The virus is still evolving? INCONCEIVABLE.

The latest from Science informs us of more COVID variants taking over, and they’re good at avoiding our immune systems.

Once again, South Africa is at the forefront of the changing COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiologists and virologists are watching closely as cases there rise sharply again, just 5 months after the Omicron variant caused a dramatic surge. This time, the drivers are two new subvariants of Omicron named BA.4 and BA.5, which the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa first detected in January.

The new strains didn’t have much of an impact initially, but over the past few weeks case numbers in South Africa jumped from roughly 1000 per day on 17 April to nearly 10,000 on 7 May. A third subvariant called BA.2.12.1 is spreading in the United States, driving increases along the East Coast.

It’s still unclear whether the new subvariants will cause another global COVID-19 wave. But like the earlier versions of Omicron, they have a remarkable ability to evade immunity from vaccines, previous infection, or both—a disturbing portent for the future of the pandemic and a potentially serious complication for vaccine developers.

In most cases, vaccination or earlier infection still seem to provide protection from severe disease. “There’s no reason to freak out,” says John Moore, an immunologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. The new strains are “an additional hassle,” he says, but “there’s no indication that they’re more dangerous or more pathogenic.”

I guess no one in my university’s administration ever reads Science, though.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Well, it’s only 1 million excess deaths. WHO reports that COVID-19 deaths are likely 3 times higher, due to underreporting, people not seeking medical care or just plain unconfirmed by testing is any other cause of death, so that could be 3 million excess deaths – dangerously close to 1% of the US population.
    But then, nobody liked those people anyway or something.

    I still say that the disease and virus should be renamed for the person who did it the most good, so it’d be the Trump virus.

  2. Artor says

    “Another” global wave? Doesn’t that imply that the previous global wave has stopped? Because I hadn’t gotten the impression that it has, at all.

  3. rorschach says

    I’m the medical lead of the local public health Covid unit, and I’m about to give up. Today the EU declared that mask mandates in airports and on planes will be dropped, my own agency is dropping masks next week, and noone is testing anymore, while media giddily and wrongly report declining incidences. Mass delusion on a colossal scale, I have never seen anything like it.
    All this while the SARS virus happily takes up the offer and mutates away, BA 4/5 is really bad news mutation-wise, it’s a kind of “best of” of Delta and Omicron, 100% more deaths, reinfections more severe, more hospitalisations according to a Brazil study just published. 10% chronically ill and in many cases unable to work due to brain fog, dementia, dyspnoea, weakness etc.
    That this was allowed to happen is to me completely inconceivable.

  4. KG says

    Really, this virus is not very bright! How many times does it need to be told that the pandemic is over?

  5. hemidactylus says

    Well at least our immune systems evolve in real time too, which keeps them tracking microbes with much quicker generation times.

  6. dianne says

    Why aren’t our vaccines evolving more quickly? All you need for a new mRNA vaccine is the new sequence and a PCR. The principle is proven, future evaluations can be limited to safety and antibody production (similar to new flu shots). What’s the hold up?

  7. dianne says

    rorschach @3: Yeah, the incidence is going to go down if you don’t test. The excess death rate, now, that’s going to be harder to make go away.

  8. rorschach says

    @6 “Why aren’t our vaccines evolving more quickly?”

    Hey Dianne, I think this might be partly due to the fact that this virus mutates so quickly, and in so many spots, that figuring out what epitope to choose for a booster is really difficult. It swaps amino acids quicker than you can say amino acid. The problem is that we give this virus too many hosts to mutate in. NoCovid is the only way to control this disaster. But politicians chose to infect all of us to go for herd immunity, which was never an option.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    🎵Meet the new wave, same as the old wave.🎵
    (Those emojis look to me more like Hebrew letters than musical notes, but they are the best I could find.)

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Well, it’s only 1 million excess deaths.

    And that’s just the U.S.. The global death toll is around 6,251,366, and as you pointed out, it’s probably A LOT higher.

