we made a pig’s ear of it this time. Far too many powerful reputations at stake to allow that.

1: https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/sites/default/files/Time_to_act_report.pdf

2: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm?fbclid=IwAR3-wrg3tTKK5-9tOHPGAHWFVO3DfslkJ0KsDEPQpWmPbKtp6EsoVV2Qs1Q&_ga=2.83596054.1497558416.1598967201-386365132.1598967194#Comorbidities

3: https://www.euromomo.eu/about-us/history/

January 3, 2021 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Five Times this Year the New York Times Accidentally Told the Truth

By Jeffrey A. Tucker | American Institute for Economic Research | December 29, 2020

The paper of record in 2020 shifted dramatically to the most illiberal stance possible on the virus, pushing for full lockdowns, and ignoring or burying any information that might contradict the case for this unprecedented experiment in social and economic control. This article highlights the exceptions.

The first shocking sign of the placing of a persistent bias was a podcast with reporter Donald McNeil on February 27. This was the beginning. It was grossly irresponsible. He asserted that half the American public would get this disease and that it would have a case fatality rate of 2.5%, or 25 times as deadly as flu, hence 4.8 million dead people. No consideration of demographic gradients in risk and no knowledge of viral basics such as the tradeoff between severity and prevalence. Even if you leave aside the fog of fatality misclassification, he exaggerated the risk by 12 times but still spoke with a sense of certainty designed to create panic.

Host Michael Barbaro himself seemed shocked: “I thought you were here to bring calm, Donald.”

“I’m trying to bring a sense that if things don’t change, a lot of us might die,” he said. “If you have 300 relatively close friends and acquaintances, six of them would die.”

The primal fear of disease is thus thrown into massive overdrive, following 100 years in which public health tried to bring rationality to the topic.

That podcast was followed by an op-ed by the same journalist/pundit: “To Take On the Coronavirus, Go Medieval on It.” It seemed incredible that such a responsible outlet would advocate the overthrow of a century of public-health wisdom and even immunological basics, but that’s what they did. At this point, the New York Times was fully committed to the narrative that we must dismantle society to save it. And there it has been for nearly a year of unbearably biased coverage.

Even within the blatant and aggressive pro-lockdown bias, and consistent with the way the New York Times does its work, the paper has not been entirely barren of truth about Covid and lockdowns. Below I list five times that the news section of the paper, however inadvertently and however buried deep within the paper, actually told the truth.

1. Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be. Byline: Apoorva Mandavilli

I’m still stunned that the paper did a study that confirmed what people have suspected, namely that a high cycle threshold used on PCR testing was creating the appearance of a pandemic that might have long receded. The testing mania was generating wild illusions of millions of “asymptomatic” carriers and spreaders. How severe was the problem? Read this and weep:

In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.

On Thursday, the United States recorded 45,604 new coronavirus cases, according to a database maintained by The Times. If the rates of contagiousness in Massachusetts and New York were to apply nationwide, then perhaps only 4,500 of those people may actually need to isolate and submit to contact tracing.

The implications of this revelation are incredible. A major reason for the ongoing lockdowns are due to the pouring in of positive case numbers from massive testing. If 90% of these positive tests are false, we have a major problem. The whole basis of the panic disappears. All credit to the Times for running the article but why no follow up and why no change in its editorial stance?

2. Scientists See Signs of Lasting Immunity to Covid-19, Even After Mild Infections. Byline By Katherine J. Wu

Gone missing this year in public commentary has been much at all about naturally acquired immunities from the virus, even though the immune system deserves credit for why human kind has lasted this long even in the presence of pathogens. That the Times ran this piece was another exception in otherwise exceptionally bad coverage. It said in part:

Scientists who have been monitoring immune responses to the virus are now starting to see encouraging signs of strong, lasting immunity, even in people who developed only mild symptoms of Covid-19, a flurry of new studies suggests. Disease-fighting antibodies, as well as immune cells called B cells and T cells that are capable of recognizing the virus, appear to persist months after infections have resolved — an encouraging echo of the body’s enduring response to other viruses….

Researchers have yet to find unambiguous evidence that coronavirus reinfections are occurring, especially within the few months that the virus has been rippling through the human population. The prospect of immune memory “helps to explain that,” Dr. Pepper said.

3. Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies. Byline Apoorva Mandavilli

Reinforcing the solid point above:

Data from monkeys suggests that even low levels of antibodies can prevent serious illness from the virus, if not a re-infection. Even if circulating antibody levels are undetectable, the body retains the memory of the pathogen. If it crosses paths with the virus again, balloon-like cells that live in the bone marrow can mass-produce antibodies within hours.

