Connect with us

International

Fears of a polio resurgence in the US have health officials on high alert – a virologist explains the history of this dreaded disease

Health officials say the new case of polio in New York state and the presence of poliovirus in the municipal wastewater suggests that hundreds more could…

Published

on

Critical-care patients in the emergency polio ward at Haynes Memorial Hospital in Boston in August 1955. Associated Press photo

Fears of polio gripped the U.S. in the mid-20th century. Parents were afraid to send their children to birthday parties, public pools or any place where children mingled. Children in wheelchairs served as a stark reminder of the ravages of the disease.

To prevent polio outbreaks, government officials used tactics now familiar in the era of COVID-19: They closed public spaces and shut down restaurants, pools and other gathering places.

In 1952, two years prior to the introduction of a trial polio vaccine, there were an estimated 58,000 cases of polio and 3,145 deaths due to polio in the U.S.. These cases included children who were paralyzed for life. But those numbers dropped dramatically following a widespread vaccination campaign against polio, beginning in 1955.

By the 1970s, there were fewer than 10 cases of paralysis due to polio in the U.S., and the polio virus was considered eliminated from the U.S. by 1979. Since then, collective fear of the virus has been mostly lost to history – many people alive today are lucky enough not to know someone who has experienced polio.

So when news broke in July 2022 that an unvaccinated adult man in New York had contracted polio – the first case in the U.S. since 2013 – and developed paralysis from the disease, it sent a ripple of fear throughout the public health community and raised the question of whether an old foe was making a comeback.

I am a virologist and a professor of immunology and microbiology and have spent my career both teaching about and doing research on how viruses can cause disease.

There is no cure for polio. The only treatment is prevention. And the tool for prevention is vaccination, the same tool that eliminated polio in the U.S. in the first place.

Health experts are urging unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated against polio.

Life cycle of the poliovirus

Polio – or poliomyelitis – the disease, is caused by the poliovirus, which is passed from person to person through the mouth. And while no one would knowingly ingest a virus, touching a contaminated object like a spoon or a glass or accidentally swallowing contaminated water can unknowingly lead to infection.

When someone is infected with the poliovirus, they shed the infectious virus in their feces. This is why recent reports that poliovirus has been circulating in New York City wastewater for months and that the virus now has been detected in three New York counties are particularly concerning.

In August 2022, New York State Health Commissioner Mary Basset said that the state health department is “treating the single case of polio as just the tip of the iceberg of much greater potential spread.”

“Based on earlier polio outbreaks,” she added, “New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”

A single case of polio reflects a larger potential spread of the virus because most people infected either don’t show any symptoms or have a very mild illness with symptoms similar to the flu. But even without symptoms, an infected person is still excreting virus in their feces, which means they can be a source of infection to others.

The virus, which is very stable in the environment, is easily spread through surface contamination. For this reason, hand-washing is a critical prevention tool. Although many disinfecting agents, such as alcohol or diluted Lysol, fail to inactivate the virus, chlorine bleach does destroy it. This is why public health officials started chlorinating swimming pools decades ago in order to inactivate the polio virus.
Typically, the human body uses stomach acid to protect against ingested viruses. But poliovirus can survive stomach acid to travel to your gastrointestinal tract. There, the virus reproduces itself to establish an infection.

What is paralytic polio?

Unfortunately, one person out of about 200 people infected with poliovirus will develop paralysis. Scientists still don’t know why one person is susceptible to the paralytic disease while most are not.

In the small subset of people that get paralytic polio, the virus can attack the lower motor neurons found in the brain stem and spinal cord, which are important for controlling muscles. Infection of those neurons leads to the muscle paralysis that is characteristic of paralytic polio. The legs are typically affected – often on only one side of the body – and paralysis can range from mild to severe. Other muscle groups can also be affected.

In the worst cases of paralytic polio, the virus can damage the centers of the nervous system that control breathing. Respirators known as “iron lungs” were early medical devices that aided those with damaged respiratory muscles, helping them breathe until their muscles healed enough to work on their own. Patients could die when the paralysis was severe and sustained.

Anti-vaccination sentiments and an overall drop in routine vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic have likely contributed to the resurfacing of the poliovirus in the U.S.

Levels of severity

Although polio can be devastating for those who contract the severe form of it, most people’s immune systems are well-equipped to combat it. When someone recovers from polio, researchers can detect poliovirus-fighting antibodies in the blood.

