Covid-19: masks work, we figured that out YEARS ago

I was thinking about masks and the whole “masks don’t work” or “masks are unproven*” thing. That is complete and utter crap. We proved masks work YEARS ago.

If they don’t work, do you mind if your surgeon don’t wear one? What about your nurse with a cough when you are in the ICU? I think we have proved quite definitively in the operating room that masks work.

Also, your family doc and OBgyn ain’t gonna NOT wear a mask when delivering baby because it can be REALLY SPLASHY. And some patients who are delivering a baby have hepatitis B or HIV or hepatitis C or whatever. WE DO NOT WANT TO CATCH IT SO WE WEAR MASKS. MASKS WORK.

And take tuberculosis. Tuberculosis bacillus is tiny and can be air borne, if you have active tuberculosis and cough. We use reverse flow rooms in the hospital with an airlock: a door to a small entry room, that has to close before you enter the inner patient room. And the air is slightly lower pressure so that air comes in from the airlock but doesn’t flow out. All the air out of the room is filtered to catch and kill the tuberculosis bacillus. We go in the airlock and put on nearly full gear: gown, gloves, mask, hair covers, shoe covers. When we come out, we take it all off in the airlock. We also keep a stethoscope in the room so that we don’t carry infection from patient to patient.

So the whole anti mask thing seems categorically insane to me.

Like, didn’t we figure out masks work back before the civil war? Or thereabouts. No, maybe later than that. Without masks and gloves we had all the women with post baby fever, who died like flies and most people died of infection after surgery. Until that coke addict at Johns Hopkins made people wear clean clothes and wash their damn hands before each surgery and wear gloves. Suddenly people survived post surgery at a much higher rate. Everyone came to train with him to imitate him. By 1897 everyone was wearing gloves to prevent infection. And so a brilliant coke addict invented medical residency, which is why residents are not allowed to sleep. We’ve gotten over that a bit.

Anyhow: masks work. Think, people, think.

*Usually the unnews qualifies this as “masks are not PROVEN to work with Covid-19”. What, you want a ten year clinical trial first? Are you crazy? And the resounding answer is “YES! We are crazy!”

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: December. Because everyone should have figured out masks by now.

Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric syndrome

Yes, well, PANS rather than PANDAS. PANDAS is just a cooler acronym. Who wants a syndrome named after a kitchen implement? Not me. And probably tuberculosis (my mom’s) was the initial insult and then I was one of those kids who gets Strep A at least yearly. My daughter too, but my son only had Strep A once.

This is actually Pseudoautoimmune. That is, the antibodies that show up to Strep A attack parts of ourselves. It buggers up the acronym so they are not calling in PPANS. Yet. And eventually they will have to drop the Pediatric, so then it’s back to PANS. Oh, well, I can live with a stupid acronym.

My current theory is that the four antibodies that they’ve found so far are an interesting back up crisis system. Either stress or infection can set them off. Once the antibody levels are high, a person gets

1. Either brain fog or some variation of ADHD/OCD/Manic-depressive/TICS/Oppositional Defiance/etc. The brain fog can be labeled depression or memory loss, partly depending on the age of the person.

2. Muscle weirdness: either super strong/super endurance or slow twitch/fast twitch/both muscle dysfunction. With slow and fast twitch muscle dysfunction, theoretically that would be a source of at least some of the chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue pretty much happens over night and is triggered by one in ten severe infections and/or stress. Though possibly more with Covid-19. The latest estimates are 30% of everyone infected has some form of Long Covid.

3. Anti lysoganglioside. I am still studying lysogangliosides. They lyse ganglions. In theory if this blocks the lysogangliosides, there could be a higher risk of cancer. If the ganglions are lysed more, well, more brain dysfunction and memory loss. I also noticed that I had tremendous muscle pain if I ate the wrong things. This could then be the mechanism for some of the fibromyalgia people.

How to fight this?

It’s not going to be popular in medicine, particularly allopathic, because the main treatments that I can think of are NOT DRUGS.

1. Look for infection and treat it. Penicillin is cheap. High dose if the person doesn’t respond. I don’t look septic when I am near septic: no elevated white blood cell count and no fever. It’s the urine output multiplied by 5, that is, 10 liters instead of 2 liters in 24 hours, that is the clue. This time I did not get to that point and it was milder. Though I need oxygen.

