Home Covid-19 Trust The Guardian To Even Get Medicine Wrong

Trust The Guardian To Even Get Medicine Wrong

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Sure and we can all have our views on what is happening with the coronavirus and even more so with what should be. Just to be open about it mine is it’s endemic now so open up again and suck it up.

But such views – perhaps more correctly described as different evaluations of the trade offs – do not excuse people simply getting the underlying logic wrong. As in this in The Guardian:

Why has the mortality rate for coronavirus decreased in the UK? The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has analysed data from more than 10,000 patients admitted to intensive care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and shown that the 28-day mortality of patients admitted to ICU has fallen from 43.5% before the April peak to 34.5% after the peak – a decrease of nine percentage points.

That’s not actually the Covid-19 mortality rate. Rather, that’s the rate of those sent into ICU from Covid-19. That’s sorta trivial but the logical error isn’t.

Some have suggested this may be due to “herd immunity” or that over time we have learned how to successfully treat this disease. But there’s scant evidence to support these claims. So what’s going on?

It’s not going to be anything to do with herd immunity because that would mean people don’t catch it and aren’t sent into ICU to die or not from it. That is herd immunity changes – if it exists of course – the numbers before we’ve started counting by this measure.

Emerging data suggests that some people who have not been exposed to Sars-Cov-2 have a type of white blood cell (T cell) that recognises the virus because it has previously been exposed to other coronaviruses, such as the common cold. Whether these cross-reactive T cells prevent or lessen the impact of infection in people with coronavirus is not yet known. It’s an intriguing preliminary finding, but there’s currently no evidence that we have herd immunity in the UK.

Studies have consistently shown that fewer than 20% of the UK population have antibodies to coronavirus in their blood, and we don’t fully understand the mechanisms by which our immune systems deal with this new virus effectively.

The term herd immunity is ill-defined and unhelpful. It suggests that we can now relax our adherence to measures such as social distancing and facial coverings.

All of which is entirely irrelevant. The measure used at the top is about how many die once caught. All the discussion is about how many catch.

Think back to the last pandemic for a moment. We can treat – although very rarely cure – HIV these days. But the limitation of the disease was rather about don’t share needles and be a bit more careful about sharing gonads. Further, we don’t measure the success of failure of Retrovir by the change in behaviour in bathhouses. They are different things, to be measured differently, and the success or failure of one does not change the success or failure of the other.

Fewer people dying in ICU tells us about treatment in ICU. It does not tell us about herd immunity nor T-cells stopping the initial infection and all that.

Dr Charlotte Summers is a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge

Trust The Guardian to hire the wrong person to write the piece.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. “Dr Charlotte Summers is a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge”

    Those who can do. Those who can’t teach.

  2. ‘ Why has the mortality rate for coronavirus decreased in the UK?

    Actually everywhere…

    Because it’s a fraction, the size of which is determined by the denominator. Therefore if 2 people catch SARS-2 and 1 dies, the death rate is 1/2 = 50%. However as time passes and we learn that many more people have had the disease and did not die, the denominator increases with respect to the nominator… so. 20 died but 5000 had the disease, so now the death rate = 0,4% – for example.

    However there are two measures, Infection Mortality Rate (IMR), that is mortality of all who have had the infection, and Case Mortality Rate (CMR), that is mortality of those whose infection turns into a ‘case’ which means hospitalisation, but not necessarily in ICU. This will be higher than IMR for SARS-2 which does not produce ‘cases’ in over 99% of populations. CMR is 2% to 3% on current data. IMR is 0,16% to 0,2%, like moderate to bad Winter ‘flus.

    However the Grauniad is really adrift here not understanding mortality rates nor immune response. T-cell response from innate immunity means people don’t end up in ICU or in hospital in the first place.

    Reduced mortality may be because fewer patients are being put on ventilators, which in cases of lung tissue damage can make the damage worse, and certainly cannot repair it. Despite the initial hysteria about shortage of ventilators, it all went quiet when sensible voices among critical care doctors pointed out the known dangers of ventilators – they can kill – and their likely ineffectiveness in treating SARS-2 patients anyway.

  3. Herd immunity is not evidenced by the total disappearance of the disease, rather by the incidence declining. Deaths, hospitalisations and the proportion of tested people testing positive have been declining since early April, hence we reached herd immunity then.
    Of course the number of people that need to become non-susceptible varies according to the number of contacts a person makes, which we have been attempting to limit by the various lockdown measures.
    It is possible-not in my opinion likely- that removing the lockdown measures entirely will so increase person to person contact that a significant further number will need to catch and recover from the disease before we are at herd immunity for normal life. The only way to find out is to try it. Which one day we must anyway.
    As to reduced case mortality that has to down to improved treatment. It occurs to me that there is much scope for further improvement.

  4. One issue that I haven’t seen commented on is that data shows that infections were falling before local local downs were implemented in places like Leicester and Preston. That was also the case before the national lockdown.

    We’ve been led to believe that this disease is so infectious that it very quickly goes exponential, whilst that was obviously the case when it first struck it doesn’t appear to be now.

    Does that mean the the social distancing we’ve been practicing eg washing hands, not talking in to each other’s faces etc is enough to keep a lid on it or could it mean that we’re close to some sort of herd immunity and susceptibility is a lot lower than the original assumptions?

    I appreciate there could be a summer effect as we’re all out and about a bit more and there’s evidence UV light destroys the virus, but wouldn’t it be better to let these local flare ups run while we’ve got health care capacity to get a better understanding?

  5. The Guardian is my “go to” source for fact-checking: if they say up I’ll know the answer’s down.
    Perverted by Woke and lefty nonsense, supported by the fruits of slavery, they are a bad joke.

  6. “Fewer people dying in ICU tells us about treatment in ICU.”

    And about changes in the criteria for admission to ICU.

    ICU is only a fraction of hospitalizations – if the UK’s covid death rate among all hospitalizations was still 34.5% they would have an awful lot of explaining to do.

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