Corona, False Alarm? Questions about a Book

Hi all,

Been a while since I posted anything of substance but I have been lurking in the background listening to the conversation. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has read a book doing the rounds at the moment called ’Corona, False Alarm?’ by Karina Reiss and Sucharit Bhakdi?

Now I will admit that I am instantly sceptical (bordering on cynical) of any book that puts a question mark in the main title. Reviewers (both on Amazon and the web) seem to be almost universally positive and contain the phrase ‘I’m not one for conspiracy theories but…’ which is always what you want to see in a review (!) They also claim that the book provides evidence the Pandemic is overblown by governments/Media and certainly does not require mask wearing, lockdowns, tracking, mass vaccination, etc. There a 10-point summary/review here: https://theweeflea.com/2020/10/05/corona-false-alarm/

On the face of it the authors look well qualified. From Amazon’s ‘About the Author’:

Karina Reiss was born in Germany and studied biology at the University of Kiel where she received her PhD in 2001. She became assistant professor in 2006 and associate professor in 2008 at the University of Kiel. She has published over sixty articles in the fields of cell biology, biochemistry, inflammation, and infection, which have gained international recognition and received prestigious honors and awards.

Sucharit Bhakdi was born in Washington, DC, and educated at schools in Switzerland, Egypt, and Thailand. He studied medicine at the University of Bonn in Germany, where he received his MD in 1970. He was a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg from 1972 to 1976, and at The Protein Laboratory in Copenhagen from 1976 to 1977. He joined the Institute of Medical Microbiology at Giessen University in 1977 and was appointed associate professor in 1982. He was named chair of Medical Microbiology at the University of Mainz in 1990, where he remained until his retirement in 2012. Dr. Bhakdi has published over three hundred articles in the fields of immunology, bacteriology, virology, and parasitology, for which he has received numerous awards and the Order of Merit of Rhineland-Palatinate. Sucharit Bhakdi and his wife, Karina Reiss, live with their three-year-old son, Jonathan Atsadjan, in a small village near the city of Kiel.

Cards on the table, I have no time to read the book and rake through the 300 odd footnotes myself. So utterly shamelessly,

  • I was wondering if anyone else had read it/heard of it/ was willing to give a scientific perspective - or even readers perspective - on the book?
  • I was also wondering if anyone knew of the authors/has heard of them/read any of their work?

As ever look forward to hear your thoughts and learning from your insights.

EDIT: I should say for the record, I don’t hold, nor am I in anyway inclined to, the view of the authors. :+1:

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Hey brother! I hope you’re doing well. :slight_smile:

I haven’t read the book, but I just want to say…

For my part, I don’t believe the pandemic is overblown. At all. Consider that the Spanish Flu, a terrible outbreak in 1918, killed almost 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. COVID-19 is already 1/3 of the way there. The year is not quite over yet, and cases are on the rise. And this is 2020. Imagine COVID-19 in 1918 with no ventilators or the technologies we have today…

To those who think it’s just a harsher form of the flu–according to the CDC, in the influenza season of 2018-2019 just 34,200 people died. COVID-19 truly is a plague of our time.

1918 Spanish Flu

2018-2019 Influenza

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No neither do I. Which is why this book concerns me.

For my part I have tried to keep track of the scientific arguments impacting UK policy (Studies from Imperial College London, for example) but I am time-poor and lack the scientific knowledge to defend - rather than simply assert - the findings.

Great point about the Spanish Flu. My heartbreaks for the US - so many lives lost, so many families grieving. Truly tragic.

I am well, my friend, thank you. We are currently in our second Lockdown here in the UK though not as harsh as Lockdown #1 as schools are still open and it is projected to last or 4 weeks. However, it has put our church in a strange limbo-land as places of worship are closed for the period, we’re planning Christmas events and children’s events for the festive season but not sure if we’ll be allowed to hold them. Very odd indeed.

Congratulations on the new addition to your family.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. ~Psalm 127:3-5 (NIV2011)

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In reading over the summary points, it reads pretty much like what the less-rabid critics write here on Facebook, restating some of the most common misconceptions.

