Study shows women who are surrounded by plants are happier and live longer

Indoor plants

Plants beautify our world offering us so many benefits in terms of nutrition and health. The walks in vegetation can offer tranquility and release of stress. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham Women’s Hospital women that have plants in their homes live longer.

The researchers carried out this study for 8 years and they have come to the conclusion that spending your day surrounded with vegetation increases longevity. Not only that you breathe in fresh air but staying in nature allows you to have better social engagement and physical activity. Moreover, the forests are for sure less polluted than your neighborhood.

In terms of mental well-being the vegetation is a great therapy reducing the risk of depression. The best would be to be outdoors, but if that is not possible for you, then you should by all means keep plants in your home. Their presence in your home will clean the inside air, reduce the blood pressure and enhance the productivity.

You can prevent from being depressive if you are surrounded by plenty of flowers and trees. So, if you are feeling blue go outside and enjoy the vegetation, or simply look at your own plants at home. The scholar Peter James and a research associate in the Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology maintains that vegetation reduces mortality rates.

Having plants in your surrounding reduces the risk of respiratory concerns and cancer. The conducted study revealed that women who live surrounded by plants are at 34% lower mortality risk from respiratory issues and 13% lower mortality risk of cancer.

Hence, make sure to have plants in your home that will promote longevity. Being surrounded with vegetation makes you more active, improves your mood, and purifies the air from all the chemicals. Plus, it will mitigate the effects of climate changes, and boost your health.

We recommend the following plants for your home: Spider Plant, Snake Plant, Jasmine, Lavender, Aloe Vera, and Peace Lily. They will for sure beautify your home and cleanse the air.

Sources:
mysticalraven.com

bhg.com.au

nbcnews.com

Is the coronavirus outbreak a hoax?

Coronavirus Outbreak

© Sky News

Why not? The published numbers could easily be completely fabricated or related to other illnesses.

Jon Rappoport has been talking about social engineering around health issues for decades, and the coronavirus situation is no different: How to stage a fake epidemic (and brainwash billions of people).

Let’s assume, for a moment, that it’s real. How severe is it? I definitely don’t know, but guesses range from mild symptoms to China deploying dozens of mobile incinerators to vaporize thousands of corpses per day.

The supply chain disruption, however, is happening, at least to some extent. Again, how severe is it? The guesses range from slightly lower availability of iPhones to TEOTWAWKI.

With virtually no solid information about the origin, severity or even a diagnosis of Covid-19, I laugh at the hair on fire crazy talk about vaccine development for… What exactly?

Thanks, but no.

In summary:

We can’t be sure who has Covid-19 and who doesn’t because the PCR testing process for Covid-19 is worse than a joke. Not enough test kits, faulty test kits, inaccurate results. In fact, better go with CT imaging. What are the CT scans actually showing?

*shrug shoulders*

Must Read: Are Coronavirus Tests Accurate?

Many factors are likely to confound the real number of those who have contracted or died from SARS-CoV-2. The inclusion of clinically diagnosed cases of COVID-19 may further muddle the issue. Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia told Science Media Centre that previously suspected cases of the illness are now considered confirmed cases even though some may be caused by illnesses other than COVID-19. Translation: Clinical diagnosis may lead to overdiagnosis and misdiagnosis in some cases.

If any novel disease actually exists, there’s no reliable way, at the moment, to test for it. Covid-19 can spread without symptoms, we’re told. Most people experience mild symptoms… with the potential to suddenly drop dead.

In other words, crank it!

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My advice:

1) Be ready to self isolate for a month, minimum. Not so much because of this coronavirus episode, but in general.

2) Before you let anyone come at you with a needle, reflect carefully on the fact that what passes for diagnosis of Covid-19 looks like it was devised by Bozo the Clown.

Obesity similar to premature aging say scientists

man neck

© (Motortion/Getty Images)

Worldwide, over 2 billion people are overweight or obese. Obesity figures have almost tripled since 1975. In children and adolescents, it’s even worse, with a ten-fold increase in the same time-frame. What are we doing wrong here?

Perhaps we’ve been looking at the obesity epidemic the wrong way, scientists say. In a new study, they suggest – somewhat provocatively – that we’ve missed what obesity actually represents.

Obesity, the team claims, is essentially a form of premature ageing – something that endangers our health and shortens our lives in ways that are remarkably similar to the inevitable processes of getting older and succumbing to age‐related diseases.

“We are trying to comprehensively make the argument that obesity parallels ageing,” says clinical nutritionist Sylvia Santosa from Concordia University in Canada.

“Indeed, the mechanisms by which the comorbidities of obesity and ageing develop are very similar.”

In Santosa’s new research, she and her co-authors reviewed over 200 studies looking at the effects of obesity, ranging all the way from cellular and molecular effects to the condition’s impact on the immune system, cognition, mobility, and more.

The upshot of their analysis is that obesity, in terms of its burden on health, is effectively a mirror of ageing: a condition that predisposes individuals to the early onset of the chronic diseases we usually associate with getting older.

