There is another round of disinformation around COVID vaccines related to the Amish, originating from people like Steve Kirsch, who doesn’t have a science or medicine background and makes false vaccine claims, which are easily debunked.
What does a real source say about COVID in this population?
Closed religious communities also resist epidemiological surveillance. The same factors that put these communities at high risk for infectious disease outbreaks—lack of trust in medicine and the state, reluctance to receive routine and preventative healthcare, and closed communication networks—also make their members less likely to avail themselves of testing for COVID-19. Even among those tested, it may be difficult to connect their tests back to their religious communities without information about religious affiliation. Moreover, it is difficult to distinguish their COVID-19 transmission and death rates from surrounding communities.
CRCs are sectarian groups in tension with their environment’s dominant culture. This tension leads these communities to erect boundaries between themselves and outsiders, limiting interaction.
These communities warrant close monitoring, given their history of infectious disease outbreaks. However, some community members distrust state officials and medical providers, which undermine efforts to monitor public health. Additionally, since some groups prefer natural remedies to modern medicine, their members avoid routine medical care and are less likely to be tested for COVID-19. After a COVID-19 outbreak in an Amish community in Ohio, the local health department set up a testing site to track the spread. According to Ali et al, more traditional community members did not participate in the testing clinic, implying they won’t seek testing independently.
Our findings reflect the older Amish and Mennonites’ vulnerability in the population, as the average age of death is consistently higher after June 2020. The results indicate the average age of death during the first wave (March through May) was lower than the baseline average, suggesting the initial two waves of COVID-19 may have impacted people in the population with underlying health risks. In general, the Amish and the Mennonites were subject to government guidelines in March and April limiting religious gatherings. Many groups complied with the CDC’s recommendations to limit contact. However, when restrictions were lifted during the summer of 2020, many of these communities resumed church services. The importance of face-to-face rituals in CRCs and Amish groups’ general resistance to mask-wearing and other CDC guidelines makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Indeed, we see the number of excess deaths spike in October and November when many governmental restrictions relaxed and many of the Amish and Mennonite groups were engaging in face-to-face interactions.
The large number of excess deaths among the Amish and Mennonite community is concerning, as it indicates not only the presence, but the impact of COVID-19 on this community.
Oddly, there is still a lot of vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories even though that has all been debunked. What’s even more puzzling are the number of people who will claim that it hasn’t been tested adequately (it’s been tested far more than any other vaccine at launch), but then they will go on to take drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, that hadn’t been tested much for COVID initially, and after they have been tested and found not to provide any benefit, they still insist that it’s a cover up. Another study was published in JAMA this week indicating that ivermectin is no better than placebo.
So are vaccines better at preventing COVID infection, hospitalizations, and death? The data paints a very cleart picture.
This graphs represents cases by vaccination status per 100,000 people.
At first glance, the green line at the bottom right doesn’t seem to any benefit from the bivalent boosters. However, this is due to the big surge of cases at the start of 2022, which changes the scale of the y-axis. This is a view of just the part of the graph when the bivalent data became available.
Of course, there were legitimate concerns about the safety of the vaccine in adolescents and children. Views of the data can be found in the link in the sources section below. This is what the case data looks like for the <5 year old cohort, suggesting efficacy among this age group as well
This is hospitalizations per 100,000 among the >18 year old population by vaccination status.
Hospitalization data isn’t available in their visualization tool for the <5 age group, but this is how hospitalizations look for 5-11 year olds by vaccination status.
This represents deaths per 100,000 among those over 18 by vaccination status.
Again, it’s useful to zoom in to see the imapact of the bivalent boosters.
However, major public health organizations such as the WHO and CDC were in complete denial, saying that airborne transmission was MISINFORMATION! (Disgracefully, the WHO has not deleted this tweet (below) or clearly stated that it was an ENORMOUS error).
How was that possible?
Many scientists are concluding that airborne transmission is important.
Major public health organizations such as the WHO say that it is misinformation!
Historical trends and errors (this thread) are important to explain this, but NOT the only reason.
This major error (IMHO one of most important errors in the entire history of Public Health) has had major consequences:
In early pandemic we focused on surfaces, which are minor or negligible.
Public health organizations tell us that unproven transmission mechanisms are dominant, and that the dominant transmission mechanism is misinformation. We’ll soon delve into the history in our paper.
