Some COVID Insights

by Richard McCure

Historically, respiratory infections have been spread by exhaled droplets, and facemasks have been used for at least a century as a proven prophylactic. However I wonder if public health officers are ignoring some unique characteristics of Covid-19?

Three things about Covid-19: It is extraordinarily contagious, it can remain viable on surfaces for hours or even days, and commonly a catastrophic immune response of the lungs renders them unable to transfer oxygen to the blood and is the most likely cause of patients headed for ICUs.

First reports indicated that only the frail were likely to succumb to Covid 19. The first young healthy fatality that we heard about was the Chinese doctor in Wuhan (the whistle blower). This has continued to be the trend with health workers commonly contracting the illness. At first I concluded that it must be dose related, despite the use of ever more elaborate protective clothing. On the other hand I have seen little evidence that failure to wear masks at crowded events or on public transport has been a cause of major outbreaks. But Cruise Ships, Tower Blocks, and Nursing Homes have all suffered despite enormous efforts to stop the spread, using masks, distancing, filtered air, plus elaborate decontamination measures.

Steps to avoid inhaling the virus are very straightforward and even intuitive. To me it seems likely that the outbreaks have come from more esoteric sources like, say, a contaminated lift button.

My concern is this: What if the immune response of the lungs is our best line of defence, and by avoiding inhaling small doses of contaminated droplets and aerosols from a passer-by we are nullifying the mild infection that could provide a form of inoculation. Eliminating all transmission leaves the whole population ripe for an outbreak, What if all non-airborne transmissions eg, by ingestion, avoid the lung’s initial immune response allowing the disease to become well established elsewhere in the body. Serious outbreaks in restaurants under this scenario originate not from droplets inhaled but by droplets settling on food and tableware. By the time the infection reaches the lungs it has become very serious. Unfortunately leaders realise that at this stage draconian social distancing has popular support largely due to the tradition of direct spread by droplets or aerosols, and that relaxing lockdowns at this stage would not have much popular support in Australia We are all well programmed to keep clear of people who cough and sneeze.. But to have some friends ‘round for dinner and to manage all potential surface contamination is difficult to say the least. Likewise an item purchased on eBay and air freighted from Tullamarine could equally carry the infection.
I should point out that I have absolutely no medical qualifications, but I did run training courses in the safe handling of chemicals. There is no doubt that well trained medical professionals have great difficulty isolating infectious substances. All the evidence I have seen suggests that outdoor transmission hardly ever happens because there isn’t as much handling of surfaces. But the virus is too contagious to contain. It is impossible to eliminate it.

Under this scenario:

  1. Holding out for a vaccine is counter productive.
  2. The whole world will have to be exposed to the virus eventually because it is so very contagious.
  3. New “cases” are a good thing because 99.9% of them are mild and we need to get it over with ASAP.
  4. Masks should be abandoned. They are lazy policy.
  5. Restrictions on public eateries should stay in place for the time being.
  6. Instructive videos on hand hygiene should be produced and circulated widely. These should include strong messaging that all surfaces are continually contaminated.

14 Replies to “Some COVID Insights”

  1. Some interesting ideas. There are certainly things happening with COVID-19 infection/contagion that are still not understood. Some solid research needs to be done before theories become the basis of public policy. The problem is that the research funding cycle is much slower than the rate of spread of the virus and early theories tend to become politicized and corrupted as a result. I am sceptical about mailed articles being a vector because places like Tasmania and the Northern Territory would experience a much higher rate of new infections if this were so. Places with high population and high population density seem to have higher rates of infection. I attribute this to the use of mass-transit systems like the New York subway with no UV from sunlight to sterilize commonly touched surfaces.

  2. Some interesting ideas. There are certainly things happening with COVID-19 infection/contagion that are still not understood. Some solid research needs to be done before theories become the basis of public policy. The problem is that the research funding cycle is much slower than the rate of spread of the virus and early theories tend to become politicized and corrupted as a result. I am sceptical about mailed articles being a vector because places like Tasmania and the Northern Territory would experience a much higher rate of new infections if this were so. Places with high population and high population density seem to have higher rates of infection. I attribute this to the use of mass-transit systems like the New York subway with no UV from sunlight to sterilize commonly touched surfaces.

  3. Some interesting ideas. There are certainly things happening with COVID-19 infection/contagion that are still not understood. Some solid research needs to be done before theories become the basis of public policy. The problem is that the research funding cycle is much slower than the rate of spread of the virus and early theories tend to become politicized and corrupted as a result. I am sceptical about mailed articles being a vector because places like Tasmania and the Northern Territory would experience a much higher rate of new infections if this were so. Places with high population and high population density seem to have higher rates of infection. I attribute this to the use of mass-transit systems like the New York subway with no UV from sunlight to sterilize commonly touched surfaces.

  4. Valid comment about the higher the density the greater the infection – however, Taiwan has managed to escape pretty well unscathed (only 7 deaths so far, in a population similar to Australia’s on an island smaller than Tasmania).

    Sri Lanka has not done too badly either. Dense population there.

  5. There are two aspects to using masks, first they must have the right screening specifications, and secondly they have to be handled in a way that does not counter their effectiveness.

    It reminds me immediately of the way viruses were first discovered. It was around the turn of the previous century, (1892, Dmitri Ivanovsky), when bacteria and protozoa and such were well known, by noting that infections still occurred sometimes when a filter (mask) effectively removed all known whole cell pathogens. So the material in those filters had “holes” small enough to stop even the tiniest cells getting through but not small enough to filter out the minuscule viruses, thousands of times smaller and which were completely unknown.