But even long-term survivors of paralytic polio can develop late-onset muscle weakness and fatigue, which is known as post-polio syndrome. While the muscular effects of post-polio syndrome are well-recognized, a number of other symptoms can be associated with post-polio syndrome, including chronic pain, sleep disturbances, cold intolerance and difficulty swallowing.

Because post-polio syndrome is diagnosed only based on symptoms, there is no consensus on the number of polio survivors who develop it, but estimates range from 15% to upward of 80%.

Prevention of polio is key

The decline in polio in the U.S. and globally is a direct result of the introduction of vaccines and the willingness of the public to accept them. In 1988, the World Health Organization, in partnership with Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national governments, launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the goal to wipe out polio worldwide, as is the case with smallpox.

When this initiative was launched, there were still an estimated 350,000 children with polio in 125 countries. In 2021, there were only six reported cases.

Two types of polio vaccine are in use worldwide. The one used in the U.S. since 2000 is an injection made from inactivated poliovirus. Inactivation kills the virus and prevents it from spreading. Children in the U.S. get this shot at 2 months, 4 months and between 6 to 15 months of age, and it essentially provides lifelong protection from polio.

The second vaccine type, still in use in many parts of the world, is an attenuated – or weakened – form of the virus that is taken orally. In places where community transmission remains significant, like Pakistan, the oral vaccine is preferred because it prevents people from getting polio and also stops person-to-person transmission. In the U.S., where person-to-person transmission of the poliovirus has been virtually nonexistent for decades, the inactivated vaccine is preferred since the focus is on preventing disease in the vaccinated person and there’s less concern about spreading the virus.

But in extremely rare cases, the vaccine virus mutates after it’s been excreted in feces. And if immunization levels fall below a critical threshold – as is the case in some areas of the world – this poliovirus can cause disease. The recent New York polio case has been traced back to a mutated vaccine-derived poliovirus thought to be acquired overseas.

Most people in the U.S. are vaccinated through routine childhood vaccinations. Because immunity to polio following vaccination is lifelong, the CDC is not recommending booster vaccinations for the general population for people who completed the full series. However, the CDC does recommend that anyone who has not been vaccinated against polio virus get vaccinated, including adults.

In my office, I keep a painting of Dr. Jonas Salk, the virologist who developed the first polio vaccine. It serves as my reminder of the importance of biomedical research to help eliminate human suffering caused by infectious diseases.

Rosemary Rochford receives funding from National Institutes of Health.

Read More

Continue Reading

International

Global Wages Take A Hit As Inflation Eats Into Paychecks

Global Wages Take A Hit As Inflation Eats Into Paychecks

The global inflation crisis paired with lackluster economic growth and an outlook…

Published

on

Global Wages Take A Hit As Inflation Eats Into Paychecks

The global inflation crisis paired with lackluster economic growth and an outlook clouded by uncertainties have led to a decline in real wages around the world, a new report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.

As Statista's Felix Richter reports, according to the 2022-23 Global Wage Report, global real monthly wages fell 0.9 percent this year on average, marking the first decline in real earnings at a global scale in the 21st century.

You will find more infographics at Statista

The multiple global crises we are facing have led to a decline in real wages.

"It has placed tens of millions of workers in a dire situation as they face increasing uncertainties,” ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo said in a statement, adding that “income inequality and poverty will rise if the purchasing power of the lowest paid is not maintained.”

While inflation rose faster in high-income countries, leading to above-average real wage declines in North America (minus 3.2 percent) and the European Union (minus 2.4 percent), the ILO finds that low-income earners are disproportionately affected by rising inflation. As lower-wage earners spend a larger share of their disposable income on essential goods and services, which generally see greater price increases than non-essential items, those who can least afford it suffer the biggest cost-of-living impact of rising prices.

“We must place particular attention to workers at the middle and lower end of the pay scale,” Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez, one of the report’s authors said.

“Fighting against the deterioration of real wages can help maintain economic growth, which in turn can help to recover the employment levels observed before the pandemic. This can be an effective way to lessen the probability or depth of recessions in all countries and regions,” she said.

Tyler Durden Mon, 12/05/2022 - 20:00

Read More

Continue Reading

International

Unprecedented Liquidations Lead To Historic Collapse In Investors’ Oil Exposure

Unprecedented Liquidations Lead To Historic Collapse In Investors’ Oil Exposure

By John Kemp, senior market analyst

Portfolio investors sold…

Published

on

Unprecedented Liquidations Lead To Historic Collapse In Investors' Oil Exposure

By John Kemp, senior market analyst

Portfolio investors sold petroleum heavily for the third week running as fears about disruption to crude oil flows from the price cap on Russia’s exports receded.

