As-of November 15th, more than one person per thousand had already died from the Covid-19 virus (coronavirus-19) in the nations of
and in the U.S. states of
- New Jersey (1.9 per thousand)
- New York (1.7 per thousand)
- Massachusetts (1.5 per thousand)
- Connecticut (1.3 per thousand)
- Louisiana (1.3 per thousand)
- Mississippi (1.2 per thousand)
- Rhode Island (1.2 per thousand)
(Nationwide, the U.S. death-rate is 759 per million or .759 per thousand.)
Here are the nations with over 5 million population that have the lowest death-rates from the disease:
- Cambodia (0)
- Laos (0)
- Burundi (1 per 12,015,509)
- Taiwan (1 per 3,404,638)
- Vietnam (1 per 2,790,141)
- Papua (1 per 1,286,790)
- Thailand (1 per 1,164,395)
- Sri Lanka (1 per 487,406)
- Niger (1 per 355,300)
- Uganda (1 per 347,734)
- Rwanda (1 per 326,650)
- Mozambique (1 per 318,834)
- Burkina Faso (1 per 315,011)
- China (1 per 310,869)
- DRC (1 per 286,454)
- Benin (1 per 284548)
- Singapore (1 per 209,535)
- Ivory Coast (1 per 211,189)
- South Sudan (1 per 190,525)
- New Zealand (1 per 200,084)
Here are the U.S. states with the lowest death-rates from the disease:
- Vermont (1 per 10,576; or .95 per ten thousand, or .095 per thousand)
- Maine (1 per 8,617)
- Alaska (1 per 7,951 — the explosion of the disease started only recently there)
- Hawaii (1 per 6,378)
- Oregon (1 per 5,723)
In order properly to understand these numbers (such as the low death-rates in some African countries), an important underlying variable is the median age of the land’s population, because, for example, the median age for Burundi is only 17, and, therefore, San Marino, where the median age is 44.4, is naturally likely to have a vastly higher death-rate from this disease. Apples should be compared with apples, not with oranges. However, the median age in Vermont is 42.8 (America’s third-highest), and in Maine is 44.9 (America’s highest), and yet both states have America’s lowest two death-rates from this disease; so, governmental policies and their public acceptance and enforcement can be even more important than is the physical population. Nature isn’t everything; nurture can be an even bigger determinant of success or failure.
Furthermore, all three of the highest death-rate countries have incredibly polarized and therefore dysfunctional ‘democratic’ governments, and this means that they are especially likely to fail to have unity — and therefore effectiveness — in responding to an emergency, which this evolving event is. Slow response and adjustment to it is then like no response, because it comes too late, in an emergency situation. Moreover, San Marino’s economy is at least 50% tourism-based, which is the sector that is the hardest hit by the pandemic, as a consequence of which, the pressures to underestimate the pandemic’s danger are especially large there.
As that same website which I’ve cited for the coronavirus death-rates also shows, worldwide the daily death rate from the disease, which was 67 on 2 March 2020, soared to 8,534 by the time of 17 April 2020, and didn’t exceed that number until 4 November 2020 at 9,152, despite the world’s having been taking increasing measures to reduce the spread of the disease. However, since the global death-rate from the virus has finally broken through the initial peak of 8,534, we can now expect either greatly increased measures to be taken against the disease’s spread, or else the daily death-rate from it to be soaring, in at least the near-term future.
If the daily death-rate from it will be soaring in the near-term future, then the public will become increasingly afraid to be anywhere with strangers; and, consequently, all modes of employment that require employees to be physically near strangers will need to pay higher and higher wages in order to be able to remain in business, and the local economy will therefore be in a downward spiral unless and until that situation becomes reversed.
Consequently, the economy will likely be hit hard now, either way. During an epidemic, harm to the economy is inevitable in the short term, regardless of whether the government acts or not. But during the long term, carefully calibrated scientifically calculated measures to reduce the spread of the epidemic are optimal (for the long term benefits), and anything that impedes this is therefore a threat against the entire public. Whereas a threat against the general public is acceptable to a psychopath (or “sociopath”) and is consistent with pure capitalism (“libertarianism” or “neoliberalism”), it is not acceptable to a democratic socialist (“social democratic”) person, or to a patriot in a country that asserts the general welfare to be among its fundamental priorities (such as the U.S. Constitution does in its General Welfare Clause and especially in its most-fundamental passage, the Preamble, which asserts the ultimate objectives which that Constitution is directed at serving). Therefore, in the latter type of country, pure capitalism is actually unpatriotic, and democratic socialism is obligatory for the Government to adhere to, regardless of whether or not that country’s existing leaders adhere to it, or publicly acknowledge the fact that their Constitution is actually social-democratic, and not (and certainly not purely) capitalistic.
