When a Viral Fear Mutates

It is beyond doubt that this Wuhan virus chiefly kills the aged and those with with serious comorbidities.  It is also beyond doubt that a large majority of sufferers are asymptomatic.  In theory and with the benefit of hindsight, these facts should have guided our response from the beginning of the outbreak.  As Andrew Bolt repeats on every show: quarantine the sick, protect the vulnerable — and stop wrecking the economy.  I said the same thing myself back in March, when I observed that the phase two lockdown was rushed into operation a mere six days after phase one, well before the effectiveness of phase one could be established.

In Australia we have seen the economy put on life support, despite the fact that we still only have 278 deaths and a total of 20,698 cases.  The total number of cases over the whole of the pandemic is just three times the number of ICU ventilator beds we installed as part of the ‘flattening the curve’ strategy — an approach lost in the mists of time. At the moment only a relatively few commentators are calling out governments for their over-reach. No doubt that cohort will increase as it gradually sinks in that only a relative few patients have required hospitalisation. 

However, a new meme has started to emerge which, if taken with the same hysteria that greeted the initial outbreak, will set back a return to rationality. A cardiologist, Dr David Rollo, writing in the letters page of The Weekend Australian stated:

Your editorial …  suggests that “unnecessary anxiety” might be avoided if the public knew more about the prior health of the young person who died this week of COVID-19. The reality is otherwise. The iceberg-tip of enumerated deaths, while tragic, is a distraction from a more global truth.

Numerous recent reports in mainstream medical journals tell the story that this virus hits more widely and in a less discriminatory fashion than the media headlines suggest. It attacks multiple body systems in a broad range of individuals, including the very young, leaving damaged and malfunctioning organs even in those who appear initially unscathed.

‘Long term effects’ can have two meanings – firstly, prolonged symptom duration after a patient has recovered  and, secondly, permanent damage to organs or systems that impairs normal function.

Obviously, this far into the pandemic, it is possible to get some idea of the first.  The CDC publishedthe results of  a survey which acknowledged that a large percentage of people who contract COVID-19 experience a prolonged symptom duration. However, as far as the second interpretation of long term effects is concerned, the tenor of Dr Rollo’s letter struck me as being rather more definitive in terms of permanent impairment than might be warranted, given the very short timeframe since the pandemic began. 

I do not have access to the medical journals that Dr Rollo cites and must rely on news reports.  Here is one from the Sydney Morning Herald (emphasis added):

COVID-19 may have long-term effects on heart health, even for relatively young people who experienced only a mild illness.

That’s the finding from a new study that looked at 100 recovered COVID-19 patients, most of whom had not suffered a severe case of the disease.

About 60 per cent of those who took part displayed evidence of heart inflammation, despite being months into their recovery.

While the paper cannot definitively show the virus caused the inflammation, experts said it added to worrying evidence of COVID-19’s effect on the heart.

“Whatever way you look at it, this is not good news,” said Professor Bob Graham, founding executive director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

“This suggests there may be continued problems even after you’ve recovered from COVID.”

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that often kills by damaging the lungs. But its effects are felt throughout the body, with scientists increasingly cataloguing effects as far away as the feet.

Many of those symptoms are mild or unusual, such as the foot discoloration often referred to as “COVID toe”.

But the effects on the blood and heart concern doctors deeply.

In some people, COVID-19 causes small clots to form in the blood which can damage the delicate tissues of the lungs and even, in rare cases, cause a stroke.

Early studies from China suggest people with cardiovascular disease were more than three times as likely to develop severe, rather than mild, COVID-19. Patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease had fatality rates five times higher than those who did not.

The new study, led by researchers at University Hospital Frankfurt and published in JAMA Cardiology on Monday, adds to existing evidence.

The study looked at magnetic resonance scans of 100 patients about three months after they had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The group were relatively young – median age 49 – and only 33 had required hospitalisation.

The researchers compared them to scans from 100 patients without COVID-19, matched for age and health status.