    Here’s an amusing anecdote: A few years back, a poster on one of the online TTRPG forums I frequented had put up synopsis of a sci-fi campaign setting they were working on for comment. Therein, the world decides to to come together in harmony when an asteroid threatens to snuff out human civilization. I, being the ray of joy and sunshine that I am, point out that it was far, far more likely that humanity–being the greedy, bigoted, superstitious animals we are–would turn on one another, fighting for resources, consolidating their power so they can be on top once the dust cleared, or outright denying the impending disaster. I was then set upon by the author and other posters about how cynical and pessimistic (Oh no!) I was. that humanity is inherently good, and will always seek to help one another in a time of crisis.

    After the last 6 years, I wonder what those guys would say now?

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    INCONCEIVABLE indeed: evil liberals are still designing new variants in cave labs in Wuhan and Ukraine, to expedite replacing true Americans!!1!

  12. PaulBC says

    Akira MacKenzie@11

    After the last 6 years, I wonder what those guys would say now?

    [In best 10-year-old what-kind-of-a-dummy are you voice.] “Yeah, but this is a pandemic. We were talking about an asteroid. From space!”

  13. macallan says

    I guess no one in my university’s administration ever reads Science, though.

    Well, they have a business to run, so sacrifices must be made.

  14. Matt G says

    The journal Science is elitist and has no place at institutions of higher learning.

  15. bcw bcw says

    @16 well, the presidents philosophy and law degrees have put her in the perfect position to evaluate health decisions.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    wzrd1 @ 17
    I thought the slow progress of climate change would provide at least some breathing space for the next existential threat, but biology had a different idea.

  17. dianne says

    Rorschach@8: Herd immunity. Yeah, um, sure. In a condition where natural or induced immunity wanes in 3 months. That’ll work for sure. (Yes, I know you know that already. I just had to get it out of system before my head exploded.)

    As far as the vaccine, the spike protein was thought to be fairly invariant since it’s needed to infect, but omicron seems to have found a way around that. We’re going to have to isolate again, this time for real. Or all die of covid and related complications. Whichever.

    Actually, I wonder if part of the problem is that from the average person in the street POV, there’s an impression that covid isn’t that bad. At this point, most people have either had it or know someone that had it and survived. Maybe they know someone who died, but that person was probably older and as the millennials keep reminding us, the death of older people is unimportant. So they’re wondering why they should keep wearing masks for a virus that isn’t going to kill them. The post-viral cytopenias, chronic fatigue, diabetes, cardiac problems etc are probably going to get written off as bad luck unrelated to covid.

  18. says

    In a condition where natural or induced immunity wanes in 3 months

    The realistic goal is not immunity, it’s that people who get it are able to respond quickly and successfully. The media is making a great big squawk about “breakthrough infections” which are, basically, expected and for the vast majority of cases manageable without medical intervention. If you look at the mortality statistics the people who are dying are the unvaccinated, still. It’s probably not realistic to expect our vaccines to keep us completely immune; we don’t expect that from our flu vaccines because it’s not reasonable to expect it there, either.

  19. wzrd1 says

    @dianne, the problem is, the spike protein can vary by a fair amount and still function on the receptor, the “fit” isn’t highly precise. So, enough to foul up antibody binding, but still functions in the receptor is enough for the virus to begin evasion of the vaccine or infection mediated immunity.
    Honestly, I do wish that they targeted more than just the S protein, such as the M protein. The latter is likely more tightly conserved, as it’s trans-membrane protein or the E protein, which is a rather short protein and hence, is likely even more tightly conserved due to functional requirements.
    Instead, they went for the low hanging fruit of a single protein that initiates cellular entry, which can vary by a rather striking amount and still function to a degree enough to remain successful.
    The body doesn’t just throw one antibody type at a particle that’s recognized as foreign, it sends along many different antibody types, multiple for each foreign protein that it can match.
    Another attack would be to find a way to block its silencing of phagocytes, which causes the body to trigger a scorched earth response to that silencing (OK, it’s a lot more complex than that, but that’s the Cliff’s Notes version). That would blunt the worst effects, while the immune system does its job without burning down the building along its way clearing it.

  20. wzrd1 says

    Oh, immunity also doesn’t quite wane in 3 months, the antibody titer does, that doesn’t mean that the immune system’s memory cells ceased to exist, they’re still present. It’s closer to 6 – 9 months before even those begin to fade. But, the virus has been busy sloppily enough replicating to mutate into something that’ll probably be recognized, but the antibodies aren’t quite as effective.

