Another report from Sean Mahan on Facebook. It’s long but there’s lots of great data, analyzed in easy to understand terms.
The data is very interesting today. There is a sudden and striking increase in the number of RECOVERED by nearly 20% in a single day. This is likely a data collection artifact, causing a sudden increase in recoveries in a single day, which should have likely been spread over several days – but as a result of this, we have the first data point where we have more people LEAVING the disease than new cases coming in. That means fewer people got the disease yesterday than the people who were recovering from the disease, and therefore the total number of ACTIVE CASES is slightly less than yesterday.
That means for the first time, COVID-19 is SHRINKING in the United States.
Will this stay the same? Unlikely. This data point is such an aberration from what has happened in the past few weeks that it will likely be “averaged out” over the next few days. Still, it is possible that this is a good sign that we finally have the large influx of “recovered” people into our population.
We still don’t know if these people are immune – but the large number of people who are NOT getting “re-infection” suggests that there is at least a temporary immunity to COVID-19, which is similar to what happens with other coronaviruses.
The other statistics are the same. The number of new cases remains between 25-35,000. The number of deaths has increased by 2,500, which is a little higher than it’s been the past week. The case fatality rate has continued to slightly increase and approach the 6.0% mark. It is now 5.9%.
The total tests continues to remain at the same rate it’s been for the past week, with another 205K tests done for the single day. Keep in mind that our goal at this point is to get 8 million tests per month, which is about 270K tests per day (8 million tests / 30 days = 266,667 tests per day).
The increase in the number of people who are RECOVERED brings back the subject of IMMUNITY and HERD IMMUNITY, as well as VACCINES. I thought I would take advantage of today to explain how VACCINES work, so people will have a basic understanding of the human immune system. So today, I am going to talk about VACCINES, the human immune system, and ANTIBODY TESTS, so everyone will have at least a basic understanding of these things.
This is a very basic and simple explanation of the human immune system, which is an amazing system that operates in the human body. It is one of the things that works in such a seemingly organized fashion that it gives scientists wonder at how amazing the human body functions. My basic explanation will be very simple, but hopefully it will help some people understand how VACCINES and the IMMUNE SYSTEM work. It might also help you understand the bad science that is discussed by people who are calling themselves “experts.”
As there are several scientists and doctors who read this page, please accept my apologies if I simplify things to a greater extent than you believe I should, but keep in mind that others know very little about vaccines or how they work. If I make any mistakes, please let me know. I will correct them in an effort to only share the truth.
VACCINES: To understand how vaccines work, we need to understand some basics of the immune system. I published a picture I saw on TV last week from a news story from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD. He used this same chart to demonstrate how antibodies work in response to COVID-19. Let’s look at the diagram.
The BLUE CURVE represents how the actual virus COVID-19. On day zero you get exposed and infected by the disease. The amount of virus steadily increases, and after a few days, the person goes from being ASYMPTOMATIC to becoming SYMPTOMATIC. The trigger to “have symptoms” means that the person has accumulated enough of the virus inside of them to breach a certain “threshold” that turns the person from being an asymptomatic carrier to being a SYMPTOMATIC carrier. That means the person now has a fever, cough, and other symptoms related to the disease. To make this clear: you get exposed to the virus, and then the virus duplicates inside of you until there is enough of the virus to make you sick.
Your body has cells called WHITE BLOOD CELLS (WBCs). There are many different types of WBCs, each one with a different job. There is one type of WBC that just finds things in your body that it doesn’t recognize, and it “tags” these objects as FOREIGN. If it encounters a foreign object, it labels it as an invader. We call these invaders “antigens.” An antigen is an object that the body identifies as being a “foreign invader.” We have a special type o WBC that knows what these things look like, and it makes a special chemical that can attach to that foreign invader. We call that chemical an “antibody.” So to make this clear, your body identifies “foreign invaders” and it creates a chemical called an “antibody.” The function of the antibody is simply to ATTACH and FLAG the foreign invader. Now your body’s other cells can see that the foreign invader doesn’t belong here, because it’s been flagged by an antibody. Now, the other WBCs that function to attack and kill foreign invaders can do their job.
So here is the process: A foreign invader (COVID-19) comes into your body. You body has one type of WBC that recognizes the foreign invader, and creates an “antibody” that will flag the foreign invader, so that the other cells of your body will be able to recognize the object as a foreign invader. Now, other WBCs that kill foreign invaders can recognize the object as being a foreign invader, and they can kill it.
There are several different types of antibodies, and each one has a name. I am going to talk about just TWO of these antibodies. These two antibodies are called “IgM” and “IgG”. That’s short for “immunoglobin type M” and “immunoglobin type G.”
IgM is the first antibody that is made by your body. Your body’s WBCs first identify the foreign body, and the respond by mass producing IgM. This is called “the primary response.” IgM is only a short term product – it doesn’t stay in your body for a very long time. However, it is easy for your body to make them, so your body starts to mass produce these IgM antibodies as the “first line of defense” against a foreign invader.
On the chart, the IgM antibodies are represented by the green curve. Your body starts to make these quick response antibodies, which immediately function to fight the disease while you are sick. These are the antibodies that do all of the work to beat the disease. They are easy to make, so your body can make them quickly – but they don’t last long, so eventually they “go away.” They are not permanent.
