Misunderstanding the Novel Coronavirus

Here’s what people seem to misunderstand about the novel coronavirus in 2021.

The Delta variant – just one of the newest variants circulating the globe now – sheds approximately 1000 times as much as the previously-dominant variant. Even vaccinated people, whose primed immune systems keep it mostly at bay, can carry this around for a time, freely sharing it among others they approach.

The more people who carry the virus around (in any variant), the more chances these viruses have to mutate yet again. The *longer* people carry the virus around, the more chances it has to mutate.

Vaccinated people’s bodies recognize and kill off the virus more quickly, limiting its life cycle despite the high shed rate of Delta. Isolating themselves after exposure, or upon ANY symptoms, or any suspicion, is the best way for even vaccinated people to avoid spreading it to others. And masks still help!

If a vaccinated person isolates for the life cycle of the virus, their body will typically overcome it fully. This means that even if a mutation developed during that time, it would be destroyed by the immune system without spreading to new hosts. But only if they don’t expose anyone else.

While Delta spreads the fastest and most aggressively, there are many other variants that are circulating around the world right now. There is a Lambda variant already, which means there are eleven NEW known variants of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The original virus mutated to a more contagious version in 2020, before we started cataloguing the variants and giving them designations like Alpha, Delta, and Lambda. But this pandemic has been going on so long, and with vaccines still too few and far between, that eleven MORE variants have been discovered and identified.

All viruses mutate as they replicate. This one is no exception. But with its incubation time, the fact that some people can spread it without ever developing symptoms, and its extremely contagious nature, it has a longer reach and a greater footprint than many that came before.

Now we are tracking at least 11 new mutations, plus the previous dominant strain, that have all established their own successful chains. Every one of them will continue to mutate as it spreads. Every variant has the potential to spawn a new, worse variety, like the Delta variant.

The Delta strain has a shed speed that attempts to outpace even an inoculated immune system. While it may not overwhelm a body that is primed to fight it off, if it keeps ahead of the body’s defenses for a time, it can keep spreading, with more chances to find an unprepared host.

The only way we will overcome this virus as a species – the human species – is if we can all work together to survive long enough to get effective vaccines to everyone. On the planet. This means that we must help each other survive from a distance: Eat. Rest. Heal. Safely.

There is no “island” in our population where people can afford to turn away from this pandemic. When the former President of the United States denied the severity of the virus, and caught it, he doubtless had the best care money could buy, and he survived. Many more have not.

Every infected person creates the potential for a new variant to beat our existing and developing defenses. No one is safe until we are all safe. We MUST work together to succeed in this. It’s NOT “just a flu”. It DOES kill people. It CAN ruin a life even if the body survives.

This is serious. This is life or death for almost everyone. If you’re lucky enough to have immunity, you may know or love someone who doesn’t. For them, if not for you, PLEASE do your part.

This pandemic continues to worsen. We are literally running out of time, and no one knows how long we have left before a new variant emerges that might get around all of our existing vaccines. Starve the virus of prey by distancing, masking, washing, and paying attention.

Everyone has someone to lose. Don’t be that loss for someone you care about. And don’t lose anyone else you love, either. Wear a mask in public. Get vaccinated. Practice physical distancing, not social distancing. Keep in touch, but do it safely. It has to be now.

Right now.

The First Medical Specialization

Medical specialties may have their place, but sometimes they baffle me.

While training with my punching bag two days ago, I struck with my left hand at a bad angle and instantly felt a searing pain shoot through my wrist and into my arm. Whatever reminded me of it today, I am unsure, because it doesn’t hurt anymore. Right after this happened, I stripped off my training gloves, quickly grasped my left hand with my right, pointed my elbows outward at chest height, and pulled my hand away from my elbow, gradually increasing the pull until I felt everything click back into place.

Now, I am not a chiropractor, though I visited one when I was very young. He helped remove my chronic earaches by adjusting my neck. Obviously there can be more to medicine than some of us learn. But human bodies are extremely complex and interdependent systems, and without caution and insight, specializations can become a black hole that bury everything else.

Ask an oncologist how to treat your cancer, and you will likely be told that chemotherapy is the only logical choice. A radiologist will most likely suggest radiation first. A surgeon will want to remove as much of the tumor as possible. A holistic doctor may suggest something else entirely. All of these positions can have merit, and all of them might help, but you are still your own best advocate. Only you know your body and your responses to treatments over the years better than anyone else.