To be clear, while the researchers state that obesity accelerates ageing, they are not really suggesting that ageing and obesity are literally the same thing. Rather, to the extent that we can draw parallels between the concepts from the perspective of pathology, obesity and ageing are “two sides of the same coin”.

“I ask people to list as many comorbidities of obesity as they can,” Santosa says. “Then I ask how many of those comorbidities are associated with ageing. Most people will say, all of them. There is certainly something that is happening in obesity that is accelerating our ageing process.'”

In terms of how, the researchers cite numerous examples of potential mechanisms, including things like obesity-based mitochondrial dysfunction, systemic inflammation, and weakened immune system responses. They also discuss the shortening effect obesity is thought to have on telomeres, which act as protective caps on the end of DNA strands, and are linked to longevity.

It’s a compelling argument, all told, and the amount of crossover is certainly substantial. But it’s also worth bearing in mind that the researchers’ central point is mainly a list of comparisons, not an outright equation of the two separate things.

For now though, the drawing of that comparison may be enough to do some good. Ultimately, what the researchers want is to give us a new paradigm for thinking about what obesity looks like, with a view to helping us treat this overwhelming issue in global health.

Other obesity studies have similarly attempted to reframe the context of the problem, and given the chronic severity of the obesity epidemic, fresh perspectives to characterise the condition are something we can definitely use, no matter what shape the analogy takes.

“I think it is a good idea because people often may not be so worried about the message about losing weight, people can switch off to that, they’ve heard it before,” general practitioner Elizabeth Crouch, who wasn’t involved with the study, told newsGP.

“‘[This] puts it into perspective for people. That might be a wake-up call… The more objective information we have, the better.”

The findings are reported in Obesity Reviews.

Stress in small children separated from their parents may alter genes

children

Experts in the emotional needs of small children say increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in babies and small children who are separated from their parents, especially their mothers, could have a long-term genetic impact on future generations. In a commentary published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the authors say that several studies show that small children cared for outside the home, especially in poor quality care and for 30 or more hours per week, have higher levels of cortisol than children at home.

Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray, Emeritus Professor of General Practice at the University of Exeter, and President of the children’s charity ‘What About the Children?’ who wrote the paper with two colleagues, said: “Cortisol release is a normal response to stress in mammals facing an emergency and is usually useful. However, sustained cortisol release over hours or days can be harmful.”

The authors say that raised cortisol levels are a sign of stress and that the time children spend with their parents is biologically more important than is often realised. Stress has been associated with children, particularly boys, acting aggressively. Not all children are affected, but an important minority are. Raised cortisol levels are associated with reduced antibody levels and changes in those parts of the brain which are associated with emotional stability.

“Environmental factors interact with genes, so that genes can be altered, and once altered by adverse childhood experiences, can pass to future generations. Such epigenetic effects need urgent study,” say the authors.

Sir Denis added: “Future research should explore the links between the care of small children in different settings, their cortisol levels, DNA, and behaviour.”

First known case of person who urinates alcohol discovered

urine

© (ongMoji/Getty Images)

A woman in Pittsburgh has become the first documented case in a living person of an unusual medical condition where alcohol naturally brews in the bladder from the fermentation of yeast.

The condition, which researchers propose to call either ‘bladder fermentation syndrome’ or ‘urinary auto-brewery syndrome’, is similar to another incredibly rare condition, auto-brewery syndrome, where simply ingesting carbohydrates can be enough to make you inebriated, even without consuming any alcohol via regular means.

In the new case, doctors became aware of what seems to be a related syndrome, after attending upon a 61-year-old patient who presented with liver damage and poorly controlled diabetes.

The woman visited University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre Presbyterian Hospital for placement on a liver transplant waitlist, with doctors having previously suspected her problems stemmed from alcohol addiction, due to repeated urine tests for alcohol showing consistently positive.

“Initially, our encounters were similar, leading our clinicians to believe that she was hiding an alcohol use disorder,” her doctors explain in a new case report.

“However, we noted that plasma test results for ethanol and urine test results for ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate, which are the metabolites of ethanol, were negative, whereas urine test results for ethanol were positive.”

Furthermore, in addition to consistently denying having consumed alcohol, the patient did not appear to show signs of intoxication during visits to the clinic, even though her urine showed high levels of ethanol content.

Another mystery was the presence of large amounts of glucose in her urine – a condition called hyperglycosuria – with abundant levels of budding yeast seen in urine samples.

“These findings led us to test whether yeast colonising in the bladder could ferment sugar to produce ethanol,” the researchers write.

Running tests on her urine, the team confirmed remarkably high levels of ethanol production, suggesting her strange results were due to yeast fermenting sugar in the bladder.

The yeast in question was identified as Candida glabrata, a natural yeast found in the body and related to brewer’s yeast, but not normally discovered in such abundance.