This gives your body time to come up with a more permanent solution to the problem. You have other WBCs that start making another type of antibody, and this is called the IgG antibody. IgG antibodies take longer to start making them – but the IgG antibodies are the ones that will help to beat the disease towards the end of the infection, and they will stick around to keep your protected in the long term. Your body reserves a certain number of WBCs that will do just one thing: make IgG antibodies to attack this particular foreign body. You have TONS of different types of WBCS, each one recognizing a different foreign body, so that it can make IgG antibodies to protect you in the long term. If your body can make these IgG antibodies for the rest of your life, you have “PERMANENT IMMUNITY.” If your body only remembers to make the IgG antibodies for a while, then you have a “TEMPORARY IMMUNITY.”
So, to summarize: Your body recognizes a foreign body. This is called an ANTIGEN. Your body responds by creating short-term antibodies that immediately fight the disease. These are called IgM antibodies. At the same time, your body starts to make long-term antibodies called IgG antibodies. So now your immune system has a fast short-term solution to stop the problem (IgM), and it has a long-term solution to protect you from getting the disease again (IgG).
You can see 3 terms in the chart:
WINDOW PHASE, DECLINE, and CONVALESCENCE.
The WINDOW PERIOD specifically refers to the period of time between the time you get exposed to the virus, to the time that your body has started created antibodies that can be detected. This is period where, if you are tested, the test will be NEGATIVE, even though you really have the disease. This is the period where your test will be a “false negative,” meaning your test is negative, but you really have the disease.
The DECLINE refers to exactly what it sounds like. During the DECLINE phase, your bodies has created enough IgM antibodies that the disease is starting to decline. It is also in the early stage of making IgG antibodies which also protect you, the same as the IgM antibodies. During this stage, you have both IgM and IgG antibodies fighting the disease.
CONVALESCENCE refers to the gradual recovery of a person back to a normal state of health. During this phase, your body starts to really crank up IgG production, while starting to slow down IgM production. As your body beats the virus, you no longer need the IgM antibodies, but your body cranks up the IgG antibodies to make sure that you don’t get re-infected.
ANTIBODY TESTS: Antibody tests are tests that test for these special antibodies. You can see how an antibody test given at the wrong time might give you a false negative. For example, any antibody test given too early will be a “false negative,” because it’s still in the window phase.
Also, antibody tests that only test for IgM will be able to identify people who are actively sick for COVID-19, but they will be useless at telling you if you had the infection in the past – because IgM is only present when you are actively sick (and a short time afterwards).
Antibody tests that only test for IgG antibodies will be good to tell if you had the disease in the past, but they are not as useful for telling if a sick person has the disease – because these sick people may only have IgM antibodies. They may not have started producing IgG antibodies. As a result, all of these tests will be false negatives, meaning the test will be negative, even though the patient has the disease.
SO, ideally your antibody test will test for both IgM antibodies (meaning you have the disease right now), and IgG antibodies (meaning you had the disease in the past).
When you hear about an ANTIBODY test, you should ask: Does this test for IgM, IgG, or both? There is a huge difference. There are many companies coming out with antibody tests – because, if you haven’t figured this out, there is a lot of money to the company that comes out with an effective antibody test first. Also, there are a lot of companies with crappy antibody tests that are trying to push their product during the short window before a good one is disseminated into the public. We have antibody tests, but the results of these tests is widely variable. If you are interested, here is the Johns Hopkins page regarding some of these tests that are approved for use. Know that there are MANY tests being used that have not been approved, with variable rates of accuracy.
SO HOW DO VACCINES WORK?
Simple. A vaccine injects something in your body that looks like the foreign invader, but it isn’t infective. That way your body goes through this entire process of recognizing the foreign invader, making IgM antibodies, making IgG antibodies – but you never actually get exposed to the disease. We basically “trick” the body into thinking it is infected – and the result is that your body ends up making IgG antibodies that will provide you with permanent protection.
Again, this is a very simple explanation of how this works. It is far from complete, and it is presented to give people a basic understanding of the human immune system. When you understand these basics, you can see how ANTIBODY TESTS work, and also how VACCINES work.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the number of recoveries continues to go up at a rate that is greater than the number of new infected people. If the trend continues, then it means that the number of people with active cases is shrinking, and it is a positive sign that we may be overcoming this disease.
Of course, the statistics will be complicated by other factors at this point. The reopening of our business may propel us back into a situation where the disease is spreading, and we can potentially lose all of these gains.
Both are possible. I would suggest not listening to anyone who “knows” what is going to happen, because the truth is that we don’t know. I will continue to follow these numbers, and we will be able to judge what is happening ourselves. In the meantime, stay safe. If you are going out, remember to practice social distancing as much as you can. If you don’t need to go out, or if you are in a high risk category, please stay at home. We should all be safe, for ourselves, and out of respect for those around us. –SEAN MAHAN
MAY, 1 2020, FRI – Coronavirus
Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
Confirmed Cases: 1,070,032 (+29,544 new cases)
Total Deaths: 63,019 (+2,520 new deaths)
Total Recovered: 153,947 (+29,924 new recovered)
Case Fatality Rate (deaths/cases): 5.9% (+0.1% increase over yesterday)
Total Tested: 6,231,182 (+205,012 more tests)