The Covid Test
Monday, February 01, 2021
The covid test. Feb 1,2121. As much as I support Public Health Measures, I also understand how the oversimplified explanations have caused confusion.
Covid is a respiratory virus, behaving similiarly to numerous others. The human race has never exerted so much expense and trouble tracking an invisible entity, only to find that a year after emerging it is everywhere, like the others. Case numbers mean little if not properly disclosed and explained. The commonest test we use is called the RT-PCR employed on swabs. It is not conclusive for INFECTION. It looks for practically invisible pieces of RNA that are similar to that found on one viral protien, reproduces it and multiplies it by billions of times and concludes at best that the test swab encountered some RNA resembling the virus. If there is a great deal of viral RNA present, then the test will not require as much magnification known as "cycling". It cannot distinguish between functional virus and digested RNA. If the test cycle is set for too high a magnification, the test will be positive more often. In Ontario, the test cycles are set "high" so it tends to be positive more often. False positives occurr, if a similar RNA piece is encountered from another virus, or poor handling, etc. Someone on whom this test is run, and meets the parameters arbitrarity set is considered POSITIVE. These people are commonly referred to as CASES. It does not necessarily mean you have an infection, but most of the time implies it. This is very important to understand and tease out the data. As humans, we carry numerous microbes and viruses that intereact with us and cause us no harm.
A "CARRIER" is someone who tests positive and harbours virus capable of transmitting to another human. It is almost impossible to determine who is who, and most health departments oversimplify it, and consider all positives as carriers or sick. COVID ILLNESS can be defined as having a positive test, along with at least 3 clinical symptoms such as fever, sore throat, fatigue, cough, muscle aches. The majority of this group survives. COVID DISEASE is quite rare and implies an unusual response to the illness. It invlovles severe shortness of breath, pneumonia, drop in blood oxygen, and a metabolic overexcitation of our immune system called cytokine storm. This small group is the ones that need hospitalization, possible ICU care, intubation and do poorly if burdened with other medical conditions. Ideally, if you could find a highly effective vaccine or protective medications that work in this group, it would be all you need. However, the problem is that we cannot identify who is who. Around 95% of people who go for testing are negative, despite the test being set at high sensitivity levels, which increase false positives. You may appreciate why simply reporting a positive number of tests each day, without stratifying the results can lead to false assumptions. This in turn can lead to well intentioned policies that may not meet their goals, yet burden society financially and obscure a storm of other health problems.
Covid deaths seem to be another daily news item. Without a good analysis, it is assummed that a certain number of positive cases simply go on to randomly expire everyday. This is highly inaccurate. Someone who has had a positive covid test and succumbs is attributed as a covid virus death. What is worse, the reporting differs widely around the world and even in North America. To measure the true burden of an illness, you need to examine and tease out the death data. Someone who has an incidental POSITIVE covid test, and dies of cancer, heart diesease, diabetes etc,, seems to be lumped into the covid statistics. I tried to find valid data on how many deaths are due to COVID DISEASE and failed. This type of reporting has obscured a concept know as the DEATH GAP. Many scholars are now looking at the "death gap". In basic terms it states that deaths from other causes are rising rapidly as compared to other years, and suggests that it is not due to this one virus, but due to the health effect consequences of the how the pandemic is being handled. In military jargon, it is referrred to as "collateral damage". The death rate in Canada, has slowly increased since 2010, largely due to our aging population. I was surprised to see that in 2020 there was no large spike, as you might expect.