Unfortunately, efforts to eliminate the yeast with antifungal treatments failed, perhaps due to the patient’s poorly controlled diabetes. In light of the woman’s seemingly unique predicament, the doctors note that she was reconsidered for liver transplantation, although their report doesn’t make clear what ultimately became of the patient.

While researching the woman’s case, the doctors became aware of other reports involving similar production of ethanol in urine, but only in one postmortem case, and in experiments run in vitro.

That said, it’s possible other patients have presented with this rare medical condition before, but the symptoms weren’t recognised, due to the unusual and largely unknown nature of the pathology.

“The experience we describe here of two liver transplant teams at different institutions demonstrates how easy it is to overlook signals that urinary auto-brewery syndrome may be present,” the doctors say.

“Clinicians must be diligent about paying close attention to medical record documentation and laboratory results and should always investigate in the event of incongruences.”

The findings are reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Great Placebo scandal

Pills and Placebos

© Health Central NZ

In this blog I am going to have a closer look at an issue that has niggled away at me for a long time. Placebos. In part I was stimulated to write on this following an article that Maryanne Demasi published on the CrossFit site Sometimes a placebo is not a placebo.’ 1

There are many, many different issues about placebos. Most of which people don’t even consider. Such as, is there really such a thing as the placebo effect? And if there is, how come we haven’t managed to sort out what it actually might be? I know most people reading this will retort. ‘Of course, there’s a placebo effect. It’s a known thing.’ Personally, I am not so sure. Like many known things it begins to fall apart under a bit of critical examination.

For example:

‘Whether you know you’re taking a placebo pill or not, it will still have a beneficial effect, new research has revealed. Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Basel prescribed a group of minor burn victims with a “treatment” cream, telling only some of them that it was a placebo. After the cream was applied, both groups reported benefits, despite the placebo cream containing no medicine.

The study goes against traditional medical thinking surrounding the placebo effect, which has always revolved around the idea that it was necessary to deceive patients in order for “sugar pills” to be clinically effective.’ 2

In short, you get the placebo effect whether you know, or don’t know, that you are receiving a placebo. Which kind of blows a major hole in rationale underpinning double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials.

However, I am not exploring that particular rabbit hole today.

Today I am going to look at the question. What is in a placebo? You may well believe you know the answer to this. A placebo is an inert formulation containing no active ingredients.

This is a reasonable assumption to make as the medical definition of a placebo, as taken from the Merriam-Webster medical dictionary, is:

‘1a: a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder

b: an inert or innocuous substance used especially in controlled experiments testing the efficacy of another substance (such as a drug)’

A few years ago, I was speaking to an investigative journalist from the Netherlands who was trying to get hold of the placebo tablets used in a particular clinical trial. He wanted to establish exactly what was in them, and if they were truly inert. No such luck, these placebos were very carefully guarded, as was any information about what they contained.

He gave up, but I did file his tale in my mind, recognising this was something that needed to be looked in greater detail at some point in the future. Can it be true that placebos are not actually inert?

Surely, it’s possible to ask the pharmaceutical company running the trial what’s in the placebo. Well, you can try. To quote a section of Maryanne’s article

‘The process of obtaining regulatory documents, however, is by no means straightforward. In fact, it is often complicated and time consuming. I have made multiple appeals to a European drug regulator (Medicines Evaluation Board) to obtain information (Certificate of Analysis) regarding the ingredients of a placebo used in a controversial statin study (JUPITER trial), but so far, they have fallen on deaf ears. So, too, have my requests to the trial’s lead investigator, Dr. Paul Ridker.

Medical journals will need to take responsibility and insist that published papers report on the methodological details of “inactive” placebos. Recently, Shader of Clinical Therapeutics stated, “It will no longer be sufficient to simply indicate that a placebo was used.”

“We will require that a full description of any placebo or matched control used in a clinical trial be given in the Methods section. This means that color; type (capsule or pill or liquid); contents (e.g, lactose), including dyes; taste (if there is any); and packaging (e.g, double-dummy) must be noted,” he stated. “We are instituting this change as part of our ongoing effort to facilitate replication of findings from trials. All too often this valuable information is omitted from published trial results.”

In short, you can’t find out what is contained within the placebos. Or at least, it is exceedingly difficult – to impossible.

This is very disturbing indeed, because it has become increasingly clear that placebos are often far from inactive or inert. In fact, they often contain some quite unpleasant substances. For example, here from an article in Medical News Today

‘The authors outline an example where a particular placebo skewed the results of several studies. In studies that investigated oseltamivir, which people may know by its brand name Tamiflu, scientists often added dehydrocholic acid to the placebo.

Dehydrocholic acid has a bitter taste, as does oseltamivir. The researchers chose to add this chemical to the placebo so that the participants would not know whether they had received the active drug or the placebo.

However, both dehydrocholic acid and oseltamivir cause gastrointestinal side effects. When scientists attempted to calculate the rate of gastrointestinal side effects due to oseltamivir, they compared them with side effects from the placebo.

