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UK In Crisis: Should COVID Claim Another Victim While Self-Righteous Wrath Sets The Tone?

UK In Crisis: Should COVID Claim Another Victim While Self-Righteous Wrath Sets The Tone?

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarn

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UK In Crisis: Should COVID Claim Another Victim While Self-Righteous Wrath Sets The Tone?

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”

Boris apologised – but is it too late? Resolving the innumerable crises facing the UK requires political focus, and less of the politically expedient indignation being displayed in parliament. It won’t make anything better, threatens further destabilisation, and diminish the UK’s global competitiveness..  

The objective of the Morning Porridge is to connect the dots on markets – so let me ask the most pertinent question today: Would you be a buyer of UK plc? Probably not.

The optics from Westminster look terrible. The prospects for the nation look even worse. Its situation normal: FUBAR!

Coronavirus was a terrible and tragic event for innumerable families. Many people are justifiably angry having watched from afar as loved ones died alone. Yet, the events in parliament yesterday were a masterpiece of staged-managed faux indignation. The self-appointed Covid Truth and Reconciliation Committee has a whole list of names pricked, queued for the tumbril, and a terminal appointment on the Tower’s chopping board – like that is going to change anything…

The problem is such grandstanding while the government is on the ropes doesn’t achieve much – except make a bad situation worse. While Boris flounders, we can forget any meaningful effort to deal with the impact of soaring Energy prices on consumers, addressing the insatiable appetite of the NHS for more and more cash to do less and less, and as for the perceived benefits of Brexit? Well, that’s a boat that’s already sailed….

None of the critical crises blighting an increasingly dysfunctional Blighty look likely to be fixed as government lurches from crisis to catastrophe.

Every politician is looking to their own survival or advancement. Prime Minister in Waiting, Rishi Sunak, made sure he was out of London and singularly failed to post support for the PM. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives wisely put the boot in with the first call to resign – knowing Scots will love him for it. Et tu Brute? As new Tory MP spilloried the prime minister in the hope they might be able to hold on to “Red Wall” seats, something extraordinary happened in Parliament yesterday: Labour party leader Sir Kier Starmer looked almost competent and actually scored some telling blows.

The latest polls say Labour is leading the Tories. There was a time that would have caused me to rejoice – but now? Years of Tory rule has shown them mired in scandal, disregard for rules, and arrogance. But Labour shows little sign of a becoming a credible government.

Unless Boris goes against his grain and gives up, the reality is little is likely to change in the short-term. Next week we’ll see a civil servant’s report into the Tory Covid Parties. It might say a few damning things, apologies will be made, and that that will be it.

What happens next will be “interesting”. It’s likely the government will lurch on from crisis to crisis for another 3 years. Boris may or may not fall. Who would really want to take on the reins of power ahead of local elections in May (where the Tories will be spanked), ahead of massive energy bills in Q2 (when the Tories will be blamed), and the possibility inflation plunges the UK into a stagflationary recession later this year?

Who knows? Maybe Boris will remain – and maybe have learnt a lesson.

Yet, improbable as it may seem, this morning I feel deeply sorry for Boris. Who would have thought a lifelong Labour voter like myself would ever say it…

Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I’ve never hesitated to do Boris down, to lambast him for all his innumerable faults, and to repeatedly call him out for the way he’s diminished the office of Prime Minister. Boris makes us look stupid and that does not make Britain a better place..

But this business of the “summer party” at Downing Street? Come on. Is it worth breaking the nation on? Let it rest…

Take off the Covid Indignation Goggles and think about it. The email sent to the 100 Downing Street Staff is entitled: Socially distanced drinks. It specifically says: “this evening”, “in the garden” and “bring your own booze”… That is not a planned party designed to mock the populace.

I can pretty much imagine how it happened. Right through the pandemic staff worked around the clock in the complex of offices beneath the Downing Street residences. On a warm, balmy May evening.. probably as they were discussing easing covid restrictions, someone thought: “it’s a lovely evening… what’s wrong with a little Distanced Social moment with colleagues in the large spacious gardens out the back.” – the same guys they’d been sitting next to all day every day.

Tell me you would not have done it yourself?

We were all depressed about Covid Lockdowns back in May 2020 – and we all remember how wonderful the weather was as we celebrated VE Day. It cheered us up as we struggled with lockdown, doing our part by not mixing with strangers. And I am sure the majority of the staff who gathered 2 meters from each other in the Downing Street Garden felt the same way that day after work drinking the prosecco they’d bought from the newsagent next to Westminster tube station.

I was probably that same week when my wife and I, and our son snuck out on my boat and spent a night moored up on a river elsewhere – out of sight and mind. It was maybe the same week I shared cheeky lagers sitting on the shore after I ran into a chum who works for a major institution while out for a walk. We all kept our moment very quiet and low-key, concerned some Corona-Nazi would report us, or create a stink.

