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Lets Return to Standard Virus Testing

UPDATE 20 October:  I guess that Covid and Influenza numbers have been blended over the past two quarters.   This challenges any interpretation of the pandemic I think.  Also by blending, they have dragged influenza into the picture and so the regulatory-strength Right Side Roadmap RSR best practices guidance now applies as well.

But since they haven’t been applying surveillance quality testing, public testing laboratories appear to be in violation of their own regulatory-quality guidelines.  Do I have that right?

Fortunately, I worked on a great project which permitted us to quickly grow around that irreproducible material.

UPDATE 16 October:  I’ve reviewed the WHO resource that documents tests for influenza.  This appears to additionally confirm my posts below.  Only a handful of tests across the US since April have been reported.  The graphics are much like the previous update for this post, and in combing through past years, any might appreciate the rich patterns and overlapping cyclic resonance.  This is only a blog but even as I critique, I also appreciate these careful compilations.

I personally guess that these tests have continued.  They are not being shared with their constituents, if that is correct.  I hope all in the relevant fields will work to correct at the earliest opportunity.  I’ve done my part maybe by continuing to reach out to flu surveillance professionals and ask fundamental questions as a peer.  Here is a screenshot of an email I sent today.  The Rightside Roadmap Resource workforce are a premier contributor I think to the formalization of data consolidation into these flu strain variety histograms and many other topics.

They’ve responded and we are discussing.

And I reached out to my local state representative Natalie Figueroa to try to interest her to press on my behalf and yours hopefully, towards the public fulfillment of reporting fundamental testing variables.  As noted below, the tests are not only unhinged from hospitalizations, they are also detached from any indication of the actual number of test subjects.  There is an unfilled box for that at the NM site.  I encourage any reader to join in me in sharing with their local health care and news services, an expectation that this number should be reported every time tests are reported in any context.

UPDATE 12 October:  I’ve reviewed the CDC resource that documents tests for influenza.  This appears to confirm my post below.  I’m including a new image set, which shows that influenza testing (via their record of positive tests) abruptly shut down in late Spring of 2020.  The inset shows the update for this new flu season.  Amazingly, only 1 test has been conducted for everyday flu so far this season.

This isn’t normal.  Since this is only a blog I might add, it is outrageous.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s an example from 2018-2019 season.  Note that there is no abnormal truncation of information over the Spring, or any other part. Rather the patterns follow the typical “bell curve” as all in the epidemiologal, virological, immunological, and everyday physician community used to take for granted.

The inset again shows the update for the early part of the flu season that followed this time last year.  By week 40 of 2019, before Covid was a household word, over 150 positive tests were recorded.

I will continue to examine and pursue additional learning.  For example, did you know that the Covid and Influenza viruses are nearly identical in every way?  They both have the same “business end”  Neuraminidase (N) and Hemagglutinin (H) glycoprotein stubs surrounding a bag of RNA.   The only basic difference appears to be that Covid virus RNAs are “positive stranded” and Influenza virus RNAs are “negative stranded”.

Yet the “business end” of both viruses as I related are tied into the glycoproteins, and they also are practically identical in size and shape.  They appear to be purely identical in regard to function.  Somewhat like the difference perhaps between a right-handed and left-handed pitcher (if any remember pre-Covid baseball).   Is the right handed pitcher a monster?  Certainly this chiral puzzle deserves added attention.  This is only a blog and I appreciate the unfairness of that, but for the sake of argument, imagine if some expert (from Johns Hopkins) began to argue that right handed people comprise a different species than left handed humans.  Humans have two hands and they all do many similar things with them.

SRVs can procreate as well to stretch that definition.   Virus RNAs can merge to create new strains if two (or more?) viruses have infected the same cell.  And as mentioned, these ovoid respiratory viruses regardless of stranding positive or negative, each have two sets of gylcoprotein “hands”.  And just like humans, the left and right glycoprotein spikes do practically all of the same things with them.

On that note, these similarities are not limited in the virus world.  There are almost identical viruses that infect algae, and it has been reported that these algae viruses have sometimes infected the respiratory systems of humans.    In my emergent view, viruses are like air, since they are everywhere the air and surface water are.  A friend just sent me a link to a story that the Covid-19 virus was just found in fruit, and to me that is not a surprise.

 

Original post follows:

Pictured:  A quiet Covid-19 testing station on a bright summer weekday in NM 2020.*

Lets return to standard virus testing without delay.  Normally emergency room visits and related hospitalizations for respiratory conditions are the primary drivers for additional respiratory tests, if any.  And in that context, a patient is often tested for more than one respiratory pathogen.  The CDC consolidates many of the test and sample feeds from the US states and examines some samples for even more strains.  Here’s a nice graphic of what they say that they do [1]:

Whatever else it is known for, the CDC has demonstrated a consistent interest in building a better collective understanding of the challenging variety and abundance of seasonal respiratory viruses (SRV)s.  Obviously it was not standard practice for  CDC to only test for one strain.   And that seems rational because there would be many variations of SRV clades to justify a disregard of.

However, this year without any scientific predicate, millions of people, with and without symptoms, have been tested for only one SRV strain.   This is also the only year where so many people without any symptoms have been recruited.