2. Quiet the immune system. Teach the slow breathing that we are using for chronic pain and our anxious people and PTSD veterans. Going from the ramped up hyper crazy sympathetic nervous system state to the quiet relaxed parasympathetic nervous system is a skill that I think anyone can learn. The immune system calms down in the parasympathetic state and antibody levels will drop. The naturopaths want to give tons of pills (that they sell from their clinic or get a kick back from the on line company) for “immune dysfunction” but most of it is crap. Yes, crap. So the naturopaths won’t like this idea either.

3. For the anti lysoganglioside, I’ve treated this by changing my diet. When my antibodies are high, I have to keep my blood sugar as low as possible which means I go keto. As the antibodies come down, I can add foods back in. I am eating everything now except gluten. The gluten is annoying but Things Could Be Worse. Lots worse. This time I figured out that gluten, fructose and sucrose were culprits but not lactose and as I get better rice, potatoes and corn are fine. I dislike soy and always have, except for soy sauce and tamari. Tofu tastes like squishy cardboard to me, yuk. The gluten thing may get better, but since it appears that the baseline of the antibodies rises with each infection/attack, it might not. I will ask for celiac testing in January if I haven’t improved by now. I am not a “bad” celiac who gets terrible symptoms if there is a whiff of gluten. A little doesn’t bother me. French toast two weeks ago brought back the diverticular symptoms and kept hurting for a week. This did motivate me to hold off on gluten. Especially in the holidays and traveling. Again, everyone makes different antibodies, so the food patterns could be highly variable in different people. How very very interesting.

4. Treat the psychiatric stuff. If antibiotics and slow breathing and other parasympathetic exercises don’t help the person, then add the psychiatric drugs. But I’d try the above three first, unless the person is suicidal or threatening others. I am a drug minimalist. Eat food, exercise, have friends, work some, play lots and avoid pills. Including vitamins and supplements.

And that’s the basic plan for treating PANS. The symptoms of Long Haul Covid-19 bear a strong resemblance to my four pneumonias: brain fog or psychiatric problems, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle pain. Therefore I would try similar treatments which may help some people with Long Haul Covid-19, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

We will see if I make any headway at all.

___________________________________________

For more about PANS/PANDAS: https://home.liebertpub.com/news/revised-treatment-guidelines-released-for-pediatric-acute-onset-neuropsychiatric-syndrome-pans-pandas/2223

writhe

You are sick as shit.

You go to the ER.

You finally feel safe, on a bed, they will save me, you think.

The nurse is on autopilot. He does not seem concerned. You are shaking a little as he arranges you on the bed. He puts the heart monitor stickers on and hooks you up. Blood pressure cuff, pulse ox. Blood pressure is fine, pulse is a bit fast, at 110.

You notice he is not making eye contact.

“I’m cold.” you whisper.

He doesn’t reply. He keeps messing with the wires. He puts the call button next to your hand. He leaves and returns with a warm blanket. It feels wonderful. He doesn’t say a word.

You feel better under the warmth.

The respiratory therapist wheels in the ECG machine. You smile at her but again, no eye contact. She puts more stickers on you. “Hold a deep breath.” The ECG spits out. She takes it and leaves.

The radiology tech wheels the portable xray machine in. You watch his face but don’t bother to smile. He looks everywhere but at you. It’s a bit creepy. Are they all robots? It’s 3 pm, not 3 am. “Lean forward,” says the tech, putting the radiology cartridge behind you. “Take a deep breath and hold it.” He takes the cartridge and leaves.

The nurse is back. Puts in the iv and draws 5 tubes of blood. You are shivering a little. He doesn’t seem to notice. You think about another warm blanket. The iv fluid starts and you can feel it running cold into your arm.

There is a child crying in the ER, in some other room. You start noticing the noises. Machines beeping. People typing on computer keyboards. No one is talking. The kid gives a howl of protest, rising and then is abruptly quiet.

