Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.

Manufactroversy – Measles and Vaccines


CDC measles graphI’ve been off the grid for several days with no time to research or write. But I can assure you that my absence was not due to having measles! I was vaccinated as a child, my children were vaccinated, and their children have been vaccinated. In fact, due to the wonders of vaccines, measles had actually become extinct in North America by 2002.   

iron lungFor those who weren’t around in the 1950’s or earlier, a vaccine may seem silly and old fashioned. But people my age and older remember growing up when children could still get polio; most of us had friends who had spent time in an iron lung, or who were still recovering, if they’d been lucky enough to survive.

smallpoxAnd most of us knew someone with scars left from having had smallpox. Edward Jenner invented the very first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1798. Before that, 30-35% of people who caught ‘the pox’ died, while the rest were left with horrible scars, usually on the face, and possibly blindness, limb deformities or osteomyelitis. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300–500 million people in the 20th century alone .The disease is now effectively extinct; the last known case was in 1977, in Somalia.   

(for more information on other horrible diseases eradicated by vaccinations, please read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eradication_of_infectious_diseases)

vaccinationOur parents were more than eager to protect their children from these horrors. And when vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella appeared, they were added to what we were given. Why would parents let their children suffer, if there was an alternative?

Vaccination (or inoculation) is essentially the administration of a material made from the antigen (antibody generator) of the disease you wish to avoid. That material stimulates the immune system, which either completely prevents an individual from getting the disease, or at the least, weakens the impact of the disease.

In a way, it’s sort of how homeopathy works, where a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people is given to sick people in hopes of curing similar symptoms. But homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, and is not effective beyond having a placebo effect.

The real science of medicine, on the other had does work. And until a British medical researcher, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, wrote a now discredited 1998 paper claiming that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease, most of us were simply happy to ensure our children lead healthy livretracted-lancetes.

(Not only was the study discredited, when his results were never able to be reproduced, but a 2004 investigation identified undisclosed financial conflicts of interest to do with his research. He was also charged with misconduct by the British General Medical Council when it was found that autistic children had been given invasive procedures, like colonoscopy and lumbar puncture unnecessarily.)

Unfortunately, former Playboy nude model/MTV host Jenny McCarthy, heard about this study, and believed the theory, citing her own autistic son Evan as proof positive that Dr. Wakefield was correct in his findings. She became a vehement activist and promoter of alternative autism treatments, and pushed for research into the possibility of environmental causes.

jenny mcCarthy CNNApparently disregarding the updated information on Dr Wakefield’s misconduct, and despite what now seems to be a misdiagnosis of her son’s illness (seizures more consistent with Landau-Kleffner syndrome, often confused with autism,) McCarthy took to the airwaves, beginning in 2007, spreading her beliefs before mass audiences, including the respected Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and Frontline.

a lie can travelWith such a high profile, her stance became very popular. And as hard as it is to get a ball rolling, it’s just as hard to change its direction. There are now millions of people who treat her three books on autism as bibles, despite the misinformation they contain.

It has been said that that McCarthy’s “unfounded claims that vaccines cause autism have been one of the greatest impediments to public health in recent decades.” Her short 2013 stay as a co-host on the talk show “The View” was highly criticized. McCarthy’s credibility rating remains high, despite her anti-vaccine stance. Since The View is largely aimed at parents, many believed further discussion of the discredited theory would endanger the public.

a lie doesn't become truthIn an open letter article in Time Magazine, senior writer Jeffrey Kluger criticized McCarthy, saying, “Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era. Science almost always prefers the simple answer, because that’s the one that’s usually correct. Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.”

Many who followed the misguided theory pointed to a correlation between an increase of many conditions that used to go by other names now being called autism and the administration of the MMR vaccine. The fact is, we are now more informed and able to recognize the span of autism spectrum disorder. It is that ability to provide a better diagnosis that has created the apparent rise in the number of autism cases.

As early as 2007, Skeptic.com had already laid out the truth about the discredited theory.

“During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don’t cause autism. There is no controversy.

Science-vs-BSThere is, however, a manufactroversy — a manufactured controversy — created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better. Thousands of parents have been frightened into rejecting or delaying immunizations for their children. The immunization rate has dropped, resulting in the return of endemic measles in the U.K. and various outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. children have died. Herd immunity has been lost. The public health consequences are serious and are likely to get worse before they get better — a load of unscientific nonsense has put us all at risk.”

The facts are that research shows that the vaccinations do not contain materials that cause autism. There have been over 1 billion vaccines given, and study after study has shown that there are no negative long-term consequences.

autism speaksLast week, Rob Ring, chief science officer at Autism Speaks, said in a statement posted to the group’s website. “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

surgical masksNow, I’m all for freedom of choice. Parents who are concerned about their child receiving a vaccine SHOULD talk to their paediatrician, and make an informed choice. If that choice is not to vaccinate, then, for the sake of ‘the herd’ – the millions of others who may be affected by that choice – families who opt out of vaccination should be isolated from those they may contaminate.

Stop it might be measlesMeasles are very contagious. Even hours after an infected person sneezes or coughs, everyone who is in the area is potentially affected. And that includes babies too young to safely receive a vaccine, and the elderly, who may have come to the end of their immune safety. About three out of 10 people who get measles will develop one or more complications including pneumonia, ear infections, or diarrhea.

Does that seem fair? Does it seem right that someone who ‘feels’ that their child may develop … MAY develop … a problem .. a one in literally a million chance .. should potentially be allowed to let their child impact upon other people’s health?

prohbitingWe live in a world that has outlawed everything from scented toilet paper to peanut butter in schools, and smoking anywhere. The receptionist at my medical clinic has to wear a face mask all winter because she won’t get a flu shot. Much as I hate the restrictions, I respect those who have lobbied to protect everyone, as opposed to those who chose to follow their own conscience, whether their information is correct or incorrect.

I don’t get to smoke in the park; you don’t get to subject others to your unvaccinated child.