(For examples: Abraham Lincoln said: “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” So, he certainly was a social democrat. And Lincoln’s hero, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, on 12 November 1816, to his long-time friend, Dr. George Logan of Philadelphia, about the “profligacy” of England’s government, wasting resources to prop up its international corporations, which Jefferson said had brought about “the ruin of its people” in order to benefit those aristocrats. He said, “This ruin [in England] will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall, on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe [meaning creating the catastrophe (by corrupting the government), not meaning to prepare for the catastrophe]. I hope we shall take warning from the [English] example [e.g., the British East India Company] and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” So, he too was hostile toward capitalism and favorable toward democratic socialism. America’s Founders — including even its last Founder, Lincoln — supported democracy, and opposed aristocracy, or rule by the controlling owners of corporations. But today’s America — in regard to both its Democratic Party and its Republican Party — is controlled by its billionaires; and, so, this nation is now definitely an aristocracy, instead of a democracy.)
One argument that is being put forth for pure capitalism regarding this virus is “herd immunity,” the idea (which has been endorsed in the neoliberal Council on Foreign Relations’s prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, and also by U.S. President Donald Trump), which is that if a sufficiently high percentage of the population become infected with it and survive, then they will automatically be immune from catching the disease in the future, and so anyone else (the never-infected) will become less likely to catch the disease from others. Like other libertarian (or “neoliberal) thinking, it trusts to nature as being optimal, and accepts unlimited “survival of the fittest,” and rejects social democracy or any general-welfare constitution (such as America has and which is being routinely violated by America’s own Government). However, the assumption that everyone who survives an infection from this virus is immune against becoming infected with it again, has not been established, and there are also many other falsehoods in applying the “natural herd immunity” concept to this particular virus — a virus whose epidemiological characteristics are still not yet understood. As National Geographic recently explained, “Banking on natural infection to control the outbreak would lead to months, if not years, of a dismaying cycle in which cases subside and then surge.” Furthermore, even if the idea that a natural herd immunity might become able to protect a nation’s population, would not a synthetic herd immunity from an effective vaccine be preferable — and much faster? It will prevent the millions of deaths, and even more millions of cases, that would be suffered until a natural herd-immunity exists — if such a natural herd immunity ever will exist. This is the purpose of the policies in the lands that have thus far been the most effective at keeping down the amounts of disease and death from Covid-19. This is a holding action, so as to save the health and the lives of millions of people who would otherwise be unnecessarily wasted while the world waits for a vaccine. The “natural herd immunity” approach isn’t only psychopathic, it is grossly inefficient.
A personal friend emailed me with objections against my opposition to libertarian (or “neoliberal”) policies regarding coronavirus-19 (covid-19). He especially argued that we both share views that the Government in our own country is deeply corrupt, and I replied:
That’s irrelevant because the data convince me that the types of policies that countries such as China and Taiwan and Vietnam and Cambodia and Myanmar and then New Zealand and then Vermont pursued — all with strong compliance from their respective publics — have worked, and that the policies that countries such as U.S. and Brazil and Belgium and Chile pursued have failed. Peru is an especially interesting case because its President wanted to impose the necessary measures but wasn’t able to, for many reasons, but especially because nothing was able to “create this new culture of respect for the rules to learn how to live with the virus” (as the euphemistic BBC obliquely phrased the core reality behind Peru’s failure). The situation in Peru was the exact opposite of the situation in Vermont, where the public virtually pushed the Governor by accusing him of NOT imposing masking requirements etc. at the very beginning, and he quickly recognized and rectified his error and as a result Vermont quickly became — and has since remained — the #1 state in controlling the spread of this virus. Success needs both the right leadership and the right public, and failure has resulted where either or both were lacking.