Hedge funds and other money managers sold the equivalent of 42 million barrels in the six most important oil-related futures and options contracts over the seven days ending on Nov. 29.

Sales over the three most recent weeks totalled 190 million barrels, more than reversing the 169 million barrels purchased over the previous six weeks in October and early November. As Bloomberg adds, money managers have trimmed positioning in Nymex crude for three weeks in a row. A breakdown of the data show the drop in positions is mostly from money managers cutting long exposure, rather than an abrupt short-covering.

In the latest week, sales were again concentrated in crude (-40 million barrels), especially Brent (-39 million), with only insignificant changes in other contracts.

Brent is the contract with the most direct exposure to the crude exports from Russia subject to the price cap announced by the United States, the European Union and their allies on Dec. 2.

Fund managers cut their net position in Brent to just 99 million barrels (6th percentile for all weeks since 2013) last week from 238 million barrels (50th percentile) on Nov. 8.

Bullish long positions outnumbered bearish short ones in Brent by a ratio of just 2.17:1 (11th percentile), down from 6.74:1 in late October (76th percentile).

The long-short ratio is the lowest for two years since November 2020, before the first successful coronavirus vaccines were announced a few weeks later.

Fears the price cap would reduce global crude supplies appear to have prompted a wave of buying in both physical and paper markets throughout late September and early October.

Precautionary buying drove front-month Brent futures up to a high of almost $99 per barrel on Nov. 4 from just $84 on Sept. 26. It also helped keep the futures market in a steep six-month backwardation.

But as it became clear the cap would be set at a relatively high level, with a relaxed approach to enforcement, this buying has reversed, causing prices and spreads to fall sharply.

With the risk from the price cap removed, for now investors’ attention has returned to the weak outlook for the economy and oil consumption in 2023.

Tyler Durden Mon, 12/05/2022 - 14:21

Read More

Continue Reading

International

The Gall Of Lockdowners Who Support China’s Anti-Lockdown Protests

The Gall Of Lockdowners Who Support China’s Anti-Lockdown Protests

Authored by Michael Senger via ‘The New Normal’ Substack,

If the intent…

Published

on

The Gall Of Lockdowners Who Support China's Anti-Lockdown Protests

Authored by Michael Senger via 'The New Normal' Substack,

If the intent was to get western elites to simultaneously support totalitarianism in their own countries while pretending to oppose it in China, then Xi Jinping has certainly made his point...

Across the political spectrum, voices have risen up in support of the Chinese people who’ve launched protests of unprecedented scale against the Chinese Communist Party’s indefinite Covid lockdown measures.

As well they should. Even by Chinese standards, the lockdowns that Xi Jinping pioneered with the onset of Covid are horrific in terms of their scale, their duration, their depravity, and the new totalitarian surveillance measures to which they’ve led. Anyone who participates in a protest in China runs a risk of being subject to cruel and arbitrary punishment. For ordinary Chinese people to brave that risk in defiance of this new form of inhuman medical tyranny is an act of courage worthy of admiration.

There are notable exceptions to the otherwise widespread support the protesters have received. Apple has been silent about the protests, and had the gall to limit the protesters’ use of a communication service called AirDrop in compliance with the CCP’s demands, even as it threatens to remove Twitter from its app store over Elon Musk’s free speech policy. This comes even after Apple has long ignored requests by FCC officials to remove the Chinese-owned app TikTok from its app store over unprecedented national security concerns. So Apple complies with requests by the Chinese government, but not the United States government. Let that sink in…

Apple is, unfortunately, far from alone in its CCP apologism. Anthony Fauci told CNN that China’s totalitarian lockdowns would be fully justified so long as the purpose was to “get all the people vaccinated.”

This kind of apologism for the CCP’s grisly bastardization of “public health” is horrific, especially coming from the man most widely seen as the leader of America’s response to Covid.

But what may be even more galling than this apologism is the widespread support China’s anti-lockdown protesters have received even among those who demonized anti-lockdown protesters in their home countries and wished their lockdowns were more like China’s.

In 2020, the New York Times denounced anti-lockdown protesters as “Anti-Vaxxers, Anticapitalists, Neo-Nazis” and urged the United States to be more like China.

But in 2022, the New York Times admired the bravery of China’s anti-lockdown protesters fighting Xi Jinping’s “unbending approach to the pandemic” that has “hurt businesses and strangled growth.”