4. Schoolchildren Seem Unlikely to Fuel Coronavirus Surges, Scientists Say. Byline: Apoorva Mandavilli

It’s still a shock that so many schools closed their doors this year, partly from disease panic but also from compliance with orders from public health officials. Nothing like this has happened, and the kids have been brutalized as a result, not to mention the families who found themselves unable to cope at home. For millions of students, a whole year of schooling is gone. And they have been taught to treat their fellow human beings as nothing more than disease vectors. So it was amazing to read this story in the Times:

So far, schools do not seem to be stoking community transmission of the coronavirus, according to data emerging from random testing in the United States and Britain. Elementary schools especially seem to seed remarkably few infections.

5. One-Third of All U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Nursing Home Residents or Workers. Byline Karen Yourish, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Danielle Ivory and Mitch Smith

Another strangely missing part of mainstream coverage has been honesty about the risk gradient in the population. It is admitted even by the World Health Organization that the case fatality rate for Covid-19 from people under the age of 70 is 0.05%. The serious danger is for people with low life expectancy and broken immune systems. Knowing that, as we have since February, we should have expected the need for special protection for nursing homes. It was incredibly obvious. Instead of doing that, some governors shoved Covid patients into nursing homes. Astonishing. In any case, the above article (and this one too) was one of the few times this year that the Times actually spelled out the many thousands times risk to the aged and sick as versus the young and healthy.

Notable Opinion columns 

The op-ed page of the paper mirrored the news coverage, with only a handful of exceptions. Those are noted below.

Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease? Op-ed by David Katz

I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.

Worse, I fear our efforts will do little to contain the virus, because we have a resource-constrained, fragmented, perennially underfunded public health system. Distributing such limited resources so widely, so shallowly and so haphazardly is a formula for failure. How certain are you of the best ways to protect your most vulnerable loved ones? How readily can you get tested?

Quarantine May Negatively Affect Kids’ Immune Systems. Op-ed by Donna L. Farber and Thomas Connors

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is unwittingly conducting what amounts to the largest immunological experiment in history on our own children. We have been keeping children inside, relentlessly sanitizing their living spaces and their hands and largely isolating them. In doing so, we have prevented large numbers of them from becoming infected or transmitting the virus. But in the course of social distancing to mitigate the spread, we may also be unintentionally inhibiting the proper development of children’s immune systems.

What Has Lockdown Done to Us?. Op-ed by By Drew Holden

Our mental health suffers, too. The psychological effects of loneliness are a health risk comparable with risk obesity or smoking. Anxiety and depression have spiked since lockdown orders went into effect. The weeks immediately following them saw nearly an 18 percent jump in overdose deaths and, as of last month, more than 40 states had reported increases. One in four young adults age 18 to 25 reported seriously considering suicide within the 30-day window of a recent study. Experts fear that suicides may increase; for young Americans, these concerns are even more acute. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have soared. America’s elderly are dying from the isolation that was meant to keep them safe.

December 31, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

France Accused of ‘Hysteria Over COVID Variant’ After Nearly 15,000 Truckers Tested Negative

21st Century Wire | December 29, 2020

Before Christmas, sensational reports of a new COVID “variant” in the UK prompted European neighbors France, Netherlands and Belgium – to close their international borders for fear of a dangerous new viral wave. As a result, ferries were unable to leave the Port of Dover until Christmas morning, with some 6,000 hauliers remaining in Kent over the subsequent days, and with many spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day parked, waiting to cross the English Channel. What was all the fuss about? Is there really a new “mutant strain” which UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock claims is still ravaging through the British Isles?

As part of this bio-security theatre, military personnel were then deployed to Kent, including a massive cohort of 1100 British troops, 30 French firefighters, and 60 Polish soldiers – all to supposedly to provide aid and services to the drivers, and to “speed up testing to 600 per hour” carried out at nearby Manston airfield.

As it turns out, all of this was completely unnecessary.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “Update on Kent lorry situation: 15,526 #Coronavirus tests now carried out. Just 36 positive results, which are being verified (0.23%). Manston now empty and lorries should no longer head there please.”

What the Government and Mainstream Media will not tell the public is that if the highly dubious PCR Testing was used, then that tiny reported number of 36 ‘positive cases’ could have easily fallen within the margin of false positive errors – meaning all 15,000 plus drivers may have been ‘COVID free’ – an incredible but very telling data point – all but proving that the virus is likely to be severely over-hyped right now in the UK.

As 21WIRE already reported last week, Hancock’s claims of a new ‘dangerous and more transmissible’ virus were totally unfounded and based on sloppy science from the UK government’s NERVTAG science advisory committee.