  21. ORigel says

    @20 COVID is not an existenial threat– smallpox was far more deadly yet didn’t end humanity.

  22. chrislawson says

    dianne@6– the promise of mRNA vaccines is a faster development cycle, but those safety and production issues are still time-consuming and the technology is still new, and we can’t skip the effectiveness studies (identifying a promising target protein doesn’t automatically translate to a good vaccine). Flu vaccines OTOH have the advantage of a well-established development cycle that has been honed since the 1990s — and even then it doesn’t provide great effectiveness every year.

  23. says

    The new episode of TWiV (YT link) discusses a recent paper in the Journal of Infectious Diseases – “The Concept of Classical Herd Immunity May Not Apply to COVID-19.” I haven’t read it yet, but it’s short and open access. One of the authors is Dr. Fauci.

  24. dianne says

    Marcus @23: If you look at the mortality statistics the people who are dying are the unvaccinated, still.

    Sort of. There’s an apparently increasing risk of death in fully vaccinated people age 70 (or so) and older. The risk is still considerably less than an unvaccinated 70+ year old, but it’s nontrivial at this point. That’s part of what the discussion about the fourth dose (or not) is about.

    Also, I’d say that the goal is no longer immunity. The mRNA and even the adeno vaccines provide quite good immunity against the original Sars-CoV-2. To omicron, not so much.

  25. dianne says

    wzrd@25: I’ve heard that claim too. It may be true to some degree, but people are getting repeat infections 3 months after a prior infection. Might be just mutations escaping the immune system or some sort of immunosuppression. (The one person I personally know who has had that happen is an unvaccinated teacher, so massive exposure and no protection except whatever the immune system can do with the exposure to the virus. So I don’t know how common that is.)

  26. whheydt says

    Re: wzrd1 @ #1…
    The report I read, that I think originated with WHO, was that the US was about 30% under reporting COVID deaths, so that the true number is 1.3 million instead of 1 million. By comparison, India is estimated to have some 9.8 times as many deaths as their reported scant half million.

  27. Jean says

    What I’m curious about is what’s going to happen in 20, 30, 40 years from now when the virus re-emerges in the now young people who were infected without much impact, like a COVID version of the shingles. That, of course, implies that there is still a human civilization in that future.

  28. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 17

    Heh heh. I was thinking of that movie as well. I haven’t seen that one yet, mainly because I don’t need to fuel my clinical depression anymore than real life events already do.

  29. rorschach says

    @30 “but people are getting repeat infections 3 months after a prior infection”

    This is down to 2-3 weeks now, as BA 4/5 doesnt give a shit about prior immunity. It has accumulated the best of mutations of Delta and Omicron BA1,2. We are letting a highly mutating virus infect a gazillion of people because of, I dont know, that economy they keep talking about, or maybe they like a risk move, to see what other mutations SARS can come up with. I despair.

  30. says

    From the paper mentioned @ #28 above:

    If vaccine- or infection-induced immunity to SARS-CoV-2 indeed proves to be short-lived, or if escape mutants continue to emerge, viral spread may continue indefinitely, albeit hopefully at a low endemic level. This notably has occurred with the 1918 pandemic influenza virus, whose viral descendants still are causing seasonal outbreaks and occasional pandemics 104 years later (pandemic H2N2 in 1957, H3N2 in 1968, and H1N1 in 2009) [24], and which we have been unable, after more than 80 years of trying, to fully control with vaccines.

    I didn’t know those were descendants of the 1918 pandemic virus!

  31. KG says

    Raging B@15,
    Now, now. You know there are no such things as lab leaks! It’s all these pangolins we see hanging about in gangs on street corners and coughing at people!