But before we go into the history, there are other reasons to review. Most importantly, surface-droplet transmission is very CONVENIENT to those in power. And AIRBORNE transmission is an inconvenient truth (just like climate change, dealt with similarly).
There is at least one more reason for the resistance: those who made this enormous error at the WHO, its IPC committee, and at the CDC, & health ministries around the world DO NOT WANT to admit their error
A government advisor privately: “we need to find a way to allow us to save face.”
Those Public Health officials that continue to resist and obfuscate about airborne transmission are in control of the PH institutions. Aerosol scientists are almost complete outsiders, and have been almost systematically excluded to this day.
So what about the contribution of history to the denial of and resistance to airborne transmission by Public Health authorities worldwide? It is summarized in this diagram, which I’ll explain in this thread.
So to understand the errors that led to the denial and resistance of #COVIDisAirborne, we need to go back to Hippocrates! (~400 BCE).
Hippocratic writings in ancient Greece first proposed that diseases were caused by imbalance of humors in the body, which could be triggered by a “miasma” transmitted through the air.
Throughout much of subsequent human history, the belief persisted that diseases were transmitted through air Because the actual agents remained a mystery for centuries, explanations were given in general terms such as “miasmas,” or “bad air.”
For example, the etymological root of the term “malaria” (a disease that we now know is transmitted by mosquitos) is “mala aria,” medieval Italian for “bad air.”
Some origin theories were more specific, e.g. Roman scholar Varro (116–27 BCE) wrote that swamps were a particular breeding ground for minute creatures that “float in the air and enter the body through mouth and nose and there cause serious diseases.”
Thus it became a policy of the Roman Empire to drain swamps, removing breeding grounds for mosquitos, reducing malaria, an example of a mistaken theory giving good results and increasing faith on the theory. We see this many times through history.
The concept of person-to-person contagion came much later, most clearly in work of Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro in 1546 (This is actually a subject of current debate, with some scholars thinking that the role of Fracastoro may have been overstated.
What ensued after Fracastoro, however, was a centuries-long debate between “miasmatists,” who held fast to the idea that diseases floated through the air over distances, and “contagionists,” who accepted person-to-person spread of disease.
Because it was (and it still IS) very difficult to determine how, why, and from where someone became infected, the miasmas vs. contagion debate failed to reach a resolution and persisted for centuries. A middle ground was proposed, “contingent contagionism”: malaria, or cholera might be contagious in an impure atmosphere, but not in a healthy atmosphere. This idea therefore captured some grains of truth (e.g. now we know ventilation reduces airborne).
Miasma theory was dominant till the mid/late 19thy Century. Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) like most Victorians was raised to believe that diseases were caused by ‘miasma’ or foul air.
In her Notes on Hospitals, Nightingale referred to the idea of contagion as absurd. She was nevertheless very practical and effective in reducing disease, e.g. with ventilation and phys. distance, and later accepted germ theory, as we’ll see later.
We enter a critical period around 1850. Miasma theory is still dominant, although contagion (mostly through the air) also has proponents. Microorganisms have been observed for two centuries since the invention of the microscope, but haven’t clearly been connected to disease.
Cholera strikes London in 1854. The public health establishment believed it to be caused by a miasma. English sanitary reformers (e.g. Chadwick), who initiated many modern public health practices, found miasma appealing, as it appeared to explain the prevalence of diseases in the undrained, filthy, and foul-smelling areas where the poor lived, and helped justify their efforts to address those conditions. (They had made a huge error, and they resisted accepting it, just as the WHO today).
John Snow was a wealthy doctor but outsider to public health. His work in anesthesia made him familiar with the behavior of gasses. He realized that the spread of cholera was NOT consistent with what would be expected for a gas.
The Board of Health had strong incentives for rejecting water as the source of cholera. To remove the sources of the miasma (filth), they had spearheaded the effort to build sewers that dumped raw sewage into the Thames, the source of much of London’s drinking water, thus effectively helping the spread of cholera. They had much to lose by admitting cholera transmitted through water. (Technology has advanced, but human nature has changed less. The WHO has avoided saying LOUD & CLEAR that #COVIDisAirborne, as their denials helped it spread.
Also around 1850, Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna showed that handwashing greatly reduced deaths by childbed fever in a maternity clinic.