As the placebo also caused these types of symptoms, scientists underestimated the overall gastrointestinal side effect rate for oseltamivir.’ 3

Essentially, and you may find this rather shocking, a company doing a clinical trial can stick almost any nasty substance they like into a placebo and tell no-one. There are no regulations to prevent this happening, or at least none that I can find.

From time to time, however, the secret ingredients are revealed, or discovered, such as dehydrocholic acid. Here is Maryanne on the Gardasil (HPV) vaccine. In this case the ‘secret ingredient’ in the placebo was also identified.

‘In trials of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, participants were told they were either receiving a “vaccine or placebo.” The vaccine manufacturer defines a placebo as an “inactive pill, liquid, or powder that has no treatment value.”

However, participants in the placebo group did not receive an inactive substance of no treatment value. “Instead,” RIAT researchers state in the BMJ, “they received an injection containing amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate (AAHS), a proprietary adjuvant system used in the Gardasil vaccine to boost immune response.”‘ 4

[RIAT = Restoring invisible and abandoned trials. Good people]

This is worrying. Many of those who are concerned about the potential for vaccine damage, believe it may well be the amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate (AAHS) itself which is the substance that can cause the adverse effects seen with many vaccines.

If both placebo, and vaccine, contain this adjuvant, then… it’s a free pass for the vaccine. In order to hide adverse effects with the vaccine, the placebo contained the substance suspected to cause adverse effects. Anyone who thinks that is remotely acceptable needs a long hard look in the mirror…

However, important thought it may be, it is time to move onto my favourite subject, statins – and placebos. For years I been highly suspicious of the adverse effect rates seen in the statin clinical trials. My concerns, and the concerns of others, formed part of a letter written to the then Health Secretary (Jeremy Hunt), and also to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 5

Here was the section on adverse events:

  1. Conflicting levels of adverse events

In emphasising the cost per Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY), NICE is clearly making a major assumption that the key issue is mortality reduction, and that statins lead to very few adverse effects. We would question this very strongly.

The levels of adverse events reported in the statin trials contain worrying anomalies. For example, in the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS, the first primary prevention study done), the cumulative incidence of myalgia was 0.6% in the statin arm, and 0.6% in the placebo arm*

However, the METEOR study found an incidence of myalgia of 12.7% in the Rosuvastatin arm, and 12.1% in the placebo arm

Whilst it can be understood that a different formulation of statin could cause a different rate of myalgia, it is difficult to see how the placebo could, in one study, cause a rate of myalgia of 0.6%, and 12.1% in another. This is a twenty-fold difference in a trial lasting less than half as long*.

Furthermore, the rate of adverse effects in the statin and placebo arms of all the trials has been almost identical. Exact comparison between trials is not possible, due to lack of complete data, and various measures of adverse effects are used, in different ways.

However, here is a short selection of major statins studies.

AFCAPS/TEXCAPS: Total adverse effects lovastatin 13.6%: Placebo 13.8%

4S: Total adverse effects simvastatin 6%: Placebo 6%

CARDS: Total adverse effects atorvastatin 25%: Placebo 24%

HPS: Discontinuation rates simvastatin 4.5%: Placebo 5.1%

METEOR: Total adverse effects rosuvastatin 83.3%: Placebo 80.4%

LIPID: Total adverse effects 3.2% Pravastatin: Placebo 2.7%

JUPITER: Discontinuation rate of drug 25% Rosuvastatin 25% placebo. Serious Adverse events 15 % Rosuvastatin 15.5% placebo

WOSCOPS: Total adverse effects. Pravastatin 7.8%: Placebo 7.0%

Curiously, the adverse effect rate of the statin is always very similar to that of placebo. However, placebo adverse effect rates range from 2.7% to 80.4%, a thirty-fold difference.

How can the adverse effects of placebo range from 2.7% to 80.4%? Yes, there can be differences in the way that adverse effects are recorded, and that could explain, perhaps a five-fold difference – being extremely generous. But a thirty-fold difference?

Also, how can it be possible that the adverse effects of the placebo, and the statin, are always, almost exactly the same, in all trails – no matter the absolute figure. I believe that this could not possibly occur unless:

  • The placebos in each trial were carefully formulated to cause adverse effects at the same rate as the statin
  • The statistics on adverse effects were manipulated

Neither possibility should fill anyone with joy, nor confidence in the regulatory systems.

I have raised this issue with a number of different people, but they all seem determinedly disinterested. I suppose that if either of my two statements are true, it means that the entire database of randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trials can no longer be trusted. This is not a nettle to be grasped. It is a fifty-thousand-volt power line with a sign reading ‘Danger of Death!’ attached.

I can well understand the reluctance to investigate. However, I do not believe that we can possibly allow the formulation of placebos to remain a well-kept secret in future, current, or past trials.

If my suspicions about placebos are wrong, then can someone please prove me wrong.