  32. hemidactylus says

    @25- wzrd1

    The immune system has some fortuitous slop built into it too. The response to the jabs would result in mutation and selection in certain parts of the antibody genes variable regions bringing a much better match toward spike epitopes of the ancient Wuhan version, but also some variation that may provide breadth of response against variants. Over time the antibody titers go down but perhaps hypermutation has been a lucky enough crapshoot for some people to have a better response to Omicron too. I dunno though after 6 months since my first booster if a second booster, while ramping up titers, would fine tune the B-lymphocyte response back toward ancient Wuhan spike to the detriment of variant exapted antibody genes. Or would new rounds of hypermutation maintain breadth of response as it also increases depth (hopefully neutralizing enough).

    On the T-cell side the way the major histocompatibility complex thingy works might make cellular immunity more resilient against variants. T-cells lack the ability to hypermutate and get selected for closer matches. Suffice to say antibodies are important and if you’re lucky enough to have matching IgA antibodies in your respiratory mucosa that tamps down the ability of a variant to infect…cool beans. But failing that T-cells will have a thing or two to say about Omicron.

    Those vaccinees previously infected by Omicron may have greater breadth and depth on the B-cell humoral side making them less likely to get taken down by new Omicron subvariants.

    Given I got Spikevax 2nd boost last week, with a weird rash on the arm opposite to the jab as a mild byproduct, I wonder what my prospects are against new subvariants. Hopefully have some ephemeral levels of IgA now if the prevalent subvariants aren’t evasive enough to go further.

    The guessing game of variant tuned future Spikevax and Comirnaty works out well in the Fall I hope. Or nasal vaccines…

  33. hemidactylus says

    There was some slightly encouraging news to go with the doom and gloom:

    Plus: “Another part of the immune system called T-cells were also boosted after the fourth dose, which suggests longer-lasting protection against severe disease was increased.”

  34. birgerjohansson says

    The evolving virus, plus China’s decision to start vaccination with the young makes it very hard for China to achieve some kind of herd immunity. I forgot the details, but Swedish epidemiologists have commented that it is very difficult for China to relax the draconian measures without getting disease spreading much faster than in Europe/USA.

  35. raven says

    I didn’t know those were descendants of the 1918 pandemic virus!

    They aren’t.

    The 1918 flu virus was H1N1. It is not closely related to H2N2 or H3N2.
    It is however the ancestor of the swine flu virus of 2009, which is also H1N1 and is still circulating up to this year.

  36. raven says

    The evolving virus, plus China’s decision to start vaccination with the young makes it very hard for China to achieve some kind of herd immunity.

    China started out doing well and then dropped the ball big time.

    Their total lockdown-zero Covid-19 virus strategy originally worked.
    It bought them a huge amount of time to develop an effective vaccine strategy.
    Which they didn’t do.

    .1. The newer variants are far more transmissable than the original, making a long term zero Covid-19 strategy not feasible.
    .2. They did have almost two years to develop a good vaccination program.
    It didn’t happen.
    .3. Their vaccines aren’t very good. Yeah, they work, but not as well as the mRNA, Adeno, or NovaVax vaccines.
    .4. This matters because it is very hard to get 1.4 billion people to line up for vaccinations. You can do it once easily. But we are finding that people get tired of lining up for shots pretty quickly. Here, we are having a hard time getting people boosted (third injection) and boosted again (fourth injection.)
    You really want to lead with the best available vaccine right from the beginning and plan on sequential dropouts.

    They still have time to modify their strategy, but every day it becomes harder and will be less effective.

  37. raven says

    The Covid-19 virus vaccines work well but not as well as we once hoped.
    I’ve had one booster and I’m getting the fourth in a few weeks.
    My smallpox and polio vaccines from the 1950s are still good and I’ve never renewed them.

    This is because natural or vaccine immunity to Covid-19 virus starts to wear off in 3 months.
    I can do a booster once a year.
    I’ll probably settle for a booster every 6 months though.

    We need a vaccine that is at least good for a year like the flu vaccines.
    The problem is, the current vaccines are state of the art, the best we can come up with.
    Right now, we have no idea how to get a Covid-19 virus vaccine that will last even a year.

  38. hemidactylus says

    @45- raven
    That kinda depends upon what you mean by “last”. I would think people with the first two Spikevax or Comirnaty shots from a year ago are going to have some residual memory left to stage a response better than not being vaccinated at all this far out. They might feel much sicker but maybe not in dire straits. That being said I’m quite fine with periodic boosters.