However, he was dismissed from his hospital and harassed by Vienna medical community, forced to move to Budapest. There he broke down, was interned and beaten by the guards, and ultimately died from an infected wound Like Snow, he died years before his theories were accepted.
Ironically, Semmelweis’ name lives on not only for advances of hand sanitation, but also in “Semmelweis reflex,” which describes the reflex-like tendency to reject new knowledge or evidence when it contradicts established beliefs, norms, or paradigms
That is especially ironic, as the chief deniers of airborne transmission (John Conly — chairman of key IPC WHO committee, Dr. Seto, Didier Pittet, and Peter Collignon) are handwashing experts following Semmelweis’ scientific advances, while forgetting about the reflex.
The 2nd half of the 19th Century is a period of rapid progress on disease transmission. Pasteur and Koch proposed the GERM THEORY of disease. Microscopic germs enter the body and are the cause of many diseases.
Germ theory was NOT accepted overnight, e.g. experiments by others in which water containing organic matter was boiled in a vessel, but microorganisms still appeared (later shown to be an imperfect seal or insufficient boiling) created controversy.
Florence Nightingale did accept the new ideas of germ theory, in fact before many physicians did. In 1882, she wrote
Initial results on plant pathogens in 1890s & the identification of bacteriophage in 1917 paved the way for recognition of viruses. A “golden era” followed, with the identification of the actual microorganisms that cause many infectious diseases.
The discovery and identification of the organisms causing different diseases did NOT, however, eliminate the great difficulty in conclusively determining the mode by which they transferred from one person to another. Malaria was still thought to go through the air in 1880
American physician Albert King proposed that malaria was transmitted by mosquitos, but encountered general skepticism In 1883, he presented a list of 19 facts supporting malaria as vector of malaria (Reminds me of 10 scientific reasons for #COVIDisAirborne).
Looking back at period 1850-1900, belief on transmission of many diseases through AIR was still strong But cholera, malaria, puerperal fever had been shown to transmit OTHERWISE. It was a fluid time. It was debated if air was actually important
Some contemporaries of Flügge such as Cornet argued that tuberculosis was transmitted only through large droplets, which were easily visible to the naked eye. Perhaps because droplets were more CONVENIENT and airborne disease VERY INCONVENIENT?
However, although term “Flügge’s droplets” has been used to describe ONLY those large particles that fell to the ground quickly near the infected person and that were assumed to dominate transmission, that does NOT accurately capture Flügge’s results.
In 1905, microbiologist M.H. Gordon was commissioned to study the atmospheric hygiene of the UK House of Commons after an epidemic of influenza among members. He famously performed the following experiment: after gargling with a broth culture of Serratia marcescens he loudly recited passages from Shakespeare in an empty House to an audience of agar plates. Although growth of colonies was more numerous on plates near the speaker, cultures were apparent on some plates over 21 meters away.
We get to the CRITICAL POINT of this history. Throughout most of human history, the dominant belief was transmission of many diseases through the air. The last half of the 19th Century proves otherwise for major diseases. Strong debate ensues: “is air major or minor?”
Charles V. Chapin was a prominent American epidemiologist. He worked only a couple of decades after Germ Theory was accepted, during a period of intense research on pathogens and their transmission.
He summarized the evidence of transmission of different diseases in his 1910 seminal book, “The Sources and Modes of Infection.” (A must read if you are interested in this subject, esp. chapter on airborne transmission).
Chapin conceptualized “contact infection,” infection by germs that did NOT come from the environment, but from other PEOPLE through DIRECT CONTACT OR CLOSE PROXIMITY.
Chapin realized that airborne infection may explain infection in close proximity (CP). However, he argued that ease of infection in CP was better explained by “spray-borne” droplets, large visible droplets considered by Cornet, the same as the WHO’s droplets.
Problem: the more correct explanation (of why distance reduces transmission) is NOT gravity but DILUTION. Like exhaled smoke, you breathe less exhaled air farther from someone. And error in PHYSICS made by MEDICAL professionals who do not study physics!
Despite the lack of evidence, Chapin was too successful. He was much better positioned than Snow or Semmelweis as the long-serving Health Officer of Providence and with success of reducing contact transmission iin a new hospital. In 1927, he became President of the APHA.
