Yesterday the WHO labelled the sars-cov-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” and officially named it “Omicron”.
This was as entirely predictable as it is completely meaningless. The “variants” are just tools to stretch the story out and keep people on their toes.
If you want to know exactly how the Omicron variant is going to affect the narrative, well The Guardian has done a handy “here’s all the bullshit we’re gonna sell you over the next couple of weeks” guide:
The Omicron variant is more transmissable, but they don’t know if it’s more dangerous yet (keeping their options open)
It originated in Africa, possible mutating in an “untreated AIDS patient” (sick people are breeding grounds for dangerous “mutations”)
“it has more than double the mutations of Delta…scientists anticipate that the virus will be more likely to infect – or reinfect – people who have immunity to earlier variants. (undermining natural immunity, selling more boosters, keeping the scarefest going)
“Scientists are concerned” that current vaccines may not be as effective against the new strain, they may need to be “tweaked” (get your boosters, and the new booster we haven’t invented yet)
“Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, will work as effectively against the new variant” (more on this later)
It’s already spreading around the world, and travel bans may be needed to prevent the need for another lockdown
We’re already seeing preparations for more “public health measures”, with the press breathlessly quoting “concerned” public health officials. We’re being told that a new lockdown won’t be necessary…as long as we remember to get boosted and wear masks and blah blah blah.
Generally speaking, it’s all fairly boilerplate scary nonsense. Although it is quite funny that the Biden administration has already put a bunch of African nations on a travel ban list, when Biden called Trump a racist for doing the same thing in 2020.
It’s interesting that the new variant has allegedly come from Africa, perhaps “mutating in the body of an AIDS patient”, since Africa has been the biggest hole in the Covid narrative for well over a year.
Africa is by far the poorest continent, it is densely populated, malnourishment and extreme poverty are endemic across many African nations, and it is home to more AIDS patients than the entire rest of the world combined. And yet, no Covid crisis.
This is a weak point in the story, and always has been.
Last Summer, the UK’s virus modeller-in-chief Neil Ferguson attempted to explain it by arguing that African nations have, on average, younger populations than the rest of the world, and Covid is only a threat to the elderly. But five minutes of common sense debunks that idea.
The reason Africa has a younger population, on average, is that – on average – they are much sicker.
There are diseases endemic to large parts of Africa that are all but wiped out in most of the Western world. Cholera, typhus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, malaria. Access to clean water, and healthcare are also much more limited.
And while it has been nailed into the public mind that being elderly is the biggest risk factor for Covid, that is inaccurate. In fact, the biggest risk factor for dying “of Covid” is, and always has been, already dying of something else.
The truth is that any REAL dangerous respiratory virus would have cut a bloody swath across the entire continent.
Instead, as recently as last week, we were getting articles about how Africa “escaped Covid”, and the continent’s low covid deaths with only 6% of people vaccinated is “mystifying” and “baffling” scientists.
Politically, African nations have shown themselves far less likely to buy into the “pandemic” narrative than their European, Asian or American counterparts. At least two “Covid denying” African presidents – Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and John Magufuli of Tanzania – have died suddenly in the last year, and seen their successors immediately reverse their covid policies.
So maybe the Omicron Variant is a way of trying to fold Africa into the covid narrative that the other continents have already fully embraced. That will become clear as the story develops.
Of course, it’s also true that being “African” is media shorthand for being scary, relying on the deeply-seated xenophobia of Western audiences. See: “Africanized killer bees”.
But, either way, Africa is the long game. There’s a more obvious, and more cynical, short term agenda here.
THE MAGIC PILLS
Let’s go back to the Guardian’s “Omicron” bullet points, above:
Scientists are concerned by the number of mutations and the fact some of them have already been linked to an ability to evade existing [vaccine-created] immune protection.
Scientists expect that recently approved antiviral drugs, such as Merck’s pill, [will work effectively] against the new variant
The “new variant” is already being described as potentially resistant to the vaccines, but NOT the new anti-viral medications.
Pharmaceutical giants Merck and Pfizer are both working on “Covid pills”, which as recently as three days ago, were being hyped up in the press:
US may have a ‘game changer’ new Covid pill soon, but its success will hinge on rapid testing
In the US, an emergency use authorisation can only be issued if there is no effective medication or treatment already available, so the vaccines not being proof against Omicron would be vital to rushing the pills onto the US market, at least.
If Omicron is found to be “resistant to the vaccines”, but NOT the pills, that will give governments an excuse to rush through approving the pills on an EUA, just as they did with the vaccines.
So, you bet your ass that testing is gonna be “rapid”. Super rapid. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapid. Rapid to the point you’re not even sure it definitely happened. And now they have an excuse.
