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Thread: Disease and pandemics thread (because it's science)

  1. #2611
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    The thing is, you donít even need anti-vax sentiment.
    My family is very pro-vacation, probably because my uncle suffered from polio. Still, Iím not vaccinated for small pox, even though all my peers are.

    My brother had a nasty reaction to the vaccine. After talking to the doctor, my parents decided not to vaccinate me. Understandable, given the odds of infection were almost nil.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  2. #2612
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    So, the decision-maker pays 100% of the cost, but receives less than 100% of the benefit - the result is a sub-optimal rate of vaccination.
    That's not the real reason.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    That's not the real reason.
    There is no single "real reason", and it turns out to be counterproductive to treat the problem as if it's a single monolithic "anti-vax" movement.
    To quote the ECDC:
    Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.
    21st Century Schizoid Man's narrative encompasses the "complacency and convenience" mechanisms quite well.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    There is no single "real reason", and it turns out to be counterproductive to treat the problem as if it's a single monolithic "anti-vax" movement.
    To quote the ECDC:21st Century Schizoid Man's narrative encompasses the "complacency and convenience" mechanisms quite well.

    Grant Hutchison
    But what it's not, is a cost/benefit analysis. Most folks don't sit down and figure percentages.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But what it's not, is a cost/benefit analysis. Most folks don't sit down and figure percentages.
    But they do weigh risks and benefits, consciously or unconsciously. And in the mass the effect of that is often that people behave as if they've done the maths. It's called rational choice theory, and it's quite productive. As 21st Century Schizoid Man says, public health benefit from vaccination is an absolutely classic example of a positive externality, and people respond to it in an absolutely predictable way.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But what it's not, is a cost/benefit analysis. Most folks don't sit down and figure percentages.
    As Grant said, I think we do make cost/benefit analyses, even if we don't sit down with a calculator. I think even animals do, albeit unconsciously. "I'm hungry, and there's some nice looking grass over there, but that lion in the distances is a bit dangerous... Should I go?"
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    My family is very pro-vacation, ....
    My family is pro-vacation too!
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post

    So, the decision-maker pays 100% of the cost, but receives less than 100% of the benefit - the result is a sub-optimal rate of vaccination.
    I do agree. But on the other hand, as Grant said, apparently getting vaccinated means there is a lower chance I will get serious disease even if I catch the disease. So in that case, regardless of what benefit it has to others, that might be a benefit that in itself is worth the cost of the problems associated with vaccination (even if it doesn't protect you perfectly from infection). It may be that that point is not sufficiently emphasized.
    As above, so below

  9. #2619
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    My family is pro-vacation too!
    Dang autocorrect!
    Actually, and sadly, we have been anti-vacation this year.
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  10. #2620
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    Dang autocorrect!
    I figured that was the case. It was just too cute to pass up.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    As Grant said, I think we do make cost/benefit analyses, even if we don't sit down with a calculator. I think even animals do, albeit unconsciously. "I'm hungry, and there's some nice looking grass over there, but that lion in the distances is a bit dangerous... Should I go?"
    To some extent, the population-level calculation about externalities is performed in the same way Searle's Chinese Room speaks Chinese. No component of the Chinese Room understands Chinese, and yet Chinese is spoken by it. No member of a community sits down and performs a mathematical risk/benefit calculation, and yet the population's behaviour matches that of a population responding to a risk/benefit calculation.
    Whether the Room really speaks Chinese, or the population really has done the maths, is a fundamentally philosophical question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I do agree. But on the other hand, as Grant said, apparently getting vaccinated means there is a lower chance I will get serious disease even if I catch the disease. So in that case, regardless of what benefit it has to others, that might be a benefit that in itself is worth the cost of the problems associated with vaccination (even if it doesn't protect you perfectly from infection). It may be that that point is not sufficiently emphasized.
    Yes, there are people who gain massive personal benefit from vaccination--a big reduction in risk of death, a reduction in fear, an ability to resume some activities. For them, the positive externality is irrelevant.
    But for some people in low-risk situations (real or perceived), for whom vaccination brings anxiety and inconvenience, the positive externality becomes relevant, and we can increase vaccine uptake either by decreasing their anxiety and inconvenience, or in some way internalizing the externality for them. We can do the latter by creating a situation in which people get personal satisfaction or win social kudos by helping reduce disease prevalence, or we can do something as blunt as paying them to be vaccinated.
    The latter option is how society often deals with negative externalities, like pollution--the polluter doesn't suffer the full impact of their pollution, but gains all the benefits of the polluting process. So we fine them or tax them to internalize that externality for them.