Comedian Eddie Izzard once joked that no matter what is ailing you, a chiropractor will always suggest that they should “crack your bones” to make you feel better. His delivery in that show was hilarious, and he still makes a very good point.

I recently heard of “ozone IVs” for the first time. If your medical specialty is infusing ozone to enrich the blood’s oxygen content and cleanse and energize cells throughout the body, you may know well what conditions this can help. You will be quick to sing the praises of the ozone IVs, and you will tell everyone why they do such good. You may even say that there can be no harm in them, so everyone can benefit, whatever their condition. And you may be right. But so may be the homeopath, the acupuncturist, and even the pharmacologist, who thinks that the benefits of the drug of the month will far outweigh the risks, if you feel you need help.

The point is never to overlook either the advantages or the disadvantages of a treatment – of any treatment – and never to close yourself off from something that can help you. I take very few medicines, even for my occasional allergies, because I find that everything else works better day and night when I have fewer medicines in my system. I know people who take 12 a day, and they cannot imagine skipping any of them, because of the benefits they provide to those people. Everything works differently on everyone, and this must be kept in mind to treat anyone successfully, with any discipline.

I would visit a biontologist monthly or even weekly if a reputable one were close, because I believe from my studies that this is something that has no downside and can only help realign all of your systems to function at their maximum efficiency. And there is science to support that; hence my studies. But I also think that it only makes sense to consider all options, and what they can do right and wrong, and take whatever treatments you may need at any given time to help your body heal itself.

The danger in all of this comes when any specialization, or any evangelism toward a specialization, blinds you to other possibilities that could help you more, or help better, or do more good or less harm in the first place. The right answer to anything in life is rarely so cut and dry.

Real life is messy, and we live in the gray areas every day. Be vigilant, question everything (even yourself if you seek wisdom and improvement), and learn all you can. If you have friends, relatives, and trusted medical advisers, so much the better. But whether you do or not, you are still your own best advocate, first and always.

Reflections on the flu

I heard someone say today they were suffering through the worst flu they could remember for more than 20 years. While there was little I could do to help, I did wonder why such things seem to be getting worse.

Tonight I learned that influenza is an especially tricky virus to fend off because it mutates regularly, and there have been at least 24 varieties observed by modern scientists.1 Some viruses and bacteria might change over time, but the flu virus seems to do this every year now, making antibodies obsolete when a new strain invades. Worse, the 15 versions of H and 9 versions of N can combine into a multitude of unique variations, although the body seems to recognize them primarily by those two proteins, so perhaps 24 is the greatest number that humans must face (at once!) for now.

We have all heard for years that nothing can treat a virus except time and a natural immune response, but there is now a trio of antiviral treatments that all seem to function in the same manner as one another. Zanamivir (commonly called Relenza)2, Oseltamivir (known as Tamiflu)3, and Peramivir (trade name Rapivab)4 all inhibit the chemical action of neuraminidase, an enzyme the viruses produce to enable them to escape from infected cells and spread into healthy cells. As inhibitors, they do not attack the virus directly and do little against a full-blown infection. But taken very early after exposure, they can help to limit the virus’s activity and thus shorten the time required for the immune system to eliminate it from the body.

As any informed shopper knows these days, overuse of antibiotics (which only work against bacteria) can allow resistant strains to rise when their competitors are pushed back. These antivirals can be overused in the same way, blocking some of the flu viruses and allowing any new mutation to spread like wildfire. Even this limited line of defense can quickly fall apart if it is abused. A healthy immune system really is the best defense against the flu, and not everyone has that anymore. Still, people are working on solutions.5 6 7 Please share any more that you find in the comments below!

 

References / further reading:

  1. Book: “Gasping For Air” by Kevin Glynn, MD; published 8/3/2017 by Rowman & Littlefield
  2. Zanamivir: https://www.medicinenet.com/zanamivir/article.htm#what_is_zanamivir_and_how_does_it_work_mechanism_of_action
  3. Oseltamivir: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/tamiflu/how_work.htm
  4. Peramivir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peramivir
  5. Urumin is effective against strains of the virus that resist the three antivirals above. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumin
  6. Scytovirin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scytovirin must be cultivated from bacteria at present but is topically protective against flu virus and HIV, among other deadly pathogens.
  7. One promising step toward a universal flu vaccine was announced in 2010 http://mbio.asm.org/content/1/1/e00018-10.abstract and seems to have begun development by several more teams.