Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Shows Promise

With ever mounting deaths, scientists have been under pressure to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna, Inc., reported that they have developed a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe. Phase I testing (45 subjects) appears to elicit the kind of immune response capable of preventing the disease. There were no no serious side-effects after the first trial. Source: NPR

Phase II can start right away, and the company hopes to start phase III in early July.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

This new virus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or Sars-CoV-2. The disease it causes is called Covid-19. Source: Wall Street Journal. This is a serious disease – “a potential pandemic.” They think it originated in a (animal) market in Wuhan, China, on December 1, 2019. As of March 3, 2020, the WHO reports that there are 92,315 confirmed cases – 3,131 deaths; 60 cases in the US and 6 deaths.

The WHO and the CDC are monitoring the disease very closely, and they are taking measures to minimize the spread of the disease – no thanks to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, his appointed “White House coronavirus response coordinator.” Source: Politico.com

Countries like China (Wuhan specifically) have been shut down; affecting the global economy. Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, South Korean, Japan, and Iran have also been hit hard. There’s talk of a global recession if this goes on for too much longer. (President Trump says it will be over by April, because of the warmer weather.)

A big health concern is the massing of people: any place or event where people gather is considered dangerous. The Summer Olympics, scheduled to open in Tokyo, Japan, on July 24, are in danger of being cancelled – or at best delayed for months. “March Madness” basketball tournaments might be played without fans. The Major League Baseball Opening Day is scheduled for March 26; they’re monitoring the situation.

Update 3/15/2020

Last week the WHO declared COVID-19 is a pandemic. Things are getting worse in the United States. Tomorrow, we’re starting to work-from-home and shelter-in-place for at least 1 week and possibly up to 8 weeks. It is already affecting the US economy, and we are looking at a global recession. Mnuchin dropped the “we could reach 20% unemployment” bomb, and the Fed cut rates to 0.0%. Smaller restaurants and retail shops in my town – and every city and town – are closing; health departments are mandating bars & restaurants close dining rooms. Some restaurants are adjusting – drive through, curbside, home delivery, etc.

Update 4/3/2020

Coronavirus map 4-2-2020
Coronavirus map April 3, 2020. Source: Johns Hopkins University.

As of now there have been 1,076,017 cases worldwide and 58,004 deaths (JHU map); 5,368 cases in Texas and 93 deaths (Texas DSHS). We’ve been ordered to continue to shelter-in-place until April 30.

Many States have postponed their Primaries until Summer. The 2020 Summer Olympics has been postponed until July 2021.

Update 4/15/2020

We are still stay-at-home/work-from-home, but there are signs that we will begin to “restart the economy” in phases in May.

Countries around the world are working to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic. Flattening the curve involves reducing the number of new COVID-19 cases from one day to the next.

Source: Johns Hopkins University.

To date there have been 2,006,513 cases and 128,886 deaths worldwide (JHU map); 14,624 cases in Texas and 318 deaths (Texas DSHS).

Update 5/6/2020

Beginning in May, the President and the states’ governors were looking for ways to jump-start the economy – with coronavirus cases still increasing – and risking more American lives.

President Donald Trump fixed his course on reopening the nation for business, acknowledging that the move would cause more illness and death from the pandemic but insisting it’s a cost he’s willing to pay to get the economy back on track.

Source: Bloomberg.com

As of today there have been 3,688,635 cases worldwide and 258,051 deaths (JHU map); 1,205,138 cases in the United States and 71,078 deaths; 33,369 cases in Texas and 906 deaths (Texas DSHS).

On April 27, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued additional Executive Orders (GA-18) to continue the process of reopening the state of Texas: easing restrictions on onsite dining in restaurants (still no bars) , retail shops, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries, and one-man shops.

Texas A&M President Michael Young basically told everyone to continue to work-from-home until until further notice (probably through May, maybe through June), but he – and Chancellor Sharp – want to have campus open for the Fall 2020 semester; all summer classes/activities will be online.

Update 5/19/2020

As of today there have been 4,829,232 cases worldwide and 319,031 deaths (JHU map); 1,508,957 cases in the United States and 90,369 deaths; 48,693 cases in Texas and 1,347 deaths (Texas DSHS).