Your hands and feet are tingling and burning. You writhe a little under the blanket. Sensation is returning to your hands and feet. It hurts but it is also good. You were at the point where all your feeling had shrunk to a tiny spark in the center of your chest. As the iv fluid runs, feeling slowly spreads out from that.

The doctor comes in. Grumpy, clearly. “Lean forward.” Listens to your chest. “Sounds clear.”

“It’s been hurting for 5 days. It hurts to breathe. Burns.” You are anxious as hell. BELIEVE ME.

The ER doc gives a little shrug. “Oxygen sats are fine.” He does a half-assed exam. He leaves.

You look at your feet, taking your socks off. Because he didn’t. There are two black spots, a couple millimeters across, old blood. Those are new.

You press the call button.

Time goes by. The nurse floats back in.

“Look. Tell the doctor to look. These are petechiae.” You point to the black spots.

If the nurse had laser vision, your feet would be burned. The nurse glares at your feet. He goes out.

The doc comes in and looks at your feet.

“They are petichiae. I have an infection.”

He gives a tiny shrug. “Your chest xray looks clear. Your labs are normal. You are not running a fever.”

“I am on azithromycin for walking pneumonia. I suddenly felt like all the fluid was running out of my arms and legs. I am worried that I am septic.”

“Blood pressure is fine. You are really really anxious.”

You are furious. It probably shows on your face. You are terrified.

“Could it be an antibiotic reaction?”

Shrug. “No rash.”

“Except the petechiae.” A sign of sepsis.

“I will change the antibiotics. Clindamycin.” He leaves.

You lie back, terrified. He doesn’t believe you. He is sending you home, septic. You will probably die.

The nurse comes in. Removes the iv and unhooks the monitor and the blood pressure cuff. You get dressed, numb and frightened and cold. The nurse goes out and returns. He recites the patient instructions in a bored voice and gives you the first dose of clindamycin.

You walk shakily to the door of the emergency room. To go home. While you are septic and they don’t believe you. You know what happens with sepsis: your blood pressure will drop and then organ damage and then IF you survive you could have heart damage or lung damage or brain damage and you might not anyhow.

You go home.

Covid-19: in flew Enza

Survey shows 6 in 10 Americans will delay or skip flu shots this year.

Oh, dear. Not going to get your influenza shot? I am. Well, you say, YOU are on oxygen and have tricky lungs and keep yammering about imaginary Pandas.

Yes, and you should get your vaccine anyhow, even if you are healthy as a hoss.

If not for yourself, for everyone else. Because usually influenza kills 12,000 to 61,000 US citizens a year and gosh, guess what it will do to post-Covid long haulers. Um, kill, I would expect. And with a very low influenza winter last winter, because covid and masks and social distancing, immunity is down and the infectious disease folks are anticipating that it could be a worse than usual influenza year. How many people have long covid? This just in: More than half of covid survivors experience post acute sequelae to covid 19 (PASC) at 6 months after. ““The most common PASC involved functional mobility impairments, pulmonary abnormalities, and mental health disorders,” wrote Destin Groff, Penn State College of Medicine and Milton S Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania, and colleagues. ”These long-term PASC effects occur on a scale that could overwhelm existing health care capacity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.”

AND not only that, even if you or your friend or mother or grandmother don’t die of influenza, far more people clog up emergency rooms and doctor’s offices. The “CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.”* And the doctors and nurses and emergency people and nursing home employees and first responders are already short staffed and tired. So if you won’t get your flu vaccine for the general public, get it for the first responders.

AND before you tell me that “the vaccine gave me flu”, hello, it takes up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to confer immunity, and so if you got influenza two days later, you didn’t get it from the vaccine, you got it because you got the vaccine too late. Vaccine complications, well, I have seen one complication in my 30 years of Family Medicine, and it was someone I knew, not a patient. And half the people who tell me that “the vaccine gave me flu”, stomach flu with diarrhea and barfing is not influenza. It’s more likely to be a hangover than anything else. I see a lot more post alcohol “stomach flus” than true food poisoning. Quit drinking so much alcohol, ok?

And while you are at it, you’d better get the Covid-19 vaccine while it is still available free. And before you get on an airplane for Thanksgiving or go Trick or Treating with all those little germ spreaders or fly off to see family at Christmas/Kwanza/Winter break/whatever. Two weeks before, at least. Like, NOW. Or don’t, whatever, just don’t whine to ME about more deaths.