*in the letter I had calculated this figure wrongly. It was not 0.06%, it was 0.6%. So, I have changed the text in the blog to reflect that.

References:

1: https://www.crossfit.com/health/sometimes-a-placebo-is-not-a-placebo

2: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/placebo-pills-work-no-medication-know-even-treatment-study-harvard-basel-a7969716.html

3: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326505#Problems-with-placebos

4: https://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2865/rr-7

5: https://www.nice.org.uk/Media/Default/News/NICE-statin-letter.pdf

Rep. Heidi Sampson: Yes, Big Pharma pulls the strings

yes on 1 campaign vaccines maine

© Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan
Dr. Zach Mazone, speaks during a Yes on 1 news conference on Tuesday at the Maine State House in Augusta.

Recently, Dr. Laura Blaisdell told Mainers during a radio interview that her ‘No on 1’ coalition includes a group of trusted, local physicians. These are the same people who stroll around the state capitol donning their lab coats. Their subliminal message of superiority is not missed on the discerning.

Blaisdell’s mantra, “Trust us,” implies no need to question, no need to be informed, no need to make your own decisions about your body or that of your child. She and her colleagues know all, so check your brain at the door. Why question?

As a member of the Legislature who engaged in the entire bill process, I asked lots of questions. According to the CDC’s testimony, we don’t have a problem. We are already at the desired threshold of 95% compliance. No need for this law. However, Big Pharma got its way — thanks to the likes of Blaisdell and her “trustworthy” coalition.

This law, the most punitive and overreaching vaccine mandate law in the nation was shoved through our Legislature despite the unprecedented number of people who were in strong opposition. It removes both children and adults from school (public, private, parochial, online and trade schools, including higher education) and employment (including employees at day care and health care services) should they miss even one dose of a required vaccine.

Yet we are told to trust.

Eliminate the opportunity to verify truth and trust is destroyed.

Where is the trust when:

– Physicians get a financial bonus if their practice achieves a specific vaccine compliance rate.

According to the director of the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Confidence Project, “In medical school, you’re lucky if you have a half day on vaccines, never mind keeping up to date with all of it.”

– The CDC holds over 50 patents, making them a part of the vaccine manufacturing industry.

– The vaccine manufacturers have no incentive to make safe products because the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 gave them immunity from lawsuit.

– The World Health Organization reveals the science is not settled, because no safety studies have been done.

– Mandate laws benefit Big Pharma’s bottom line, and Merck’s profits for only their childhood vaccines grossed $8.4 billion in 2019 alone.

Where is the trust when:

Outbreaks of diseases like measles, mumps and pertussis are happening in populations with 100% vaccination rates.

The CDC manipulated data presented to the Education Committee by omitting the first-grader data field, resulting in a false narrative that rates in Maine are dropping when in reality they are not.

Those recently vaccinated pose far greater risks to the immuno-compromised than does any unvaccinated child.

Where is the trust when:

– Well paid lobbyists earn nearly $50,000 in a few short months to wine and dine legislators to do their bidding.

Some lobbyists mock, intimidate and harass parents exercising their constitutional right to petition their grievances.

– Elected representatives turn a deaf ear to well over 600 people who testified in opposition to this law.

Where is the trust when:

Nearly $500,000 from Big Pharma pours into ads using fear tactics and manipulated statistics aimed at convincing people to give away their constitutional rights.

– One follows the money, discovering Big Pharma is actually pulling the strings on this vaccine mandate law.

The Yes On 1 Campaign has been vindicated in using “Reject Big Pharma” as their tagline. Big Pharma with their group of “trusted physicians” has been responsible for the opioid crisis that is still ravaging our state. Why should we trust them now?

We as Maine citizens have not only the right, but an obligation to reject this gross governmental overreach masquerading as public health.

Rep. Heidi Sampson represents House District 21. She resides in Alfred.

Cut thru myths to see facts about COVID-19

pandemic

Summary: I talk to people who worry about the coronavirus epidemic and so read much about it – but know almost nothing, with facts lost amidst the rumors and misinformation. Here is a clear picture of what is known, so far. We learn more each day.

Important: the WHO has not yet declared COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) to be a pandemic – where the epidemic spreads rapidly across multiple regions simultaneously. The label “pandemic” describes a disease’s extent and speed of spread, not its severity. See the WHO website for details (here and here). The COVID-19 epidemic now might be breaking containment to become a pandemic. This is where the preparation during the past two months will prove its worth – or not.

The current status

From the WHO Situation Report of February 23.

So far there are 29 nations affected (5 new nations since February 3). There are 1769 confirmed cases outside China (367 new), with 17 deaths (6 new). That is 1135 cases plus the 634 guaranteed or tested from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Reminder: the world’s population outside China is six and one-half billion.