Chapin was described in 1967 as “the greatest American epidemiologist” by Alexander Langmuir, first and long-time director (1949–1969) of epidemiology branch of the CDC. As late as the 1980s, Chapin’s views were dominant there.
CRITICALLY, Chapin’s unproven hypothesis was accepted as true: Ease of infection in close proximity is accepted proof of transmission from sprayed droplets. This KEY ERROR conditioned the evolution of this field over the next century, and into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wells was 1st to rigorously study size of sprayborne droplets vs. airborne aerosols and conceptualized dichotomy of sprayborne droplets (≳100 μm), which reach the ground before drying versus aerosols (≲100 μm) which dry before they reach ground (“droplet nuclei”).
Wells understood connection w/ meteorology where this is common knowledge, stating: “A raindrop 2 mm in diameter can fall miles without completely evaporating under conditions which would cause a 0.2 mm droplet to evaporate before it had fallen from the height of a man.”
Shockingly, Public Health and Infectious Diseases have published for decades that large droplets are those heavier than 5 microns (!!), including in the latest WHO Scientific Brief on COVID Transmission that addresses this issue.
We investigated the history of the 5 micron / 2 meters error in a previous paper led by @linseymarr and the extraordinary @katierandall, with support from @EThomasEwing, Lydia Bourouiba of @MIT and yours truly.
I am getting slightly out of order. I’ll explain the reason for the “5 micron particles fall within the meters of the person” enormous error later in the thread, once I have explained the background. So we were talking about the work of William Wells on airborne infection.
The Wellses suspected that tuberculosis and measles were airborne, but BOTH were already believed to be droplet diseases, and they encountered intense resistance from the epidemiological community.
Measles was thought to be a droplet/fomite disease. At the time of Wells, and as late as 1985, because of: – ease of transmission in close proximity (= sprayborne droplets per Chapin) – cases of lack of infection with shared air.
Wells thought that measles was airborne (and now we know he was correct, though he died 2 decades before this was accepted). Wells has some initial success showing that UV lights installed in the ceiling of classrooms greatly reduced measles infection.
However, subsequent attempts to replicate these findings produced mixed results. In retrospect, in schools where UV prevented measles transmission, children were together indoors only in the school, not elsewhere. In other schools, children shared other spaces (e.g. buses).
Wells established the scientific basis of airborne infection But he was working in a period of intense hostility in public health and infectious diseases towards airborne transmission, ushered by the success of the 1910 paradigm shift of Chapin after 2 millenia of belief in miasmas.
Langmuir et al. studied airborne transmission, but MISINTERPRETED the results of their own studies: Distance reduced transmission, therefore it was droplets. Ignoring that distance reduces airborne transmission by dilution.
Here is when we think that the ERROR of “5 micron particles fall to the ground in 1-2 m” originated: Only TB and bioweapons were important, someone at the CDC confused the size that goes to alveoli with size that falls to ground. This was repeated until 2020.
The fascinating story of how @katierandall,@linseymarr et al. figured out the cause of the 5 micron error was told in this article in @WIRED by @MeganMolteni. Reads like a spy novel, one of the best of the pandemic!
Unfortunately, standards of evidence were very different for different routes of transmission. Many diseases accepted as “droplet” without any substantive proof—let alone extensive and time-consuming experiments. Only the hypothesis of Chapin, ease of infection in close proximity = droplets.
An example of the resistance to airborne, an obvious case of long-distance airborne transmission of smallpox in [occured in] Germany in 1970. SP airborne transmission debated for centuries, only definitely accepted in the complete absence of community transmission.
An infected person arrived from in Germany from Pakistan, where there were no cases at all. Only possible explanation was transmission through air. In latter tests, smoke from index case room went to rooms of secondary cases.
The case report shows the prevailing bias against airborne in Public Health: “The only remaining route of transmission considered reasonable was airborne spread of a virus-containing aerosol, **a possibility against which all of the investigators were initially prejudiced**”
Measles and chickenpox were similar, described as droplet diseases till mid-1980s, and only accepted when superspreading events with long-distance transmission made airborne undeniable.
Note that it is always the same error, going back to Chapin. Assuming that ease of transmission in close proximity (and decreasing transmission with distance) is proof of large droplets, and that airborne is very unlikely. For TB, measles, chickenpox… and COVID-19.