I said in response to his statement: “I really can not sympathize with those who are fearing for their own lives because of a virus with a 99% survival rate. They shouldn’t be doing the thinking for the rest of us.”:
I couldn’t disagree more with that libertarian viewpoint. Public health — especially when the issue is a communicable disease, an epidemic or a potential epidemic — relies (above all) on the obligation of every individual in the society to NOT engage in behaviors that HELP to spread the disease. Vaccination is an obligation and not ONLY a right in such a situation. When a vaccine doesn’t yet exist, then the obligation — of every individual in the society to NOT engage in behaviors that HELP to spread the disease — isn’t an obligation to be vaccinated (since that’s not yet even possible) but it is instead an obligation to adhere to masking requirements and other necessary behaviors to minimize the spread of the communicable disease. The libertarian attitude produces mass-injury, mass-death, mass-disability, and mass-unemployment, in handling a communicable disease, where the OBLIGATION to society is not recognized, but only the individual RIGHT is recognized — that is psychopathic and irresponsible.
Furthermore: you are false to say that this is only “a virus with a 99% survival rate”: it is a vastly more-contagious virus than the Spanish flu which was the other mega-pandemic since 1900, but it has a lower mortality-rate; and, so, for you to focus only on the latter (the fatality-rate) is blind to an important half of the reality regarding this virus.
Already, 251,256 Americans have died from this new virus and 11,226,038 have been diagnosed as being ill from it and many who have survived the initial illness are having potentially life-threatening organ-failures from it and tens of millions of Americans reasonably fear going to work as barbers or restaurants or hotels or medical workers etc., and yet you say “I really can not sympathize with those who are fearing for their own lives because of a virus with a 99% survival rate. They shouldn’t be doing the thinking for the rest of us.” That statement isn’t only blind to half the reality about this virus but is callous, which I know that you are not. So, it shocked me. (Furthermore, already over 2% of Americans who have been diagnosed as having this disease have died from it and that percentage keeps rising; so whether in the final analysis this plague will kill a higher percentage of the world than the Spanish flu did is still an open question, and vaccines against it will largely determine the answer.)
You instead are choosing to dismiss the relevant data, which are the actual policy-outcomes in the 200+ countries throughout the world — including different policies in each of those countries.
Perhaps you think that the data that China which has 60 cases per million residents and 3 deaths per million residents from this virus and that America which has 33,725 cases per million residents and 757 deaths per million residents from this virus should be ignored. Perhaps you think that the data that Vermont which has 4,556 cases per million residents and 95 deaths per million residents from this virus and that North Dakota which has 82,502 cases per million residents and 953 deaths per million residents from this virus should be ignored. Those are all policy-outcomes. Each of those lands has its own policy, and those are the outcomes from it. I have looked at what the policies are, and, to me, the idea that those data should be ignored in evaluating those policies is foolish in the extreme. I am no expert in epidemiology and don’t pretend to be; but your ‘evidence’ is nothing that I would cite, for or against anything — and certainly not for interpreting the global policy-outcomes. I think that you are focusing on balls that aren’t even in this game. You’re focusing on different games, and different balls.
Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture
Reported Monkeypox Cases: 39 Countries Globally and Eight African Countries
By mid-June, eight African countries have confirmed monkeypox cases, along side several external countries including the United States and a number of European countries. Our monitoring results show that Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana and Morocco and the Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, with nearly 1,900 confirmed monkeypox cases in 39 countries across the globe, eight African countries have reported cases.
There have been 36 confirmed cases in Nigeria, 10 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), eight in the Central African Republic, three each in Benin and Cameroon, and two in the Republic of the Congo, Health Director Moeti specified, and added that Ghana and Morocco, which have not previously recorded cases of monkeypox, now have five and one confirmed cases, respectively.
Moeti further informed that Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda – all countries with no previous incidence – have also reported suspected cases this June. As Africa is facing an unusual situation, Africa should “be adequately prepared” and have fair access to both vaccines and treatment, noted Moeti, warning of the potential repeat of the inequities Africa experienced in respect of the COVID-19 response.
Speaking of the vaccination against monkeypox, Moeti explained that though the WHO doesn’t recommend mass vaccination at this stage, Africa needs to be ready should the need arise. In the next few weeks, WHO’s Emergency Committee has to advise on whether the current spread of monkeypox in non-endemic countries constitutes an international public health emergency.
In our previous report in May, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the most populated West African nation, has come under global spotlight, allegedly as the place of origin of monkeypox virus, which was detected in several European countries in April-May.
