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Media misreporting of Sars-CoV-2 variants (are they variants or scariants?)

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yorkie

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I note the BBC has been misleading people with disingenuous headlines, such as this, which was published just 11 hours before I type this:

Covid Brazil variant 'may spread more easily'​

The Brazil coronavirus variant now found in the UK appears more contagious and may evade immunity provided by past infection, scientists say.
Experiences from Manaus - the Amazonian city hit hard by the P.1 variant - suggest it could be up to twice as transmissible as earlier Covid there, the first detailed study suggests.

As well as using inaccurate terminology, this headline appears to be designed to mislead people into thinking that the variant found in Brazil is "more contagious" than the dominant variant in the UK.

In fairness, the article does go on to say:
But experts say this should not be used to predict what may happen in the UK.

Indeed, one of the lead researchers said it was unlikely P.1 would quickly take off in Britain when only six cases had been identified and these were being closely monitored.

But this isn't particularly reassuring and is a huge understatement. This poor quality journalism is typical of the BBC these days.

What the BBC don't admit is that the increased 'transmissibility' of the Brazil variant is due to the N501Y mutation; this mutation independently occurred in both the UK and South African variants (and no doubt in other lesser known or even undetected variants)

There is no evidence the Brazil variant has any advantage in terms of 'transmissibility' compared to the UK variant.

Such headlines do not fool me because I've done my research; I suspect they do fool a lot of people though as not everyone has either the interest, or the time, to find out the facts.

Given the research I've undertaken, I know to treat BBC reporting with extreme caution and absolutely not to trust BBC headlines.

If you want to learn more about variants, there are a couple of good videos below which are great starting points.

Here is a really clear no-nonsense video that explains a lot about variants and their likely impact, concentrating in particular on the situation in the US:

Dr. Seheult illustrates what we know about the coronavirus variants first discovered in California and New York. ~

Will these SARS-CoV-2 variants be more transmissible or cause more severe COVID 19 disease?

Learn what the research and experts say so far about these coronavirus mutations (This video was recorded on February 28, 2021).

Roger Seheult, MD is the co-founder and lead professor at https://www.medcram.com He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine and an Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine.

If you want a technical discussion about the meaning of terms such as variants, I doubt you will find anything better than this:


Many virology terms are being used these days by people who do not understand their meaning. Included are journalists, medical doctors, scientists, lawyers, and people from all walks of life. In normal times this word mis-usage would be so rare that it would not matter. However, because we are in a viral pandemic that affects nearly everyone, I will attempt to explain the meaning of virus isolates, variants, and strains.
 
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richw

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The express wins for misleading headlines.
headline said:
heartbreak as two pensioners die hours after receiving Jabs in seperate tragic incidents

The article then goes on to tell us they died in car accidents. (Screenshots attached)

Anyone who just reads the headline will potential be fearful from that headline now. The jabs in these cases are completely immaterial
 

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Ted633

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I dived in and read the comments on the BBC article. I'm quite glad I did as most of the 'top' comments are along the lines of:
'Stop the scaremongering'
'Of course there are variants, it's what a virus does'
'Could, may, might'

Just a month or so ago, all the top comments would of been saying 'follow the rules', 'all because of covidiots', 'stay at home' etc.
It's good to see more people are starting to see through all this and are starting to think enough is enough. The tide has definitely turned
 

yorkie

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I also just found this really good Twitter thread; I have quoted key extracts below, but the whole thread is worth a read if you are interested (also includes diagrams in image format).

A lot of SARS-CoV-2 variants, "scariants", chatter over the last few days. Let's cut through the atrocious reporting and sloppy science, since there are signals in the underlying data that are of interest and may, or may not, be important.

First off - viruses mutate all the time, creating "variants". The vast (and I mean vast!) majority do nothing, so when you hear SARS-CoV-2 variant/lineage/mutate, Don't Panic! #42. A lot has been said about this already - here's a great article:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0690-4
I see the need for four main classifications:
Variant Variant of Interest (VOI)
Variant under Investigations (VUI)
Variant of Concern (VOC)
To move from VOI -> VOC requires evidence. A lot of evidence. The UK provides a stellar example of how exactly to go from VOI-> VUC -> VOC.