The same dynamic played out for SARS-1, observed ease of infection in close proximity was considered evidence of droplet transmission. Airborne transmission was considered unlikely, and only accepted if evidence was undeniable.
Adherents of droplet transmission were in control of all key public health institutions. Scientists proposing airborne transmission were typically ignored (as we saw later for COVID-19, and explaining persistence of errors).
Finally we get to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is so massive and disruptive that every researcher that can contribute in some way gets to work doing so. It includes lots of aerosol researchers (e.g. yours truly), with fast collaboration with medical researchers, virologists etc.
Despite a lack of direct evidence in favor of droplet or fomite transmission of COVID, by Mar 2020, @WHO concluded that ease of transmission in close proximity proved that COVID-19 was transmitted by those mechanisms, continuing Chapin’s 1910 error
The same errors described for other diseases are repeated for COVID-19 and the bar is moved higher. Unlike TB, animal transmission is not enough. Unlike measles, superspreading and long-distance transmission is not enough.
However, accumulating evidence in favor of airborne, and critical LACK of evidence for droplets or surfaces tilts the balance. Airborne transmission is (reluctantly and slowly) accepted.
Shockingly, no review has appeared (to my knowledge) on the evidence in favor of large droplet transmission, despite @WHO being so sure for a long time that it was dominant.
A @WHO-sponsored review has been written on “close contact transmission” equals “close proximity,” but that is a measurement of distance, NOT a mechanism of transmission! Still carrying the error of Chapin, confusing close proximity w/ spray droplets
That @WHO-sponsored review on close prox. transmission has also NOT been accepted for publ., and remains in limbo after over a year Even though THEY GET TO CHOOSE REVIEWERS! Read the comments that we posted on both articles:
“Aerosol-generating medical procedures” were the only accepted cause of airborne transmission for over a year (e.g. by @WHO). They originated from low-quality research in SARS-1. Research has show that real AGPs are talking, singing…
@WHO has finally accepted airborne transmission, including the fact that transmission in close proximity includes short-range airborne transmissionut only in Dec. 2021, after we pushed them a lot.
But both @WHO and @CDCgov communicate poorly about this, not explaining it to the public, and avoiding the word “airborne” (which is the clearest for the public) as much as they can, e.g. no mention of airborne COVID in @WHO’s extensive Twitter feed and especially no clear description of the control measures. As @kprather88 keeps saying, it is totally doable to majorly reduce transmission, once we accept it and get serious about it. But it is a really inconvenient truth for those in power…
So where does that leave us in mid-2022: – PH institutions such as @CDCgov have given up on explaining or preventing transmission. Too inconvenient for those in power. Scientifically, the cat is out of bag. Tons of evidence of airborne, some medical and public health people understand it.
Measures to improve ventilation are favored (e.g. by the @WhiteHouse) since they don’t face resistance from public, but they are inconsistently applied. Carbon dioxide meters are resisted by institutions, because they make poor ventilation obvious.
Not sure how this will evolve. But as it becomes scientifically clearer, it will be harder to justify lack of action. As we know from climate change (follow https://twitter.com/i/lists/1053067173961326594…), the scientific evidence can be overwhelming & those in power still resist inconvenient actions.
I’ve been lucky to work with the Morawska/@Don_Milton group of 36 scientists & with many others
@Don_Milton made me curious about history, mentioning Chapin and his impact. I was perplexed an “ancient” researcher could influence @WHO advisors today so much and started reading.
As we investigated many aspects of transmission, I kept an eye on the history. The paper on the 5 micron error with @katierandall and @linseymarr made me learn a lot, and also see more clearly the pendulum of history.
This was initally written as a Twitter thread, but it is worth expounding on further, and also requires a greater understanding of the role of Russian actions in the global economy and global security.
If this isn’t bad enough, Russia has a history of hacking into power grids to shut them down, including a successful attack bringing down the power for 230,000 people in 2015, which should serve as a warning of potential future attacks. It’s also worth noting that this recent attack was by Sandworm, a part of the Russian GRU, more formally known as the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. This is the same group behind the US cyberattack discovered in 2020.
