Covid Sightings: Omicron Reinfections, Brain Effects, Shabby US Performance, Western Australia Border Controls

Covid Sightings: Omicron Reinfections, Brain Effects, Shabby US Performance, Western Australia Border Controls 1

Some Covid developments that seemed worthy of a few more pixels than a link and a quick comment.

Omicron reinfections. We’d warned that Omicron reinfections were showing up at a surprising rate, given that Omicron was hardly anywhere at the end of November. The only conclusion one can reach is that some (many?) who get Omicron don’t get meaningful immunity. It appeared that the reinfections were in those famed “mild” cases.

Recall that the Imperial College REACT surveys are among the best data in the world on Covid. They test ~100,000 people every five weeks or so. And recall since the UK is a civilized country with a national health service, they have good data about the participants. The UK, unlike the US, also sequences a high percentage of the positive Covid samples.

The last REACT survey was January 5 to 20. CNBC summarizes the key findings:

The study found that 99% of sequenced positive swabs came from people infected with the omicron variant, with only 1% of infections being caused by the delta variant.

“We observed unprecedented levels of infection with SARS-CoV-2 in England in January 2022 and almost complete replacement of delta by omicron,” the study’s authors said in their paper released Wednesday.

Two-thirds of the 3,582 participants who tested positive in January reported they had already tested positive for Covid in the past. A further 7.5% of infected participants said they suspected they had previously had the virus, but had not had this confirmed with a test.

Indirectly confirmed by:

Additional intel:

Brain effects. We mentioned Anthony Leonardi’s concern, expressed in an interview in November with WSWS, about a Covid study performed on twelve rhesus macaque monkeys. All were infected with Covid and sacrificed to examine their brains. All had Lewy bodies. As we explained, that is a big deal because Lewy bodies over time produce Lewy body dementia, a degenerative disease.

Lambert found a hot-off-the-presses preprint on human brains. N=only 5, but scientist GM confirmed that it’s hard to do studies that require human tissue; the researchers have to be lucky and patient. From SARS-CoV-2 invades cognitive centers of the brain and induces Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology:

Acute neurological disorders occur in many patients, and one-third of COVID-19 survivors suffer from “brain diseases”. Here, we show that SARS-CoV-2 invades the brains of five patients with COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s, autism, frontotemporal dementia or no underlying condition by infecting neurons and other cells in the cortex. SARS-CoV-2 induces or enhances Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology with manifestations of -amyloid aggregation and plaque formation, tauopathy, neuroinflammation and cell death. SARS-CoV-2 infects mature but not immature neurons derived from inducible pluripotent stem cells from healthy and Alzheimer’s individuals through its receptor ACE2 and facilitator neuropilin-1. SARS-CoV-2 triggers Alzheimer’s-like gene programs in healthy neurons and exacerbates Alzheimer’s neuropathology…

We found that SARS-CoV-2 invades the cognitive centers of all five COVID-19 patients, leading to Alzheimer’s-like neuropathology or Alzheimer’s neuropathology exacerbation. SARS-CoV-2 infects human inducible pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived mature neurons from healthy individuals, leading to amyloid beta (A) deposition, increased inflammation, neuronal death and increased expression of Alzheimer’s mediators. Strikingly, we found that SARS-CoV-2-infects neurons from healthy individuals through a shared gene expression program with Alzheimer’s neurons, leading to activation of the infectious pathways and supporting the infectious etiology of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eeek. The only possible solace is this was a very small study; perhaps this damage isn’t as pervasive if you get a bigger and therefore more representative population. Still….

Western Australia’s cordon sanitaire of sorts Oddly, the press has largely ignored Western Australia’s stringent and generally very successful Covid restrictions. The Financial Times has a long story yesterday on how they were being tested by Omicron plus fatigue. Despite predictable whining by senior businessmen who can’t abide having to quarantine if they want to visit, as well as complaints about worker shortages, the piece was pretty even-handed if you read it in full. For instance, it pointed out that the mining industry in the far side of the back of beyond often had trouble with staffing and it wasn’t clear how much of the current crunch could be attributed to Covid. From the Financial Times:

Western Australia, the country’s largest and most mineral-rich state, was due this week to finally open its domestic borders after two long years operating as a “hermit state”.

But the rapid rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant prompted an abrupt reversal of that plan…

Western Australia is home to many of the country’s largest mines, ranging from the huge iron ore pits in the Pilbara operated by BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group and Hancock Prospecting to smaller operators digging for nickel, lithium and gold.

The border closure has played a large part in protecting the country’s mining industry from the worst ravages of the pandemic. Omicron has begun to penetrate the state, with the first case confirmed at BHP’s Yandi iron ore mine last week when a train driver tested positive, forcing 70 of his colleagues to isolate.

Covid-19 cases, which have had a devastating effect at mines outside the state, have been rare. But the closure of Western Australia’s borders has also led to a labour shortage, particularly of train drivers, mining and electrical engineers, geologists and geophysicists….

Australia initially adopted strict border closures internally and internationally, which helped keep its toll of infections and deaths comparatively low. Most states relaxed the restrictions, however, after vaccination rates increased and in response to accusations that the border closures infringed on citizens’ rights. Only Western Australia has kept its border closed.

Jakob Madsen, professor of economics at the University of Western Australia, questioned how much of an impact the border closure has had on the labour market, noting there was already a shortage in the industry due to a mining boom that has been heightened by some workers’ unwillingness to get vaccinated, a government requirement.

I’d very much appreciate further comment from readers Down Under and otherwise knowledgeable about how Western Australia is faring. Having said that, when I lived in Sydney, WA got the short shrift in news coverage. But it most assuredly is not an autarky; the growing areas are in the eastern part of the continent. But WA should feature on the list showing that Covid minimization is possible and also does not cripple the economy, US media mouthpieces to the contrary.

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