About 78 per cent of the recovered patients showed signs of cardiovascular issues, mostly heart muscle inflammation.

“They are suggesting that a significant number – a very high number – has evidence of damage,” Professor Graham said.

The researchers did not have heart scans for the patients before COVID-19, meaning it is possible some or many already had heart damage. And long-term study is needed to show whether the inflammation actually leads to long-term health problems.

“Is this going to lead to more persistent inflammation and ongoing damage to the heart? We just don’t have answer yet,” said Heart Research Institute scientific director Professor Shaun Jackson.

“The suggestion that there may be long-term impact is not yet clearly evidenced but not unfounded,” said Cardiac Society Australia New Zealand president-elect Professor Clara Chow.

 “This adds more evidence to the fact that the infection is unusual in its specificity for the heart.”

The intent of this emerging narrative – citing various studies of doubtful provenance in a technique eerily similar to the demonization of hydroxychloroquine (which, by the way, is increasingly being shown to be both safe and effective, despite the categorical statement by our CMO Dr Paul Kelly that ‘it doesn’t work’) – is to provide cover for pusillanimous politicians and alarmist scientists to justify their past misjudgements on the basis that the virus is much worse than we thought and we really did need to protect young people from long-term damage. And, of course, it can be deployed to justify continued action to eliminate the virus, as we now appear to be doing in Australia.

The problem is that it is all so speculative, as my underling in the above article indicates.   These studies are small in scale, anecdotal rather than rigorous and much too early to have any kind of predictive value. It seems counterintuitive to me that a virus that was incapable of laying low a young healthy person as part of its initial effect, would be capable of inflicting long term damage on that same person, given that its initial effects on susceptible people is so drastic.   But I am not a doctor and I guess it could happen.   Just as cancers kill some people and not others, I have no doubt that the Wuhan virus will have adverse effects on certain individuals but I suspect that, in the long term, such effects will be found to be very rare and could be categorized as just part of life in which there are always  winners and losers. To use the possibility of such complications, as if they were inevitable and would be widespread, as a driver of public policy would be hugely irresponsible.  Just as it is irresponsible to dismiss out of hand proven and safe medications such as HCQ.

18 thoughts on “When a Viral Fear Mutates

  • Citizen Kane says:

    This is not the first attempt to create an unfounded fear campaign by the ABC and other similarly aligned media organisations around the globe, with version 1 being a purported catastrophic ‘blood clotting’ syndrome unique to the COVID-19 virus. With a handful of willing medicos we were told this hitherto unknown syndrome was inflicted upon swathes of patients ill with this coronavirus. In reality, what was likely being described was clotting that is part of the hyper mobilised immune response with its associated cytokine storm which often leads to acute systemic organ failure and acute respiratory failure. This was already well documented in a small portion of COVID-19 patients, and it is a response, including the clotting component, that is not unique to this virus but may indeed be induced by multiple different pathogens . The inflammation and clotting is a feature of a certain kind of immune response and not of the virus per se.

  • rod.stuart says:

    There is a connection that cohabits ‘climate change” (whatever that is supposed to be) and the “Rona”.

    With the former, very few seem to understand that climate is REGIONAL; classifying the typical weather of a specific region over sever al decades, for comparison with other regions. In so doing, people do not realise that the climate of any region very rarely actually changes classification; permanently at least, unless one is discussing geologic time rather than the past century or two.

    Further, most conflate climate with temperature, and because temperature as reported in the MSM emanates for manipulated, tortured, and doctored data, few are aware that temperatures are in DECLINE. This comes from a misunderstanding of what is actually being measured, and how. Then, the supposed results of said temperature are exaggerated, hyped, and the lied about. More importantly, the emphasis is on “emissions” (meaning carbon dioxide in most cases). This is of course nonsense, because there is simply no evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide has the remotest relationship with the temperature OR the weather. The science of geology explains that there has been no correlation over the past millions of years. Why do people insist on even discussing “emissions”?

