Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Oct. 16: Researchers Have a Possible New Explanation for Long Covid, Warning Issued Over Ketamine

Darwin Award Winners: Some People Believe Vaccines Can Cause Autism in Dogs

By Jonathan Spira on 16 October 2023
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Snickers the Wonderdog says, “Only you can prevent rabies.”

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,314th day of the pandemic.

In news we report today, there’s more good news on the Long Covid research front, canine vaccine hesitancy – or CVH – is a thing, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about unsupervised treatment of patients using ketamine.


In Philadelphia, a team of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania proposed a new explanation for some cases of Long Covid. Their findings suggest that serotonin levels were lower in some people with the complex condition.

In their study, Serotonin Reduction in Post-Acute Sequelae of Viral Infection, they posit that the condition is associated with reduced circulating serotonin levels and that serotonin depletion is driven by viral RNA-induced type I interferons, or IFNs.  The IFNs in turn reduce serotonin through diminished tryptophan uptake and hypercoagulability. The resultant peripheral serotonin deficiency then impairs cognition via reduced vagal signaling.

Not everyone with Long Covid would necessarily suffer from low serotonin levels but the researchers believe that at least a subset of patients with the condition would respond to therapies that activate this pathway.


The World Health Organization designated the omicron sublineage BA.2.86 a variant of concern although it is yet to be seen whether it is as worrisome as some might believe, given that there haven’t been that many cases yet.


Going to the dogs? A study published last month looks at the hesitancy a number of humans responsible for canines in their households has in arranging for proper vaccinations for man’s best friend.

The report, entitled Sick as a Dog? The Prevalence, Politicization, and Health Policy Consequences of Canine Vaccine Hesitancy which was published in the journal ScienceDirect, found that, out of 2,000 humans contacted by YouGov for a survey, 53% of respondents indicated some degree of vaccine hesitancy in one of several ways. Specifically, 37% believed that these vaccines were unsafe, 30% that they were unnecessary, and 22% that they were ineffective.

Interestingly enough, the study also found that 37% of humans who cohabitate with dogs believe that canine vaccination could cause autism in a canine.

Of greatest concern is the fact that vaccine hesitancy appears to extend to rabies vaccinations – mandatory in roughly 80% of states in the United States – and the disease is fatal in both man and beast once symptoms appear.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issuing a warning saying that unsupervised treatment of patients using ketamine – a practice fueled by telemedicine prescriptions –  to address various psychiatric problems poses a number of health risks.

The agency, which cited reports it had received of adverse incidents, warned that the unsupervised use of compounded ketamine would heighten the risk of dangerous psychiatric reactions and health problems in patients.  The list of such reactions and health problems includes an increase in blood pressure, respiratory depression, and urinary tract issues that can lead to incontinence.

Undone by years of losses, pharmacy chain Rite Aid filed for bankruptcy on Sunday.  The company faces hundreds of lawsuits over the opioid crisis, and said it was unable to find the money to settle hundreds of federal, state and private lawsuits alleging it oversupplied prescription painkillers.

A fraudster convicted of leading one of the largest-ever healthcare frauds who was freed from prison after receiving executive clemency at the end of the Trump Administration will be retried on six charges for which no verdict was ever rendered.

Philip Esformes bribed medical professionals to admit patients to his network of assisted-living facilities and nursing homes for services that were never provided and/or were unnecessary.


Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, October 16.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 696.62 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.02 million in the past day, and 6.93 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 668.55 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.02 million.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday at press time is 21,138,920, a decrease of 8,600. Out of that figure, 99.8%, 21,100,856, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,064, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.

Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 108.93 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.18 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,930.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July 2022, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 40.14 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.51 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 706,142, has recorded 37.85 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are South Korea, with 34.57 million cases, as number six; Japan, with 33.8 million cases placing it in the number seven slot; and Italy, with 26.17 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.74 million, and Russia, with 23.06 million, as nine and ten respectively.


In the United States, in the week ending October 7, 2023, the test positivity rate was – based on data released on October 13 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 10.1%, a figure that is down 0.8% from the previous 7-day period, while the percentage of emergency department visits that were diagnosed as SARS-CoV-2 was 1.4%, a figure that is down 17.7%.

The number of people admitted to hospital in the United States due to SARS-CoV-2 in the same 7-day period was 16,766, a figure that is down 8.2%. Meanwhile, the percentage of deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 was 2.5%, a figure that is down 3.8% over the same period.


Some 70.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.51 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 18,512 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 32.6% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.

In addition, with the beginning of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines in any significant number.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)




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