This table was created on 6/27/2022. It is the WHO list of countries with unusual cases of monkeypox this year (those that don’t have endemic disease). It is also notable how many of these countries belong to NATO (yellow) and the highest case counts are all among NATO countries. Finland and Sweden applied to join on 5/18. A few others are a part of the NATO Partnership for Peace (blue). What remains looks like spillover cases.
“In the 1970s, smallpox was considered so important to our biological arsenal that the Soviet military command issued an order to maintain an annual stockpile of twenty tons.” Smallpox vaccines “must be administered before the first symptoms appear. The smallpox weapons we developed sharply reduced this comfort period. When we exposed monkeys to an aerosol of the highly virulent India-1, they contracted smallpox within one to five days.”
“In December 1987, three months after I arrived in Moscow, Kalinin presented me with my first big assignment: I was to supervise plans to create a new smallpox weapon…Considering that outsiders might be suspicious if they saw hundreds of people with the distinctive marks of flesh smallpox inoculations on their arms years after the Soviet Union had discontinued all immunization, we decided, after some deliberation, to issue a directive that workers be inoculated on their buttocks.”
“We calculated that the production line in the newly constructed Building 15 at Koltsovo was capable of manufacturing between eighty and one hundred tons of smallpox a year. Parallel to this, a group of arrogant young scientists at Vector were developing genetically altered strains of smallpox.”
To put tons of virus into context, “Fewer than five viral particles of smallpox were sufficient to infect 50 percent of the animals exposed to aerosols in our testing labs.” Nobody knows where all the manufactured smallpox went after the breakup of the USSR. Think of train tanker cars full.
How does one hide that they are vaccinating their population against a disease that isn’t present in the wild? One might combine it as an oral vaccine against both smallpox and Hep B, but tell the population that they are only getting Hep B vaccine as to stop rumors that this is being done. If one has been surreptitiously vaccinating their population against smallpox, then releasing monkeypox or smallpox as a biological weapon makes sense in a very weird, twisted way if one is willing to suppress the press and dissention.
A monkeypox attack would be an ideal way to delay early detection of a smallpox attack, allowing further spread of this horrible, eradicated disease with a mortality rate of 30%. Who knows what that could be if it were weaponized.
We are on the threshold of a big tipping point from which I suspect the healthcare system will not recover. This substrain appears to evade immunity, and in combination with more severe disease, means much higher inpatient and ICU bed demands.
It almost seems poetic that we have the worst superspreader event happening right now since the start of the pandemic. People aren’t wearing masks and are travelling all over the country over Independence Day weekend. People flexing their independence and not taking into account their impact on others around them is going to deal a very painful blow.
I have noticed some odd patterns in the US state data that stood out. In particular, I recall Ohio having a much higher proportion of pediatric hospitalizations than any other state. That left me wondering if other states that have reported pediatric hepatitis have had a higher proportion of pediatric hospitalizations as well, especially in comparison to states that have reported that they are not investigating any at this time. The statements for each state with hepatitis counts are taken from this website for TODAY, dated May 6, 2022.
I didn’t know exactly what I would find but my hunch was correct. I’m comparing states with pediatric hepatitis to those without. This can be done with the data itself, but I wanted to see if there was any visual differences that were obvious. It is quite clear that those states with a higher percentage of pediatric hospitalizations had a larger chance of having pediatric hepatitis.
The next piece I was going to add was a stringency index to see what kind of correlation there was with hospitalizations, but then I realized that I only had that data for nations, not US states.
Given my priority is prevention, the obvious piece was to look at how the lack of masks might be a part of the problem so I recreated all of the graphs with self-reported mask use rates and estimates of the use seen by others. The mask use is reflected on the right hand scale. Normally I would label these more carefully but I really wanted to get this information out, with the hopes of maybe influencing some policy as the BA.2 surge ramps up.
One thing to note is the consistently wide difference between self-reported mask use and what the same people perceived as use by others. Self-reporting is a known common problem in survey data in that people often want to make themselves look better in the data. This phenomena is known as social desirability bias. What is important to realize is that the true estimate is likely much closer to what is reported as percentages of the use by others (the yellow line).
Recall that the omicron BA.1 surge started around the end of November, which corresponds well with the rise in the pediatric proportion of hospitalizations in most states (again, except Ohio). That lends some support to hepatitis being associated with the omicron strains, although clearly it’s impossible to prove causation and may only be a temporal association. Given that pediatric hospitalizations were higher during this period though, it would seem to suggest that COVID, particularly omicron, is playing a causal role in the disease pathway.