Because of the near nonexistent COVID cases within this giant trucker sample, critics are now railing against France and other European countries for panicking and closing their borders based on irrational fear of an non-existent “mutant strain” of COVID-19. But the UK authorities have no business pointing the finger at anyone….

MSN reported on Dec 25th…

The French authorities slapped restrictions on hauliers crossing the Channel following the [alleged] emergence of the VUi202012/01 coronavirus mutation which is believed to spread faster than other strains.

The UK and France agreed to a testing regime to allow trucks to start flowing again on the Dover-Calais link.

The Standard has been told that out of the first 1,500 tests none came back positive.

A Whitehall source criticised the “over hasty” action by the French authorities, adding: “All of this trouble – there have been 1,500 tests – no positives.”

The EU’s Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean criticised Emmanuel Macron’s government over the weekend’s freight ban.

She tweeted: “I am pleased that at this moment, we have trucks slowly crossing the Channel, and I want to thank UK authorities that they started testing the drivers at a capacity of 300 tests per hour.

“I deplore that France went against our recommendations and brought us back to the situation we were in in March when the supply chains were interrupted.”

Mind you, that’s more than a bit rich for anyone in the UK Government-Media Complex to accuse France of over-reacting – when it was Matt Hancock and the fawning mainstream press who for weeks shamelessly pumped-out incessant fear-based claims of an allege COVID “mutant strain” – absent of any actual evidence to back-up their wild assertions. Lesson learned?

SEE MORE:

UK ‘Variant Fears’ Are Over-Hyped Says Leading US Microbiologist

December 29, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 1 Comment

Vitamin D and COVID 19: The Evidence for Prevention and Treatment of Coronavirus

MedCram – Medical Lectures Explained CLEARLY | December 10, 2020

Professor Roger Seheult, MD explains the important role Vitamin D may have in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Dr. Seheult illustrates how Vitamin D works, summarizes the best available data and clinical trials on vitamin D, and discusses vitamin D dosage recommendations. Roger Seheult, MD is the co-founder and lead professor at https://www.medcram.com

He is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine and Assistant Prof. at Loma Linda University School of Medicine Dr. Seheult is Quadruple Board Certified: Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine Interviewer: Kyle Allred, Producer and Co-Founder of MedCram.com REFERENCES: The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS)… (J. of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology) | https://www.researchgate.net/publicat…

Aging decreases the capacity of human skin to produce vitamin D3 (The J. of Clinical Investigation) | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2997282/

Racial differences in the relationship between vitamin D… (Osteoporosis Int.) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Decreased bioavailability of vitamin D in obesity (The American J of Clinical Nutrition) | https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article…

Vitamin D Insufficiency and Deficiency and Mortality from Respiratory Diseases … (Nutrients) | https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/8/2488

Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis… (BMJ) | https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i…

Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A… (The American J.of Clinical Nutrition) | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20219…

Vitamin D and SARS-CoV-2 infection… (Irish J. of Medical Science) | https://link.springer.com/article/10….

Factors associated with COVID-19-related death… (Nature) | https://www.nature.com/articles/s4158…

Editorial: low population mortality from COVID-19 … (Alimentary Pharm. & Therap.) | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32311…

The role of vitamin D in the prevention of coronavirus … (Aging Clinical & Experimental Research) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations Are Lower in Patients with … SARS-CoV-2 (Nutrients) | https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1359

Vitamin D deficiency in COVID-19: Mixing up cause and consequence (Metabolism) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Low plasma 25(OH) vitamin D level… increased risk of COVID-19… (The FEBS J.) | https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32700…

The link between vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19… | https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.11…

SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates… with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (PLOS One) | https://journals.plos.org/plosone/art…

Vitamin D status and outcomes for… COVID-19 (Postgrad Medical J.) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Vitamin D Deficiency and Outcome of COVID-19… (Nutrients) | https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/9/2757

“Effect of calcifediol treatment…” (The J. of Steroid Bio. and Molec. Bio.) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Vitamin D and survival in COVID-19 patients… (The J. of Steroid Bio. and Molec. Bio.) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Effect of Vitamin D3 … vs Placebo on Hospital Length of Stay…: A Multicenter, Double-blind, Randomized Controlled Trial | https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.11…

Short term, high-dose vitamin D… for COVID-19 disease: a randomized, placebo-controlled, study [SHADE study] (Postgraduate Medical Journal) | https://pmj.bmj.com/content/early/202…

Association of Vitamin D Status… With COVID-19 Test Results (JAMA Network Open) | https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama…

Vitamin D Fortification of Fluid Milk … A Review (Nutrients) | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Analysis of vitamin D level among asymptomatic and critically ill COVID-19 patients… (Scientific Reports from the Journal Nature) | https://www.nature.com/articles/s4159…