This public service message has been brought to you by a beneficent alien lizard. Feel free to send money.

*https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

in fog

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: myocarditis.

There is myocarditis and pericarditis in some 20 something year olds after the Pfizer vaccine. However, the amount of myocarditis and pericarditis is ten times as much in 20 something year olds unvaccinated with Covid-19. The myocarditis and pericarditis with the vaccine is short term. There is also a recent study just out of over 43, 000 people in Great Britan indicating that unvaccinated people with Delta variant Covid-19 are 2.26 times more likely to be hospitalized as unvaccinated with the Alpha variant.

The fog is burning off. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the vaccine is way safer than the Delta variant Covid-19 infection. It is still too late, too late, for some people.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25133462-800-myocarditis-is-more-common-after-covid-19-infection-than-vaccination/

Covid-19: A gentle answer

I went to have a hair cut today and went in three shops since I was downtown anyhow.

There are lots of tourists and visitors walking around without masks.

In one shop the owner asks if I am Dr. O, and it turns out her daughter babysat for my children 19-20 years ago. We had a nice discussion about our offspring. We are both wearing masks.

In a mineral store somehow the covid-19 subject comes up. I say that I am wearing a mask because I am on oxygen and vulnerable, and even though I am vaccinated, if I get covid-19, it might kill me.

The two owners are not wearing masks. The woman says, “We are both vaccinated, but I am just really confused about what to do.”

I say, “Well, I am a Family Physician. Let’s take chicken pox. If someone is exposed, it can take 21 days for them to break out in the rash. They will be contagious for 1-2 days before they have symptoms. The problem is that it can be ANY of those 21 days. After they break out in the rash, they are contagious until every pox is crusted over. So it can be six weeks that they are possibly or certainly contagious. With Covid-19, the Delta Variant is so infectious and again people may not have symptoms yet, so I am wearing a mask any time I am around strangers.”

The woman says, “Thank you for telling me about it. It’s helpful to hear from a professional.”

“You’re welcome.” I say, gathering my bag to go.

“Look,” she says, “I am putting on my mask now!”

I look and she is.

covid 19 two

From November 20th, 2020:

My ex called Saturday. Early, which unusual. I thought he was calling to say his mother died.

Nope.

He is an RN at a nursing home. “We’ve gone from one Covid 19 patient to 55 in the nursing home in one week. And they installed a new computer program on Tuesday that makes everything take twice as long. I quit.”

Actually he gave two weeks notice.

He called our kids yesterday. He has Covid 19. However, they are so short of staff that he is working. On the Covid 19 ward of the nursing home.

____________________

In my clinic, we are struggling with watching people travel for Thanksgiving. We have decided. If someone travels or has Thanksgiving with other households, we will offer a zoom visit or a reschedule in two weeks. We do not want them to expose others in clinic. And if we get it or are exposed, we are closed for a minimum of two weeks.

____________________

He called me. Today 60 out of the 70 nursing home patients have it. All of the staff have it. The staff are working anyhow because there is no one else.

Quimper Family Telemedicine

Quimper Family Medicine is open and half or more visits have gone to telemedicine.

People are staying home, and hooray for that, many thanks to everyone who is trying to protect themselves and others. We have seen our patient numbers drop by more than half. We have intensified cleaning and discuss whether a clinic visit needs to be in person or can be via telemedicine. I am using VSee, Zoom and in a pinch, Messenger. At the same time I am still seeing some patients in person. We are extending refills, putting off labs, trying to walk the tricky balance of sharing decisions for each particular person.

Many thanks to everyone who is working with us. I am deeply thankful for all the people who are staying home and also for the people working in the grocery stores, supplies, garbage, electricity and medicine. Thanks to the Health Department and to the University of Washington lab and to Jefferson Healthcare’s Covid-19 testing. Thanks for the stimulus package that just passed and I hope will help everyone.

The photograph is Mount Baker on a hike with my daughter. It’s not in sharp focus, just like what will happen in the next week or two is not in focus.

Be careful out there.

Influenza 2016

No influenza cases so far this year in my clinic.