Covid-19 is the third leading cause of death here, behind heart disease and cancer, so I think there is no false alarm, though we could have handled it a lot better in many respects. The retrospectoscope always is more revealing than what we see peering into the unknown.

One of the more naive assertions made is that covid is misreported, and many deaths were due to co-morbidities. In actuality, that can be said of virtually all deaths. Even a large percentage of deaths due to auto accidents have the co-morbidity of alcohol abuse. Of course, there are always a few mistakes make in both directions. No doubt with the hyper coagulation problems, many deaths from strokes, MIs, and pulmonary embolism were due to Covid and unrecognized. It still is true that without Covid, those people would still be alive. Many were near death already, but many were not, including a pastor friend of mine.
It always hurts when people suffer, whether be it physically or economically. No doubt we could have done better at supporting economic struggles during shut downs, and perhaps could avoid shutdowns if people did a better job of washing hands, respecting space, and wearing masks. One of the great ironies in my opinion is that the same people who oppose shutdowns, are the main contributors to those same shut downs as they are the ones opposing masks and hygiene measures.

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Thank you. It’s hitting lots of places hard. I can’t speak for the UK, but I know that our politics here in the US are heavily intertwined with our COVID-19 response. Of course, people also tend to intertwine science and religion with US politics, too. Hurray for culture wars.

That is wonderful to hear! :slight_smile:

We haven’t been to church since the quarantine originally got serious (it has been lifted for some months, though). I miss it. We are able to see the church services live via social media, but it’s simply not the same. I miss being around people. Hugging them. Laughing with them. Crying with them. Sharing stories. It’s really not the same. And I say this as a strongly introverted individual.

Our church has something called Missional Communities. It’s basically small groups. We go out and serve at various places, or we share a meal and have Bible study. Can’t do any of that, either. :frowning:

Thank you! :slight_smile:

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Ah the “good old days” when we drove carts of bodies to dump in mass graves. Why can’t we just do that again? So what if there are too many sick people for doctors to even look at let alone treat. If they are going to die, then they had better do so and decrease the surplus population. Who do these government and media people think they are, trying to stop this age old tradition. Why in the world should we listen to the scientists? The leadership of game show hosts contradicting themselves in every other tweet is far more entertaining. Why watch horror movies when we can live in one?"

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Some have said that many of the deaths that occurred during the Spanish Flu were caused by bacterial pneumonia, a side effect of wearing masks and being exposed to bacteria and unclean air. How valid is that?

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Hi Liam,

Hope all is going well “across the pond” for you and those you love.

I did a few searches on the SPIKE-COVID19 database hosted by Allen Institute for AI to address the key points. BTW, I highly recommend that site, although it does occasionally (like all machine learning models) make mistakes.

Some key misses in the book’s analysis are:

Efficacy of masks

I did a search on and found 3 papers that support the efficacy of widespread use of masks in reducing transmission:

The key point here is that an individual mask may or may not protect an individual wearer, but widespread use does protect the public at large.

I haven’t read the book by Reiss and Bhakdi, but it’s possible that the studies they cite address the claim of mask-wearing to protect the individual mask wearer. That is a different question altogether from the public health question.

Reporting of Cases

The authors seem to argue that a swab test is insufficient as a diagnosis in the absence of symptoms. This is grossly irresponsible, as it ignores the importance of identifying asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers.

Transmissibility has been shown to begin 2 to 3 days before the appearance of the first symptoms [5], peaks at 0.7 days before symptom onset [5] and may last for as long as 21 days in asymptomatic individuals [6]

Causality of deaths attributed to COVID-19

The authors seem to argue that the presence of co-morbidities indicates that mortality due to COVID-19 is being exaggerated.

The best way to analyze the authors’ claim IMO is to assess whether excess mortality above expectation has been occurring since February 2020. Of course some people would be expected to die of diabetes complications, hypertension complications, etc., regardless of COVID. But the expected number of those deaths during the period since 2/2020 can be estimated with good accuracy. Have there been excess deaths above that expectation?

In the USA, the answer is an unequivocal “unfortunately, yes.”