THE MEDCRAM WEBSITE: Visit us for videos on over 60 medical topics and CME / CEs for medical professionals: https://www.medcram.com

All coronavirus updates are at MedCram.com (including COVID-19 developments, cholecalciferol, vitamin d benefits, etc.) We offer over 60 medical topics on our website. Media contact: https://www.medcram.com/pages/media-c…

MedCram medical videos are for medical education and exam preparation, and NOT intended to replace recommendations from your doctor. #COVID19 #SARSCoV2 #VitaminD

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | | Leave a comment

WHO Deletes Naturally Acquired Immunity from Its Website

By Jeffrey A. Tucker | American Institute for Economic Research | December 23, 2020

Maybe you have some sense that something fishy is going on? Same. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Coronavirus lived on surfaces until it didn’t. Masks didn’t work until they did, then they did not. There is asymptomatic transmission, except there isn’t. Lockdowns work to control the virus except they do not. All these people are sick without symptoms until, whoops, PCR tests are wildly inaccurate because they were never intended to be diagnostic tools. Everyone is in danger of the virus except they aren’t. It spreads in schools except it doesn’t.

On it goes. Daily. It’s no wonder that so many people have stopped believing anything that “public health authorities” say. In combination with governors and other autocrats doing their bidding, they set out to take away freedom and human rights and expected us to thank them for saving our lives. At some point this year (for me it was March 12) life began feeling like a dystopian novel of your choice.

Well, now I have another piece of evidence to add to the mile-high pile of fishy mess. The World Health Organization, for reasons unknown, has suddenly changed its definition of a core conception of immunology: herd immunity. Its discovery was one of the major achievements of 20th century science, gradually emerging in the 1920s and then becoming ever more refined throughout the 20th century.

Herd immunity is a fascinating observation that you can trace to biological reality or statistical probability theory, whichever you prefer. (It is certainly not a “strategy” so ignore any media source that describes it that way.) Herd immunity speaks directly, and with explanatory power, to the empirical observation that respiratory viruses are either widespread and mostly mild (common cold) or very severe and short-lived (Ebola).

Why is this? The reason is that when a virus kills its host, it cannot migrate. The more aggressively it does this, the less it spreads. If the virus doesn’t kill its host, it can hop to others through all the usual means. When you get a virus and fight it off, your immune system encodes that information in a way that builds immunity to it. When it happens to enough people (and each case is different so we can’t put a clear number on it) the virus loses its pandemic quality and becomes endemic, which is to say predictable and manageable. Each new generation incorporates that information through more exposure.

This is what one would call Virology/Immunology 101. It’s what you read in every textbook. It’s been taught in 9th grade cell biology for probably 80 years. Observing the operations of this evolutionary phenomenon is pretty wonderful because it increases one’s respect for the way in which human biology has adapted to the presence of pathogens without absolutely freaking out.

And the discovery of this fascinating dynamic in cell biology is a major reason why public health became so smart in the 20th century. We kept calm. We managed viruses with medical professionals: doctor/patient relationships. We avoided the Medieval tendency to run around with hair on fire but rather used rationality and intelligence. Even the New York Times recognizes that natural immunity is powerful with Covid-19, which is not in the least bit surprising.

Until one day, this strange institution called the World Health Organization – once glorious because it was mainly responsible for the eradication of smallpox – has suddenly decided to delete everything I just wrote from cell biology basics. It has literally changed the science in a Soviet-like way. It has removed with the delete key any mention of natural immunities from its website. It has taken the additional step of actually mischaracterizing the structure and functioning of vaccines.

So that you will believe me, I will try to be as precise as possible. Here is the website from June 9, 2020. You can see it here on Archive.org. You have to move down the page and click on the question about herd immunity. You see the following.

That’s pretty darn accurate overall. Even the statement that the threshold is “not yet clear” is correct. There are cross immunities to Covid from other coronaviruses and there is T cell memory that contributes to natural immunity.

Some estimates are as low as 10%, which is a far cry from the modelled 70% estimate of virus immunity that is standard within the pharmaceutical realm. Real life is vastly more complicated than models, in economics or epidemiology. The WHO’s past statement is a solid, if “pop,” description.

However, in a screenshot dated November 13, 2020, we read the following note that somehow pretends as if human beings do not have immune systems at all but rather rely entirely on big pharma to inject things into our blood.

What this note at the World Health Organization has done is deleted what amounts to the entire million-year history of humankind in its delicate dance with pathogens. You could only gather from this that all of us are nothing but blank and unimprovable slates on which the pharmaceutical industry writes its signature.

