Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Super-Vaccinated: We Burmese Don't Get Wuhan Virus?

When I was five or six years old, me and almost all the boys and girls my age were forcibly vaccinated by the government doctors and nurses at the local hospital in Mawgyun Town in the vast Irrawaddy Delta of lower Burma where I grew up.

The horribly painful vaccine was a so-called super vaccine to prevent almost all the viral diseases prevalent in Burma that time. That super vaccine was to protect us From Cholera, small pox, measles, polio, and whatever horrible diseases responsible for the very high infant mortality rate back then in Burma.

But the unexpected side effects were horrendous. We all got seriously sick from the reaction and almost all vaccinated children ended up in the hospital and a few including my one friend died, I still remember. I still have two huge  vaccine-scars each the size of an Aussie-two-dollar coin on my left arm even after nearly 60 years.

But the super vaccine works as I did not catch any of the viral diseases the vaccine was to protect me from. No cholera, no small pox, no polio, and not even that dreadful hepatitis which was very common in Burma could not harm me.

Forward 55 years to 2016 when I had a minor stroke in Sydney, Australia and I was taken to the Emergency of Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH). I have a very high chronic hypertension and my late father had a debilitating stroke when he was only 51 and died later at 55. Stroke was my main worry and when I had a blurry vision for more than two hours I asked my son to take me to the RNSH our local hospital.

The emergency doctors checked me out thoroughly and decided that my stroke was not a serious one but the symptoms were indicating I might have deadly meningitis infection. So they took some spinal fluid out of my spine and took me into the inpatient ward. The so-called lumber puncture to suck out spinal fluid was so painful I couldn't sit down or walk for nearly two days.

Later the tests came back negative, but with some strange results. So they took out my blood so many times for all sort of tests. Three or four days later a large group of specialists came to my bed and one doctor explained to me that I had so many anti-bodies in my blood and they wanted to know if I had any serious diseases before, especially all hepatitis.

antigen; antibody; lymphocyte: Phagocytic cells destroy viral and bacterial antigens 
 by eating them, while B cells produce antibodies that bind to and inactivate antigens.
So I told them I never had hepatitis and they didn't believe me. They said I had hepatitis anti-bodies in my blood and thus I must have hepatitis at one stage in my life. They stated that I had other different antibodies too and to study they wanted to keep me at the hospital for a couple of weeks more. So I stayed on for more days at the brand new hospital.

But after ten days I was so bore I protested so much they let me go with a strict condition that I must go see my GP regularly. I agreed and they let me go with the warning that I must contact my GP immediately. Of course I completely ignored their warning and a month later I got a stern call from my GP to come see him.

The old Aussie doctor (which is quite rare as almost all the doctors manning the suburban GP clinics in Sydney nowadays are foreign-born doctors mostly Indians and Chinese) showed me the about 30 pages long test report from the RNSH. I was shocked as even he couldn't understand why they did that many tests on me, just for a case of suspected- meningitis.

He asked me if I ever had hepatitis after explaining to me the meaning of antibodies in my blood. According to him antibodies are protective proteins produced by the immune system in response to the presence of  foreign substances, called an antigen, either bacteria or viruses.

He also told me that I could have been vaccinated earlier in my life. Then suddenly I remembered of that super-vaccine I got when I was five or six and I told him. Anyway he let me go and I forgot about all that after totally ignoring repeated calls from the hospital and him.

Then amidst current Wuhan Virus pandemic I discovered that my former homeland Burma had not a single case despite having a 1400 miles long porous land border with horribly virus-ravaged China. A thought suddenly came into my mind that I and other Burmese are all immune to the Wuhan Virus because of that super vaccine we all Burmese get as a 5-6 years old child. Thanks Almighty God for forcing us Burmese to live in a filthy environment filled with all sorts of nasty viruses, and thus giving us rare immunity from the made-in-China Wuhan Virus!