Just a quick aside about Ohio. I’ve been watching pediatric hospitalizations there and have a very strong suspicion of what may be behind it. It could very well be due to a surface chemist by the name of Douglas Frank. He started a Facebook group at the beginning of the pandemic called “Dr. Frank Models” where he was going on about his expertise in modeling pandemics and predicting only about 1500 deaths in the US. Anyone that tried to counter his arguments were booted from his group, so it became an echo chamber of conspiracy theories as well as anti-mask and anti-vax propaganda. The group went through a couple of name changes and eventually was removed from Facebook. He claims that Facebook took it down, but I suspect that he and his admins did so because the evidence against his claims became so damning. It had grown to over 50,000 members. He relished in the attention and was always self-promoting himself to try to get news interviews. He is adept at making things look like advanced science and mathematics, but he’s really just playing off the lack of education among many of his followers who wanted something good to believe about the pandemic.
I also suspect that since he was doing all of this self promotion and getting on local media in Ohio as well as being asked to speak on the pandemic, many people in the state got on board with his false philosophy and that is why Ohio is in such bad shape when it comes to children there.
After his group disappeared, he went on to start claiming to be an expert on election fraud and is the “scientist” that is in one of Mike Lindell’s (My Pillow Guy) crackpot “documentaries” claiming that he has evidence for election fraud using a “6th degree polynomial” that has been repeatedly debunked. He parades Christianity and patriotism as a means to continue fooling his followers. His platforms of choice are now Telegram, Rumble, and other dubious sites.
So what is the take home message if in fact this hypothesis is right concerning hepatitis? It means we aren’t doing a good job at protecting our children, or pretty much a lot of people in American society. The cases of pediatric hepatitis also suggest that there are other chronic conditions that are likely to show up among those with a history of COVID infection in the future. Many have already been emerging.
Here are my recommendations:
Resume mask mandates in public spaces, particularly in schools, but also in workplaces.
Educate the public on the need for respirators, not just cloth masks. Even better, get these in the hands of the public using the Defense Production Act and make them freely available to those who might not be able to afford them. Have stockpiles of them available in the appropriate sizes for children in schools as well.
Improve ventialtion indoors by increasing the number of air changes per hour.
Add HEPA filtration systems to air handlers and make Corsi-Rosenthal boxes readily available in schools and workplaces to help reduce viral particles in the air since this disease is airborne. In addition, promote their use as a means to keep family members safe if one is currently infected.
Get the vaccine approved for those under age five.
Encourage vaccine manufacturers to get variant- and subvariant-specific vaccines in the pipeline when they are emerging, such as omicron BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.
Keep all of these measures in place until the END of the pandemic. The claims that we are in the “endemic phase” are simply false.
If we fail to take these measures, the health, social, and economic consequences will be worse for each that isn’t in place.
Finally, if anyone is interested in doing a multivariate analysis of the data for publication, I would be more than interested in coauthoring that with you.
States with Pediatric Hepatitis Cases and Counts (if available)
Arkansas (1) Arkansas Department of health is “investigating one potential case, but more investigation is necessary,” a statement to TODAY read.
California (7) The California Department of Public Health told TODAY in a statement on May 5 that it has “received reports of seven young children in California with severe hepatitis since October 2021. We do not know yet if adenovirus played a role in these rare illnesses or if these cases are connected.”
Colorado (4) After asking health providers in late April to start reporting cases of pediatric hepatitis with an unknown cause, the Colorado Department of Health told TODAY in a May 5 statement that it received one reported case that dated back to December 2021. The child was under 10 and tested negative for adenovirus at the time.
Georgia (handful) The health department in Georgia said it was also investigating a “handful” of cases as of late April, according to NBC News.
Idaho (2) The Idaho Department of Health is currently investigating two cases pediatric acute hepatitis of unknown origin, it told TODAY in a statement.
Illinois (3) The Illinois Department of Health announced in late April that it is investigating “three suspected cases of severe hepatitis in children under ten years of age, potentially linked to a strain of adenovirus. Two of the cases are in suburban Chicago and one is in Western Illinois.”
Louisiana (1) In late April, NBC News reported one case was being investigated in Louisiana.