In effect, this change at WHO ignores and even wipes out 100 years of medical advances in virology, immunology, and epidemiology. It is thoroughly unscientific – shilling for the vaccine industry in exactly the way the conspiracy theorists say that WHO has been doing since the beginning of this pandemic.

What’s even more strange is the claim that a vaccine protects people from a virus rather than exposing them to it. What’s amazing about this claim is that a vaccine works precisely by firing up the immune system through exposure. Why I had to type those words is truly beyond me. This has been known for centuries. There is simply no way for medical science completely to replace the human immune system. It can only game it via what used to be called inoculation.

Take from this what you will. It is a sign of the times. For nearly a full year, the media has been telling us that “science” requires that we comply with their dictates that run contrary to every tenet of liberalism, every expectation we’ve developed in the modern world that we can live freely and with the certainty of rights. Then “science” took over and our human rights were slammed. And now the “science” is actually deleting its own history, airbrushing over what it used to know and replacing it with something misleading at best and patently false at worst.

I cannot say why, exactly, the WHO did this. Given the events of the past nine or ten months, however, it is reasonable to assume that politics are at play. Since the beginning of the pandemic, those who have been pushing lockdowns and hysteria over the coronavirus have resisted the idea of natural herd immunity, instead insisting that we must live in lockdown until a vaccine is developed.

That is why the Great Barrington Declaration, written by three of the world’s preeminent epidemiologists and which advocated embracing the phenomenon of herd immunity as a way of protecting the vulnerable and minimizing harms to society, was met with such venom. Now we see the WHO, too, succumbing to political pressure. This is the only rational explanation for changing the definition of herd immunity that has existed for the past century.

The science has not changed; only the politics have. And that is precisely why it is so dangerous and deadly to subject virus management to the forces of politics. Eventually the science too bends to the duplicitous character of the political industry.

When the existing textbooks that students use in college contradict the latest official pronouncements from the authorities during a crisis in which the ruling class is clearly attempting to seize permanent power, we’ve got a problem.

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and nine books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

How long does immunity to covid last?

By Sebastian Rushworth, M.D. | December 9, 2020

One of the fears of many people in relation to covid has been that the immunity that develops after infection is so short lived that the infection will just keep going around and around and re-infecting everyone (until everyone is dead, I assume).

Two pieces of evidence have been presented to support this belief. The first concerns a few cases of “re-infection” that have been broadcast widely in media, even though virtually all of these cases have been either completely asymptomatic or only very mildly symptomatic the second time around – a sure sign the the immune system still remembers covid and is doing its thing to stop it.

The second concerns the fact that antibodies fade after infection. This builds on a fundamental lack of understanding of how the immune system works. Although the actively antibody producing cells diminish after an infection, these cells (so called “plasma cells”) are not responsible for immune memory. That role is filled by special “memory B-cells”, that lie dormant in the body, waiting for the infection to reappear. When it does, they quickly spring in to action and produce massive numbers of new antibody producing clones.

Now, however, covid has been around for a while, and we’re starting to get some pretty good data on how long immunity lasts after infection. There is a pre-print up on MedRxiv about a study that sought to gain a deeper understanding of what sort of immune memory is produced after a covid infection.

Before we get in to the details of the article, let’s talk a little bit about immune memory, so everyone is on the same page. Immune memory is the ability of the immune system to remember a pathogen after a first infection (or vaccination), and thereby respond much more quickly and effectively upon re-infection. It is mediated by three main types of cell. The first is the already mentioned memory B-cell, which is basically a dormant version of the antibody producing plasma cells. The second is the “memory killer T-cell”, which is a dormant version of the regular killer T cell (a.k.a CD8+ T-cell). Killer T-cells specialize in finding virus infected cells and getting them to commit suicide in a way that prevents the virus from spreading further.

The third is the “memory helper T-cell”, which among many other functions regulates the function of the other types of immune cell. Both killer T-cells and B-cells cannot become fully activated until helper T-cells have become activated. The central function of T-helper cells is shown by AIDS (Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), a disease caused by the destruction of the T-helper cells by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – without the T-helper cells, other parts of the immune system cannot become fully activated, and the immune system is not able to function effectively.

In case you’re curious, the reason B-cells are called B-cells is because they mature in the bone marrow, so the B is for Bone marrow. T-cells mature in the thymus, so the T is for Thymus.

OK, now you know enough to understand the results of the study. 185 people with confirmed covid-19 were recruited and had blood samples drawn. 92% had not required hospitalization, so only a minority had had severe disease. The ages of the participants varied from 19 to 81. The blood samples were collected from several different sites across the United States.