  • South Korea is experiencing the most rapid spread of the disease outside of China – so far with small numbers afflicted and an immensely strong response by its government and people. They have 602 confirmed cases: 1 new case reported on Feb. 18, 20 on Feb. 19, 53 on Feb. 20, and 100 on Feb. 21, 104 on Feb. 22, and 256 on Feb. 23.
  • The other nation experiencing a rapid spread is Italy, so far with tiny numbers: 76 confirmed cases (vs. 3 on WHO’s Feb. 21 report). Again, the government and people are responding strongly and proactively to contain the outbreak (details here).
  • Iran reported its first two cases on Feb 20. There are now 28 cases and 5 deaths, which implies that there are many more than 28 people infected.

People take for granted this accurate, timely, and detailed data (esp. the “government can’t do anything” and “the UN is evil” folks). It did not exist for epidemics until recently. This information is collected according to the International Health Regulations (2005). All Member States are required to immediately report any new confirmed case of COVID-19 and, within 48 hours, provide information related to clinical, epidemiological, and travel history using the WHO standardized case reporting form.

Cases in the US

As of Feb 21, the CDC reports that 414 people have been tested and 14 cases confirmed – with no tests pending results.

As of February 15, the CDC estimates that so far this season (since September 9) there have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths from flu. See their summary page and detail page for current information. But remember America’s new motto: “What, me worry?”

An overview of the epidemic

Excerpt from a speech by Tedros Adhanom, the Director-General of WHO, on February 21. Full text here.

It’s hard to believe that only 52 days ago {January 1}, WHO’s country office in China was notified of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan city. In just seven weeks, this outbreak has captured the world’s attention, and rightly so, because it has the potential to cause severe political, social and economic upheaval.

As you know, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern within a month {on January 30} after the first reported cases, as a result of the signs of human-to-human transmission we saw outside China. And because of the major concerns we had that this virus could spread to countries with weaker health systems such as in our continent. China has now reported 75,569 cases to WHO, including 2239 deaths.

The data from China continue to show a decline in new cases. This is welcome news, but it must be interpreted very cautiously. It’s far too early to make predictions about this outbreak.

Outside China, there are now 1200 cases in 26 countries, with 8 deaths. As you know, there is one confirmed case on the African continent, in Egypt {reported Feb. 15}. Several African countries have tested suspected cases of COVID-19, but fortunately they have been found negative.

Although the total number of cases outside China remains relatively small, we are concerned about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case. We are especially concerned about the increase in cases in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where there are now 18 cases and four deaths in just the past two days.

With every day that passes, we know a little bit more about this virus, and the disease it causes. We know that more than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover. But the other 20% of patients have severe or critical diseases, ranging from shortness of breath to septic shock and multi-organ failure. These patients require intensive care, using equipment such as respiratory support machines that are, as you know, in short supply in many African countries. And that’s a cause for concern. In 2% of reported cases, the virus is fatal, and the risk of death increases the older a patient is, and with underlying health conditions. We see relatively few cases among children. More research, of course, is needed to understand why.

Our biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weaker health systems. …we’re working hard to prepare countries in Africa for the potential arrival of the virus. …We’ve also published a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with a call for US$675 million to support countries, especially those which are most vulnerable.

WHO has identified 13 priority countries in Africa because of their direct links to China or their high volume of travel with China. …an increasing number of African countries are now able to test for COVID-19 with laboratory test kits supplied by WHO, compared with only one just a couple of weeks ago. Some countries in Africa, including DRC, are also leveraging the capacity they have built up to test for Ebola, to test for COVID-19. This is a great example of how investing in health systems can pay dividends for health security.

We have also shipped more than 30,000 sets of personal protective equipment to several countries in Africa, and we’re ready to ship almost 60,000 more sets to 19 countries in the coming weeks. We’re working with manufacturers of personal protective equipment to address the severe disruption in the market for masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE, to ensure we can protect health workers.

During the past month about 11,000 African health workers have been trained using WHO’s online courses on COVID-19, which are available free of charge in English, French and other languages at OpenWHO. We’re also providing advice to countries on how to do screening, testing, contact tracing and treatment.

Last week we brought the international research community together to identify research priorities, especially in the areas of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. …

The increasing signs of transmission outside China show that the window of opportunity we have for containing this virus is narrowing. We are calling on all countries to invest urgently in preparedness. We have to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have, to attack the virus outbreak with a sense of urgency.

The numbers for COVID-19

From WHO’s February 19 Situation Report. Footnotes omitted. See the report for footnotes with links to research. Links and red emphasis added.

WHO has been working with an international network of statisticians and mathematical modelers to estimate key epidemiologic parameters of COVID-19, such as the incubation period (the time between infection and symptom onset), case fatality ratio (CFR, the proportion of cases who die), infection fatality ratio (IFR, the portion of all of those infected who die), and the serial interval (the time between symptom onset of a primary and secondary case).

To calculate these parameters, statisticians and modelers use case-based data from COVID-19 surveillance activities, and data captured from early investigations, such as those studies which evaluate transmission within clusters of cases in households or other closed settings. Preliminary estimates of median incubation period are 5-6 days (ranging from 0-14 days) and estimates for the serial interval range from 4.4 to 7.5 days.