I watch the flu map faithfully each week, as I try to get my stubborn patients to get their influenza vaccine. It takes up to two weeks to get them immune, if it works. It works most years about 80% f the time. When it doesn’t work, it’s because either their immune system didn’t respond or because the influenza virus has traded genes enough that the guess six months before on which way it will evolve, is wrong.

Here is the CDC weekly influenza update link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm.

If you click on the FluView Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report, scroll down. My favorite to show patients are the Outpatient Illness Surveillance, which maps this year’s rise in influenza in the US each week, compared with past years. We are having a late year.

My other favorite is the next one down: ILIState Activity Indicator Map. It changes color each week by state as the influenza reports come in. Arizona turned red this year about a month ago, after Puerto Rico. Red is high activity level. The rest of the country was dark green, low, or light green, but has steadily been turning yellow green, yellow, orange…. Washington State is still green. But now only a few states are green and it’s still on the rise. If we continue to have unseasonably warm sunny days, like the last four days, we might avoid the influenza. But if it gets wet and cold again: boom. Like a sneeze, spreading. This is the first week we’ve had seven red states. I have been wearing a mask in clinic every time I see someone coughing. And I got a cold anyhow, but it is not influenza and I don’t think it’s strep A, thank goodness.

I said influenza is airborne but it isn’t. Or there is controversy. It is at least droplet spread, but sneezes count. Apparently influenza can get to people 6 feet away. Wear your space suit with the oxygen filter to the grocery store. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm — lots of information about the influenza virus. Is all of it 100% correct? Don’t be silly, this is science, not a religious text: science changes, just like the flu virus.

This year, a CDC alert was faxed to clinic on February 1: http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00387.asp. It is all very calm and clinical, with this sentence in the second paragraph: “CDC has received recent reports of severe respiratory illness among young- to middle-aged adults with H1N1pdm09 virus infection, some of whom required intensive care unit (ICU) admission; fatalities have been reported.” I called my son and said, “Get your flu shot now.” If you read the rest, it says ages 20-50 as the “young” and “middle-aged” adults. Not the group that we expect influenza to hit, but that is the group that got hit in the 1918-1919 influenza.

Get your flu shot… be careful out there.

 

I took the photograph two days ago with my phone: Boa was on my lap and I wrapped her in the shawl I’d knit, and she was so relaxed…. that’s how we need to take care of everyone with influenza.

 

Recovering from influenza exhaustion

Influenza can cause swelling in the lung tissue. This is different from pneumonia, in that it is not fluid in the lung air spaces and different from bronchitis, where there is swelling and inflammation along the tissues lining the lungs.

In really severe influenzal lung swelling, the air spaces swell shut, the lungs are bleeding and bruised, and the person dies. Young healthy recruits in the 1917-1918 influenza would literally turn blue as they were no longer able to breathe and they would die.

If a person is still feeling exhausted after the initial week of influenza, they need testing to find out if they have lung swelling. This can be done at home or in your doctor’s office.

To test at home, the patient should sit relaxed for 10-15 minutes. Take a one minute pulse count: normal is 60-100 beats in one minute. Then the patient should get up and walk until short of breath. Sit back down and repeat the pulse. If the pulse is jumping up 30 points or if it is over 100 after walking, there is still lung swelling. The treatment is rest.

To test in my office, I add a pulse oximeter. I get a resting oxygen and pulse level, walk the person and then watch the recovery. The oxygen level will often drop and then rise to the sitting baseline as the heart rate recovers. Most people do not need oxygen if they have a healthy heart and healthy lungs to start with.

You can see why influenza would be so dangerous to someone with an unhealthy heart or lungs, because the heart can’t make up the difference.

I had influenza in 2003 and had lung swelling to where I could not walk across the room without my heart rate going to 132. Sitting, my heart rate was 100. My normal heart rate is 65-75. It took two months for the swelling to subside and mostly I lay on the couch. Be reassured that if you rest when you need to, you will recover.

The photograph has my father sitting and Andy Makie standing with the harmonica, at a music party at my house in 2009. Both my father and Andy are gone in their 70s, primarily from lung damage from cigarettes. Miss them both. Thanks to Jack Reid too.