The results of the study were based on analysis of the participants blood. 79% of participants only provided blood at a single time point, which varied from six days post-infection to more than six months post-infection, while the remainder (21%) provided blood at multiple time points. In other words, this was not really a longitudinal study, since most participants only had their blood analyzed at a single point in time, although there was some longitudinal data. 41 participants provided blood samples at six months or longer after infection, and this is really the group we’re most interested in, since this is the group that can tell us if there is still a good level of immune memory six months after infection.

Let’s look at the results.

Among the 54 individuals measured at one month post infection, 98% had antibodies. Among the 41 individuals measured at six to eight months post infection, 90% had antibodies. As mentioned before, antibodies are produced by plasma cells, and although antibodies in the blood stream decline with time as the plasma cells start to disappear, there should still be memory B-cells present for much longer, which can quickly be activated upon re-infection. That’s why it’s actually more important to look at what’s happening with memory B-cells than with antibodies, if you want to know how long your body maintains the ability to mount an antibody response to an infection. So, what did happen with the memory B-cells?

The prevalence of memory B-cells increased at each time point measured up to five months post infection, at which point they reached a stable level. There was no sign of a decline in memory B-cells after the five month mark.

Next we have the killer T-cells. At one month post infection, 61% had detectable memory killer T-cells. At six to eight months, 50% had measurable killer T-cells. It was however only possible to test for these cells in 18 individuals at the six month mark, so the confidence interval is wide, and thus it’s really impossible to say exactly what the trajectory was between the one month and six month marks. What can be said though is that a large proportion of participants still had measurable killer T-cells at six months.

Finally we have the memory helper T-cells. 94% of those measured at one month had measurable helper T-cells. Among those measured at six to eight months, that number was 89% (again, this data is based on only 18 individuals).

So, what can we conclude?

First, it’s important to note that this study had some weaknesses. The first is that, with the exception of a minority of participants, the study was cross-sectional, not longitudinal. This means that we’re not comparing people with themselves over time, we’re comparing them with other people who happen to be at a different point in the time line. It would have been better to have longitudinal data for all participants. The second is that some of the groups studied were pretty small, which creates wide margins of error. Some of the data was based on less than twenty individuals, which is really a tiny number.

A third weakness is that this study isn’t looking at how many people get reinfected with covid after a certain amount of time, it is looking at biomarkers – in other words, it is using proxy data, which is clearly a less reliable type of information than seeing what is actually happening to people in the real world. It’s kind of like doing a statin study and looking at what happens to cholesterol levels instead of looking at how many people have died after certain time point.

Having said all that, it is clear from this study that there is significant immune memory at the six to eight month time point after infection. At six to eight months after infection, 90% of measured samples still had antibodies and T-helper cells specific for covid-19, and 50% still had measurable T-killer cells. If the decline continues linearly over time from what was seen in this study, then it is reasonable to assume that most people continue to be immune to covid after infection for at least a couple of years.

You might also be interested in my article about the number of years of life lost, on average, when someone dies of covid, or my article about whether face masks are effective against covid.

December 9, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 2 Comments

Dissenting Voices: Finding Courage to Speak Against Your Assailant

By Christine E. Black | OffGuardian | December 8, 2020

A man in a white lab coat with advanced degrees in medicine sexually abused hundreds of young girl gymnasts in his office, sometimes while their parents stood nearby. Michigan State University professor and USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar penetrated girls, most younger than 16, some younger than 13, with an ungloved hand, saying he was examining them internally, doing check-ups necessary for them to perform as young athletes. This doctor continued his abuse of hundreds of girls over many years.

For years, girls told other coaches, the police, university administrators, psychologists. They repeatedly told USA gymnastics officials. And yet, Nassar was not stopped until his arrest in 2016. The girls obeyed. Hundreds of parents kept taking their daughters to see him. Girls must have complained. Some probably vomited quietly in the bathroom later or cried by themselves. They kept competing in gymnastics events.

How was this doctor able to do what he did over these many years?

Well-meaning parents, coaches, teachers, attending nurses; hundreds of adults surrounded this man while he violated young girl athletes in plain view. He was able to do this because he was an “expert”, a “scientist”, someone whom others were certain knew… more than they did… what was best.

He wore a white lab coat and had diplomas on his office walls. He had a high salary, a long career, a staff, and institutions behind him.

*

In this time of lockdowns, church and business restrictions and closures, immeasurable harms, pervasive losses, and debilitating fear in response to a virus with a survival rate of higher than 99 percent for most people, we have continued to hear the slogan, trust “the Science” or follow (or obey) “the Science” and “the Scientists.” Obey government controls and “the Science” a bit longer, and it will get better.

Further, those who question “the Science” and do not conform – or even merely think differently – are named and targeted as dangerous.