Really, it’s all just more of the same.
A scare before the new year. An excuse to make people believe their Christmas could be in peril. An exercise in flexing their control muscles a bit, milking even more money out of the double-jabbed and boosted crowd, now newly terrified of the Omicron variant, and a nice holiday bump to Pfizer’s ever-inflating stock price.
At this point either you can see the pattern, or you can’t. You’re free of the fear machinery, or you’re not.
There is one potential silver lining here: It feels rushed and frantic. Discovered on Tuesday, named on Friday, travel bans on Saturday. It is hurried, and maybe that’s a reaction to feeling like the “pandemic” is losing its grip on the public mind.
Hopefully, as the narrative becomes more and more absurd, more and more people will wake up to reality.
It has been pointed out that “Omicron” is an anagram of “moronic”.
One wonders if that’s deliberate and they’re making fun of us.
A dog has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, highlighting risk of the virus infecting pets and wild animals
The monkeypox virus can easily spread between humans and animals. A veterinary virologist explains how the virus could go from people to wild animals in…
A dog in Paris has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, both of whom were infected with the virus, according to a scientific paper published on Aug. 10, 2022. This is the first case of a dog contracting the monkeypox virus through direct contact with skin lesions on a human.
I am a veterinary pathologist and virologist who has been working with poxviruses for over 20 years. I study how these viruses evade the immune system and am working on modifying poxviruses to prevent infection as well as treat other diseases, including cancer.
With monkeypox spreading in humans throughout the world, my colleagues and I have begun to worry about the increased risk of monkeypox spreading from humans to animals. If monkeypox spreads to wildlife species in the U.S. and Europe, the virus could become endemic in these places – where it has historically been absent – resulting in more frequent outbreaks. The report of the infected dog shows that there is a decent chance these fears could become a reality.
A species-jumping virus
Monkeypox is a poxvirus in the same family as variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and cowpox viruses and likely evolved in animals before jumping to humans. Monkeypox causes painful lesions in both humans and animals and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Researchers have found the monkeypox virus in several species of wild rodents, squirrels and primates in Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox does not need to mutate or evolve at all to be able to infect many different species. It can easily spread from animals to people and back again.
Though there is a fair bit of research on monkeypox, a lot more work has been done on cowpox, a similar zoonotic poxvirus that is endemic in Europe. Over the years, there have been several reports of cowpox infection spreading from animals to humans in Europe.
From people to animals
Until recently, most monkeypox infections occurred in specific areas of Africa where some wildlife species act as reservoirs for the virus. These outbreaks are usually contained quickly through isolation of infected individuals and vaccinating people around the infected individual. The current situation is very different though.
With nearly 40,000 cases globally as of Aug. 17, 2022 – and more than 12,500 cases in the U.S. alone – monkeypox is now widespread within the human population. The risk of any one person transmitting the virus to an animal – particularly a wild one – is small, but the more people are infected, the greater the chances. It’s a numbers game.
There are a number of ways viruses can transfer from animals to people – called spillover – and from people back to animals – called spillback. Since monkeypox is most easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, it is a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.
The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how cuddling or being close to a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in fecal matter. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, likely rodents, catching it from human waste.
The monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. While more research needs to be done, it is potentially possible that an infected person could discard food that would then be eaten by a rodent.
The chances of any one of these events happening is extremely low. But I and other virologists worry that with more people becoming infected, there is a greater risk that rodents or other animals will come into contact with urine, feces or saliva that is contaminated with the virus.
Finally, there is the risk of people giving monkeypox to a pet, which then passes it on to other animals. One case study in Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic and four other cats were subsequently infected. It is feasible that an infected household pet could spread the virus to wild animals somehow.
How to help
One of the key reasons that the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects people, so there were no animal reservoirs that could re-introduce the virus to human populations.
Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, though these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wild animal populations in the U.S., Europe or other locations, there will be always be potential for animals to spread it back to humans. With this in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce the risks with regard to animals.
As a veterinarian, I strongly encourage anyone with monkeypox to protect your pets. The case in Paris shows that dogs can get infected from contact with their owners, and it is likely that many other species, including cats, are susceptible, too. If you have monkeypox, try to have other people take care of your animals for as long as lesions are present. And if you think your pet has a monkeypox infection, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can test the lesion and provide care when needed.
Even though monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, it is unlikely to directly affect most people. Taking precautionary steps can protect you and your pets and will hopefully prevent monkeypox from getting into wildlife in the U.S., too.
Amy Macneill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.spread covid-19 africa europe germany world health organization
A-levels: A grades are up compared to pre-pandemic results
The pandemic has has a serious impact on school pupils – but a record number have applied to university.