    Grant Hutchison

  12. #2622
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    That's not the real reason.
    Will you be letting us know what the "real reason" is, or is it a secret?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But what it's not, is a cost/benefit analysis. Most folks don't sit down and figure percentages.
    Every single person I have spoken with about this, no exceptions at all, including the one anti-vaxxer, seems to have done some sort of thinking about "these are the advantages" and "these are the disadvantages" when deciding what to do. Now, I may disagree with the factual basis for some of their advantages/disadvantages, but I have yet to meet a person who says "I'm getting vaccinated even though there no advantages and lots of disadvantages", or the opposite for people who don't want to get vaccinated.

    It sure looks like a cost/benefit analysis to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    But on the other hand, as Grant said, apparently getting vaccinated means there is a lower chance I will get serious disease even if I catch the disease. So in that case, regardless of what benefit it has to others, that might be a benefit that in itself is worth the cost of the problems associated with vaccination (even if it doesn't protect you perfectly from infection).
    Oh sure, one might choose to be vaccinated anyway, even while ignoring any public benefits, because the private benefits alone are worthwhile. That can certainly happen, and no doubt is happening.

    The government where I am is concerned that people might decline to be vaccinated, not because they're anti-vaxxers, but because we barely have the disease here - it's been nearly eradicated. So they're concerned people will say, why should I be vaccinated when the probability I'll get the disease is already really really low? Well if they're deciding only for themselves, then I don't see a problem with letting them decide to face that risk if they want. But they're also deciding on behalf of any other people (including some who can't be vaccinated for various reasons) who will be exposed if they chose not to be vaccinated, and do get the disease. In particular, someone who is young and in good health may reason that, the odds I'll get the disease are really low, and even if I do get it, odds are it will only be a mild case, without taking into account that the people they expose might be elderly or have underlying health conditions that make them much more at risk of serious problems (up to and including death).
    So . . . does this look as bad as it looks?

  13. #2623
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    My family is very pro-vacation
    I have always been pro-vacation. Since life is a lot closer to back to normal here, where the disease is nearly eradicated, the inability to travel is the effect I feel most keenly.

    My hope is that those who are pro-vaccination will soon also be allowed to be pro-vacation.
    Last edited by 21st Century Schizoid Man; 2021-Mar-21 at 03:09 AM.
    So . . . does this look as bad as it looks?

  14. #2624
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    An interesting read in The Atlantic about the challenges of COVID data collection and how (and why) the COVID Tracking Project began.

    (The story should be visible unless you have exceeded the magazine's limit of free articles.)

    Why the Pandemic Experts FailedWe’re still thinking about pandemic data in the wrong ways.


    ROBINSON MEYER AND ALEXIS C. MADRIGAL
    MARCH 15, 2021

    A few minutes before midnight on March 4, 2020, the two of us emailed every U.S. state and the District of Columbia with a simple question: How many people have been tested in your state, total, for the coronavirus?

    By then, about 150 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States, and 11 had died of the disease. Yet the CDC had stopped publicly reporting the number of Americans tested for the virus. Without that piece of data, the tally of cases was impossible to interpret—were only a handful of people sick? Or had only a handful of people been tested? To our shock, we learned that very few Americans had been tested.

    The consequences of this testing shortage, we realized, could be cataclysmic. A few days later, we founded the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic with Erin Kissane, an editor, and Jeff Hammerbacher, a data scientist. Every day last spring, the project’s volunteers collected coronavirus data for every U.S. state and territory. We assumed that the government had these data, and we hoped a small amount of reporting might prod it into publishing them.

    Not until early May, when the CDC published its own deeply inadequate data dashboard, did we realize the depth of its ignorance. And when the White House reproduced one of our charts, it confirmed our fears: The government was using our data. For months, the American government had no idea how many people were sick with COVID-19, how many were lying in hospitals, or how many had died. And the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, started as a temporary volunteer effort, had become a de facto source of pandemic data for the United States.

    After spending a year building one of the only U.S. pandemic-data sources, we have come to see the government’s initial failure here as the fault on which the entire catastrophe pivots. The government has made progress since May; it is finally able to track pandemic data. Yet some underlying failures remain unfixed. The same calamity could happen again.

  15. #2625
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    Disease and pandemics thread (because it's science)

    The state of Maryland publishes some COVID-19 statistics online. One table that caught my eye lists cases and deaths by age (in 10-year groups).

    The case numbers were interesting, but not surprising. Although I was aware that likelihood of death increased with age, I hadnít realized how dramatic (and exponential) it is.
    For example, although the case numbers for people in their 40s and 50s is about the same, deaths are 3 times higher for those in their 50s. It gets far worse for older folks.