    And would you put that smallpox dose from over a half century ago up against a recent exposure to monkeypox?

  39. says

    raven @ #43:

    They aren’t.

    The 1918 flu virus was H1N1. It is not closely related to H2N2 or H3N2.
    It is however the ancestor of the swine flu virus of 2009, which is also H1N1 and is still circulating up to this year.

    The authors of the herd immunity paper are David M Morens, Gregory K Folkers, and Anthony S Fauci. Their citation for that claim ([24]) is an article co-authored by Morens, who is Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and appears to have been working in this area for some time. From another article co-authored by Morens, “The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Its Legacy” (2020):

    The impact of the pandemic virus—now known to be an H1N1 influenza A virus—was not, however, limited to 1918–1919. The 1918 influenza A virus became a “founder virus,” initiating a “pandemic era” by evolving into progeny pandemic viruses through a number of separate genetic reassortment events (Fig. 1). Since 1918, all subsequent influenza A pandemics and seasonal epidemics have been caused by descendants of the 1918 virus (Morens et al. 2009), including the antigenically drifted seasonal descendants of the 1918 H1N1 virus, and the reassorted pandemic viruses that appeared in 1957 (H2N2), 1968 (H3N2), and 2009 (H1N1pdm). Each of these descendant pandemic viruses contained gene segments descended from the 1918 virus. Some of these gene segments drifted substantially over time, and others were eventually “updated” through genetic reassortment by influenza A virus genes derived from water fowl or, in the case of the 2009 pandemic virus, by different 1918 virus–derived gene segments that had become incorporated into newly evolving swine influenza viruses (Garten et al. 2009). As a consequence, the 1918 virus was not just responsible for the millions of global deaths during the pandemic itself, but also for the millions of additional influenza-related deaths that have occurred in the past century of this pandemic era.

  40. silvrhalide says

    @20 Climate change means that existing diseases will likely have their natural ranges increase. And the thawing of the permafrost means that the H1N1 original flavor has the possibility of making a reappearance, since some of the dead from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic were buried in permafrost, which is now thawing and all sorts of bodies are now making a reappearance when previously frozen ground slumps into the nearest waterway or gully.

    @26 Covid 19 isn’t an existential threat YET. When you think about it, what we are doing as a species AND a population is effectively “heating up” Covid 19, kind of the way that some pathogens become immune/resistant to antibiotics when stupid people get a prescription but then don’t take their meds for the full course. (Although the real culprit there is prophylactic use (abuse) of antibiotics in the meat industry.) Right now, we have some people taking precautions, masking up, staying socially distant while mouthbreathing morons refuse to get vaccinated, socially distance, etc. The cautious people create a selection pressure for Covid 19 to be more infectious–it needs to go through cloth masks, live longer on surfaces, in the air, etc.–while the dimwit antivaxxers provide the virus reservoir.
    Although herd immunity may have never been achievable to begin with.
    You can’t really achieve herd immunity if there’s a wild animal reservoir for the virus. Especially when there is a steady market for wild animals as food. Wuhan wet market is still going strong and people still buy all manner of wild animals there for dinner, at least some of whom will have novel zoonotic pathogens that will make the jump to humans.
    Does kind of puncture the lab leak theory though.

    Smallpox didn’t end humanity because there weren’t 8 billion humans on the planet and there was no international travel. Smallpox is apparently a rat pox that successfully jumped to humans, probably in Egypt, the Fertile Crescent or the Ganges & Indus River valleys. (Places/cultures that invented agriculture on a societal scale and more importantly, invented granaries. Granaries attract rats, which brought rat diseases into proximity to humans.) Once it jumped, it evolved into a pathogen that lost its ability to infect other species. Smallpox, until relatively recently*, was human specific. We were its only host. Once humanity went on a vaccination tear/eradication campaign, it was relatively easy to exterminate it. (Relatively). Humanity was scattered across separate continents, which is why it went through Native American populations like shit through a goose–they were an immunologically naive population. You’d be pretty hard pressed to find a completely isolated human population these days. Smallpox survived for centuries because human populations became larger and more concentrated and also because humans had a lot more kids then (many of whom died young) which provided a constant supply of new hosts for smallpox.

