What is a case of COVID-19?

If you are the medical equivalent of Joe Six Pack, not having the benefit of education in a health field, a case of COVID-19 is not what you think it is.

Doubtless you are worried about the latest variant (omicron aka B.1.1.529) and reading what you can about it.

A normal person like yourself, thinks of a case of something as an illness where you don’t feel well.  Not so with COVID-19.  If they find the virus in your mouth or nose, you’re a case, even if you’re perfectly well, and only had the test so you could visit a friend in the hospital.   We know very well that some people can carry the virus without being sick.

Also remember the number of ‘cases’ depends on how many people get tested, just as the number of fish caught depends on how many people fish.  The number of cases is certain to go up now that we’re all scared (as we should be).

So what are you to do (aside from wearing a mask and getting vaccinated or a booster?)  Watch two things

l. The daily number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 (averaged over a few days)

2. The daily number of deaths from COVID-19 (averaged over a few days, as reporting is always lousy over the weekend.

The news about omicron changes hourly.  Since this morning, Colorado has reported a case, and the New York City area has 5.

On the positive side, none of these people has been hospitalized.  We should know how bad omicron is in a week or two, as it’s clearly all over the world.  Interestingly cases had spread to Europe before the South Africans discovered the virus 24 November (based on what we know now)l

One far out but positive note.  None of the (very few) cases reported today (2 December 2021) have been hospitalized.  It is even possible that this is all omicron will do, and because it appears to be far more infectious than the delta variant it is replacing, it may immunize our population not by vaccination but by infection.

Sadly, the following post (19 May 2021)  had no effect whatsoever.

Anti-vaxers, what is it that you know that we don’t ?

32 members of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School class of 1966 held a 55th reunion by Zoom a week ago.  All 32 have been (voluntarily) vaccinated.

Among the attendees were

l. Mike Brown — Nobel Laureate whose work led to the statins — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Stuart_Brown

2. Jerry Gardner — All American Basketball Player Kansas ’62  — https://kuathletics.com/roster/jerry-gardner/ — but far from a dumb jock — established a GastroIntestinal program at the National Institutes of Health

3. An (emeritus) professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical School

4. The (emeritus) director of the radiology residency program at Yale Medical School

5. An (emeritus)  professor of medicine at Albert Einstein Medical school

6. A (retired) Rear Admiral in the US Navy

There are several more deans and professors among the 32, but you get the idea.

All classmates who spent their careers taking care of the sick (such as yours truly) were board certified in their specialties.  Some were even board examiners for certification in their specialties (such as yrs trly).

Don’t do as I do, do as I say never works.  Anyone who’s raised kids knows that.  The Penn Med class of 1966 has put its money where its mouth is.

So what is it that you know about vaccines that we don’t?  Please get vaccinated.  The new strain (B.1.1.7) is 50% more lethal and much more infectious than the original pandemic virus  [ Nature vol. 593 pp. 270 – 274 ’21 ].

Addendum 20 May:  I thought the following comment and my response were worth placing in the body of the post.

From DH :The one thing everyone in your sample has in common is old age and thus relatively high risk of death if infected with COVID. A lot of the people I argue with online are not absolute anti-vaxxers, but claim that for healthy people under 30, the risk-reward calculus favors not getting vaccinated (e.g., because the vaccines were “rushed”).

I disagree with them, but to be fair to them, your class of 1966 example is not an argument that addresses their claim.

Response:  DH — thanks for commenting: I quite agree with what you say, but there are larger issues. My sample is small but I know several antiVaxers in their 70s. The proportion of unvaccinated minorities is larger than their proportion in the population. Many of them live in multigenerational households so an infected 30 year old could kill granny. Just look at what’s going on in India.

Even worse is the fact that the newer mutations may be more virulent as well as more infectious. This has now been shown to be the case for B.1.1.7 [ Nature vol. 593 pp. 270 – 274 ’21 ]. Even if the vaccines aren’t quite as effective (in vitro) against the new strains, they still offer protection. We will inevitably continue to see new mutants. A vaccinated population is our best hope.

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