It may have been reported by at least one health care worker, that even in a hospital or ED setting sometimes the only SRV tested is SARS-CoV-2.  That might be a concern given the context but if true, the impact of these limitations might be evident when the CDC repeats its annual exercise of reviewing hospitalization data and samples. Simply because of the routine information-rich phylogenetic diagrams, there would be a clear signature if only one strain were repeatedly tested and others were repeatedly not tested.

The publicly funded CDC practices, which happen to also support these remarkable virus clade diagrams, sharply contrast to the practice of only recognizing, testing and reporting one SRV strain (SARS-CoV-2 of course), as favored by  Michael Bloomberg-funded Johns Hopkins sites on Covid-19.  The CDC practices also appear to repudiate Johns Hopkins’ other practice of IGNORING HOSPITALIZATION and ED stats.

In my opinion, the CDC and their FluNet partners appear to have followed a commendable, routine, transparent, and rational prioritization of which prospective categories of humanity should be tested, and which viral strains are tested for.  That is also the ultimate basis for the flu vaccines which are reformulated annually.   But is that still the case?

With regard to this year’s suggested strains, the FDA wrote [2]:

FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) met in Silver Spring, Maryland, on March 4, 2020, to select the influenza viruses for the composition of the influenza vaccine for the 2020-2021 U.S. influenza season. During this meeting, the advisory committee reviewed and evaluated the surveillance data related to epidemiology and antigenic characteristics of recent influenza isolates, serological responses to 2019-2020 vaccines, and the availability of candidate strains and reagents. ….The committee recommended … influenza vaccines for the U.S. 2020-2021 influenza season contain the following (4 strains):

  • an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus;
  • an A/HongKong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Washington/02/2019- like virus (B/Victoria lineage);
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).    

Given these explicit assignments, one can guess that at least last year, the professionals tested for more than one strain.  Since four strains were assigned for the vaccine, there actually is no room left for a fifth.   Look it up if you must, but no SRV vaccination program ever has been devised to fight more than 4 (out of countless) strains.  There is a serious loss of effectiveness if more than 4 are bundled into one flu shot per year.  Perhaps there are medical risks as well, given so much antigenic stress in one tiny package.    Accordingly, after the epic sums have been applied to develop a fifth vaccine for Covid-19, if successful, there will be no room at the inn.  How this concern will (soon?) be addressed is yet another puzzle, because the current flu vaccine of 4 strains is widely and intensively promoted.

Few probably are aware that even without the novelty of Covid-19, vaccinations for SRVs may be one of the most troubling “success” stories on our planet.  One can confirm that as SRV vaccinations have climbed, flu cases have risen exponentially.   Given that the data defies the objective, are SRV vaccination campaigns labeled a success purely because straight-faced virologists, immunologists, epidemiologists,  and your family doctor have said so?

LOOKING AHEAD

We deserve the most accountable scientific approach when it comes to the current pandemic and the related lockdowns.  It seems more than ever, that the Covid-19 morbidity, as tallied by the CDC, is no more dangerous than many strains of SRV.  Yet none of us signed up to be locked down for any other flu for now or forever.

If you don’t like being locked down without a better reason, then a group I’m loosely affiliated with, SDR, has a recommendation.  Please consider reaching out publicly and privately to our health science people and telling them you would prefer a return to the normal rational routine of SRV bean counting and the related factors noted at the beginning of this post.  That means only testing the humans with symptoms.

If the experts insist on continuing the unusual practice of testing of people who are not sick, one could work within community forums to ask that they test at least also for each of the other four strains which are targeted in the bullet list above, as well as the currently favored strain for the Covid-19 virus.

In other words, at least five tests could be applied whenever any health care worker collects a sample from any person, whether they are symptomatic or not.   This would be important, even if for any other reason they had to reduce the number of recruits tested.   Now millions have been recruited for testing of one strain.  The data from a much smaller sample, with 5 strains tested, will be helpful and statistically significant.  Such ecumenical information might also be eye-opening.

The anomalous method now, of only one strain being tested, doesn’t seem to be merited or scientific in any way.

 

The Other Anomaly: LET’S DISCLOSE HOW MANY UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS ARE TESTED

It’s also anomalous to simply report the number of tests without reporting the number of unique individuals tested.  That concern would be amplified if there were only one strain tested.

Here’s a color-ranked example which includes McKinley County, New Mexico.  For that county the number of tests reported now exceeds the number of adults for that county.  Bernalillo County (Albuquerque) appears to be close behind in this trend.  Yet I only know a handful here who have without solicitation, disclosed being tested.

The health professionals do know how many unique individuals have actually been tested, because they break down that information into other forms which they disclose.  If health care experts were thinking more keenly about how they can best serve the public, they would now be posting these two new index sets, one for the other virus strains and the other for the actual numbers of humans tested.

Any are also welcome to read a letter from a critical mass of health care professionals who share the spirit of this post.  I’ve signed their petition, and you can too.

 

References

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/freeresources/graphics/infographic-lab-work.htm?fbclid=IwAR09kJHBZSxh-RJ5zOmdsFeW_1yYEnFwsm0y5MswARPZ9cGlxBryak_a8R0

[2] https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/lot-release/influenza-vaccine-2020-2021-season

*About the Author and the Picture:  I am a hydroclimatologist and nanoscientist who was tested for the coronavirus in Gallup, NM during the pandemic.  I wasn’t tested at the featured UNM satellite location (below the lion) because it was not open.  I also recently coauthored an original paper on pollen, influenza and Covid-19 which is featured currently at the top of the About MWA page.

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