Michigan (2) Two patients in Michigan meet the CDC’s criteria for being investigated as possibly part of the outbreak, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told TODAY.
Minnesota (3) The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating “several cases” of hepatitis in kids with an unknown cause, local NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported in late April.
New York (handful) New York health officials are investigating a “handful” of cases of hepatitis in kids with an unknown origin, NBC News reported in late April.
Ohio (6) Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio told NBC News that they had treated at least six cases in kids between 18 months and 10 years old, all of whom were from Ohio. One child needed a liver transplant.
Pennsylvania (multiple) The Pennsylvania health department is investigating “multiple cases for a possible connection” to the ongoing pediatric hepatitis outbreak of unknown origin but has not confirmed any, according to a statement to TODAY.
Texas (cases) University of Texas Health San Antonio has “seen cases of a mysterious and serious liver disease in otherwise healthy children” in South Texas, according to a statement.
The Texas Department of State Health Services told TODAY in a May 6 statement that the state has no confirmed cases of pediatric hepatitis associated with adenovirus 41. “We are aware that some local health departments are investigating cases of pediatric hepatitis to determine if they are associated with adenovirus type 41,” it said, adding that the investigations are ongoing.
Wisconsin (4) As of late April, the Wisconsin Department of Health is investigating at least four cases of unusual hepatitis in children, including one death and one liver transplant.
States with No Confirmed Cases – This may mean that cases are under investigation.
Florida — no confirmed cases
South Carolina — no confirmed cases
States with No Reported Cases (others not listed had not responded)
I posted this on Twitter on April 9th. I realized that I should have written it more clearly. I was simply trying to stress that we were about to see another steep climb in cases like we had seen with BA.1 in December.
I use the prior three weeks of data to calculate the first derivative of COVID cases. It provides a means to assess the rate of climb or decrease in cases, and also allows for some projection forward. I’ve used ten days as a cutoff to have a reasonably good estimate of the future. The second derivative is simply a measure of the rate at which the first derivative is going. When they are both positive, that’s a bad sign and why I expected cases to start rising very steeply around April 19th. This is the image on the right from above.
The data table showing the raw numbers for the first derivative is below. It should be pretty clear that this indicates that we are entering a rapid rate as expected. There is obviously some variation on a daily basis, partly because some states don’t report on weekends and others only once per week. This poses a major challenge for keeping tabs on what is happening day to day in each county, metro area, or state.
When that derivative is plotted against cases, it’s quite clear that we are starting a surge in the US that will continue to grow faster over the next ten days.
If that wasn’t enough, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the mask mandate on public transportation on April 18th. This was a terrible decision that will impact the health and safety of a number of people, particularly those who must use public transportation, which are often people of color, children under five who cannot be vaccinated, and those with compromised immune systems. This decision is almost analogous to removing airbags requirements from vehicles since they don’t prevent all traffic deaths. That will drive cases up in May as well.
Yes, a number of people use the wrong kinds of masks and/or use them incorrectly. We should be providing respirators to the public and teaching them how they should be used.
The longer we fail to take intervention measures, the more sickness and death that will occur, and the longer we will drag the pandemic out and risk even more variants. One of the major messages that isn’t being communicated enough is that death is NOT the only adverse outcome. Most people have heard of long COVID, but it doesn’t seem to register with people that there are considerably increased risks of chronic diseases from an infection. We are putting a very unfair burden on the future health of children.
The US is failing at mitigation. There are simple solutions that everyone should be taking. Wear a respirator around others. Get vaccinated. Improve ventilation in buildings. Avoid indoor gatherings with others outside of your household. In short, care about others.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
The image on the top is the current CDC risk map. The one below is their old methodology. Both of them are available to view with current data. You can select the drop-down to get the first map (or zoom in) by selecting “COVID-19 Community Levels.” Use “Community Transmission” to get the old version. I’ll update this occasionally with the date that the images were pulled in the title.
What gives CDC? It really looks like you have sold out to business and economic interests. It’s going to take decades to make your agency trustworthy again. Your old adage had been “Be First, Be Right, Be Credible.” Was there so much belt tightening that it’s just “Be First” now?
If you want to protect yourself and those around you, get vaccinated (or boosted), improve ventilation, and wear a N-95 or comparable respirator.