During these months, at least, 39 countries have reported monkeypox cases, including Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
The first monkeypox cases were reported in Spain and Portugal. According to the Spanish daily, El Pais, the virus began to circulate around Madrid back in April. By now, seven cases have been confirmed and some 30 more patients are suspected of having the disease. Five cases have been confirmed in neighboring Portugal.
Quite recently, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a briefing on the matter, said the virus is no longer behaving as it did in the past and therefore should be renamed. Some health experts explained that it is necessary to find a new name for the viral disease informally known as monkeypox due to the fact that it shows “discriminatory and stigmatizing” among the global population.
The Geneva-based UN health agency is due to hold an emergency meeting on June 23 to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern – the highest alarm the UN agency can sound.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through measures such as self-isolation and hygiene.
Health reports further indicated it is a rare viral disease mainly transmitted to humans by contact with infected wild animals (rodents or primates). The human-to-human transmission is limited as it requires close contact. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, backache, swelling in the lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. It may be followed by a rash on the face and body.
Hanging out with bats to discover the secrets of their biology
by Emanuela Barbiroglio
By turns admired and reviled, bats are one of the most mysterious mammals alive. Their nocturnal habits and unique adaptations mean that bats’ biology still holds many secrets. It is possible that bats may hold the key to understanding diabetes.
When the pandemic started in 2020 and speculation began that a notorious zoonotic “spillover” appeared to have triggered it all, one specific animal was identified almost immediately as a threat to humans – the bat. People feared and, in some cases, even killed them in a futile attempt to stop the virus from spreading.
Then, the perception of nature’s only flying mammal reversed again and scientists’ understanding of ecosystems moved forward precisely as a consequence of covid-19.
‘The pandemic highlighted the importance of better understanding bat species as well as their habitats,’ said Elise Sivault, ‘And, more generally, of avoiding any kind of process which brings wildlife into closer contact with humans.’ She has been catching bats in Papua New Guinea for the BABE project led by Dr Katerina Sam, from the Biology Centre of Czech Academy of Sciences.
The BABE project analyses how bats and other predators help keep the world green. And with over 1 450 species and making up 20% of the mammals on our planet, bats constitute one of the most diverse and geographically dispersed species. As such, they play a valuable role in the global ecosystem by pollinating crops and maintaining plant diversity.
‘They are also one of the most misunderstood mammals, due to their cryptic and nocturnal life-style,’ added Sivault.
While they are widely accepted as arthropod (insects, spiders and other invertebrates) predators, bats are often absent from insect studies compared to birds. ’We don’t know much about their impact on arthropod populations nor on their indirect consequences on plants,’ said Sivault.
What we do know is that bats are great at gobbling up insects and other arthropods. Sivault and her team look at what and how much the individual species eat. For now, findings have indicated the difference in the strength of arthropod control by bats along different latitudes.
‘In Europe, most of the bat species have legal protection but elsewhere, many don’t,’ said Sivault. ‘Much more needs to be done to understand their needs, habitats and behaviours in order to find an effective way to protect them.’
Not many people know it but, bats are helping us to study and prevent human diseases such as diabetes. Some species of the winged mammalian possess genes that allow them to survive on a super-sweet diet of nectar. What this teaches us about diabetes in humans is part of the research being conducted by the Chiroglu project.
As fruit bats subsist on either fruits or nectar, the researchers sequenced over 1 000 genes in a wide range of fruit bat species. They identified a suite of molecular adaptations in genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. To analyse the gene sequences of over 100 fruit bat species, they used a technique called ‘sequence capture’.
The findings show that several distantly related fruit bat species, having independently evolved to feed on nectar, have undergone identical molecular adaptations in the genes responsible for their sugar metabolism. This indicates that evolution appears to have followed the same path more than once to solve a particular problem.
‘Our research is curiosity-driven, but it has potentially important implications for humans,’ said Stephen Rossiter, professor of Molecular Ecology and Evolution at Queen Mary University of London. ‘We, like lab animals, develop diabetes if we live on sugar rich diets. Nectar-feeding bats appear to have evolved unique changes in the metabolic enzymes that might allow them to avoid diabetes and other metabolic diseases.’
On the other hand, a bat’s life is not an easy one. They are put at risk by human encroachment and hunting, climate change and habitat loss. Some bat species in North America are also being impacted by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by a fungal pathogen that infects bats during their hibernation. Researchers from the EVOL-WNS project are trying to understand why the WNS pathogen is not lethal to European bats but kills their American counterparts.
