Sunday, July 11, 2021

Government intrusions for public health: when "my business" is other peoples'


Philadelphia from Amtrak 2021-6

Smart News, a well-known news consolidation site, often greets me with alarming stories about coronavirus each morning.  I wanted to note at the outset that the stories are supposed to have SN copies (apparently licensed) and web versions.  But sometimes there is only a web version and if I don’t have myself logged in to that publication with a subscription on my phone, I can’t access it.  Some of these I have logins on my desktop and if I can find the article again before it drops off Smart News I can get it.  But that is a pain.  We need to do a better job at news consolidation.

Now for the main course.  Smart News carried a particularly alarming story this morning in Medical Xpress, “Highly mutated SARS-CoV-2 emerged from someone living with advanced HIV”, by European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.  

The gist of the story is that infection by this coronavirus (or any existing variant) in a severely immunocompromised person encourages more dangerous variants that at some point could completely evade vaccines. 

There are two major possible logical consequences to trace. Of course, someone on chemotherapy is likely to be immunocompromised and pose that community risk, in theory.  But this refers to someone infected with HIV.  In recent years, because of protease inhibitors and pre-exposure prophylactics, gay men have no longer been a political target for creating that sort of indirect risk to the community at large, as they were in the mid 1980s especially by the evangelical right (leading to a very draconian bill in Texas that fortunately did not pass, in 1983).  There were no reports of resurgence of tuberculosis or other semi-opportunistic diseases in the general population in the late 1980s as might have been expected by this speculation. In fact, anti-HIV protease inhibitors may inspire the development of similar drugs that stop coronavirus in someone exposed (although coronavirus is not a retrovirus).  Anecdotal reports seem to suggest gay men did well avoiding the 2020 pandemic for the most part, and it’s possible that these drugs were more effective than we thought in practice.  Socially, it might have been argued that the COVID19 pandemic did the opposite, target those in large households with many relatives.

But the article also gives more credence to the idea that as radical as SARS-CoV2 is in its being ready-made to be transmitted easily among humans without symptoms, such radical changes from an animal (bat) virus might have arisen in severely immunocompromised persons or even immunocompromised wild animals. 

Oh, by the way, I don’t like to go door to door to recruit for anything, nor do I like to be judged on how many people I can recruit “online” on a FB page for “your” cause simply because “you” know me. And I would encourage visitors to read Jacob Sullum's op-ed in Reason, "Why Didn't COVID19 Kill the Constituion?"/ 

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