The confirmed case fatality ratio, or CFR, is the total number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed cases at one point in time. Within China, the confirmed CFR, as reported by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is 2.3%. This is based on 1023 deaths amongst 44,415 laboratory-confirmed cases as of 11 February. This CFR does not include the number of more mild infections that may be missed from current surveillance, which has largely focused on patients with pneumonia requiring hospitalization; nor does it account for the fact that recently confirmed cases may yet develop severe disease, and some may die. As the outbreak continues, the confirmed CFR may change.

Outside of China, CFR estimates among confirmed cases reported is lower than reported from within China. However, it is too early to draw conclusions as to whether there are real differences in the CFR inside and outside of China, as final outcome data (that is, who will recover and who will die) for the majority of cases reported from outside China are not yet known.

That last paragraph is important and often ignored. The fatality rate in developed nations is as yet unknown, but probably far lower than China’s due to availablilty of more advanced tools for treatment – especially for respiratory problems.

About transmission of covid-19

From WHO’s February 21 Situation Report.

Currently, there are investigations conducted to evaluate the viability and survival time of SARS-CoV-2. In general, coronaviruses are very stable in a frozen state according to studies of other coronaviruses, which have shown survival for up to two years at -20°C. Studies conducted on SARS-CoV ad MERS-CoV indicate that these viruses can persist on different surfaces for up to a few days depending on a combination of parameters such as temperature, humidity, and light. For example, at refrigeration temperature (4°C), MERS-CoV can remain viable for up to 72 hours.

Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food. Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures (70°C). Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV are susceptible to the most common cleaning and disinfection protocols and there is no indication so far that SARS-Cov-2 behaves differently.

Conclusions

The combination of good global organization by the national public health organizations (coordinated by WHO) and high technology have contained the epidemic for 52 days. This time allowed implementation of screening and quarantine mechanisms, creation of diagnostic tools (based on decoding its genome), development of protocols for treatment, dissemination of equipment, and starting research about the diseases’ nature and cure.

The next few weeks might show what difference all that has made. Future historians might see COVID-19 as a new age of public health, with the first effective response to a pandemic. Time will tell.

My three-year-old should not know about ‘stress’

50s' mom

© Getty
For at least two decades, we have been subject to increasingly shrill claims about a crisis of childhood.

Monday kicked off Children’s Mental Health Week, an opportunity for various lobby groups and organisations (and there are many) to air their increasingly apocalyptic claims about childhood. In an appearance last week, the Duchess of Cambridge informed children that the world is a ‘scary and daunting place’ and encouraged parents to tell their children to ‘feel confident about seeking support’.

For at least two decades, we have been subject to increasingly shrill claims about a crisis of childhood. However, it is difficult to disentangle the truth about what appears to be relatively small increases in diagnoses of childhood mental illness and some underhanded claims-making by interested parties.

For instance, back in 2007, claims appeared based on a UNICEF study that, Britain has the ‘unhappiest children in the developed world’. The study was criticised for being manipulated toward a predetermined conclusion, having for instance equally weighted ‘poor breakfasts’ with ‘child abuse’. But this did nothing to stop it being repeated so frequently that it has come to acquire an air of common sense.

Such claims emerge from a burgeoning therapeutic industry whose lifeblood is the creation of new problems to which they claim to hold the answers. They sell their wares to cash strapped institutions at great cost. Spend now, they say, and reap rewards in the social ills we will prevent. Self-esteem, happiness, mindfulness and mental health promotion — by the time evidence emerges that expensive programmes don’t make good on their promises, no one’s left to take the blame. They have all moved on to the Next Big Thing™.

Ascertaining the true state of childhood mental ill-health is also difficult because what constitutes mental ill-health has expanded wildly over time. We are labelling formerly unproblematic experiences as illnesses requiring expert interventions and creating new ones. We tend to think of human experience as always the same, with language merely becoming better able to describe it. That is not the case. Labels and ways of being have a habit of growing into each other.

My three-year-old came from preschool recently telling me she was, ‘a bit stressed out lately.’ While heretical sounding in a culture deeply submerged in therapeutic orthodoxies, I don’t think my three-year-old, whose life mainly consists of playing, sleeping and eating, needs to know the word ‘stress’. Children do not need to be educated in all the ways they might become emotionally unwell. What children need — what we all need — is to become engrossed in projects that help us transcend our own narrow existence.

It was me, I did it: Why no one takes accountability anymore

finger pointing

We live in a chaotic world, characterized by roller coaster rides of alternating terror and exhilaration. Our culture has become exponentially more hurried, with a constant drive to camp out in the fast lane despite the well-known consequences of never slowing down. To keep up with this frenzy and avoid being trampled, we have developed an almost undetectable technique of refusing accountability for our actions. No one takes accountability anymore because to do so has somehow become an indication of weakness, a trait avoided at all costs to survive the hectic environment we live in.