The 2022 A-level results are in, and the number of students receiving A or A* grades has fallen – down by 8.4% on 2021.
For the first time since 2019, A-level results are being decided by formal exams. Students were warned that grades were likely to be lower than in 2020 and 2021, when cancelled exams and teacher assessments in A-levels led to record high results. Nevertheless, the proportion of students receiving A grades is up from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
A busy end to the admissions round is under way for universities and students, and the next steps for students still living with the impact of the pandemic are becoming clearer.
In 2021, some universities were over subscribed and had to offer significant incentives for students to defer their places. While the number of students in 2022 accepted on a UK university course – 425,830 – is higher than in 2019 and the second highest on record, it is 2% lower than in 2021. Just a few days before the results were out, thousands of students did not yet hold an offer of an university place.
Over the past two years, students studying qualifications, whether BTEC, T-level or A-level, have had to cope with the consequences of the pandemic for a significant proportion of their course. This has included school closures and remote lessons, social isolation, illness and increased levels of mental stress.
Highest number of applications
Nevertheless, 2022 has seen the highest ever numbers of applications to higher education, with 44% of 18 year olds applying. This number includes record numbers of students from areas of the country with historically low participation in higher education. It demonstrates that many young people believe higher education can make a difference to their future opportunities.
For the lucky ones who get the grades to gain a place at their first choice of university, planning for their degree course starts right away. A record number of Scottish students have already been accepted to their first choice of university.
The best advice for those students who don’t receive confirmation that they have been accepted by their first choice university is to ring the university, who will have staff on hand to explore their options.
For students who haven’t got a university place, it is still possible to explore options though clearing – which allows students without offers to find places on university courses that haven’t been fully subscribed. Students in this position should try to keep calm, write down their options and avoid quick decisions.
For those young people who do go to university, there will be challenges. With the cost of living for all rising rapidly, people on a lower income – as many students are – will feel the pinch of higher bills for food or rent.
Support from universities
The pandemic saw a serious and concerning rise in mental health issues affecting young people. Universities need to be ready to give holistic support to students as they transition into university and settle into undergraduate life. This means support for academic transition needs to be delivered in the context of good available support for mental health and wellbeing.
However, Universities UK, an advocacy groups for universities, has recently pointed out the wide range of benefits for those who study for a degree, including the £9,500 more per year on average graduates in England earn compared with non-graduates. It also draws attention to the value of degrees to improve the life chances of young people, to build skills and to contribute to society.
For many young people, getting a degree gives them access to a vocation such as teaching or working as a health professional. For others it is a path to travel and adventure. For many, the university journey is a place where young people find their tribe and begin to understand their identity.
For the class of 22, making it to university might mean life-changing opportunities. Given the challenges and restrictions of the last few years, this has never been more important.
Helena Gillespie receives funding from the European Union.european uk pandemic
Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) To Acquire Global Blood Therapeutics For $5 Billion
According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical…
According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical company Global Blood Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GBT) for $5 billion.
Pfizer, too, acquired Global Blood Therapeutics
Pfizer wants to close a deal soon, but there are still other interested parties, according to the article.
Global Blood Therapeutics, which manufactures Oxbryta, the blood disorder medication, saw its shares jump 44% on Friday afternoon to a two-year high. As of Thursday’s closing, the company’s market cap was $3.12 billion.
A spokesman for Global Blood stated the company does not “comment on market rumors or speculation,” while Pfizer declined to respond on the matter.
With plenty of cash left over after selling its COVID-19 vaccine, New York-based Pfizer is searching for deals that may generate billions of dollars annual sales by 2030.
Its $11.6 billion acquisition of migraine medication manufacturer Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding (NASDAQ: BHVN) in May was the most recent in a series of purchases that also included Trillium Therapeutics and Arena Pharmaceuticals in recent years.
Oxbryta received approval last year for sickle cell disease management
In 2019, the US government approved Global Blood’s Oxbryta to manage sickle cell disease in individuals aged 12 and over. The oral medication was approved in December 2021 to treat the illness in younger children. The drug’s sales increased by almost 50% to $194.7 million in 2021.
After a gloomy start to the calendar year, when a lack of significant purchases and clinical-stage treatment failures lowered investor morale and restricted funding, the biotech dealmaking pace has recently picked up again.
Also, Amgen Inc (NASDAQ: AMGN) also decided to purchase ChemoCentryx Inc on Thursday for $3.7 billion to obtain access to a possible breakthrough medication for inflammatory illnesses. AstraZeneca’s $39 billion acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 2020 has put the realm of immune diseases in the limelight. The deal, which was announced before trading opened, will also give the corporation control of at least two investigational immune disorders medicines.
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