Novel coronavirus hitching rides on particles of air pollution?

Brilliant quote by Texas Sharon, April 28, 2020:

We can and must do better than going back to normal.

Normal is the problem.

Global coronavirus death toll could be 60% higher than reported, Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across 14 countries analysed by the FT by John Burn-Murdoch, Valentina Romei and Chris Giles, April 26, 2020, The Financial Times

The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries. If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000. …

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge university, said the daily counts in the UK, for instance, were “far too low” because they only accounted for hospital deaths.

“The only unbiased comparison you can make between different countries is by looking at all cause mortality . . . There are so many questions about the rise we’ve seen in death that have not got Covid on the death certificate, yet you feel are inevitably linked in some way to this epidemic.”

The extra deaths are most pronounced in urban areas with the worst virus outbreaks, and have completely overwhelmed reporting mechanisms in some. This is especially worrying for many emerging economies, where total excess mortality is orders of magnitude higher than official coronavirus fatalities.

In Ecuador’s Guayas province, just 245 official Covid-related deaths were reported between March 1 and April 15, but data on total deaths show that about 10,200 more people died during this period than in a typical year — an increase of 350 per cent.

In the northern Italian region of Lombardy, the heart of Europe’s worst outbreak, there are more than 13,000 excess deaths in the official statistics for the nearly 1,700 municipalities for which data is available. This is an uptick of 155 per cent on the historical average and far higher than the 4,348 reported Covid deaths in the region.

The region surrounding the Italian city of Bergamo registered the worst increase internationally with a 464 per cent rise in deaths above normal levels, followed by New York City with a 200 per cent increase, and Madrid, Spain, with a 161 per cent increase.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, data on burials shows an increase of 1,400 relative to the historical average during the same period — 15 times the official figure of 90 Covid deaths for the same period.

The challenge is not confined to the developing world. In England and Wales, the number of fatalities in the week ending April 10 was the highest this century. The figure was 76 per cent higher than the average for the same week in the past five years, and the number of excess deaths was 58 per cent higher than the total number of reported Covid-deaths for the same period.

“If we want to . . . [understand] the ways different countries have responded to the surging pandemic and how [it] has affected the health of the population, the best way is to count excess deaths,” said David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Experts have warned of serious under-reporting of Covid-19 cases in residential facilities for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. “Very few countries appear to be testing people in care homes, staff and residents, systematically,” said Adelina Comas-Herrera, research fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre of the London School of Economics.

Even the much higher numbers of deaths in the pandemic suggested by excess mortality statistics are likely to be conservative, as lockdowns mean that “mortality from numerous conditions such as traffic accidents and occupational injuries possibly went down”, said Markéta Pechholdová, assistant professor of demography at the University of Economics, Prague.

Coronavirus detected on particles of air pollution, Exclusive: Scientists examine whether this route enables infections at longer distances by Damian Carrington, April 24, 2020, The Guardian

Silhouette of a woman sneezing and spreading virus droplets in the air
 Large virus-laden droplets from infected people’s coughs and sneezes fall to the ground within 1-2 metres. Photograph: Nick Gregory/Alamy

Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution by scientists investigating whether this could enable it to be carried over longer distances and increase the number of people infected.

The work is preliminary and it is not yet known if the virus remains viable on pollution particles and in sufficient quantity to cause disease.

The Italian scientists used standard techniques to collect outdoor air pollution samples at one urban and one industrial site in Bergamo province and identified a gene highly specific to Covid-19 in multiple samples. The detection was confirmed by blind testing at an independent laboratory.

Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work, said it was important to investigate if the virus could be carried more widely by air pollution.

“I am a scientist and I am worried when I don’t know,” he said. “If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don’t know, we can only suffer the consequences.”

Two other research groups have suggested air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further in the air.

statistical analysis by Setti’s team suggests higher levels of particle pollution could explain higher rates of infection in parts of northern Italy before a lockdown was imposed, an idea supported by another preliminary analysis. The region is one of the most polluted in Europe.

Neither of the studies by Setti’s team have been peer-reviewed and therefore have not been endorsed by independent scientists. But experts agree their proposal is plausible and requires investigation.

Previous studies have shown that air pollution particles do harbour microbes and that pollution is likely to have carried the viruses causing bird flu, measles and foot-and-mouth disease over considerable distances.

The potential role of air pollution particles is linked to the broader question of how the coronavirus is transmitted. Large virus-laden droplets from infected people’s coughs and sneezes fall to the ground within a metre or two. But much smaller droplets, less than 5 microns in diameter, can remain in the air for minutes to hours and travel further.

Experts are not sure whether these tiny airborne droplets can cause coronavirus infections, though they know the 2003 Sars coronavirus was spread in the air and that the new virus can remain viable for hours in tiny droplets.