Investigate, investigate, and continue to investigate - while accurately communicating importance and uncertainty through the process.
In summary, we need to be *much* better at communicating research around SARS-CoV-2 variants - whether known or novel - especially as it relates to data, findings, interpretations, and importance. Finally, a collaborative and coordinated effort to [reduce] confusion and [increase] impact

There is also a useful image here:


It shows that the key mutations are occurring independently of each other in separate lineages. So this idea that if we close a border we stop these mutations is nonsense as the virus is going to mutate in a way that is advantageous whether we like it or not.

Note that when it is stated that a variant may "evade immunity" that does not in any way suggest that it is rendering vaccines ineffective; far from it! A particular mutation may prevent some of the antibodies being effective, but our memory B cells are able to produce a library of antibodies, most of which will work. And don't forget that T-cells are absolutely key to fighting Sars-CoV-2 and there is no evidence to suggest that the T-cell response is in any way diminished by any of the mutations in any of the variants.

Mutations are going to occur, it is unavoidable, but there are only so many mutations that are actually possible for the virus to be viable, and research is being undertaken to see if these mutations can be pre-empted by vaccine manufacturers and incorporated into future vaccines.

So when someone claims that a variant is going to render vaccines "ineffective", remember that such claims are wrong. It may make vaccines less effective and the evidence so far points to people having mild symptoms whereas they may otherwise have had no symptoms, but the important thing is that the vaccines are still extremely effective at reducing severe illness and death. Downgrading this virus to the status of a "common cold" is not a failure by any means.

If deemed appropriate, booster vaccinations may be required in future, though it is important to remember that Coronaviruses mutate much slower than influenza viruses, so it is highly unlikely that an annual booster would be needed.

I'm really fed up of the amount of scaremongering I am reading or hearing, and I hope this thread helps to ensure that, as always, members of this forum are better informed than the average person, and not so easily scared, fooled or mislead!

It's also well worth listening to this


The specific discussion about the variants is from around 17 min 35 seconds, up to around 20 min 50 seconds. Well worth listening to if you are interested and can spare 3 mins!
 
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brad465

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Now we can add another variant to the whole saga:


Scientists have identified 16 cases of another new variant of coronavirus in the UK.

Public Health England has designated it as a 'variant under investigation' (VUI), meaning it is on their watch list, but not one they are immediately concerned about.

It has a mutation in common with the South Africa and Brazil variants.

That change, E484K, may help the virus evade some immunity from vaccination or prior infection, experts believe.

The cases were first identified on 15 February by the UK's variant surveillance system.

Experts suspect it originated in the UK.

All 16 individuals who tested positive, and their contacts, have been traced and advised to isolate.

PHE said the cases were geographically spread across the UK. And it confirmed that surge or mass testing would not be necessary - this is only done for variants of concern (VOC), such as the Brazil one.

The UK now has 8 variants on its watch list - 4 VUIs and 4 VOCs.

My overall take on this whole variants thing is this is a demonstration of how technology is driving human exceptionalism down a very dangerous/costly path. We seem to think that because the technology is there to discover and sequence new variants of viruses we can suddenly work to stop them in our tracks, even though no prior pandemic saw this happen, mainly because the technology didn't exist. Not least it makes us think the collateral damage is worth it because we're now officially insane (well, those in SAGE, the media and Government keeping this going are) it seems.
 

Nicholas Lewis

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Now we can add another variant to the whole saga:




My overall take on this whole variants thing is this is a demonstration of how technology is driving human exceptionalism down a very dangerous/costly path. We seem to think that because the technology is there to discover and sequence new variants of viruses we can suddenly work to stop them in our tracks, even though no prior pandemic saw this happen, mainly because the technology didn't exist. Not least it makes us think the collateral damage is worth it because we're now officially insane (well, those in SAGE, the media and Government keeping this going are) it seems.
Totally agree like 737MAX, Crossrail and Aventra Trains too clever computers and software have stifled advancement. We would have never got out of the caves if they had access to all this technology.
 

johnnychips

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What happened to the scary South African variant, where they were specifically focusing on particular areas a few weeks ago?
 

Nicholas Lewis

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What happened to the scary South African variant, where they were specifically focusing on particular areas a few weeks ago?
There only finding a few new cases a week so guess that makes it no longer a variant of interest let alone one of concern but there unlikely to give up on it as they need variants on standby to keep scaring everybody into playing by there rules.
 