    It also reminds me of a scene I saw only recently in a TV show where a surgeon all masked and gloved up wiped his forehead with his hand and proceeded to put it into the guts of whoever he was operating on. Poor blighter.

    So the filter has to be correct material or it is not very effective, and you cannot touch the outside where any trapped virus are located then use that hand on your face later. I learned operating theatre practice at the RHH and UTas. I see these operational (no pun) in movies all the time and cringe.

    I was in Bangkok when the pandemic started, and just managed to get the last Jetstar flight back to Australia before international travel was halted. Before I left, I had about a month of experience in Thailand during the initial phase of the outbreak. The Thai government immediately closed its borders. All shopping malls were closed, food was take out only. One border is with China, so clear rationale there. I was having voluntary heath and dental work done, and some shopping and so on, and everywhere I went, into any building, there were temp checks and hand sterilisers mandatory. The image of Japanese people wearing masks in public if they have the flu, is stereotypical, but everyone outside in Bangkok was wearing a mask. More important than these observations was the simple fact that all of this equipment, and supplies were instantly available without delay or shortages. And there was no anti-safety public behaviour. Perhaps something that high density populations understand. There was no learning curve, wait and see, or trial and error, they knew exactly what to do at the start. No excuses that this is unprecedented, (as if the Spanish Flu, Aids, Mad Cow, Asian Flu or any of the others had never happened.)

    The net result is that this country of 80m has had only 58 deaths. Life there now is essentially as normal.

    When I arrived in Tasmania, things were safe, we have the moat as our premier says, but then we had the outbreak in the north west coast.

    Here is something totally different that intrigues me enough I may make a little research study around it.

    I have heard evidence that people who are either asymptomatic, or have mild reaction to the COVID-19 infection, may have had a recent flu. I think this is fascinating. The flu virus is a corona virus like COVID-19, so this is not inconceivable. After all, it was the similarity between cow pox and small pox that allowed Edward Jenner to use one to immunise people against the other. Interestingly, it was a hundred years before viruses were discovered, so he had no idea how his vaccine worked, and even more interesting that he coined the word vaccine, from the Latin word for cow. So you are literally (but not practically) getting a shot of cow!

    I wonder if not just anyone who has had a recent flu, but maybe a flu shot, or is even one of those lucky people who never get the flu, so already have some innate corona virus immunity, are the noise in the sampling data.

    I think it is unwise to suggest that anyone not wear masks.

    I also think, that it is when we have open debate and discussion, especially when it comes from people outside a profession, that new insights and ideas emerge, and at times novel solutions. Something Blackjay is good for.

    1. Alan, it is viewed as probable that the illness can’t be contracted by ingestion but it is not certain. It seems that inhalation is the only pathway that is well documented and understood, and yet that pathway doesn’t fit snugly with the facts (in my opinion)

  6. John,
    A policy of variolation of SARS Cov-2 would come under the “Brave Decision Minister” mantra without your above mentioned clinical trials. Variolation has been suggested by many but without the proof we shall stumble on wrecking the economy and sending many, especially small businesses, to the wall.
    Regards
    Peter B

  7. My GP told me about a study in New York City. Two hairdressers continued working while infected but wore masks. Between them they had over 200 clients. Not a single client was infected, which seems to indicate that masks are useful.

  8. There seems to be a fair bit of medical evidence that SARS-CoV-2 uses the ACE2 receptor on Type II Alveoli cells to gain entrance to the body. Ingestion would place the virus particle in the stomach where acids would likely destroy most of it. A more important fact is that Vitamin D seems to provide resistance to infection by SARS-CoV-2, and diminishes the severity of Covid-19 if it is established. Everyone in Tasmania and Victoria (lower latitudes) should be taking 1000 IU of Vitamin D3 each day.

  9. I think Sweden has ultimately turned into a disaster, delated but inevitable in my opinion. Herd immunity is what we used to do in the middle ages when microscopic organisms were unheard of and unimaginable, and there were no treatments. Even non technical treatments like cleanliness were unthought of because the cause was not known to be based on being unclean. Just leaving the disease to run its course trivialises the last century of health science. Sure the population that of it that survives is immune, but the rest are dead. I think and people are not understanding that Sweden’s approach is heartless.

    The adjunct to this comment is that countries like Australia that performed the known best practice based on our knowledge of virology have the best results.

  10. https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/the-progress-of-the-covid-19-epidemic-in-sweden-an-update/
    and
    https://www.nicholaslewis.org/the-progress-of-the-covid-19-epidemic-in-sweden-an-update/

    Key Points

    Despite Swedish Covid cases falling to low levels in the summer, they resurged in the autumn
    This second wave, which was very likely a seasonal effect, now appears past its peak
    Excess deaths in East Sweden were high in the first wave and low in the second; for South Sweden the opposite is true. This suggests that population immunity and/or the remaining number of frail old people are key factors in the severity of the second wave.
    Excess deaths in Sweden to end 2020 were modest, particularly for 2019 (when deaths were abnormally low) and 2020 combined. They appear to be much lower relative to the population than in England, despite far harsher restrictions being imposed there.
    Only 3% of recorded 2020 COVID-19 deaths in Sweden were of people aged under 60

    Conclusions

    Whether the longer or shorter regression periods provide better estimates of normal mortality in 2019 and 2020, it seems clear that excess deaths, as a proportion of the population, were much higher in England than in Sweden. Excess deaths in England per 100,000 population were about four times those in Sweden for 2019 and 2020 combined, and about double those in Sweden for 2020 alone, .

    Nicholas Lewis 18 February 2021

Leave a Reply to Bud Bromley Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.