On May 18, 2020, Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order (GA-23) to expand reopening the state of Texas: easing restrictions on onsite dining in restaurants (50% capacity), bars (25%), tattoo parlors, child-care, gyms (25%). At the end of May more restrictions will be lifted.

Update 6/1/2020

There is no cure for AFib

No, there aint no cure for AFib, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. I know that’s a bad sample of the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, but it’s true.

I would call what I have paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF or just AF); sudden, irregular, infrequent episodes of AF. Since I was in the hospital, I’ve felt that I may not be able to get back to the way I was at 20 years old, but I should be able to reverse some of the effects on my body that I put there by poor lifestyle. In the hospital I was given two choices (the third was do nothing): drugs and/or ablation. I didn’t want either. I’ve always been a believer that lifestyle is a major factor in our health.

I opted for the drugs because they started them in the hospital, and they may have been why the AF episode stopped; I see them like aspirin “stops” a headache – it may or may not go away on its own. The other option – ablation – is an out patient surgical procedure to try and burn the electrical spots on the heart that cause AF in the first place. That sounds a little scary. Again, lifestyle first, drugs second, surgery third.

My cardiologist (I can’t believe I’m saying that at age 44) was the one that gave me the options. He also said he would not be the one to do the ablation. Ablations are done by a cardiac electrophysiologist.

Dr. John Mandrola, a cardiac electrophysiologist in Louisville, Kentucky, had this to say about ablation:

In the short-term, I use temporizing measures to relieve AF symptoms: drugs for rate control, anticoagulants for stroke prevention, and maybe even cardioversion with or without anti-arrhythmic drugs. The key is that these treatments are temporary. We aren’t shocking or medicating an AF patient with the idea that this is the fix; we are doing those things to buy time for risk factor management to work. And it does. I’ve seen it work. Source: www.drjohnm.org “A cautionary note on AF ablation in 2015” taken September 29, 2015.

Be still my heart

This is going to sound like a commercial that has been popular for the past decade: people with an irregular heart beat – known as atrial fibrillation or AFib or AF – are at a higher risk of blood clots and stroke. AF – in a nutshell –  is the condition of having disorganized electrical impulses driving your heart beat. The impulses normally start from the top chambers of the heart (atria) and travel to the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). This causes your heart muscle(s) to contract. When this happens on a regular basis you have a normal (sinus) rhythm. During AF, the electrical signals are fast and chaotic. The atria quiver rapidly and irregularly, so blood pools in the atria instead of being pumped properly to the ventricles. Pooling can lead to clotting and clots, when pushed out, can go any place in the body. If the clot goes to the brain it can cause a stroke. Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

On Wednesday, September 16, I started feeling heart palpitations in the afternoon. Thursday morning we went to see my doctor. He got an EKG on me and promptly sent me to the ER – I was having a paroxysmal atrial fibrillation event – and the hospital could administer the drugs to help slow down my heart. As I recall my heart beat was bouncing between 160 and 60 beats per minute. My blood pressure was high – something like 170 over 110.

The ER took another EKG, a chest xray, then started one IV in my right arm with medicine – something like amiodarone (Cordarone). Then they started another IV with medicine in my left arm to regulate the first medicine; it took two techs and two sticks to get the IV to take – OWW! Then I got a CT scan with contrast. This is where I thought tests were getting a little excessive. Eventually (about 5pm) they put me in a hospital room in the critical care unit (CCU). Around 7pm my heart “reset” itself and I returned to sinus rhythm.

Friday morning I got an echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the heart. I didn’t get a run down of the results – probably not much to say. The echo went to a cardiologist who came by around 2pm. By 4pm I was walking out of the hospital.

They prescribed the following meds: metoprolol tartrate (25mg), flecainide acetate (50mg). And I had to add low dose aspirin (81mg).

My doctor wanted me to start Lipitor 3 months ago, but I didn’t – I wanted to try diet and exercise. A week after the night in the hospital I had a checkup with my doctor and afterwords I went to get the generic Lipitor – so September 26 I started taking generic Lipitor (atorvastatin 20mg).

If you’re keeping score at home that’s 4 medicines or 6 pills per day. Ten days ago I didn’t take any meds now I’m stuck with 6 pills. My goal is to get off of the meds as quickly as possible; some internet pages say 2 years.

Just FYI, I started a new category, Health, with this post. I plan to put my health news and other things I find useful into this category.