Back in 2015, Thomas Lilley, then a Marie Skłodowska–Curie Actions (MSCA) fellow at the University of Liverpool, discovered that the fungus causing the disease originated from Europe, where bats were actually being infected but not dying. ‘This meant they must have evolved resistance or tolerance at some point in their history,’ said Lilley.
He was keen to see if this process towards tolerance had already begun in North America after 10 years of exposure to the fungus. This would be evidenced by looking at differences in the genomes of bats sampled before the arrival of the fungus and bats coexisting with it. Compared to the genomes of bats sampled prior to the arrival of the fungus, Lilley would have expected to see reduced genetic diversity in the bats sampled 10 years after. This would have indicated some sort of selection towards resistance or tolerance. However, he found no evidence for this, meaning that the populations of bats were using other mechanisms besides genetic immunity to survive infection.
‘I thought I would find a signal for emerging selection in the bats in North America, because this is what should be happening in theory,’ said Lilley. ‘But in reality, there are so many factors at play that it is difficult to pinpoint causality.’ This discovery helped Lilley to view the ecosystem in a much more holistic fashion. ‘Everything is connected and that is a super-interesting thought,’ he said.
Lilley is now working on project at the Finnish Museum of Natural History (Luomus). He is researching how bats in Europe cope with fungal infection. To better protect bats, Lilley says that the first thing we need to do is to learn more about them. Work undertaken so far demonstrates that they are rather difficult to study. This means there are many aspects of their lifecycle even scientists know very little about.
‘For instance, here in Finland, we don’t really know where the bats hibernate during the winter,’ said Lilley. ‘And the winter is long here in the North, so not knowing where these protected species reside for most of the year is a huge problem for conservation.’
To successfully protect bats also means getting the public on board. Bats often reside in and breed in buildings during the summer, so they are often seen as pests although in fact they keep the mosquitoes at bay in the surroundings. ‘It is important to make sure the public understands that coexistence, and more importantly, even cohabitation is possible with bats and facilitates the protection of these animals,’ said Lilley.
Research in this article was funded via the EU’s European Research Council and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Make mental health support part of climate action plans
Mental health support must be included in national responses to climate change, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a new policy brief, launched on Friday at the Stockholm+50 environmental summit.
Climate change poses serious risks to people’s mental health and well-being, the agency said, which concurs with a report published in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body that provides governments with scientific information to inform their climate policies.
The IPCC study revealed that rapidly increasing climate change is a rising threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being, from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behaviour.
Step up support
“The impacts of climate change are increasingly part of our daily lives, and there is very little dedicated mental health support available for people and communities dealing with climate-related hazards and long-term risk,” said Dr. Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.
The mental health impacts of climate change are unequally distributed, with certain groups disproportionately affected depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, gender and age, according to the brief.
However, WHO said it was clear that climate change affects many of the social determinants that already are leading to massive mental health burdens globally. Out of 95 countries surveyed last year, only nine have included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.
Protecting people at risk
“The impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally. There are nearly one billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in low and middle-income countries, three out four do not have access to needed services,” said Dévora Kestel, Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
“By ramping up mental health and psychosocial support within disaster risk reduction and climate action, countries can do more to help protect those most at risk,” she added.
The policy brief recommends five important approaches for governments to address the mental health impacts of climate change, as well as examples of countries that are already making headway on the issue.
Prioritizing mental health
WHO called for governments to integrate climate considerations with mental health programmes, merge mental health support with climate action, and build upon their global commitments.
Authorities should also develop community-based approaches to reduce vulnerabilities, and close the large funding gap that currently exists for mental health and psychosocial support.
“WHO’s Member States have made it very clear mental health is a priority for them. We are working closely with countries to protect people’s physical and mental health from climate threats,” said Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, the WHO climate lead, and an IPCC lead author.
Leading the way
Among the pioneering countries cited in the report is The Philippines, which rebuilt and improved its mental health services after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, reportedly one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.
India has also scaled up disaster risk reduction while at the same time preparing cities to respond to climate risks and address mental health and psychosocial needs.
The WHO policy brief was issued on the final day of the Stockholm summit, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment, the first world conference to make the environment a major issue.
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