I ran out and got the new RSV vaccine yesterday (from Pfizer, marketed as ‘Abrysvo’). It does feel like my system is reacting to it, more so than was the case for the flu shot or the latest COVID vaccine.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces (and from what I understand, not by airborne transmission).
RSV causes mild cold symptoms in most people, but if the virus ends up flourishing in the lungs, it can lead to hospitalization and even death in older people and babies.
Researchers have been trying for decades to create effective RSV vaccines.
One turning point came with the investigation of an RSV protein called ‘RSV prefusion (RSV preF)’ that turned out to provide potent stimulation of the immune system.
Abrysvo contains proteins from the surfaces of two strains of the RSV virus. When a person is given the vaccine, the immune system treats the viral proteins as ‘foreign’ entities and makes defenses against them. If, later on, the vaccinated person comes into contact with the virus, the immune system will recognize the viral proteins and be prepared to attack it.
I got my flu shot today, the one branded as the FLUCELVAX® Quad 2023-24.
It’s the first flu vaccine in the United States that was cultured in cells* and not in chicken eggs.
Some observational studies have shown cell culture-based vaccines to provide greater protection against flu or flu-like illness (as opposed to ones grown in eggs).
*From the CDC’s website: ‘Cell culture-based flu vaccine production does not require chicken eggs because the vaccine viruses used to make vaccine are grown in mammalian cell cultures (no animals are harmed by this process)’.
I scheduled an appointment for myself for a second Omicron booster shot. (The omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, known as “Arcturus,” has been listed by the WHO as a variant under monitoring since March 22. Experts say this variant has a higher transmissibility rate than previous strains but doesn’t appear to be more dangerous).
On World AIDS Day, we raise a red ribbon to remember how far we’ve come, the work that’s left, and those devastated by this disease, particularly the LGBTQI+ folks and people of color who endured the brunt of this epidemic instead of being seen.
Let’s finish this fight.
– President Biden on Twitter
I got my flu shot today, and checked the CDC website for numbers for the last few years. These are graphs I pulled together from the CDC website, just for myself. Bottom line, and just speaking rough numbers: flu can make 40 million people in the USA sick in a bad season— 1 out of 10 in the population!— and result in 40,000 deaths.
As of midnight Tuesday, Shanghai’s 25 million residents were allowed to leave their apartments and residential compounds to go to work. Businesses are cleared to resume normal operations with restrictions (such as no inside dining in restaurants).
Officials are eager to get China’s most economically important city running again.
Peter Jolicoeur enjoying an Oktoberfest-sized beer in Shanghai. His Twitter profile says he is a ‘Shanghai-based aviation consultant, pilot, musician, runner & Chinese student’. Cheers!
1a: to put aboard a ship by force often with the help of liquor or a drug
b: to put by force or threat of force into or as if into a place of detention
2: to put by trickery into an undesirable position
Example sentence: “To shanghai your friend into a mental health intervention might be a mistake”.
Here are two questions that Bill Gates had answered on Reddit today: Why do you think the world was utterly unprepared for Covid?
Infectious disease in rich countries isn’t the big problem it used to be. For things like fire and earthquakes we have small ones to remind us of the problem. A pandemic that gets into Europe or the US only comes along rarely so it is easy to not practice and not have dedicated resources. A few countries like Australia did a better job and have 10% of the deaths of most rich countries.
Why is the COVID-19 model behaving very differently in America as compared to other countries? With state-of-the-art vaccines and close to 70% of people fully vaccinated, the cases are always rising after dipping for a few days. Looking at the statistics of the number of people catching COVID and the number of people dying due to it, seemed like this was to end by January / February. The model is quite weird.
The new variants come along and evade immunity from vaccination and infection. Also immunity wanes fairly quickly in the elderly. When the cases are high people do change their behavior and when they are low they go back to normal behavior. So you get huge ups and downs in the case rate driven by seasons, variants and people’s behavior. Fortunately Omicron is less fatal than previous variants.
So a Trump-appointed judge in Florida overrules the national mask mandate for airplane travel and throws the CDC’s recommendation out the window .. and then the Biden administration promptly announces that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will no longer enforce it.