Burma (Myanmar) is completely white (zero case) beside completely black China (1000+ cases).
              Wuhan Technological University, is still living in Wuhan and still virus-free.
Myanmar has zero coronavirus cases, claims ASSK
(Amanda Holpuch's article from the GUARDIAN UK on 18 March 2020.)

Experts cast doubt on officials’ assertion in country that has 1,400-mile border with China: The porous Myanmar-China border stretches more than 1,400 miles but coronavirus cases have only been reported on one side.

In China, more than 80,800 people have been infected, but according to Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, the country has not yet seen a single confirmed case. “Until now, no one in our country is infected with Covid-19,” said the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in a televised address on Monday.

To the country’s west, 114 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in India and five in Bangladesh. Myanmar’s southern neighbour, Thailand, has reported 114 cases. Attempting to explain the anomaly, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s government has claimed that people’s “lifestyle and diet” protected them from the disease – stoking concerns the country is downplaying the impact of the respiratory illness.

Zaw Htay, a government spokesperson, also said the common use of cash instead of credit cards, helped curb the spread of the illness. There is no evidence to show that diet or banknotes can stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Such irresponsible statements clash with everything known about the coronavirus outbreak, defy reality, and only serve to give a false sense of security to the country’s people about the disease and their risks of infection,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch, in a blog post.

Ten patients in Myanmar are currently in quarantine awaiting test results, according to the government. Globally, there are more than 161,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in 150 countries or territories. The World Health Organization said the global threat from the respiratory illness is high.

“The government’s public lack of concern has sparked rumours and speculation about the government’s response, leaving many distrustful and unable to make informed decisions for their families,” Robertson said.

Aung Aung, a surgeon at Mandalay general hospital in Myanmar, told the New York Times: “I don’t think Myanmar has the modern techniques to know whether the virus is here.” Facing questions from reporters, Zaw Htay acknowledged scepticism about the government’s claim there are no coronavirus cases in the country, but insisted it was accurate.

Even without any reported cases, the government has banned festivals and entertainment events in April, including the Thingyan festival, the biggest annual holiday in the country. The government has also started a fund to raise money from the public to support its response to the illness. “I urge those of you who would like to donate to give as much as you can,” said Aung San Suu Kyi.

Experts fear the pandemic is spreading unchecked and under-reported in the region's poorest countriesPoor will suffer from Southeast Asia's Covid-19 denial: The governments of Southeast Asia’s poorest nations are at last waking up and have become very concerned about the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Many have been in denial and very slow in their responses. The poor will bear the brunt of this governmental incompetence. Myanmar, Laos and Timor-Leste still have no official cases of the virus, while infections remain low elsewhere in the region.

Here are the latest figures for countries in UCA News’ coverage area according to Johns Hopkins University data: China (81,074), South Korea (8,320), Japan (878), Malaysia (673), Singapore (266), Pakistan (236), Philippines (187), Thailand (177), Indonesia (172), India (142), Taiwan (77), Vietnam (66), Brunei Darussalam (56), Sri Lanka (44), Cambodia (33), Maldives (13), Bangladesh (10) and Nepal (1).

Yet the reason for these seemingly low rates is simple: the lack of testing kits. This issue is exacerbated by very basic health services, even in urban areas, and a lack of or confused public information about the disease.

Many poorer countries including Myanmar have been relying on donations of testing kits from wealthier nations such as Japan, which has been at the forefront of helping Myanmar with its response. Even Indonesia, which has ordered 10,000 testing kits, is chronically underprepared.

Experts fear that Covid-19 is spreading unchecked and under-reported in Southeast Asia’s poorest countries — Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste. The underlying, or real, number of infections was highlighted on March 17 when Cambodia announced its number of infections had doubled overnight to 24. That is in line with the sort of rises that have been seen in other countries where testing has been more widespread.

Until recently, Hun Sen, Cambodia’s dictator prime minister, had said that the country’s warmer weather would protect people from the virus. Yet there is no certainty about the nature of this pathogen and its relationship with external heat and humidity, traditionally factors in slowing seasonal influenza pathogens. Again, Hun Sen’s weeks of inaction have left his citizens at greater risk.