Worse things were done during the Pandemic. There was an almighty scandal in our village when a bunch of yummy-mummies managed to get themselves and their partners vaccinated right at the start of the programme – ahead of everyone else. If they’d kept it quiet no one would care, but they boasted about it. They were foolish to brag, but they were hardly evil incarnate – which is how Boris is now being painted.

Lest we forget, Boris had a pretty bad time with Covid himself.

Yes – Boris should have known better than to go to the “socially distanced gathering”, yes, he probably should have stopped it. But if we really want to hang and quarter Boris the Buffoon.. then stop and ask… “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”

Boris is a complete Richard, but he’s what we’ve got… Have you looked at the alternatives?

Sunak lacks experience, and there are questions to be asked. Javid is highly competent, but could he win? If not, and you really, really feel the need to hang Boris, I have one thing to say to you:

 Yes, Prime Minister Gove..

 Please…. No..

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/14/2022 - 03:30

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European outbreak of monkeypox: what you need to know

There are some concerns of human-to-human transmission.

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Four new cases of monkeypox have been reported in the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to seven. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is urgently looking for the source of the outbreak.

The first case in the current outbreak was confirmed on May 6. But this is not the first time monkeypox has been reported in the UK. Three cases were also reported in 2021 and one in 2018. However, these infections are rarely seen in the UK and are overwhelmingly linked to international travel from endemic areas, including parts of west and central Africa.

On May 18 five cases of monkeypox were reported in Portugal, with investigations into 20 further suspected cases. On the same day, the Spanish health authorities reported eight suspected cases in men who have sex with men.

This is the largest monkeypox outbreak ever seen in Europe. It is not known if the cases are linked.

Misnomer

Monkeypox, as the name suggests, was first found in laboratory monkeys in the late 1950s. However, scientists aren’t sure if monkeys are the main animal reservoirs (carriers of the virus), so the name may be a bit of a misnomer. The latest thinking is that the main reservoir is probably smaller animals, such as rodents.

Reservoirs of monkeypox have been found in rodents, such as the Gambian pouched rat. Laëtitia Dudous/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Unlike COVID, monkeypox does not spread easily from human to human. It typically requires interaction with animals that carry the virus, or being in very close contact with infected people, or having contact with “fomites” (such as contaminated clothes, towels or furniture). Also unlike COVID, monkeypox is not known to spread asymptomatically. However, the evidence on monkeypox is thin, and the current outbreaks will provide new knowledge around its impact and transmission.

Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox, but is less transmissible. People who catch it typically develop a fever and a distinctive rash and blisters. The disease is usually self-limiting, with symptoms disappearing after a few weeks. However, monkeypox can cause severe illness, with outbreaks typically showing a case-fatality rate (the proportion of people with the disease who die from it) of between 1% and 15%, with severe disease and death more likely among children.

Sexually transmitted?

The UKHSA says that some cases in the May 2022 outbreak cannot be explained by recent international travel, suggesting that there has probably been some “community transmission”. Four of the seven cases are in people who identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. A UKHSA epidemiologist tweeted that this is “highly suggestive of spread in sexual networks”. The cases in Spain may also fall under similar consideration.

So the transmission here may be a little unusual compared with previous outbreaks. While there is a lot we don’t know about monkeypox, we do know the virus can be transmitted via close contact, for example, including prolonged skin-to-skin contact.

There is no evidence that it is a sexually transmitted infection in the manner of HIV or chlamydia. It’s more that, in the UK outbreak, the close contact during sexual or intimate activity may have been a key factor during transmission.

This may be the first time transmission of monkeypox via sexual contact or intimate activity has been documented. But the implications are not so significant in that we know close contact is required for transmission. The social dynamics around the transmission of infectious diseases means this finding may be most useful for the public health teams involved in “contact tracing” – finding other people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Very low risks for the general public

The monkeypox risks to the wider UK public are extremely low, and the NHS has specialist units that focus on treating these sorts of tropical infections. And, thankfully, there are ways of bringing the virus to heel.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights how the smallpox vaccine, cidofovir (an anti-viral drug), and vaccinia immune globulin can be used to control a monkeypox outbreak.

However, beyond the smallpox vaccine, there is no specific vaccine to protect against monkeypox. Some experts have suggested that stopping widespread vaccination against smallpox might have lowered population immunity against monkeypox, thus making cases and outbreaks more likely.

A 2019 meeting at Chatham House in London suggested that an unintended consequence of smallpox eradication could be that “emergent or re-emergent human monkeypox might fill the epidemiological niche vacated by smallpox”.