    The tables can be found at the following website, but you have to scroll down.

    https://coronavirus.maryland.gov
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

  16. #2626
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    A rule of thumb offered by David Spiegelhalter is that, if you catch Covid, it doubles your chance of dying that year. It's approximately true over a wide range of ages and comorbidities.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Earlier in this thread, we had some discussion about how the vaccines are good at preventing serious disease but not so much at preventing infection. But if you read articles, there are ones like this that say that at least some of them are 90% effective at stopping infection. And yet, although vaccination drives are going on, the number of cases is jumping up again and it looks like in many places in the world, we are facing a fourth wave that may be even worse than the third one (because it's starting at a higher level). I was hoping that even some vaccination would make a dent.
    As above, so below

  18. #2628
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    Coronavirus is airborne apparently. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-...-airborne.html
    The moment an instant lasted forever, we were destined for the leading edge of eternity.

  19. #2629
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Coronavirus is airborne apparently. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-...-airborne.html
    Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    But to be fair, the article seems to be about why it is airborne.
    As above, so below

  20. #2630
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    But to be fair, the article seems to be about why it is airborne.
    Original Lancet article here. It's an opinion piece, setting out the strands of evidence that support an "airborne" (that is, aerosol rather than large-droplet) transmission for Covid under some circumstances, together with a claim that airborne is actually the dominant mode of transmission. So it's a polemic, omitting all mention of the other evidence that supports droplet rather than aerosol. And it was written in reaction to a WHO-funded literature review which suggested that firm conclusions on the topic are not yet warranted.

    So it's just the latest salvo in a year-long argument over the extent to which Covid is transmitted by aerosols rather than larger droplets. It'll be interesting to see what sort of commentary it elicits over the next few days.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Apr-16 at 01:42 AM.

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    I am bothered by hearing "more contagious" or even "more lethal" strains in the news. A couple decades ago, I read an article that said it is theoretically possible for a virus, instead of evolving to accommodate its host, can actually get worse...it was called "hypervirulence". It was a proposed explanation of certain species extinctions. Is this a remote possibility?
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I am bothered by hearing "more contagious" or even "more lethal" strains in the news. A couple decades ago, I read an article that said it is theoretically possible for a virus, instead of evolving to accommodate its host, can actually get worse...it was called "hypervirulence". It was a proposed explanation of certain species extinctions. Is this a remote possibility?
    Viruses are selected for what benefits the viral replication, not the host. If that means less virulent, or more virulent.

    A virus too virulent to its hosts kills them before it can spread. At first, the virus had a long period of absent or mild symptoms while contagious, because that evolutionary strategy let it spread to many hosts. Nowadays, the virus doesn't need a long period of masking itself to spread widely anymore... it's done so in spades. So now it's adapting to a huge population of hosts with lots of travel and interaction.

    Extinction is not on the table, though. It leaves too many survivors.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  23. #2633
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I am bothered by hearing "more contagious" or even "more lethal" strains in the news. A couple decades ago, I read an article that said it is theoretically possible for a virus, instead of evolving to accommodate its host, can actually get worse...it was called "hypervirulence". It was a proposed explanation of certain species extinctions. Is this a remote possibility?
    Anything is possible. But a virus that kills its host, also kills itself. So that is not a particularly good survival "strategy" for the virus. (I know "strategy" makes it sounds like the virus is a sentient being, but it's just cumbersome to try to describe what is going on more accurately.)

    Since the virus is out in the wild, quite widely spread, the more virulent strain would have to outcompete the less virulent strain. That doesn't seem likely.

    Now, once we get loads of people vaccinated, then the virus will become rare again, and maybe a more virulent strain could evolve, one which can defeat the vaccine. That can happen, and there certainly have been diseases which have killed huge numbers of people (e.g., the Black Death). But even that one seems to have evolved into a less virulent strain - the organism (not a virus) that causes it does itself no favours by killing its host quickly, before they have a chance to cough all over their friends and neighbours.

    It seems to me that a disease is much more likely to result in an extinction event if the host population is already stressed for some reason, loss of habitat, change in climactic conditions, whatever. Humans are a highly adaptable species that have spread around almost the whole world, and who number in the several billions - it would have to be a virulent strain indeed that would cause humans to become extinct. But suppose the Toba catastrophe theory were correct, and the human population were reduced to three thousand to ten thousand individuals. And right at that time, a highly virulent disease, maybe something like the plague of the fourteenth century, struck - could that have made humans become extinct? Maybe.
    So . . . does this look as bad as it looks?

  24. #2634
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    Hasten to add, we can always invent new vaccines. Or otherwise fight the more deadly aspects of the resulting disease.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Here is a post from another forum. Is he right?


    Isn't there a chance that the recovering person is still up and about (imagine he's just sneezing a bit, or better still: asymptomatic), spreading the virus, while the one that is going to die, is bed-stricken and not going anywhere. If I were a virus that wants to propagate, I'd take the former person.

    Now imagine, all the asymptomatic, sneezing persons are locked in their homes, so the less dangerous virus is locked in as well, but the more deadly virus is transported to hospitals and care homes where there are plenty of vulnerable and immuno-compromised hosts?

