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Byron Shire
June 16, 2024

Wear masks

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Dr John Langford-Smith, West Ballina

With an Australian case fatality rate of 1.1 per cent for COVID-19, it is tempting to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is not that serious, and that the actions of politicians are disproportionate to the threat the virus poses.

However, in a survey of 1600 non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients, the Dutch respiratory group LongFonds, found that 9 of 10 reported difficulties with basic daily activities three months after initial symptoms.

One prospective study found 55 per cent of patients with COVID-19 had cardiac damage on the basis of echocardiography (Dwek et al). Using cardiac magnetic resonance, another study found evidence of cardiac involvement in 78 per cent and new-onset, persisting myocardial inflammation in 60 per cent (Puntmann et al). A study examining asymptomatic passengers from the Diamond Princess found that over 50 per cent had CT changes in their lungs (Inui et al). While it has received little attention, SARS-CoV-2 can damage Leydig cells in the testes, potentially causing permanent testicular atrophy (Yang et al).

A significant proportion of those with mild disease exhibit persisting long-term malaise, respiratory impairment, cardiac damage, neurological damage, and new-onset psychiatric disorders. While knowledge of long-term effects is evolving, the literature increasingly suggests a large percentage, perhaps even a majority, are left with permanent disability – the appearance of which is not necessarily linked to the severity of initial symptoms or age. This is not widely reported, but should be.

There is growing evidence that repeat and recurrent infections occur, and suggestions that herd immunity may not evolve spontaneously.

Studies suggest 50–80 per cent of spread is from minimally symptomatic or pre-symptomatic disease, which is why mask-wearing by all is advisable, and that masks are able to reduce spread by around 10 fold. Consistent mask-wearing, in conjunction with other measures, has the potential to eliminate the virus or avoid serial lockdowns and outbreaks as has occurred in Victoria. Public wearing of masks should be pre-emptively mandated and permanently established in other states before numbers accelerate. A reactive approach is inadequate and a proactive approach required.

If disposable masks are in short supply, they should be recycled after allowing the virus to inactivate for a few days in the heat on the car dashboard. As a previous science-based microbiologist and immunochemist, I suggest that a mask that is moist from day-long use is still better than no mask at all. There are also lots of patterns available for home-made masks on the internet, which can be washed in hot water and detergent, see the Community Mask Coalition. A local part-time Byron resident has also designed and is now manufacturing Australian-made, high-grade reusable ‘injected’ masks .

There has been strong emphasis on the need to maintain the economy, with which I agree. However, the countries with the least economic damage are those with low rates of infection. I advocate elimination of the virus which could have been achieved after the last lockdown if masks had been widely adopted.

Few complain that prohibiting drink-driving or mandatory car seatbelts threaten liberty. We all should accept masks as the new norm and aim to eliminate this virus. COVID-19 could be this generation’s polio if not taken seriously.

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  1. Good knowledgably info thanks.
    But there are problems with mask wearing. This morning I hear on radio of a female driver knocking to the ground a female police officer and bashing her head into the concrete several times after being asked why she was not wearing a mask.
    Frustrate people for long enough and a percentage of us will turn violent. That’s human nature unfortunately.
    And currently its a cost of obligatory mask wearing.
    We should expect more such violence as the disease spreads and restrictions increase.

  2. Knowledgably true I reckon. Self control is
    something we need to align with. I have
    started wearing a mask when out & doing
    the weekly shop etc. Why am I ‘masking’
    it? Because I have had COPD for more
    years than I’d care to remember. It will
    kill in the end unless something else does
    in the interim. Exercise helps frustration.
    Violence & anger – sad excuses. Self
    help is needed & a backbone to boot.

    • What a disgusting comment Anton, referring to Covid19 as a scam. One of my relatives died from this which you describe as a “sniffle”. How insulting to my family and the families of the hundred of thousands that have died in the world. Do some real research rather than listening to the idiotic conspiracy theories.

      • According to the Prime Minister and the WHO most people will have mild symptoms, that equals the sniffles, otherwise if you are old ,fat , diabetic and otherwise immune compromised then its not much different to the seasonal flu which kills a lot more than this feardemic , to dismiss some thing as a ‘conspiracy theory’ is in itself a conspiracy theory.

        • I suggested that you undertake some research into COVID 19. What is starting to emerge is that many afflicted people will suffer long lasting ill effects. Many people with the new coronavirus will go on to develop post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a disease that effects old and young. My relative who died was a healthy 43 year old.
          Different strains of influenza do effect a large number of people each year particularly the elderly. But, we do have a vaccine but not for COVID 19. The number of cases of influenza in Australia for 2020 is 10% compared to the same period in 2019.

        • Anton. A quote from the Victorian Premier’s media conference on Sunday.

          Mr Andrews said a failure of people following the coronavirus restrictions in the state meant “sadly, tragically … more families are planning funerals”.
          “I do not want a situation where the bad behaviour, the poor choices of a smaller number of people in any way detract from, I think, a growing number of Victorians who are doing the right thing,” he said.
          “I’ve had to stand here the last few days and report two people in their 30s who have died. Just today — two people in their 50s. The notion and around the world, people who are otherwise healthy of all ages, have died because of this virus. It’s a novel virus, it’s called that for a reason. We don’t know everything about it.
          “There’s growing global evidence that this is not like a cold where you simply get over it and a week or so later, you can barely remember that you had it.
          “There are growing numbers of people across the world who are reporting that this is lingering like a chronic condition — like a chronic illness where there is an impact over a period of time.”