The hard cast came off my wrist and forearm today. In addition, two stainless steel pins were extricated. The surgeon pulled them out with sterile pliers, basically.
The pins had held the lunate and scaphoid bones against each other so that the new scapholunate ligament could establish itself.
The second pin had a slight bend in (by design), and was not easy to pull out. I was very thankful for the fat syringe of lidocaine that was deployed on my wrist. Lidocaine blocks the pain signals that nerve cells send to the brain, by interfering with the so-called sodium channel that is the pathway for the signals.
Former President Obama was in the White House today for the first time after leaving office (more than 5 years ago, Jan. 2017).
Obama was there to celebrate 12 years of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) with President Biden. They also announced that they are pursuing expanded coverage for families, and how to make it easier to enroll.
Also mentioned in the reporting today, was Biden’s famous hot-mike comment ‘This is a big f**king deal’, which he made in 2010 as the ACA was signed into law.
I couldn’t agree more.
The Affordable Care Act has saved me a lot of anguish— and tens of thousands of dollars in health insurance costs, just over the last five years.
Officials announced today that restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms here in the city of Seattle and surrounding King County will no longer be required to check the vaccination status of their patrons beginning March 1.
I entered my address into the new Washington State COVID-19 test kit page on Friday.
Just yesterday, two 2-pack test kits landed on my porch.
The manufacturer’s website says these test kits correctly identify positive specimens in 94% of tests, and negative specimens in 98% of tests.
The test kits are for doing a so-called lateral flow test for COVID-19 antigens (proteins from the virus).
Doing the test seems pretty straight forward.
The test strip looks the same as the strip in a pregnancy test kit.
C stands for ‘Control’ and T for ‘Test’.
If both lines are colored (the T line may be very faint), the test is positive.
If only the C line is colored, the test is negative.
(If no line is colored, you did something wrong and the test is invalid.)
Here’s a table that I compiled of the types of COVID tests.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) ('Molecular')
Detects genetic material from the virus.
Detects proteins from the virus.
Detects immune system antibodies (a spike protein test or a nucleocapsid test).
The gold standard to test for an active COVID-19 infection.
Not as sensitive as PCR tests.
Not suitable to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection.
Nasal swab sample processed by a lab.
Nasal swab sample processed by lab or with home test kit.
The stitches on my wrist & arm came out today.
Next up was an X-ray to peek inside, and make sure the scaphoid and lunate bones are still in their proper places.
The surgeon said everything looks good.
Finally, I got a new cast.
It looks like the Omicron wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has crested in the Northeast of the United States. Recent numbers for the other regions show it is (at least right now) no longer increasing there.
I bought a box of N95 masks on Amazon to use (instead of my cotton cloth masks— that are apparently no longer cutting it against the Omicron variant).
The N95 masks are more difficult to put on than ones with ear loops .. and then there is the question of how many times they can be used before they should be discarded. (They cannot be washed in the washing machine).
The short answer: it depends. If the mask was used in a crowded place, or for a long time (say, 4 to 8 hours), it should probably be discarded.
My wrist operation went without a hitch. My forearm now has a splint and a casing with a thick bandage on, with four fingers sticking out. The recovery period is going to be three months, all told.
During the preparation for the surgery, the anesthesiologist explained to me that they were going to do a Bier’s block. ‘Nothing to do with beer— it’s named after a German doctor August Bier’, said he.
The Bier’s block involves the injection of a local anesthetic solution (such as lidocaine) into the arteries of an upper or lower extremity, from which the blood had been squeezed out, or drained by gravity. The careful application and use of two tourniquets isolate the bloodless and numbed arm or leg from the central circulation system.
I injured my wrist on the tennis court some time ago.
An X-ray (done in November) had revealed that the two bones at the base of my thumb (the scaphoid and the lunate) are no longer snug against each other, but separated. This means that the ligament between them is torn.
So I’m going in for an outpatient operation on Wednesday to have the ligament repaired, and I have to present a negative Covid-19 test. I will get the results of the test tomorrow. I should be good to go. Fingers crossed.