However, these imported monkeypox cases and other tropical infections (such as Ebola, malaria and Lassa fever) indicate a wider burden of disease elsewhere in the world, typically in low-income countries with limited access to healthcare. It may be that in a post-pandemic environment, we should give more consideration to understanding the local and global implications of Lassa, monkeypox, Ebola and other rare but serious pathogens.

Michael Head has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development.

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Researchers may have unlocked mechanism driving inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis

Researchers at Hokkaido University in Japan, in a collaboration with American scientists, may have identified neural crosstalk as the mechanism that drives…

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Researchers may have unlocked mechanism driving inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis

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Haven’t had COVID yet? It could be more than just luck

Even taking into account people who have had COVID but didn’t know it, there’s still likely to be a group of people who have never been infected.

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I Wei Huang/Shutterstock

We all know a few of those lucky people who, somehow, have managed to avoid ever catching COVID. Perhaps you’re one of them. Is this a Marvel-esque superpower? Is there any scientific reason why a person might be resistant to becoming infected, when the virus seems to be everywhere? Or is it simply luck?

More than 60% of people in the UK have tested positive for COVID at least once. However, the number of people who have actually been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is thought to be higher. The calculated rate of asymptomatic infections varies depending on the study, though most agree it’s fairly common.

But even taking into account people who have had COVID and not realised it, there is still likely a group of people who never have. The reason why some people appear immune to COVID is one question that has persisted throughout the pandemic. As with so much in science, there isn’t (yet) one simple answer.

We can probably dismiss the Marvel-esque superpower theory. But science and luck likely both have a role to play. Let’s take a look.

The simplest explanation is that these people have never come into contact with the virus.

This could certainly be the case for people who have been shielding during the pandemic. People at significantly greater risk of severe disease, such as those with chronic heart or lung conditions, have had a tough couple of years.

Many of them continue to take precautions to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Even with additional safety measures, many of these people have ended up with COVID.

Due to the high level of community transmission, particularly with the extremely transmissible omicron variants, it’s very unlikely that someone going to work or school, socialising and shopping hasn’t been near someone infected with the virus. Yet there are people who have experienced high levels of exposure, such as hospital workers or family members of people who have had COVID, who have somehow managed to avoid testing positive.

We know from several studies vaccines not only reduce the risk of severe disease, but they can also cut the chance of household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by about half. So certainly vaccination could have helped some close contacts avoid becoming infected. However, it’s important to note that these studies were done pre-omicron. The data we have on the effect of vaccination on omicron transmission is still limited.


Read more: Four strange COVID symptoms you might not have heard about


Some theories

One theory around why certain people have avoided infection is that, although they are exposed to the virus, it fails to establish an infection even after gaining entry to the airways. This could be due to a lack of the receptors needed for SARS-CoV-2 to gain access to cells.

Once a person does become infected, researchers have identified that differences in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 play a role in determining the severity of symptoms. It is possible that a quick and robust immune response could prevent the virus from replicating to any great degree in the first instance.

The efficacy of our immune response to infection is largely defined by our age and our genetics. That said, a healthy lifestyle certainly helps. For example, we know that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of certain infections. Not getting enough sleep can also have a detrimental effect on our body’s ability to fight invading pathogens.

An illustration of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus needs to attach to receptors to gain access to our cells. Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Scientists studying the underlying causes of severe COVID have identified a genetic cause in nearly 20% of critical cases. Just as genetics could be one determining factor of disease severity, our genetic makeup may also hold the key to resistance to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

I research SARS-CoV-2 infection on nasal cells from human donors. We grow these cells on plastic dishes which we can then add virus to and investigate how the cells respond. During our research we found one donor whose cells could not be infected with SARS-CoV-2.

We discovered some really interesting genetic mutations, including several involved with the body’s immune response to infection, that could explain why. A mutation we identified in a gene involved with sensing the presence of a virus has previously been shown to confer resistance to HIV infection. Our research is on a small number of donors and highlights that we’re still only scraping the surface of research into genetic susceptibility or resistance to infections.

There’s also the possibility that previous infection with other types of coronaviruses results in cross-reactive immunity. This is where our immune system may recognise SARS-CoV-2 as being similar to a recent invading virus and launch an immune response. There are seven coronaviruses that infect humans: four that cause the common cold, and one each that cause Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID.

How long-lasting this immunity may be is another question. Seasonal coronaviruses that circulated pre-2020 were able to reinfect the same people after 12 months.


Read more: The common cold might protect you from coronavirus – here's how


If you’ve managed to avoid COVID to date, maybe you do have natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection, or perhaps you’ve just been lucky. Either way, it’s sensible to continue to take precautions against this virus that we still know so little about.

Lindsay Broadbent receives funding from The Wellcome Trust.

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