The virus is real, sicknesses and deaths are real, of course, while also real are the harms, deaths, and traumas from measures thought to mitigate it.

Further, some have made huge sums of money during this time while others have lost everything – and some will make huge sums from vaccines.

When “Science” is funded by corporations and special interest groups, we may learn by asking, “Who writes the checks, and who gets paid?”

I thought science had always been about questioning, and yet lately, questioners are degraded as ignorant, superstitious, or heretical. Those touting the slogan, “Follow the Science” or “Obey the Science” have begun to sound more like Biblical literalists, not at all like what I have understood science to be. We have been told that we must obey the literal last word of “The Science”. But whose science? Funded and led by whom and to what purpose?

Published “science” on this virus has changed monthly, even weekly, over many months. Masks are ineffective; wear masks. Wipe surfaces; no need to wipe surfaces as it is airborne and does not live on surfaces. Asymptomatic spread is common; asymptomatic spread is rare.

In addition, many scientists have noted that the tests for the infection are often unreliable.

Confusions and contradictions have been dizzying. Hydroxychloroquine, Zinc, and Azithromycin have been used around the world to prevent and effectively treat this virus in early stages and yet, scientists who share information on these drugs are maligned, threatened, and sometimes fired. How is this science?

Now, almost nine months into lockdowns, governments threaten to fine or jail people gathering for holidays, and questioners are still being called ignorant, psychopathic, uneducated, uncaring, and are also accused of getting people killed. How is this science? Science involves constant scrutiny and questioning, positing hypotheses, then continually examining and testing them in order to disprove them.

Further, a universe of hypotheses opens for our consideration. Responsible science was never, “This is the Science, period, now shut up.”

In the Stanley Milgram experiment in the 1960s, a man in a white lab coat quietly told volunteers to administer increasing levels of electric shocks to a person on the other side of a partition, when the person gave a wrong answer to a question. The experiment was staged, and the shocks not real, but participants did not know this. Some administered near lethal shock levels. Subjects thought the experiment was in learning, but experimenters were actually studying conformity and obedience to an authority figure. When people became uncomfortable and did not want to continue administering shocks, the man in the white lab coat simply stated, “The experiment requires that you continue.”

Lately, we may substitute the word, “science” for “experiment” as in, “The science requires that you continue.”

Participants continued pressing a button to shock another person even while the person screamed in pain. The screams were not real, but participants did not know this. How did experimenters get people to comply and administer almost lethal shocks to another human being? They complied because the white-lab-coated man was an expert. A scientist. A pretend one, but participants did not know that. They thought surely the scientist must know more than them.

History of science is filled with examples of scientists, especially medical doctors, who were horribly, even fatally, wrong.

Bloodletting, leeches, cauterizations of the uterus are a few of the treatments described in For Her Own Good: 150 Years of Experts Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English (Anchor Books/ Doubleday, 1978). In the late 18th century, doctors, touting science, moved to replace women healers, who had emphasized relationships and wholistic approaches. Doctors advocated more active, quantifiable, “heroic” measures. They focused on doing something.

Unfortunately for the health of the young republic, the heroic approach contained an inherent drift toward homicide,” write Ehrenreich and English. “Since the point was to prove that the treatment was more powerful than the disease, it followed that the more dangerous a drug or procedure, the more powerful a remedy it was presumed by most doctors to be. For example, blisters (induced by mustard plaster, etc.) were a common treatment for many diseases. In an 1847 paper, a physician observed that extensive blistering had a disastrous effect on children, sometimes causing convulsions, gangrene, and even death. He concluded from this that blisters ‘ought to hold a high rank’. in the treatment of diseases of childhood.’ (Ehrenreich and English, p. 46)

Bloodletting was another regular remedy of the time, in addition to other “cleansings,” including inducing vomiting and using laxatives and enemas.

Bloodletting was used by physicians well into the 20th century for many ailments; including accidents, malaria, childhood fevers, pregnancy discomfort, and anemia.

Many physicians in the early 19th century bled until the patient fainted or pulsed ceased, whichever came first,”

… according to Ehrenreich and English, who examined historical documents and biographies of the time (Ibid. p. 46).

Bloodletting was common during the yellow fever epidemic of 1873. Laxative purges, accomplished by the administration of calomel, a mercury salt, were considered an all-purpose remedy for everything from teething pain and diarrhea to chronic diseases.

Long term use caused the gums, the teeth, and eventually the tongue and the entire jaw to erode and fall off”
(Ibid. p. 47)

According to historians, physicians knew of these side effects but performed these procedures anyway.