    @35 I was thinking more in terms of 12 Monkeys. The original movie, not the TV series.

    @42 & 44 Sinovax and Sinopharm never had a better than 50% effectiveness to begin with. What happens when a population/culture that routinely gets lied to by its government takes the vaccination and large numbers of them get sick anyway? They stop believing that the vaccination works (half right) and revert to “traditional medicines” (which largely don’t work).
    The Chinese government decided, at least in part, to reopen the economy & put people back to work because China can only afford to feed less than 20% of its population with domestic food. That means that they have to buy 80% or more of their food from external sources. To do that, they need money and an exchange of goods. Fire up the factories!
    Right now, a lot of Chinese people are/were starving during the lockdown. Starving people with nothing left to lose first riot, then rebel. Suspect that Chinese leadership is acutely aware of this and would like to postpone the Chinese version of the French Revolution. Especially The Terror phase of it. Bring out the tumbrels!

    *The CDC managed to infect monkeys with actual smallpox. Not monkeypox. Smallpox. Thawed from the CDC smallpox stocks (India stock, I believe) & injected into/inhaled by monkeys. It took some effort but they succeeded. Well, depending on your version of “success”.

  41. silvrhalide says

    @45 & 46 Raven, your smallpox vaccination (I have one too, BTW) may not be a lifetime immunity. Read Demon In The Freezer by Richard Preston, evidence suggests that the smallpox vaccination (vaccinia or cowpox) isn’t lifelong. The reason no one got sick from smallpox is 1) we had a massive worldwide eradication program and 2) initial vaccination, coupled with periodic reexposure to smallpox while still having immunity to smallpox may have kept people immune. Which means that right now we effectively a population of 8 billion immunologically naive humans.

    Depending on the timing and what type of measles vaccine, that immunity might not be lifelong either. I had to get revaccinated for measles in college because I apparently was originally vaccinated with a questionable batch of vaccine and the timing between doses was wrong. (It wasn’t considered wrong at the time I was vaccinated.) This was discovered when a measles outbreak occurred in a group of college students who had the full dose/course as per their vaccination records but got sick with measles anyway (in the early 90s).

    I was also unlucky enough to get the new variant whooping cough. Was fully vaccinated w/TDAP but apparently the new variant whooping cough blew right through the original recipe. I now understand why people die from this disease. 2 months of acute malaise & lethargy, followed by another 4-5 months of extreme fatigue. The new whooping cough vaccination now protects against the new variant but at the time I caught it (along with most of my friends–we were all working on a college campus at the time) there was only the original whooping cough vaccination.

    Hemidactylus, no I wouldn’t. As I mentioned in a previous post, the CDC found a way to infect monkeys with actual smallpox. Apparently the CDC was inspired (if that’s the right word) by some Australian researchers who managed to infect genetically modified mice (modified to be immune/resistant to mouse pox) with mouse pox. I believe they modified the IL-4, clipped it into mouse pox, exposed the resistant/immune mice and the mice got sick and died. The CDC basically did the same thing with smallpox and monkeys, in part because they wanted authorization to study smallpox again and needed an animal model. And also because Russia test-launched some intercontinental missiles with heat sinks that doesn’t deliver a single payload but instead drops a scattered field of bomblets. Russia also notoriously experimented with weaponizing smallpox at Biopreparat (among other diseases) to make it resistant to treatment and more virulent. Then glasnost happened & Russia lost control of its smallpox stocks. Likely/suspected buyers include Iran & North Korea.

  42. robro says

    From a Marin County public health notice this morning: “Marin County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 variant. Since the first week of April, when BA.2 became the dominant strain in Marin, case rates have tripled.” I presume BA.4 and BA.5 are coming down the road before too much longer.

  43. robro says

    From a Marin County public health notice this morning: “Marin County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 variant. Since the first week of April, when BA.2 became the dominant strain in Marin, case rates have tripled.” I presume BA.4 and BA.5 are coming down the road before too much longer.

  44. birgerjohansson says

    While you losers are worrying about some “virus”, Donald Trump is concerned about a real threat to USA: the Chinese hurricane gun.
    Yes. Look it up.