But researchers say the importance of potential airborne transmission, and the possible boosting role of pollution particles, mean it must not be ruled out without evidence.

Comparative dynamic aerosol efficiencies of three emergent coronaviruses and the unusual persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosol suspensions by Alyssa C Fears, William B Klimstra, Paul Duprex, Amy Hartman, Scott C. Weaver, Ken S. Plante, Divya Mirchandani, Jessica Plante, Patricia V. Aguilar, Diana Fernandez, Aysegul Nalca, Allison Totura, David Dyer, Brian Kearney, Matthew Lackemeyer, J. Kyle Bohannon, Reed Johnson, Robert F Garry, Doug S Reed, and Chad J Roy, April 18, 2020, medrxiv

Collectively, this preliminary dataset on the aerosol efficiency and persistence of SARSCoV-2 suggest that this virus is remarkably resilient in aerosol form, even when aged for over 12 hours, and reinforces the conclusions reached in earlier studies if aerosol fitness by others7. Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2, whether through direct respiratory droplet transfer or fomite generation, may in fact be a more important exposure transmission pathway than previously considered10. Our approach of quantitative measurement of infectivity of viral airborne efficiency complemented by qualitative assessment of virion morphology leads us to conclude that SARS-CoV-2 is viable as an airborne pathogen. …

A fraction of naturally-generated aerosols fall within the size distribution used in our experimental studies (<5 μm), thus leading us to the conclusion that individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 have the capacity to produce viral bioaerosols that may remain infectious over long periods of time after production via human shedding and airborne transport.

Refer also to:

Lancaster high schooler becomes youngest to die from COVID-19 complications in Dallas County, officials say, She was “well-known and liked among both peers and teachers, leaving a void across the district,” the superintendent said by Demond Fernandez and Jennifer Prohov, April 28, 2020, WFAA

A Lancaster High School student is the youngest person to die of the novel coronavirus in Dallas County, officials said Tuesday.

School officials confirmed Tuesday that 17-year-old Jameela Dirrean-Emoni Barber died of the disease.

Judge Clay Jenkins said Barber died in the ER before she could be admitted to the hospital. She died on April 25, according to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office.

“It’s been extremely tough for us,” said Lancaster High School Principal Eleanor Webb.

Administrators describe Barber as an outstanding academic achiever. She was preparing to be inducted into the National Honor Society. The teen also had a special love for ROTC.

“Just an all-around good kid,” Webb said. “Dedicated to whatever she was in.”

Students and staff were told about Barber’s tragic death during a video conference with administrators because campuses are closed for the remainder of the school year.

Barber was a “well-rounded rising senior,” according to officials. She had been an active member of JROTC and was a National Honor Society inductee who hoped to attend college.

Barber was also the first person to die in Lancaster, city officials said.

School administrators say they are not aware of how Barber contracted COVID-19. Family members told school officials that the teen was up and talking on Friday.

Sunday’s Boston Globe runs 21 pages of death notices as coronavirus continues to claim lives by Jaclyn Reiss, April 26, 2020, Boston Globe

“We said, ‘Twenty pages — that’s got to be enough; there’s no way it’s going to go over that. And then to see that it went over. . . it’s terrifying.”

Coronavirus: First known victim in U.S. died of “burst” heart, pathologist says by David DeBolt and Thomas Peele, April 25, 2020, Mercury News

A Santa Clara County woman now believed to be the first person in the U.S. killed by the novel coronavirus died of a ruptured heart caused by her body’s struggle to defeat the virus, her autopsy shows.

Patricia Dowd, 57, of San Jose, died at home on Feb. 6 of what seemed like a heart attack while suffering from what seemed like the flu. But this news organization reported Thursday that officials now say she had the coronavirus, which they didn’t know at the time.

A report on her autopsy, posted Saturday night by the San Francisco Chronicle, shows that her body struggled so hard against the virus that a valve in her heart ruptured, a pathologist who reviewed the document told this news organization. …

Dowd’s husband, citing his wife’s strong exercise habits and overall good health before falling ill, had requested an autopsy. …

Are Covid-19 fatalities a measure of the oil & gas industry’s killing power? More and more studies prove how deadly & dishonest the industry is. Message to CAPP & AER: It’s not “odours” killing us, it’s pollution, including nitrogen dioxide

New research on Covid-19: Are you and your loved ones frac’d? Air pollution linked to 15 percent higher coronavirus death rates

2019: Encana/Ovintiv’s Vexatious Sour Gas Frack Flaring near Grand Prairie, Alberta; After clip posted, Encana/Ovintiv pulls a scrubby dubby

2014: NW of Calgary, Cochrane Inner Pipeline Gas Plant Non-compliant Pollution (Reported to AER, little good that does)

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