    With the “Rona”, the situation is similar. The PCR test is misunderstood. What is it actually measuring? How accurate is this test? (Not very). How many deaths are actually due to the disease? The result is that no one actually has a clue as to how many people have been infected, or how many have actually succumbed to the disease. The result is (as humanity goes insane in herds and recovers individually) that all this fuss is over something closely related to the common cold and dangerous to an extent similar to that of the annual influenza.

    Making matters even worse, is that several anti-malarials, HCQ in particular, are quite effective no only as prophylaxis, but as a cure as well when administered in conjunction with zinc and an anti-biotic such as doxycycline at an early stage. Furthermore, infection can usually be avoided with supplementary vitamin D3, Vitamin C, and Zinc. Such information is suppressed by a compliant MSM and authority, since a few major players deem it possible to virtually make a mint over a vaccine that more than likely will have serious side effects. (otherwise, Big Pharma would not bother to seek protection from future litigation.
    In a fashion similar to “emissions”, the MSM has reverted to discussing “cases”.
    The populace is in a flap over the number of “cases”. This endless distraction of the number of “cases” is the same as the endless dialogueofr “emissions”. Neither has any releveance. A strange pandemic indeed when people must be tested in order to discover they are sick. If one considers fatalities, even with the questionable data available, this perceived “pandemic” is not as bad as the annual flu which has been present for ages. As with concern about “climate”, worrying over data which has been poorly collected, intentionally misinterpreted, leads to wrong conclusions.

    These issues of the “climate” and the “Rona” are related.

  • Stephen Due says:

    The first Australian COVID-19 death occurred on 1 March. Two weeks later the New York Times reported – what was by then common knowledge – that people over 80 were at high risk of death from the virus. On 5 April top US epidemiologists published a paper stating that the elderly were from 30 to 70 times more at risk than the rest of the population. Four months later, whatever was done in Australia in response to this information seems to have been grossly inadequate, as the ongoing catastrophe in Victorian aged care facilities indicates. There are too many ‘experts’ involved whose contributions to policy-making and planning are speculative and not properly evidence-based. Australia might be better served by a permanent pandemic task-force, both to prepare for future pandemics, and to oversee pandemic management as the need arises.

  • en passant says:

    The last thing we need is another bureaucracy on the look out for the next pandemic. If they do not find one, then their funding and jobs might be cut. So rest assured dozens of threats will be permanently just over the horizon all requiring new restrictions and more laws and bureaucracy. As a classic example: the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. The North Atlantic Ice Patrol was founded to report on icebergs for ships transiting the area. Despite every ship now having radar capable of locating dangerous objects such as icebergs the Patrol still exists today. Bureaucracies never die, nor do they ever fade away.
    I cannot believe how quickly the famous larrikin Australians have become cowardly snowflakes. Oh, Yes, I wear a mask (the same one I have been using since March). I reckon it has a few months more life in it yet. In my mid-70’s I have neither a fear of the virus, nor respect for the government’s ruinous response.
    I was booked on a cruise, but it was cancelled. I offered to swim out to them if they could not dock in Dandemicstan.
    For the record, their have been 900+ deaths from common flu since winter began and thanks to the last spurt, Oz wide Chinese virus deaths (with and not necessarily of the virus) have finally surpassed the curfewed Gulag of Victoria’s road deaths.
    I do try to panic, but cannot get motivated to do so …

  • March says:

    Richard Wilkins, early victim, seems more switched on than ever… Perhaps some hidden benefits.

  • Stephen Due says:

    en passant.
    Thank you. A timely warning. I had forgotten Parkinson’s Law. Sorry to hear about the demise of your cruise.

  • pgang says:

    This same fear-mongering BS was repeated on A Current Affair last night. The peasants must be kept under control.

