Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: May 13, 2022

Chart: China’s Annual Inflation Rate Climbed Above Market Forecasts in April 2022

2.1% against expected 1.8%

Source : Trading Economics

Chart: Vietnam’s Export Recovery Outpaces China

Source : Caixin

Chuckles of the Day

The Biker Bar

A drunken old man walks into a rough biker bar, sits down at the bar and orders a drink. Looking around, he sees three men sitting at a corner table. He gets up, staggers to the table, leans over, looks the biggest, meanest, biker in the face and says: “I went by your grandma’s house today and I saw her in the hallway buck naked. Man I tell you, she is one fine looking piece of ass!”

The biker looks at him and doesn’t say a word. His buddies are confused, because he is one bad ass biker and would fight at the drop of a hat.

The old drunk leans on the table again and says: “I got it on with your grandma boy and she is really good, the best I ever had!”

The biker’s buddies are starting to get really mad but the biker still says nothing. The drunk leans on the table one more time and says, “I’ll tell you something else boy, your grandma liked it!”

At this point the biker stands up, takes the drunk by the shoulders looks him square in the eyes and says… “Grandpa, Go home, you’re drunk.”

* * * * * * *

Cosmetic Surgery

Mildred and Harriet were having a quiet lunch together, and discussing the merits of cosmetic surgery in their golden years.

Mildred said, “I need to be honest with you Harriet, I’m thinking about getting a boob job done.”

Harriet responded, “Oh, that’s nothing Mildred. I’m thinking of having my asshole bleached!”

“Whoa!” replied Mildred, “That’s insane… I just can’t picture your husband George as a blonde!”

Infographic: U.S. Consumer Debt Approaches $16 Trillion

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

BA.4 and BA.5 Variants, Pandemic Fatigue, and Waning Immunity: A Toxic Mix

Kevin Kavanagh wrote . . . . . . . . .

In the beginning of the Omicron surge, the COVID-19 deniers were stating that no one died of the Omicron. At the end of the wave, the United States had more deaths than with Delta.

On Dec. 14, 2021, Infection Control Today® warned in an article entitled “Omicron’s Mild Symptoms Can’t Mask Danger It Poses” that “those who are not vaccinated or immunosuppressed are at risk for severe disease.” On Dec. 20, 2021, Reuters reported that “infections caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus do not appear to be less severe than infections from Delta, according to early data from the UK.” Despite the early warnings, reporting on infections being more benign with a lower-case fatality rate continued in most of the news media. This month, a definitive study from Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital concluded that the “Omicron variant is as deadly as previous waves after adjusting for vaccinations, demographics, and comorbidities.”

The confusion occurred because Omicron’s case-fatality rates are biased with the inclusion of a large number of vaccinated individuals. If someone concluded that the disease from Omicron was less severe, and thus, they do not need to become vaccinated and protect themselves, then they might have made a fatal error and, at the very least, increased their risk of developing long COVID-19.

For those who have not recently recovered from an infection or let their vaccination immunity wane, their chances of dying or getting long COVID-19 by undertaking a risky activity is far too high. One must remember that even with a low case fatality rate, very high infectivity can overcome the lower virulence by producing a large number of severe cases. Thus, their chances of getting sick during an event is a combination of the infectivity and virulence of the virus; and infectivity increases the chance of severe illness exponentially.

Unfortunately, one’s protection from an infection is not durable. The virus mutates and immune escape variants emerge. This appears to have happened in South Africa with the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. An estimated 90% of the population of South Africa has been exposed to Omicron, and they are still undergoing another surge with the new variants.

BA.4 and BA.5 are thought to be 36% more infectious than the BA.2 Variant and effectively evade immunity. The severity of the disease is not known. Initial reports from South Africa indicate that severity is similar to Omicron; however, the accuracy of reporting from South Africa, similar to Sweden, has come under fire. An article in The Lancet reported South Africa’s excess death rate to be 3.31 times higher than their COVID-19 death rate—one of the highest ratios in the world.

The immediate outlook for the United States warrants concern. Cases are up 25% in the last week with hospitalizations increasing 9%. This increase is fueled by the BA.2 variant and its more infectious offspring, BA.2.12.1. The BA.2.12.1 variant is more infectious than BA.2 and currently comprises 36% of sequenced cases in the United States (as of April 30).

The CDC has also reported the BA.4 and BA.5 variant in 14 states and is likely already in every state in the nation. Although only a few cases have been reported and these variants comprise only a small minority of sequenced cases, individuals need to react now. especially because the United States does not have the best active surveillance system for variants with “some European countries and even South Africa have better sequencing capabilities than the U.S.” Because of these risks, the CDC has restated their recommendation to wear masks on public transportation, and individuals may need to reevaluate the wisdom of holding large events such as the White House Correspondence Dinner. The latter may well be another super spreader event with staff from at least 5 news agencies testing positive for the virus.

Although many individuals measure success by the number who die of COVID-19, the ravages of long COVID-19 are deeply disturbing. The United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics estimates that 10% to 25% of COVID-19 survivors may develop persistent symptoms. A recent study from the University of Cambridge found that “78% (of patients with long COVID-19) reported difficulty concentrating, 69% reported brain fog, 68% reported forgetfulness, and 60% reported problems finding the right word in speech.” Further, COVID-19 causes impairment similar to what occurs between the ages of 50 to 70, equivalent to losing 10 IQ points.

From Dec. 2021 to Feb. 2022, the seroprevalence in the United States from SARS-CoV-2 infections was 58%. Since that time, many more infections from Omicron have occurred. In addition, 66% of the United States citizens are currently “fully vaccinated.” Thus, almost everyone in the United States has had some exposure to SARS-CoV-2. If herd immunity can be achieved, then the United States should have achieved it. If another surge occurs, unfortunately, those numbers may be the status quo.