    Suddenly, with your lockdown, you have changed the playing field for the virus variants, providing equal chances for all. Imagine doing that, knowing full well that the lockdown will be suboptimal to boot (highly likely, given all those dumb people associating consumption with freedom).

    And then, because of all those highly dangerous variants out and about, your vaccination program has become suboptimal as well, creating the risk that one of those variants turns into something that escapes immunity altogether. Imagine that.


    Moderator's note: the quoted text is from
    a post on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum.
    Last edited by PetersCreek; 2021-May-04 at 03:16 PM. Reason: Link to source
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

  26. #2636
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Isn't there a chance that the recovering person is still up and about (imagine he's just sneezing a bit, or better still: asymptomatic), spreading the virus, while the one that is going to die, is bed-stricken and not going anywhere. If I were a virus that wants to propagate, I'd take the former person.
    Yes, as described above, that's how viruses evolve.

    Now imagine, all the asymptomatic, sneezing persons are locked in their homes, so the less dangerous virus is locked in as well, but the more deadly virus is transported to hospitals and care homes where there are plenty of vulnerable and immuno-compromised hosts?
    Um, what? Why would that happen? It does not sound like a natural process of selection.

    Suddenly, with your lockdown, you have changed the playing field for the virus variants, providing equal chances for all.
    Like a prospector's stubborn mule, that does not follow.

    Imagine doing that, knowing full well that the lockdown will be suboptimal to boot (highly likely, given all those dumb people associating consumption with freedom).
    I don't need to imagine that, I see it out my window.

    And then, because of all those highly dangerous variants out and about, your vaccination program has become suboptimal as well, creating the risk that one of those variants turns into something that escapes immunity altogether. Imagine that.
    No, more deadly variants mean the vaccine development efforts are getting ramped up! The exact opposite of what you propose. And medical science doesn't go backwards. We build on the knowledge and skills we've already developed, making that scenario less likely as time passes and we gain experience, not more.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    I think the post is not entirely self-consistent. It refers to "equal chances for all", but also describes a situation where the more deadly virus is in a more hospitable environment for spread. It can't be both equal and preferential.

    But if we go with the "preferential" version, the argument seems to be, allowing the less virulent version of the virus to roam more freely, will prevent spread of the more virulent form.

    In any event, I have a hard time seeing how the more virulent virus would spread easily among the hospitals and care homes, while the less virulent one wouldn't. It seems for this argument to work, we would need a constant infusion of the more virulent version of the virus into this population, because severely ill people are constantly brought into these places. Well I suppose that could lead to the more virulent virus spreading easily among the care homes and hospitals, but I don't see how it brings it back out into the general population, if that population is under lockdown. Should quarantine not prevent the spread of the more virulent virus from these sorts of places into the general population?
    So . . . does this look as bad as it looks?

  28. #2638
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    I am bothered by hearing "more contagious" or even "more lethal" strains in the news. A couple decades ago, I read an article that said it is theoretically possible for a virus, instead of evolving to accommodate its host, can actually get worse...it was called "hypervirulence". It was a proposed explanation of certain species extinctions. Is this a remote possibility?
    That was a hypothesis to "explain" the megafaunal extinctions associated with human arrival in the New World--that humans carried a magic pathogen that readily transmitted between mammalian species and was deadly to megafauna but benign in humans. The fact that it has gained no traction in twenty years should be telling you something.

    Grant Hutchison

  29. #2639
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Here is a post from another forum. Is he right?


    Isn't there a chance that the recovering person is still up and about (imagine he's just sneezing a bit, or better still: asymptomatic), spreading the virus, while the one that is going to die, is bed-stricken and not going anywhere. If I were a virus that wants to propagate, I'd take the former person.

    Now imagine, all the asymptomatic, sneezing persons are locked in their homes, so the less dangerous virus is locked in as well, but the more deadly virus is transported to hospitals and care homes where there are plenty of vulnerable and immuno-compromised hosts?

    Suddenly, with your lockdown, you have changed the playing field for the virus variants, providing equal chances for all. Imagine doing that, knowing full well that the lockdown will be suboptimal to boot (highly likely, given all those dumb people associating consumption with freedom).

    And then, because of all those highly dangerous variants out and about, your vaccination program has become suboptimal as well, creating the risk that one of those variants turns into something that escapes immunity altogether. Imagine that.
    In addition to the flaws that NCN and 21st Century Schizoid Man point out, this entire thing sounds like excuses from someone who doesn't want to comply with lockdowns and getting a vaccine.
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  30. #2640
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    this entire thing sounds like excuses from someone who doesn't want to comply with lockdowns and getting a vaccine.

    Actually, that is not a bad description of the poster :-)
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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