COVID19 update, May 4, 2020: French evidence that epidemic got to Europe in December; intriguing hydroxychloroquine find; Michael Levitt interview

(1) Via reader Yves [not Cohen], a French media report that COVID19 was found in a blood sample taken from a lung patient at a suburban Paris hospital on December 27, 2019. [Hand-corrected DeepL translation]

Invited on the set of BFMTV on Sunday, May 3, Professor Yves Cohen, head of the intensive care unit at the Avicenne hospital in Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis), and at the Jean-Verdier hospital in Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis), claims to have had a patient infected with Covid-19 at the end of December 2019. […] “We had a positive case at Covid-19 on 27 December 2019, when he was hospitalised with us at Jean Verdier,” he explained on the air. An analysis of the serological PCR tests carried out on the 24 pneumonia patients in December and January in these two hospitals led to this conclusion.[…] Dr Olivier Bouchaud, an infectiologist at the same Avicenne hospital, confirms this information. “PCR samples taken from a patient clearly show that he [tested positive for] Covid. We did have a first case in France on 27 December,” he adds. […] Professor Cohen mentioned that the infected patient had been ill for 15 days and that he had infected his two children, but not his wife. This person had not made any recent trips. For Doctor Bouchaud, “this does not necessarily mean that he is patient zero in France. But it does suggest that more research is needed to find out”. […] So far, the first officially recorded cases in France are those of three people, on January 24: a Frenchman of Chinese origin and two Chinese tourists who stayed in Wuhan, the original focus of the epidemic which appeared in December.

This, together with the earlier report that COVID19 was found during autopsy of a Santa Clara County patient who had died early February (which places the infection roughly at mid January), pushes the COVID19 timeline further back. [The French story is of course being picked up in Chinese propaganda media as “proof” that the virus did not come from China. Mais bien sûr, et je m’appelle Napoléon Bonaparte.]

(2) In the middle of an article about an Italian pharmacist who claims she has uncovered the main mechanism behind severe COVID19 this interesting nugget can be found:
“Chiusolo told the Post, the Italian Society of Rheumatology interviewed 1,200 rheumatologists throughout Italy to collect statistics on contagions. Out of an audience of 65,000 chronic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who systematically take hydroxychloroquine, only 20 patients tested positive for the virus [and none of those ended up in the ICU or died].”
Time for a little back-of-envelope calculation. According to Worldometers, Italy has 210,717 documented cases out of a population of 60.2 million, or 0.35% of the population. This is almost certainly a gross underestimate, but 0.35% of 65,000 lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients would be 228 — more than ten times the observed number.

An interesting control would be to check patients on some other long-term mild immunosuppressor drug (steroids? Multiple Sclerosis patients on Copaxone? Reader Laura R. suggests https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methotrexate )

(3)

Mike Levitt, 2013 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, getting interviewed about COVID19 on UnHerd. I disagree about 30% of the time (and he should hire a fact-checker — his claim that Germany did not go on lockdown is peculiar to say the least), but a lot to chew on. 

He has a rather interesting way of expressing mortality: weeks-equivalent of annual all-causes mortality. He estimates COVID19 will end up being about 4 weeks worth, which may be an easier number to grasp and keep in their head for people who don’t juggle data all day in their day jobs.

(4) Via Instapundit: a long WIRED article “inside the early days of China’s coronavirus cover-up”. https://www.wired.com/story/inside-the-early-days-of-chinas-coronavirus-coverup/

Seasoned journalists in China often say “Cover China as if you were covering Snapchat”—in other words, screenshot everything, under the assumption that any given story could be deleted soon. For the past two and half months, I’ve been trying to screenshot every news article, social media post, and blog post that seems relevant to the coronavirus. In total, I’ve collected nearly 100 censored online posts: 40 published by major news organizations, and close to 60 by ordinary social media users like Yue. In total, the number of Weibo posts censored and WeChat accounts suspended would be virtually uncountable. (Despite numerous attempts, Weibo and WeChat could not be reached for comment.)

Some people say this is China’s Chernobyl. On the contrary. While both disasters happened under totalitarian Communist regimes, COVID19 makes Chernobyl look like a kitchen ketchup spill. 

(5) Bloomberg looks at how the Hawaii tourist industry (about 20% of the island’s economy[*]) has been devastated by the pandemic. At least they have the naval and other military presence to keep the rest of their economy going, plus some agriculture.

[*] indirectly it’s more, of course. In another illustration of Bastiat’s timeless essay “That which is seen and that which is not seen” (original title: Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas), the sudden drop in purchasing power of those working in the tourist industry has a knock-on effect in other sectors.

UPDATE: what does the milder version of the disease feel like? In this article from March 12, a woman age 37 from the Seattle area shares her experiences:

Schneider revealed how she first began experiencing flu-like symptoms on Feb. 25. The symptoms occurred three days after she attended a party that was later identified as the place where at least five others caught the bug.

“I woke up and I was feeling tired, but it was nothing more than what you normally feel when you have to get up and go to work, and I had been very busy the previous weekend,” she said.

She felt a headache coming on around noon, along with fever and body aches. This was enough to cause her to leave her office at her biotechnology firm and head home.

The marketing manager napped but woke with a temperature that peaked at 103 degrees Fahrenheit that night.

“And, at that point, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and I was getting the chills and getting tingling in my extremities, so that was a little concerning,” she said.

She took over-the-counter flu medication, and called a friend to be on standby in case she needed to be taken to the hospital, but the fever receded over the following days.

Schneider wrongly assumed she didn’t have COVID-19 because she didn’t experience the usual symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath.

She was up to date with her flu shot, but thought her illness was due to a different strain. When she visited her doctor, she was instructed to go home, rest up and drink large amounts of fluids.

The way she began to suspect she had something more serious was via social media. A friend on Facebook posted that several folks from the party had developed similar symptoms. These people went to their doctors, where they tested negative for the flu, but were not offered coronavirus tests because they were not showing the common signs of coughing and difficulty breathing.

Smartly, Schneider enrolled in a research program called the Seattle Flu Study in hopes of getting to the bottom of her sickness. She was mailed a nasal swab kit by the researchers, which she mailed back. Then began a wait of several days.

On March 7, she got a call with the bad news: She had tested positive for COVID-19. Surprisingly, Schneider felt relieved. “I was a little bit pleasantly surprised, because I thought it was a little bit cool,” she told the AFP, adding that she found it interesting from a “scientific perspective.”

Her symptoms had already subsided by the time she was diagnosed.

2 thoughts on “COVID19 update, May 4, 2020: French evidence that epidemic got to Europe in December; intriguing hydroxychloroquine find; Michael Levitt interview

  1. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/a-mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-even-more-contagious-than-the-original-study-says/ar-BB13COF3

    Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    ……
    The Los Alamos study does not indicate that the new version of the virus is more lethal than the original. People infected with the mutated strain appear to have higher viral loads

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