  45. KG says

    Smallpox didn’t end humanity because there weren’t 8 billion humans on the planet and there was no international travel. – silverhalide@49

    There has been plenty of international travel for millennia. Less, and slower, than now, but smallpox was only eliminated in the 20th century.

  46. wzrd1 says

    Around 20 years ago or so, bodies were exhumed from the permafrost, with the goal of recovering samples of the Spanish Influenza virus. They were successful and it’s now the benchmark for H1N1 genetics.
    So, in a way, the virus has returned from the permafrost, alive and intact and is decidedly chilling inside of a CDC freezer.
    That’s actually a good thing, as if anything similar enough to worry about comes along, there’s a sample for that. It also helps assess evolution of that pesky virus, how much and how far its genome can stretch.
    A mention was made of being hard pressed to find a naive population. They’re present, an island off of India, a nice chunk of the Amazon, but those would be of minimal interest, as any outbreak in those communities would remain isolated, as they remain isolated now.
    Smallpox is unlamented and dead, consigned to freezers in a few health care research facilities. Its cousins continue on and are being closely monitored, as an example, there have been around a half dozen monkeypox outbreaks of onesies, twosies that had eyes looking over the reading glasses at. Poor fit in humans, let’s hope it remains poor. My last smallpox booster was around 30 years ago, so that immunity is likely faded into the sunset.
    We could have eliminated that virus a century or two ago, but lacked the coordination and will to do so, which should remain a warning on contagious disease today. As if we needed such a warning, given our fragmented response to coronavirus.
    If we respond to a future nasty that has as high or higher a fatality rate as smallpox in the same way, we’re well and truly fucked.
    BTW, in Tunisia, there’s a sheep and goat pox outbreak. Typical this time of year, when the animals are moving to their summer pastures. Just came in on my ProMED mailing list. That species of virus is a wildly successful one!
    Back to H1N1, there was an influenza outbreak around 1890 that went pandemic, but not in a severe way. It is theorized that that immunized the elders against the later Kansas strain that became our Spanish Flu pandemic and why the elders fared far better than expected against the virus. Immunity is a tricky thing, we still can’t readily predict its lasting or not, or whether or not someone actually is properly immune to a pathogen.

    As for the Chinese hurricane gun, I’ll admit that that one is news to me, but unsurprising, as Trump is, if nothing else, prolific in idiotic notions. Speaking of whom, he just got a contempt bill for $110k, finally responding to the court that he has no clue what happened to his old cell phones. That’s actually a rather quick response from him, so his money might just be getting a tad tight. Guess he’ll start digging into his PAC accounts soon.

  47. dianne says

    I find this article hilarious and disturbing.

    Summary for those who can’t get through the pay wall or for TL;DR:

    “The world has decided to just let people die of covid in order to make sure the economy stays active but China keeps insisting on trying to eradicate it. Why can’t they sacrifice their people like everyone else?”

    (Yes, there are plenty of things to criticize about China and China’s covid response, for example, their failure to approve and use the mRNA shots that are most protective. That being said, they’re the only ones who appear to understand that you can’t wish the virus away and that it will keep killing no matter how politically inconvenient that is. The US’s infection rate is now higher than it was during the peak of the second wave and about 0.3% of the population has officially died of covid.)

  48. rorschach says

    “The world has decided to just let people die of covid in order to make sure the economy stays active but China keeps insisting on trying to eradicate it. Why can’t they sacrifice their people like everyone else?”

    I feel like the last human in Ionesco’s play “Rhinoceros”, and I’m not enjoying it one bit. Everyone has decided that rhinos are beautiful animals and that turning into one is not a bad thing at all.

  49. dianne says

    @Rorschach 57: I just found out that UC Davis is ending their (successful) routine testing program. Their chancellor is an epidemiologist and must know that this will lead to deaths among students and faculty. Another one hrumphing and stomping.

  50. rorschach says

    Just went to a friend’s house to return a key. He’s having a party in his house tonight. I wore a mask, he said “are you still wearing that thing, the pandemic is over”. 65, overweight, heart disease.
    So yeah, honestly, I give up.