Kevin McCarthy's debt to the 'anti-science resistance' is a recipe for 'epidemiological disaster': virologist

Kevin McCarthy's debt to the 'anti-science resistance' is a recipe for 'epidemiological disaster': virologist
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Three years ago in January 2020, reports of a then-new disease in Wuhan, China were becoming increasingly disturbing. That disease came to be called COVID-19 and has since killed more than 6.7 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Over one million of the fatalities have occurred in the United States.

In 2023, COVID-19 remains highly contagious but isn’t killing nearly as many people as it was in 2020 and 2021. Millions of people around the world have been vaccinated, and at this point, most COVID-19 infections aren’t fatal and aren’t serious enough to require hospitalization.

But in an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on January 9, Dr. Peter J. Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston notes that COVID-19 is “still killing hundreds of Americans every day.” And he fears that as House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California won’t give this problem the serious attention that it deserves.

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“McCarthy and his fellow Republicans have a disturbing set of plans for so-called oversight of the coronavirus that could divert precious resources from what must be our main goal in the coming years: preventing the next pandemic,” explains Hotez, who is known for his expertise in virology. “It’s still early, and the shape of GOP intentions — and their ability to enact them — are still very much coming into focus. But it’s clear that after years of far-right, anti-science resistance to vaccines or basic pandemic safety, the Republicans plan to satiate their base’s lingering anti-government rage. This could mean fresh epidemiological disaster — and not in 20 or 30 years, but within this decade.”

Hotez fears that McCarthy, as House speaker, will cater to unscientific members of his party.

“Just prior to the new year,” Hotez observes, “Republican members on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform also made a series of misleading or downright outlandish claims. Among them: that they had evidence that COVID-19 likely originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, that experimental and risky coronavirus research was funded by the NIH, and that said information may have been covered up by Dr. Anthony Fauci. The problem is these views represent an alternative reality to the findings from the mainstream community of biomedical scientists, especially the virologists.”

The Baylor College researcher continues, “Yes, it’s true that the so-called lab leak theory is not confined to the total fringe, and that well-credentialed experts — including Fauci — remain open to it. But three papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA last year tell a very different story for COVID-19 origins…. No findings can entirely rule out the possibility of lab leak, and I have long argued it is theoretically plausible. But the extensive studies and information collected even in the past year overwhelmingly point to animal origins of COVID-19.”

READ MORE: Watch: Dr. Anthony Fauci condemns the 'unconscionable' politicization of COVID-19 vaccines

Hotez warns that in the future, new coronaviruses could lead to deadly pandemics.

“We have now had three serious epidemics or pandemics from human coronavirus infections in this 21st Century — first SARS, then MERS, and now, COVID-19,” Hotez notes. “This is a reason my research group began making coronavirus vaccines a decade ago. Mother Nature is not being obscure or coy with us. She has let us know the plan: Every seven to nine years, the world will experience a serious, potentially worldwide pandemic from coronaviruses that likely first arise from bats before they jump to humans.”

The severity of COVID-19 infections varies from person to person. Some people test positive for COVID-19 but never have any symptoms; other infections could resemble anything from a minor cold to a bad case of the flu.

Millions of people who are getting sick with COVID-19 will feel bad for a week or two but go on to make a full recovery; those who have the misfortune of getting “long COVID,” however, can suffer debilitating symptoms that drag on for months.

According to a new study authored by University of Washington scientists Sarah Wulf Hanson and Theo Vos and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, “even mild COVID-19” infections can have “long-lasting effects on people’s health.”

“Long COVID is defined as the continuation or development of symptoms three months after the initial infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” Hanson and Vos explain. “These symptoms last for at least two months after onset with no other explanation. We found that a staggering 90 percent of people living with long COVID initially experienced only mild illness with COVID-19. After developing long COVID, however, the typical person experienced symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive problems such as brain fog — or a combination of these — that affected daily functioning. These symptoms had an impact on health as severe as the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury. Our study also found that women have twice the risk of men and four times the risk of children for developing long COVID.”

Hanson and Vos found that “nearly one out of every seven” people suffering long COVID “were still experiencing these symptoms a year later.”

“We found that patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 had a greater risk of developing long COVID — and of having longer-lasting symptoms — compared with people who had not been hospitalized,” Hanson and Vos report. “However, because the vast majority of COVID-19 cases do not require hospitalization, many more cases of long COVID have arisen from these milder cases despite their lower risk.”

READ MORE: 'A cascade effect': Leading Spanish virologist explains why China’s COVID-19 surge is 'worrisome'

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