  3. Anton, really – follow Harry’s advice and do some reading of reputable sources. You obviously haven’t even bothered to read this letter through. This view, despite what was known of the potential reproduction rate, had some currency a few months ago amongst the innumerate. A million plus deaths later – despite drastic worldwide action – fewer are now claiming this.

    A little hint, Scott Morrison has no medical qualifications. Neither he though, nor the WHO, is suggesting this in not a huge threat. Certain groups will be statistically less affected but as numbers rise so does the number of deathS and morbidity amongst the young and otherwise healthy. You see the problem is not confined to the death rate. For your own sake (I’m assuming you are neither old, fat, diabetic nor otherwise immune compromised) do some reading and learn about the very frequent long term (perhaps permanent) post infection health impacts on the young and healthy.

    You should also add to your list of risk factors being a nurse or doctor. There are over 1000 now infected in Victoria and, despite their age or health status, they have a higher risk of severe infection, death or long term morbidity.

    If you don’t care about anyone else though, do yourself a favour and don’t risk letting stupidity increase your risks of catching the virus with who knows what consequences. And the best favour you can do the economy is to leave social media alone for a while and listen to some epidemiologists.

    Besides what

  4. I am a bit perplexed. I am used to being lied to for most of my life; banks, big pharma, mining interests, doctors, politicians, the military, tobacco and gaming, telcos… you name it, they all lie for profit, or maybe they just enjoy doing it.
    So when.. when.. do we believe what government says about Covid-19? Are they guessing? Are they following a global ‘follow the leader’? When have vested interests stopped lying and started telling the truth? How do we recognise this?
    My rationale for dealing with this is to turn everything 180 degrees. Who profits, who wins, who loses.
    A Covid-19 vaccine? Big pharma wins again.

    • Latest from the WHO is that there may not be a COVID 19 vaccine. There has never been any vaccine developed for any coronavirus. Not only big pharmas miss out, but the human population also misses out.

  5. I’m as skeptical of big pharma and politicians as anyone else, but no sensible person could possibly deny the evidence that this virus is deadly, not just for older people, but many young people have succumbed with serious long-term health consequences.

    The sensible, minor constraints being asked of the rest of us: socially distancing and wearing a mask etc, won’t kill us, or anyone else.

    As one sensible, considerate young man said “just suck it up and bang on a mask”. Those who complain about such a minor inconvenience, and possibly spread this disease, may find there’s no hospital bed or ventilator available to them or their loved ones should they need it.

    • Completely agree, Louise. One excuse for not wearing a mask in Melbourne was provided by a young man who said that by wearing a mask he would be denying the community the delight at looking at his handsome face. He was issued a fine.

  6. I do doubt that ‘the handsome face’ would see the light.
    While I agree big pharma, state & fed governments &
    the rest of our users & abusers are all there to scam
    whatever they can via social media, I doubt ‘sniffles’
    ie; a cold, has anything to do with what our medical
    R.N.s, G.P.s & combined Specialists are loosing their
    own lives over. Not just here. World wide. The 1916
    pandemic took my great-grandmother’s life; aged 23.
    That included surrounding those farms. Do your
    -selves a favor. Read & listen to the Epidemiologists.

  7. I appreciate everyone’s comments – even if critical – and I am glad there is dialogue.
    I can assure you that I stand to gain nothing by promoting masks. It is strange to be bundled into the “distrusted authority group” by default as I consider myself a critic of lots of corrupt practices, but my motivation here is in wanting my community to be a better place. I have been frustrated that it has taken so long for masks to become accepted. If you wait until there is an outbreak, it is too late and you have a problem. Masks are a small cost to avoid this. Don’t forget that the WHO, the CDC, Dr Anthony Fauci and even the Australian CMO all said that masks were inadvisable if not dangerous for a long time. Fauci has since all but admitted that he lied about this in an interview on The Street.
    I have been wearing masks since early February as a way of making them “acceptable” for others to wear. I know that people don’t like to look different but I don’t mind taking this step as I see the long term benefits. I also consider it socially considerate as I don’t want to pass COVID to anyone else who might die or suffer serious complications.
    I have to correct the statement in my letter about herd immunity. There is now good evidence that herd immunity is appearing at much lower rates of community infection in many countries where the virus has been allowed to spread unimpeded, possibly from common cold Coronaviruses. There are lots of links I could provide here, but why not plot the figures for yourself. See “Our World in Data”. Rates of infection, but esp death rates have plummeted in larger cities and countries with previous rampant spread. You don’t see this in the popular press and you won’t hear it from those selling vaccines!
    Another positive piece of information is that there is enormous benefit from moderate Vit D supplements or sun exposure. It has long been known that low vitamin D levels are associated with disease severity. However, it has not been clear whether the disease causes the low Vit D, or the other way around, or both. Governments have been remiss in not investigating this earlier and leaving it to smaller laboratories. However, see the following two links ( https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.04.20188268v1.full.pdf , https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076020302764 ). There is now very strong evidence that Vit D supplements and/or sunshine exposure prospectively reduce your risk of catching the disease, having to be admitted to the ICU and suffering from long term sequelae. Just don’t have too much. 2000 IU / day is probably good for most adults but just don’t take more than 4000 IU or you risk toxicity. Sunshine should do just fine, esp for kids. If in doubt, get your levels checked and discuss with your GP and read the articles for yourself. Also keep up moderate levels of Vit C, selenium and zinc. There is lots of potential upside and not too much downside.
    None-the-less, you really don’t want to catch this or pass it on to others as there are no guarantees. I still believe that masks remain a good idea.


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