In 2020, CNN published an open letter from “over 1,000 health professionals” denouncing anti-lockdown protests as “rooted in white nationalism” while admiring “China’s Covid success compared to Europe.”

But in 2022, CNN admired China’s anti-lockdown protesters as “young people” who “cry for freedom”

In 2020, the Washington Post denounced anti-lockdown protesters as “angry” populists who “deeply distrust elites,” and wished the United States was more like China.

But in 2022, the Washington Post celebrated global “demonstrations of solidarity” with China’s anti-lockdown protests.

In 2020, the New Yorker denounced anti-lockdown protesters as “militias against masks” while marveling at how “China controlled the coronavirus.”

But in 2022, the New Yorker admired the protesters standing up to Xi Jinping.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International issued a statement of concern about Canada’s anti-lockdown Freedom Convoy protests being affiliated with “overtly racist, white supremacist groups,” even as Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act to crush the protests.

But now, Amnesty International has issued a statement urging the Chinese government not to detain peaceful protesters.

These headlines are, of course, in addition to the hundreds of other commentators, influencers, and health officials, such as NYT journalist Zeynep Tufekci, who used their platforms in 2020 to urge for lockdowns that were even stricter than those their governments imposed, but now join in support for those in China protesting the same policies they were urging their own countries to emulate.

Etymologically, Zeynep’s latter comment makes no sense. Lockdowns had no history in western public health policy and weren’t part of any democratic country’s pandemic plan prior to Xi Jinping’s lockdown of Wuhan in 2020. Though some countries, such as Italy, imposed lockdowns shortly before the United States, their officials too had simply taken the policy from China. Thus, because no other precedent existed, any call for a “real lockdown” or a “full lockdown” in spring 2020 was inherently a call for a Chinese-style lockdown.

Though by “full lockdown” Zeynep may have intended somewhere in between the strictness of lockdowns in the United States and China, there was no way for any reader to know what that medium was; it existed only in her own head. Thus, the reader is left only with a call for a “full lockdown,” and the only example of a “successful” “full lockdown” that then existed was a full Chinese lockdown.

Zeynep’s latter comment further illustrates the efficacy of what was arguably some of the CCP’s most effective lockdown propaganda in early 2020: The ridiculous viral videos of CCP cadres “welding doors shut” so poor Wuhan residents couldn’t escape.

CCP apologists have argued that these videos prove the CCP was not trying to influence the international response to Covid, because they make the CCP look so bad. But on the contrary, the over-the-top inhumanity of the idea of welding residents’ doors shut was precisely the purpose of this propaganda campaign. The idea had to be so absurd that no decent government would ever actually try it. It thus gave the CCP and its apologists an infinite excuse for why lockdowns “worked” in China and nowhere else—because only China had ever had a “real lockdown” in which residents were welded into their homes.

When those with a decent knowledge of geopolitics or a bit of common sense see a graph like this, which looks nothing like that of any other country in the world, from a regime with a long history of faking its data on virtually every topic, the conclusion is obvious: China’s results are fraudulent. But to simple minds, a weld is a strong, durable bond capable of incredible feats, from supporting skyscrapers to spaceships. Surely, if a weld can do all that, then it must be able to stop a ubiquitous respiratory virus?

The entire concept is, of course, utterly asinine. You cannot stop a respiratory virus by indefinitely suspending everyone’s rights. But this idea that lockdowns had worked in China because the CCP had gone so far as to weld people into their homes was invoked over and over again during Covid, creating a limitless “No-True-Scotsman” out for lockdown apologists as to why lockdowns weren’t “working” anywhere except China. Whether COVID-19 cases went up, down, or sideways, the solution would always be the same: “Be more like China.”

The use of this darkly humorous propaganda campaign of welding residents into their homes speaks to two key points as to how Xi Jinping and CCP hawks like him view China’s relationship with the west. The first is that westerners will never respect the CCP; thus, you can make westerners believe anything so long as it confirms westerners’ prior belief that the CCP is barbaric.

Second, Xi Jinping sees the concepts of democracy and human rights as mere propaganda that western elites use to further their own self-interest. So long as they approve of a policy, then it’s not a human rights violation, but if they oppose it, then it is. It remains to be seen whether the response to Covid will, in the long run, ultimately advance Xi’s goal of making the world China. But insofar as the intent was to get western elites to simultaneously support totalitarianism in their own countries while pretending to oppose it in China, then he’s certainly made his point.

*  *  *

Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. Want to support my work? Get the book

Tyler Durden Mon, 12/05/2022 - 15:53

Read More

Continue Reading

Trending