With new variants emerging, cases rising and a more complete understanding of the dangers of long COVID-19, one can make a strong case for resuming public health measures intended to control spread and infections from this disease. Unfortunately, even in the face of waning immunity, few individuals in the United States are currently wearing masks, and many are continuing to engage in risky behavior. This may well be a toxic mix, and healthcare facilities, and infection preventionists need to prepare for another possible surge in cases.

Source : Infection Control Today

The Healing Power of Music for Stroke Survivors

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Julie Stillman was 55 years old when a blood vessel in her brain suddenly burst. The hemorrhagic stroke left her unable to compose a simple sentence – a hard blow for a woman who built a career in book publishing.

It also robbed her of the ability to speak properly. But not the ability to sing.

Now 69, Stillman is one of several dozen stroke and brain injury survivors who lift their voices in joy as part of the Aphasia Choir of Vermont. There are a handful of such choirs springing up around the world, giving stroke survivors and people living with dementia or other brain injuries a chance to tap into one of the few means of communication left to them.

“To hear that clarity and volume, it’s like magic,” said Stillman’s husband, Jeff Nagle, whose last fluid conversation with his wife took place 14 years ago on the phone, an hour before he found her on the floor of their home. “It’s amazing to see this happen.”

Roughly one-third of people who survive strokes have aphasia, a speech disorder that makes it difficult to express or understand language resulting from damage done to the brain. But scientists have long known that even when people with certain types of aphasia lose the ability to speak, they often are able to sing, a phenomenon attributed to the different regions of the brain responsible for producing music and language.

Studies of this phenomenon and of how music affects the brain have led to the development of a variety of music-supported therapies, such as melodic intonation therapy, which trains stroke survivors to communicate rhythmically to build stronger connections between brain regions. Other therapies focus on listening to music or teaching people to play musical instruments, such as the keyboard or drums.

A growing body of research shows these types of therapies can play an important role in helping stroke survivors heal.

As early as 2008, researchers published work in the journal Brain that showed just listening to music for an hour each day improved memory and attention, as well as mood, during the early stages of stroke recovery. A follow-up to that study in 2014 provided insights as to how and why: Listening to music stimulated structural changes in the areas of the brain responsible for verbal memory, language skills and focused attention. Digging deeper, investigators were able to show vocal music was superior to instrumental music or listening to audiobooks in stimulating the brain changes that led to memory and language recovery.

Karen McFeeters Leary, the speech-language pathologist who founded Vermont’s aphasia choir, knew stroke survivors could sing from her studies of speech pathology.

“When we would evaluate people with stroke or speech impairment, we always checked their ability to sing,” said Leary, who also is a singer and songwriter.

Stillman and Nagle were among the first to join when Leary launched the choir in 2014, with just 11 stroke survivors and their spouses and caregivers. Since then, the group has more than doubled in size. She recruits through stroke support groups and the University of Vermont, which has a speech and language pathology program and an outpatient clinic.

Much to her surprise, the choir quickly turned into something much bigger than an opportunity for people to express themselves through song. It helped establish a community for people who had become socially isolated because of their condition. “They lose friendships, sometimes spouses,” Leary said. “It’s very lonely.”

But through the choir, they find others who understand what they’re going through. “The shared experience, that’s the big thing,” she said. “I’ve seen some very, very depressed individuals absolutely find themselves again and blossom.”

“The choir has been a wonderful support group in a different way than what we had in speech therapy,” said Nagle. “We’ve made a lot of friends.”

And through those friendships, they’ve expanded Stillman’s ability to resume some of her old hobbies, such as a love of boating. Another choir member introduced them to an adaptive kayaking group in which stroke survivors and others with physical disabilities use special equipment that allows them to paddle with one arm. They are now active participants in both groups, enjoying a social life they never thought they’d see again.

Nagle also believes his wife’s language abilities improve during choir season, which lasts from March until June, when it culminates with a free public concert.

Researchers like Pablo Ripollés say it’s possible the daily music engagement is making a difference. As an assistant professor of psychology and associate director of New York University’s Music and Audio Research Laboratory in New York City, Ripollés was one of a group of investigators who identified how listening to music changes brain structure in stroke survivors.

Scientists know providing a rich environment can stimulate the brain and promote healing following a stroke, Ripollés said. His research has focused on using music to provide that enrichment, especially during the early stages of recovery when people are limited in what they can do.

“There is one thing you can do for those patients, even when they are in bed,” he said. “Maybe they cannot move very well, but you can provide an enriched environment by having them listen to music.”

Music therapy’s benefits can vary, and how much damage a stroke has caused to the brain affects how well it can recover. “We have good evidence that music therapy works in people who have not had catastrophic brain injuries,” Ripollés said. “Maybe a major one, but not a catastrophic one.”

More research is needed to see if music therapy can be more effective than traditional speech therapies, he said. But in the meantime, stroke survivors can listen to their favorite music or join a choir, if one is available in their area.

“This is something you can do on your own and for free,” Ripollés said. “It’s not going to harm you, and it might do you some good.”

Source: American Heart Association

Infographic: 北京市“十四五”时期交通发展建设规划

China’s capital vowed to increase the share of new-energy vehicles on the city’s roads as part of a five-year local traffic plan that foreshadows fewer restrictions on the purchase of passenger cars.

The plan is for the local NEV purchase quota to account for a greater share of Beijing’s total, though it will still cap the number of passenger cars at 5.8 million by 2025, according to the municipal government’s five-year plan for transportation development.

Source : 北京市交通委