Baxenden Bank

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I'll go with 'scariants', anything to grab interest and generate clicks.

Headlines along the lines of that quoted by @richw are far too common, particularly when a 'normal' death is implicated as COVID related, when it is nothing of the sort. Locally we had one along the lines of 'NHS mourn the loss of a third colleague', he was a) retired and b) died of non-COVID natural causes.

You certainly can't rely on BBC news. They are the specimins who fed us 'only go out for one hour, once per day and direct from your front door only' when the law said nothing of the kind and the guidance was vague. If the BBC Evening News tells me it has gone dark, I will open the curtains to check rather than believe them.
 

yorkie

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If anyone is interested in some really in depth discussion (this may be utterly boring for some of you ;)) about variants, I doubt you can find anything better than the TWiEVO podcasts. Here is one that I am listening to now, which was published last week:


The whole thing is nearly an hour and a half long but the bit around 54 - 57 mins is really relevant.

I've typed up a little snippet of the interview below
...many of [these variants] have changes that impact antibody neutralisation and that gives them a selective advantage now, whereas earlier in the the outbreak there was very little population immunity. So if this variant comes into a new population it's going to have a fitness advantage... and that's why the idea that it's going through the air better is not really the the right approach. It's moving through the population, and I'm not sure we will ever find out why now as this seems to be coming to an end ...
And below is the summary of the podcast in the description:
Nels and Vincent review evidence that a single amino acid change in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has driven adaptation to humans, followed by an update on the status of variants of concern.

So when people the media talk about "increased transmissibility" and people like Trisha Greenhalgh (who claim to be experts, but really aren't!) try to tell people to wear multiple masks, or wear masks outdoors, that really is misrepresenting what is actually going on!

I also think there is a lot of interest from the media about what epidemiologists have to say, but when do you hear them interviewing virologists? Not very often is the answer! The media do NOT want to report the actual facts because they are too complicated and don't support their scary headlines.

The media are still milking the variant headlines and probably will do for a few more weeks, but sooner or later more and more people are going to stop listening to their scaremongering. The Government and the media are going to have to find something else if they want to continue to scare and mislead people.
 

henairs

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If anyone is interested in some really in depth discussion (this may be utterly boring for some of you ;)) about variants, I doubt you can find anything better than the TWiEVO podcasts. Here is one that I am listening to now, which was published last week:


The whole thing is nearly an hour and a half long but the bit around 54 - 57 mins is really relevant.

I've typed up a little snippet of the interview below

And below is the summary of the podcast in the description:


So when people the media talk about "increased transmissibility" and people like Trisha Greenhalgh (who claim to be experts, but really aren't!) try to tell people to wear multiple masks, or wear masks outdoors, that really is misrepresenting what is actually going on!

I also think there is a lot of interest from the media about what epidemiologists have to say, but when do you hear them interviewing virologists? Not very often is the answer! The media do NOT want to report the actual facts because they are too complicated and don't support their scary headlines.

The media are still milking the variant headlines and probably will do for a few more weeks, but sooner or later more and more people are going to stop listening to their scaremongering. The Government and the media are going to have to find something else if they want to continue to scare and mislead people.
Reminds me of stories we hear about the Second World War when German propaganda was rife most if not all was lies to scare and mislead folk. Think it was a bloke called Lord Haw-Haw or similar behind it but not certain. Used to strait off with Germany calling before the nonsense.
In many ways this is what the media are doing at this time, misleading on purpose to scare with lying being a culture they have made a mastery of.
Hopefully more people every day are seeing through the propaganda and deceit the media portraits
 

johnnychips

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According to my late grandad, everybody perceived that Lord Haw-Haw was an idiot and actually tuned into his broadcasts for a laugh. Unfortunately today, a significant proporation of the population are not so perceptive.
 

yorkie

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All over the radio news headlines this morning :(
I bet not many of them are reporting it responsibly with a full explanation that any decrease in vaccine efficacy is going to result in an increase in mild symptoms but people are still well protected against severe disease ?

It wouldn't sound scary enough if they say that!
 

Crossover

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I bet not many of them are reporting it responsibly with a full explanation that any decrease in vaccine efficacy is going to result in an increase in mild symptoms but people are still well protected against severe disease ?

It wouldn't sound scary enough if they say that!
They would probably argue it would take too much air time to give the full details, too :lol:
 
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