During the cholera epidemic in St. Louis, physicians ran around with calomel loose in their pockets and simply doled it out by the teaspoonful (Ibid. p. 47)

In For Her Own Good, historian Ann Douglas Wood describes treatments used in the mid-nineteenth century for almost any female complaint – manual investigation, leeching, injections, and cauterization (without anaesthetic except a bit of opium or alcohol).

William Potts Dewees, an American medical professor, and Dr. Hughes Bennett, a famous English gynaecologist, widely read in the U.S.,…

both advocated placing leeches right on the vulva or neck of the uterus, although Bennett cautioned the doctor to count them as they dropped off when satiated and some may be lost.(Ibid. p. 123)

These men were scientists and doctors; people listened to them and did as they directed.

Questionable, even barbaric, practices have been carried out in the name of science. Eugenics programs advocated and performed forced sterilizations in the U.S. well into the 20th century and some in the 21st century.

Lobotomies and electroconvulsive shocks for the mentally ill were supported by the science. Scientists were certain they were doing the right thing.

Those who listened to them and submitted to their authority believed them.

Certainties may cause us to wonder. During the run up to the U.S. war in Iraq, across almost every major media outlet, we heard over and over words like “indisputable,” “irrefutable” about the “evidence,” supporting the necessity of war. We heard that war was “inevitable,” was “inexorable,” that the science was unquestionable. Former General Colin Powell appeared all over networks with scientific-looking charts behind him while he held a vial of some substance, to demonstrate the science. People who questioned that war’s absolute and immediate necessity were mocked, bullied, vilified, fired, threatened, sometimes even with death.

We learn and change and do differently. Outliers, outsiders, and challengers often lead us to new and important discoveries. And yet, lately our culture seems to suggest that those questioning “the Science” or the “scientists” should be condemned or not allowed to speak at all – even when many scientists disagree. Lately, we have been told, and many believe, that speaking up or stepping out of line may get us killed – or may get someone we love killed. This strikes me as a dangerous psychological trick.

Stepping away from dominant groups or voicing alternatives to dominant narratives can be very difficult. It can sometimes feel, or actually be, life-threatening. And yet, once you have had to speak up, perhaps alone, against a dominant group, or a domineering person, who threatens your life or the life of a loved one if you speak, you are forever changed. You may never be able to comply automatically and without question with the white-lab-coated scientist, telling you to press the button or the doctor, telling you to lie back on the table, or the scientist telling you to take the pill.

An assault survivor may be told by their assailant, “If you speak up, or step out of line, I’ll kill you – or your family.”

This statement is just a few characters away from, “If you speak up or step out of line, it’ll kill you” (the virus). Or alternatively that you (or it) will kill someone you love.

Those who have gathered courage to stand and speak against an assailant; a dominant group; an authority figure, may have a lot to teach us.

My friend, Lucy, killed herself twenty-five years ago. Her father, a Christian missionary and leader in the church and in the community, sexually abused her. The church did not believe her when she told. They turned their backs. Her mother did not believe her. Lucy spoke the truth of her experience even though she thought she may die. She stood against a church and its leaders and her own family. Sadly, Lucy did not survive. But I have — and can remember her and share her story.

Boys in State College, Pennsylvania were raped by Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky from 1994 – 2009 while many suspected or knew but looked away and did nothing. Those boys had to speak up against Sandusky, his wife, a whole football program, an entire town and culture that revered the sport, and a university built around the famous program. They had to tell their mothers, mothers who had believed Sandusky, a man who had started a non-profit organization to help and guide young boys.

Many sexual abuse survivors have had to stand against the Catholic Church. You are forever changed after standing up against powerful groups, institutions, or individuals – whether it be the church, the military, the town, the national scouting program, the department, “the Science”. I admire those who have had to do so, often initially alone. It can feel in the beginning like you may die, whether or not someone actually threatened you with death. And yet, people trust their hearts and instincts and speak up anyway, usually at great cost.

Many, including brave children, have stood and spoken when their conscience, their instincts, their safety, or their faith would not allow them to do otherwise. Once you have had to do this, it becomes much harder to believe, without question, that “everybody” knows better than you do, the authority figure knows better than you do, that the narrative must be swallowed whole.

You have been irrevocably changed. You have faced death or the prospect of death.

You have faced the threat…

“Speak up or act up and I’ll (it’ll)
kill you”

… and you have survived.


Christine E. Black’s work has been published in Antietam Review, 13th Moon, American Journal of Poetry, New Millennium Writings, Nimrod International, Red Rock Review, The Virginia Journal of Education, Friends Journal, The Veteran, Sojourners MagazineIris Magazine, English Journal, Amethyst Review, and other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Pablo Neruda Prize.

December 7, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment