Dear Bellingen Shire,
What a difference a week makes. Masks are now the sexiest thing since bikinis/speedos.
The virus rolls on and humans run like angry ants around and after it.
The outbreak in Melbourne is tragic and again reemphasises the point that as a modern society we stand and fall on how we treat our most vulnerable. This point is rammed home even harder in the USA where health care technology and knowledge is the best in the world, but effectively for some is considered an optional extra that comes with a job. So a huge percentage of people live under the poverty line, unable to afford health care, too frightened to seek it, and suffer with the consequences. But in the meantime their cough carries the same distance as a wealthy person’s.
We are seeing on the news the growing list of NSW venues with cases. The current advice is that if you have visited these spots in the last 2 weeks you need to self isolate for 2 weeks, except for attending for a test. Remember the incubation period – that is the time between contacting an infective agent and the time of first symptoms. It can be right up to 14 days.
So far in NSW we have reports of confirmed cases who have visited a hotel, Planet Fitness gym, and certain nearby cafes at Casula; a Woolworths at Balmain: a Macdonalds at Shoalhaven; The Soldiers Club at Bateman’s Bay; the Thai Rock Restaurant at Wetherill Park.
And still nothing in the Bellingen Shire.
As an owner of a business, my heart bleeds for the proprietors of some of those venues. The work, the fear, the effort, and the stigma that they must endure. It’s a cost much higher than an arrested income. I expect it will to some extent be inevitable that Covid 19 comes to our Shire. I hope as a community we sympathise with, and emotionally support, anyone whose livelihood is slammed by that random chance.
The rapid spreading events in Victoria are being reported by epidemiologists as initially being turbocharged within households. We owe it to our family members to be thinking along this line and remind each other about being careful with what we touch. Until we get it right. Isolate when sick, even within a household, and have no barriers for testing. You can’t point the finger across the road, the town or the border. We each are responsible.
There is not a lot of good news on the medical reporting this week. Many medical folk heard with shock that the CDC in Atlanta is being bypassed for reporting or collating US Pandemic statistics. The reports are to be routed through the US Administration. It may not have been perfect, but the US Centre for Disease Control is a great institution that has been a vital repository of medical and epidemiological data for the whole world for decades. At medical conferences its data is used as the baseline or benchmark by us all. It openly communicates with partners in other large or small jurisdictions. Now epidemic data is to be politicised in the USA. Because it looks bad. Because it is bad.
I believe we can have great faith that Australian and New Zealand data is very accurate, European reporting also appears to be ethical and scientific, thereby reliable. Reporting from the developing world may be limited by resources. Some countries in South America seem to be having a really hard time now.
The antiviral drug Remdesivir has been approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA). But it will be expensive, not so easy to get , and restricted to severe cases. On that topic, quite a few things are getting a bit difficult to get. Supply chains are being stretched on many things medical, as well as industrial I suspect. Time to manufacture lots more things locally – but we also need to be ready to pay more for lots of things. Come on entrepreneurs.
There are more reports that Covid 19 Antibodies – that is the Y shaped prickly attack chemicals that little lymphocyte cells in the blood throw out to trap and mark invaders- do not last more than a few months. This is very important if we want to develop and then remember an immunity to an infection. Otherwise we would all get that infection over and over (like the common cold???). Persistent antibodies are even more important if we want to develop a vaccine.
A complication is that researchers also have to figure out whether they are even measuring the right antibody. If it is, this drop off of response is a worry. Or, in fact, there might be a different antibody they haven’t even recognised yet that holds immune memory. That would be good news.
There is one bright side in that arena of research. Some teams are working on a more recently discovered tiny branch of the enormously complex army that is our immne systems. There is a specific “helper T” lymphocyte cell. (Some white bloods cells are called T because of their origin in the body. They are still roundish – not shaped like T). This cell’s support may be enlisted by vaccine researchers to stimulate and force the other troops to remember what they are there for. A kind of small, subtle, sergeant major.
There are now over 155 vaccine projects for Covid19 underway around the world. But yes, again we are still a year or 2 away from real good news on that line. The manufacturing effort needed for at least 4-5billion doses, + boosters, is hard to imagine.
Keep healthy, eat well, wash/sanitise your hands, get a sexy set of functional masks, and wash them frequently.
Dr Trevor Cheney
Please remember – this is one perspective . Check in with your GP who knows you, and your family, and your own chronic medical conditions that need to be as best behaved as they can.