- Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat. The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses (genes and protein coat), and on it goes.
- Variant- also known as a mutation, a variant strain of a virus is the same species of virus but with a change in the genetic code. The change is minor if it has no impact on contagious the new variant is, or how deadly it is, or if it allows the virus to neutralize our vaccines. Variants that substantially increase harm are now listed by Greek letters, the most troublesome one now is Omicron.
- Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses. Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
- SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
- COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
- Endemic– an illness always present in a region. One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
- Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
- Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
- Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
- Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
- Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”. For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
- Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
- Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of how sick you get and how many it will kill
- Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely. A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
- Respirator- for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face. An N95 mask is a respirator.
- PCR Test– swabs the nose to detect the genes of the COVID virus. The genes if detected are almost certainly there, but they can persist long after contagion ends. Very few false positives, positives can be trusted.
- Antigen Test (the home kit)- swabs the nose to detect the proteins on the coating of the COVID virus, the spike proteins. If it does not detect those proteins, you are almost certainly not infected, negatives can be trusted. These proteins are also on the coating of many common cold viruses, so one positive test may indicate you have a cold rather than COVID. Two positive home tests though reliably indicate you have COVID.
- Vaccine Terms
- Vaccine or Immunization– a dose of a substance that activates your immune system, as if you have the actual infection you are hoping to prevent, leaving you in fact protected from having that infection.
- Efficacy– the percentage of people immunized with a particular vaccine who will not get infected if exposed to the target infection. For example, a COVID-19 vaccine will be said to be 95% effective if 95% of people immunized with that particular COVID-19 vaccine will not get COVID-19 if exposed to COVID-19
- Valence- The valence of a vaccine tells us how many types of the virus the vaccine protects against are in the vaccine. The Omicron COVID booster vaccine has two Omicron variant types it protects against, BA.4 and BA.5, and so it has two valences, or is called the bivalent COVID vaccine
- mRNA– DNA works by dictating exactly which proteins your cell will make. The message on how to construct each protein is delivered to the cell machinery that makes proteins by a piece of genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA
- mRNA vaccine– an mRNA vaccine places a small bit of mRNA code that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected
- Viral vector vaccine– a viral vector vaccine takes a harmless virus that is known to infect people reliably and places that weakened virus in a person where that virus will in fact infect the person. The virus is not only weakened, but also attached to a set of genes that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected.
Over the course of the three and half years of the global COVID catastrophe, most of our updates have had to share truly terrible news. Readers of Real Answers, and anyone following news is more than aware of the tragic loss of life caused by the interaction of this dangerous virus and human error, negligence, and even cruelty.
But today, the news is good.
COVID in the United States is continuing to subside. For the last several weeks, the death rate has dropped to an annual rate of about 60,000 deaths a year from COVID for the whole nation.
Before immunizations, that rate was about 500,000 deaths a year!
Given that the chance a person with symptoms will be tested for COVID has nearly vanished in the US, the rate of death remains one of the most reliable indicators of just how common COVID remains here.
At the level of 60,000 deaths a year, we are at the lowest rate of dying from COVID since the very beginning of the outbreak in America, the week of March 19, 2020. And we are approaching the rate of influenza deaths which are steady at 30-50,000 deaths a year in America.
Best estimates for what this virus and our response did to all of humanity suggest it killed about 20 million of us, including over 1 million Americans. Across the globe, there have been only 4 plagues across human history that we know have killed more people total than COVID. Those would be the Black Death during the plague of Justinian in Byzantine times, killing 50 million people. The Black Death of the Middle Ages in Europe and Asia, killing also 50 million people, the 1918 influenza pandemic which took another 50-100 million lives, and lastly the AIDS pandemic which so far has killed 30 million people.
So COVID is indeed receding. At the start of the pandemic we observed that most modern respiratory virus pandemics last roughly 2-3 years, the COVID pandemic raged hot for about 3 years as anticipated.
But like many other respiratory viral pandemics, the raging fires of death may fade, but the virus continues.
The great killer of 1918, the H1N1 strain of influenza, continues to kill Americans today. As noted about 30-50,000 of us are killed by the flu virus every year, and the H1N1 strain is still a major cause of these deaths.
Just so with COVID. The pandemic may end, the danger may drop dramatically, but it typically never goes away all together.
The fact speak plainly and with power. People who are fully immunized, and if they get ill from COVID get tested and take Paxlovid suffer almost no chance of dying. Those who choose not to immunize, or make sure their immunizations are current, are the ones who remain at risk of death by COVID.
The definition of being fully and up-to-date immunized against COVID is now very simple.
Everyone age 6 months old and up should have at least a 3 dose series, and no matter how many you have had, the last one now needs to be the updated, bivalent booster.
That’s right, very simple.
Everyone 6 months old to 120 years old at this time should have at least 3 COVID vaccines, and the last should be the updated bivalent COVID vaccine.
No matter if you have had 3, 4, or 5 COVID vaccines, if your last one was not the bivalent type, get the bivalent type.
- If current trends stay constant, it is clear the pandemic is over.
- Death rates from COVID remain the best gauge for how active the disease is, and in the US we are at our lowest since March, 2020.
- Current rates of death from COVID in the US are at about 60,000 death a year. Now nearing the annual number of deaths by influenza in the US (30-50,000).
- Like the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic, COVID will likely remain present, just at lower levels.
- The sole choice that can really move you and those you love into a position where COVID deaths will not claim you is to ensure everyone is fully
- For ALL ages 6 months and through 120 years old, fully immunized is defined as having 3 COVID vaccines with the last one being the updated bivalent COVID vaccine.
- No matter if you have had 3 or more COVID vaccines, if the last was not bivalent, you are not fully immunized without that type.
It has been a very hard, very cruel, and very tragic 3 years. We can all sigh relief that the Pandemic phase of COVID may truly be over, let us hope it remains so!
But the germ still travels amongst us, likely always will, so being protected from it killing us remains a good idea, and compelling.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin