On dangers in schools

Heartbreaking visuals and stories from Texas this morning as we woke to news of yet another school shooting in the USA. As a parent hearing these things, you always subconsciously put yourself in the position of those who sent their kids off to school on what should have been just another normal day, only for things never to be the same again, and you take special care to tell your kids that you love them as they head off to class.

And yes, my kids also go through active shooter and lockdown drills at school. They shouldn’t have to.

Sure, we can’t protect our children from everything, but there’s no justification in the incomprehensibly wicked act that we are hearing about today. Neither from the individual, nor from the laws and institutions that made it possible for it to take place.
And yet there will be plenty that will claim that this is a false flag; plenty more that will argue that it’s a price we have to pay for keeping our “freedoms” intact.

You don’t have to listen to them. Today or any other day.

The cartoon above isn’t from today. People can argue that “freedom” point until they’re blue in the face.

I’ll happily listen to their arguments on masks. I recognise that masks aren’t perfect. I think we’d all rather not have to wear them. But – and yes, of course I have done a lot of reading around this – they do offer a degree of protection against infection. And that’s hugely valuable and when known Covid positive individuals are allowed (and even encouraged, nogal!) to be out and about amongst the general public and – specifically in this case – in classrooms, we need every bit of defence and protection we can get.

One in every five symptomatic people still with active, infectious virus in their nasal passages 11 days after their positive test. One in six after 12 days. Still more than one in sixteen after two weeks.

And yet they’re allowed back into school 7 days after their symptoms begin (and we’re told to wait 5 days for a test!). Asymptomatic kids don’t have to stay off school at all. And then we wonder why there is so much morbidity continuing around us.

No. Covid isn’t as bad as being shot dead in your classroom. But it’s so easy to help protect our kids against it. So I’ll listen to your case on masks and I’ll state mine. We might agree: I doubt it, but there’s always that possibility. And then we’ll keep on wearing masks in schools.

Guns, though? No. I’m not listening. Been there, tried that.
Because there is no balance to be had there, there’s nothing to argue.

The South African pro-gun lobby will proudly and loudly brandish their occasional stories of an allegedly foiled hijacking or burglary, illogically extrapolating that to explain how an armed citizen could somehow prevent every incident of local crime, while conveniently ignoring the horrendous number of daily firearm-related deaths in SA and the number of household guns stolen (20,000+ each year) which clearly only exacerbates the problems we face here.

And yes, I know the police have their guns stolen, too. And that’s equally crap.
But adding yours to the pot still doesn’t help anyone, does it?

And then their comparing South Africa’s situation with the USA’s. Sure, both have unacceptably high gun deaths and both have differing gun laws. But they are wholly different societies and thus the comparison is also wholly invalid. It’s only made because it favours their case.
It’s the same tactic as choosing to compare Sweden’s “no lockdown” [sigh] Covid response and stats with (say) Bulgaria’s. Sweden suddenly looks amazing. But compare Sweden’s stats with countries that are actually like Sweden, such as Norway, Denmark and Finland, rather than an impoverished, ex-Soviet bloc totalitarian state, and suddenly, it all falls apart. So they don’t do that.
Rather compare the US with Canada or the UK on the gun issue. But they won’t, because that doesn’t fit their agenda.

Of course, the irony comes when the you realise that those advocating for masks to be banned “to protect our kids” and those suggesting that “every citizen should carry a gun”, are exactly the same people. The Venn diagram is actually just a circle.

It would be laughably stupid if the consequences weren’t so very damaging.

More microbiology news

I hinted at a bit of a viral revival just yesterday, but I wasn’t quite expecting the rest of microbiology’s greatest villians to kick in just yet. Still, they did.

Monkeypox goes Iberian:

Portuguese authorities have confirmed five cases and are investigating another 15 suspected cases. In a statement on Wednesday, Portugal’s health ministry said the cases it had detected – all in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region – had all involved men whose symptoms included ulcerative lesions.

While in Madrid:

“Generally speaking, monkeypox is spread by respiratory transmission, but the characteristics of the eight suspected cases point towards fluid contact,” the spokesperson said.

Fernando Simón, an epidemiologist who heads Spain’s health emergencies centre, said while it was unlikely that monkeypox would spread significantly, “that can’t be ruled out”.

Salmonella in Belgian Chocolate:

Obviously not a virus, but still small and nasty, so it fits here.
This one has been going for a while now, but an updated report means that we can include it in this week’s microbiology news. Belgium chocolate is known for its quality and its creamy, luxurious taste, and now also for containing Salmonella typhimurium ST34. Delicious.

Cases, which have now started to decrease, stood at 324 (including both probable and confirmed) in the EU/EEA and the UK, as of 18 May 2022. They have been reported in twelve EU/EEA countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden), the UK, Switzerland, Canada, and USA.

Polio in Mozambique:

Awful news about the first wild poliovirus infection in Moz in over 30 years.

The case was diagnosed in a child in the northeastern province of Tete, it said. “The detection of another case of wild poliovirus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi,” WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti said.
Poliomyelitis – the medical term for polio – is an acutely infectious and contagious viral disease which attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.

The virus was tracked back to the outbreak in Malawi from a strain originally circulating in Pakistan. Local countries are now desperately trying get all their children vaccinated before there is any further spread.