Source: CDC Dashboard

Note that the number of excess deaths very closely matches the number of deaths in which COVID-19 is listed as a cause of death on certificates of death.

Peace,
Chris

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Secondary bacterial infections are common in flu cases, and always have been. It has nothing to do with wearing a mask.

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A little more than halfway down under the heading of “ Cases at nursing homes and long-term care facilities”

“Coronavirus cases have been reported in more than 23,000 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to data collected by The New York Times from states, counties, the federal government and facilities themselves. More than 581,000 residents and employees of those homes have been infected, and more than 87,000 have died. That means more than 35 percent of deaths from the virus in the United States have been tied to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

and here too.

87,000

Other news media and blogs are saying “at least” and then adding various lower figures at around 50,000 to 60,000. Some are quoting much higher figures. I put down what I thought was the most reliable with a number.

This was totally unnecessary. I don’t believe that the richest country in the world couldn’t find other ways to accommodate these people.

Their qualifications are irrelevant. I don’t care who does the science, they didn’t. And the millions who died from ‘Spanish’ flu lived all over the planet breathing every kind of air, at least half clean, non-industrial, even in the western front trenches where it started, and the vast majority not wearing masks.

That is true. Secondary pneumonia is a common cause of death in flu, and has nothing to do with masks. I am not aware of any valid studies that link acquiring pneumonia to wearing masks. The only germs you would be getting from a mask are the ones you breathe out, except for perhaps from touching the mask with your hands, but that should be about the same as the amount people touch their faces without masks.
Some people with flu also die of the same sort of cytokine storm that Covid causes, but mostly the young healthy ones. As I recall, pregnant ladies had a rough time with H1N1, and it was also associated with thrombotic events. None of which are caused by masks.

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When we got the flu in 2019, my son and I recovered without incident. My wife needed an antibiotic because she developed pneumonia. No masks worn.

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Agreed it is shameful. But then so is the failure to put in place a national plan. Strategic periods of universal mask wearing could have greatly reduced the carnage.

@LM77, count me among the number who have missed your participation even though I appreciate that you are doing good work and prioritizing appropriately.

Here in the states it will be hard to initiate a national plan now after all this time when the plan has been to keep declaring its end is just around the corner and that there is only the binary choice of restarting the economy or winning the war against COVID. I’m sure most business owners want to open with some assurance of not immediately having to shut down again. But that will require a unifed, cooperative effort. Hope you’re getting that on your side.

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We may also be interning a different phase of benefit from masks. Earlier, it was all about flattening the curve so as to not overwhelm medical resources, whereas with the eminent release of what looks like an effective vaccine, delaying infection with masks will directly save lives.

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What scientific biomedical evidence is there that the virus causes the cytokine storms?

There is decades of evidence that viruses cause the release of cytokines and can induce cytokine storms. People are getting infected with SARS-CoV-2. Some are suffering from cytokine storms. Connect the dots.

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I appreciate @T_aquaticus’ excellent answer. Also, the steroid treatments that have helped reduce COVID-19 mortality are administered with the express purpose of suppressing cytokine storms.

Peace,
Chris

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Thanks @MarkD. You’re very kind.

Whilst I don’t disagree, I am concerned about the impact of an effective vaccine of people’s willingness to social distance/wear masks. We are in our second Lockdown here in England and people are not only fatigued but also less afraid and so more willing to break the rules. If/when a vaccine hits the shelves, I fear people will more readily break the rules because they will think ‘Oh well if I get it, they’ll just give me the vaccine and I’ll be fine.’

Sure, I realise a vaccine is not the same as a cure. But given that the British press’ science journalists couldn’t distinguish between ‘efficacy’ and ‘effectiveness’ in their reporting on Pfizer Biontech trail, I don’t think it unreasonable for people to confuse vaccine and cure.

AMAZING! Thank you so much. I certainly be bookmarking that page.

Thanks also to @T_aquaticus and others for helpful replies. And thanks to all for the warm wishes :).

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Very much so here also. We have more disease now than ever, but people are less careful. I agree that education is paramount so that people know it is too late once infected to get a vaccine.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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