Immediate Gratification

The sheer accessibility of information today is a main cause of the chaos. Our ability to ping-pong between current events, health news, and constant entertainment all while simultaneously working and eating our dinner is incredible. We have perfected the art of immediate gratification: if you cannot find something this instant that changes your mood, answers your question, or takes your mind off whatever you are avoiding, you are likely not searching hard enough. The literal world is now at your fingertips, for better or for worse.

The majority of adults in the United States spend over 10 hours per day attached to media in some way.1 This instantaneous access to anything we could possibly need has infiltrated our desires, behaviors, and even our goals. It slinks into our heads and takes root, creating a deep belief that pleasure is always within reach. The downside is that when pleasure suddenly becomes elusive, no one understands why.

Immediate gratification works very well to create a sense of happiness, until it stops working. Inevitably, we cannot always have everything we want. Since we have become masters at training ourselves to believe in the justice of immediate gratification, when it no longer works it is shocking. Interestingly, one of the most readily available excuses we use when this happens is “it wasn’t my fault.” Being denied immediate gratification has become too painful for us, resulting in an aversion to examining whether our expectations and behavior could have contributed to this outcome in the first place.

Fault Finding as a Coping Skill

When someone is used to getting what they want most of the time, it very easily turns into an expected pattern. The line between wants and needs becomes blurry, often dissipating completely into the fog of “the way it used to be.” Remember when you had to wait hours, and sometimes days, to receive an answer from someone? How archaic.

Now that instantaneous satisfaction has become the norm, when conflict or dissonance arises it can become atomic in its destruction. The ability to disagree respectfully has become almost non-existent. Any type of disagreement tends to be viewed with complete astonishment: When the world is at your fingertips, how can there be conflicting points of view? After all, if you look hard enough you will always find someone with the same point of view.

Fault finding quickly follows on the heels of not getting what is desired. As a society, we are accustomed to answers. When something as critical as delayed gratification occurs, it is natural to demand why. Regrettably, although the answer many times lies within our own choices and behaviors, we often seek external reasons for our denial of satisfaction.

In many ways, it is protective of a fragile self to deny any wrongdoing. Admitting a bad decision can be a tremendous blow to self-worth, particularly when it will most likely be immediately attacked by the hordes of individuals who have never done anything wrong. Frosting over mistakes and denying their existence is a much safer, albeit disingenuous, route.

Toxic Outcomes

The pleasure principle (avoidance of pain and pursuit of pleasure) has been posited to drive much of human behavior.2 Modern society strongly facilitates the pursuit of pleasure but provides minimal guidance for how to handle a failure in accessing it. What happens when suddenly we realize pleasure has eluded us? The toxicity produced from these circumstances is poisonous to our well-being.

Our reduced awareness of how behaviors affect outcomes is directly related to the instant access we have to an overload of information. If you are feeling discomfort at a recent social interaction, or experiencing angst related to something you may have said to a loved one, a quick and painless fix is distraction. Brush it off, bury it in the sand, and be done with it. Society will help cover it up by bombarding you with the next best thing in a continuous stream of information and flashing lights.

Fast-paced living makes denial effortless. There is no longer time to sit down and hash out differences until a compromise is reached. There is too much supporting information for both viewpoints to “agree to disagree.” The quickest means to an end is blitzing any naysayers with your opinion, leaving behind only quiet and agreeable rubble.

When energy is being expended at a previously unheard-of rate, survival depends on conserving it where possible. Full speed ahead has been the motto for decades, despite the knowledge that it is likely the cause of too many health issues to track. Anyone who gets in the way is quickly swept to the side, and taking accountability for how these behaviors are creating our own toxic outcomes is far too dangerous of a game to play.

Accountability as an Antidote

The antidote to this slow poison that is rotting our connections with others lies in the power of pushing back. There is immense strength in stepping out on a limb to permit vulnerability. Admitting to imperfection is the first step in opening horizons and learning new ways of restoration. Although it comes with colossal risk, accountability is a passage to recovery.

We have seen the influence of one person refusing to move, one person sharing their dream, or one person never giving up. Reversing the tide of self-serving pleasure seeking can be as simple as acknowledging we are all broken in some way. Being able to say “it was me,” reaching out to those we have knowingly hurt, and accepting that what makes us different is the glue that holds us together and can reduce some of the chaos.

Accountability is not a dirty word. It paves the way to learn new skills and build deeper connections with others. By admitting to our own faults and mistakes, we jettison the victim role and take back the power to change.

References

The Nielsen Total Audience Report Q3 2018. (2019). https://www.nielsen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/04/q3-2018-total-audience-report.pdf.

Freud, S., & Jones, E. (Ed.). (1922). International psychoanalytical library: Vol. 4. Beyond the pleasure principle (C. J. M. Hubback, Trans.). The International Psycho-Analytical Press. https://doi.org/10.1037/11189-000