Corona continues:

No handy news report to go with this one, but despite the numbers starting to drop in SA, there have been three five more confirmed cases in people I know in the last 24 hours.


I’d love to see the provincial data: it’s my feeling that a significant decline from the previously high numbers in Gauteng might be masking a steady (or even slightly increasing) case load in the Western Cape. Certainly anecdotally, we’re feeling a bit surrounded by it again. A reminder to please act sensibly and responsibly because this clearly isn’t done yet.

And obviously, a get well soon to those in question. You know who you are.

And that’s it for today this particular hour as far as microbiology news goes. Join us again tomorrow for more happy happy joy joy fun and games as thousands of people get sick thanks to various germs, disease and infection.

Promise made, promise kept

“The best way to keep your word is not to give it,
I don’t make promises ’cause promises die.”

said PM Dawn in the 90s.


But I did give my word about 6 months ago:

…and so the only way to keep it was to follow through. And that’s what I did yesterday afternoon, before inviting Pastor Agony and his World of Pain Ministries to give me a day-long sermon today.

A few thoughts:

A year ago, this would have been mundane, routine. Yesterday, it took everything that I had. But I made it. And I fully recognise that it’s not a big deal to do this (and a whole lot more) for a lot of people, but these things are all relative. I’m going to slow down again now for a while. This just needed doing, it has been done, and now I can just gradually get back into gentle, shorter runs to continue to improve my fitness.

Post-Covid tachycardia is a real thing. I don’t need to go into details here, but that particular graph wasn’t particularly pretty for this run. And it continued to be particularly unpretty for quite a while afterwards.

On that note, if my heart does give up (and I really don’t think that it’s going to happen), please make sure that everyone understands that the virus is responsible:

Those with a history of COVID19 infection were more likely to have the following 12 months later: strokes, dysrhythmias (five different kinds), inflammatory heart disease (like myocarditis), heart disease (four different types, including heart attacks), other cardiac disorders (like heart failure), and clotting issues (like pulmonary embolisms).
The risks for each of these varied. For example, the risk of a heart attack was 63% higher among those with a prior COVID19 infection compared to those without an infection. The risk for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) was 538% higher.

Don’t let the tin-foilers tell anyone it was the vaccine. In fact, go one step further and punch anyone that suggests it had anything to do with the vaccine – on my behalf, of course. Violence was never (ok, rarely) the answer when I was alive, but I see no reason to hold back now I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

And finally, the battle to get back to pre-Covid fitness continues. Just perhaps not at this level for the next few months.

But… I did it.

Day 724 – I’m Breathless

Remember that Madonna album based around the Dick Tracy film back in 1990? The album’s title came from her character in the movie: Breathless Mahoney, and while much of it was eminently forgettable, it did give us Vogue and the pisspoor Hanky Panky (featuring the line: “Nothing like a good spanky”).

Ah Jesus.

Fortunately, the 90s got better.

Anyway, I’m only mentioning it because today, I’m breathless. As in, just very short of breath. Now, we’ve been here before with these unexpected and uninvited Covid symptoms, but usually, they come all at once and then leave all at once. This one has popped in alone. Apart from the odd gasp, I’m feeling fine.

Yes, otherwise, I am well. Thanks for asking.

We walked on the beach, saw birds, walked the beagle and rockpooled: it was great fun, just all a bit of a struggle on the respiration front. Weird.

Hopefully, this disappears as quickly as Madonna’s terrible album and all will be right again by tomorrow.

Day 717 – But weight, there’s less!

When I got Covid, I lost a lot of weight very quickly. Like 10 or 12kg in a 7 days. And that was because I was literally too weak to eat anything. I was surviving on Lucozade alone (well, and Myprodol, but that probably had limited effects in the weight department).

Once I was through the acute phase, that weight went back on fairly quickly (probably because it came off pretty quickly as well), which is good, because that initial weight was quite a good weight for me to be. However, over the next 6 months, being fully able to eat and drink (more than just Lucozade), but not being able to do any exercise (see 6000 miles… passim.), I gained a lot more weight.
And that was bad, because that was a bad weight for me to be.

So now I have started with some gentle exercise again, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally been losing a bit of mass. And I don’t need to go into details here, but last week, I managed to pass a significant milestone weight on my weight loss journey. And that means that I have lost 7.2kg since the beginning of the year. Again, this weight is coming off fairly easily because it went on easily and it isn’t meant to be there. A bit of gentle temptation and sensible behaviour, and it goes to wherever spare weight is mean to go.

Given the way I have lost weight thus far, I’d imagine that I’ll pop back above the milestone weight – giving the digital display on the scales and extra 50% work to do again – before I stay under it. But that’s fine by me, as long as the general trend remains downwards.

Now come the hard yards, though. I’m not quite back down to my pre-Covid weight (yes, I have put on that much), and I’d like to shed a couple more kilos on top of (underneath?) that as well, so the next bit might go a little more slowly. But I’m confident that it will go.

Would I recommend Covid as a weight loss plan? Well, yes and no. It’s clearly extremely effective, but it does come with some utterly horrific side effects. So overall, probably not.

Would I recommend eating less and exercising more [thanks, TA] as a better method? Certainly.
But all within reason: unless there is some urgent medical issue that requires immediate and drastic weight loss, be gentle on your body and if it needs a beer or to every now and again, give it a beer or two every now and again.

There’s definitely more to life than a target weight.