  • pgang says:

    Citizen Kane raises a very important point:
    ‘ This was already well documented in a small portion of COVID-19 patients, and it is a response, including the clotting component, that is not unique to this virus but may indeed be induced by multiple different pathogens . The inflammation and clotting is a feature of a certain kind of immune response and not of the virus per se.’
    Yet we have been led to believe that this particular cytokine storm is unique to COVID-19, so some background would be useful here.

  • ianl says:

    Yet the bulk of the population continues to panic, every day the MSM picks the eyes out of that panic and the Nanny State continues to wave its’ arms in all directions at once while insisting that any deviation from constantly changing diktat will severly disable or kill hundreds of thousands.
    In short, we are ants caught in heavy flows of quick-setting concrete.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    On planet Hyperbole there is no worse fate than being kicked out of the daily headlines by a more immediate “threat”. The climate wafflers, however, are fighting back, trying every media trick to regain their hallowed place.

    From the New Daily today: “many of the medical professionals on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic are urging the Australian government to also act on another health crisis – climate change.

    Australia’s peak medical groups representing GPs, emergency doctors, obstetricians and psychiatrists have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to make climate change action a part of the COVID-19 economic response.

    The letter, co-ordinated by the Doctors for the Environment Australia, notes the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are two global health emergencies the nation must respond to.

    “Like COVID-19, climate change is a public health emergency that must be addressed urgently,” DEA honorary secretary Dr Richard Yin said. ““The post-COVID recovery offers an unprecedented opportunity to reject developments that are destructive to our environment.”

  • quaestio says:

    My father had the Hong Kong Flu in 1978. He died from cardiomyopathy in 1989 (65yrs) He was told the cardiomyopathy could have resulted from the Hong Kong Flu. The operative word was ‘could’

  • T B LYNCH says:

    [1] Frankfurt series of 100 recovered patients: 3 had a reduced ejection fraction and a borderline rise in cardiac enzyme [Troponin T ie their heart muscle cells were shedding an occasional tear]: to find out what was really going on – these three patients had a heart biopsy: Biopsies revealed NO VIRUS and NO MYOCARDITIS. [a large minority of these patients had the usual comorbidities – chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes].
    [2] Hamburg series of 39 autopsies on fatal cases: half the patients had virus in interstitial cells – NOT MUSCLE CELLS: there was NO MYOCARDITIS. [interstitial disease can certainly cause trouble eg Sarcoid qv]

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Peter, thank you.

    Also good comment en passant, however I can only see a reference to 900 deaths from common flu listed for 2019 with the present 2020 figure being around 36 to the end of June, with the lower than average figure primarily due to the lockdown , although they do say that records for common flue are probably not accurate at this stage ?

  • pgang says:

    T B Lynch, you’re letting facts get in the way of fear.

  • pgang says:

    Alice, they finally got something right. ‘Like COVID-19, climate change…’
    Yes, they are almost exactly alike in their false narratives.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    We can only hope that the false flags in the Covid19 response alert more people to similar hyperbole in the Climate Change hoax. While not too many people will be following these two issues with the attention to detail shown by this article and those commenting on it, the zeitgeist might start to reflect a general distrust of predictions of catastrophe and a political expression for things to return to the old normal – i.e. pre-Greta and pre-Covid – which would include proper jobs, plentiful and cheap coal-fired power, removal of layers of green tape everywhere thus controlling bushfires, and an economy that is growing not tanking.

    Politicians who ignore this desire amongst the mums and dads for common sense normality, listening instead to pressure groups for the sort of nonsense we have just had, had better keep an eye on their voters’ wandering pencils.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    I suspect that the new outbreak of Wuflu in New Zealand has come from [1] live virus in the index case overseas luggage OR [2] live virus in imported frozen food from the Commie Utopia.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    T B Lynch,I agree. Which then points to the sheer stupidity of trying to ‘eradicate’ this virus that has spread world-wide. The only sane approach is to limit and control it so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and the very sick can be treated with the latest life-saving approaches. Beyond that, herd immunity has to beckon.

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