The lack of testing kits is a genuine concern. The best medical advice is that the more that people showing symptoms can be tested, then authorities can start tracing who these people have been in contact with. They can then isolate as many people as possible from a disease that has an infection rate of between 4.5 and six people per patient, according to scientific research.

Myanmar is a good example of a government hardly known for its competence belatedly moving into gear. In recent days it has introduced a raft of measures included blocking travel to the country from countries where infections are high: China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France and Spain. More countries are sure to join the list. Myanmar has also belatedly canceled its annual Thingyan water festival, part of the nation’s week-long New Year celebrations.

Similar festivals are also held in neighboring Buddhist countries Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Those not yet canceled are expected to be soon, but such action should have been taken before now.

Governments in Southeast Asia have often bungled their responses to the coronavirus. The best example was Singapore closing its borders on March 15, largely in response to wealthy Indonesians fleeing their country and checking straight into Singaporean hospitals, effectively bringing the disease to the city-state.

Such incompetence will hit the poor harder than the wealthy elites who can afford health care and to be isolated, not relying on daily street contact for their living. Advice from health agencies that people should stay at home if they are feeling unwell, or begin to stockpile food in response to the coronavirus outbreak, is surely well intentioned, but it fails to take into account the most vulnerable members of society.

“Guidance to date is of limited use to people without adequate safety nets. Workers in the informal economy may not have the luxury of staying at home without paid sick leave,” said Vidya Diwakar, senior research officer at ODI, an independent think tank focused on poverty.

People living in or near poverty often lack disposable cash and cannot easily stockpile food. Hunger, malnutrition, pneumonia and other forms of health-related shocks and stresses compound vulnerability to the virus and contribute to a vicious cycle of disease, destitution and death. Poverty can fuel contagion, but contagion can also create or deepen impoverishment, he added. This crisis has a long way to run.

After fighting the Chinese for so many years Burma Army is still taking serious on the Chinese virus threat.
(Blogger notes: There were extensive vaccination programs in Burma during British colonial rule mainly to protect the British military and civilian-government personnel serving in British Burma by vaccinating everyone including the native Burmese. Extensive reports in British colonial archive can still be accessed through internet.) 

Related posts at following inks:
Vaccination propaganda in 19th century British Burma (SOAS paper).
Vaccination in British Burma (1920-1933).

(March 23 Update From Kyodo News, Japan)

Myanmar (Burma) Is Still free of Wuhan Virus  

Myanmar still claims to have avoided the coronavirus pandemic despite being surrounded by three countries battling the virus, including China where the outbreak started. As of Friday evening, 176 suspected cases have been tested since January, with none having returned a positive result, according to the government. Additionally, 12 suspected cases are still awaiting test results, the latest health ministry update said.

Although no confirmed case has been identified, the authorities are taking measures to prevent the virus from gaining a foothold in the country. Strict temperature screening and health checks are being implemented at shopping malls, hotels and restaurants and occasionally even at parking lots since mid-February.

The government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has decided to cancel most events and celebrations involving mass gatherings, including the annual water festival Thingyan held in mid-April. It has also ordered the closure of cinemas, bars and karaoke bars until the end of April.

Suu Kyi's administration has announced tax relief plans for small businesses and low-interest loans for the garment sector, aiming to keep factories running and to minimize the impact on the economy. On Friday, the government suspended visas on arrival and e-visa systems temporarily for all foreign nationals as part of its stepped-up precautionary measures.

It also began enforcing a compulsory 14-day quarantine for all travelers arriving from or having visited the United States and eight more European countries including Britain during the past two weeks. Compulsory quarantine regulations were earlier announced for travelers arriving from China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Spain and Germany.

Myanmar shares a nearly 2,200-kilometer land border with mainland China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, and a 2,400-km border with Thailand, which announced 89 more cases Saturday. The country also shares a 1,600-km border with India, which has over 270 confirmed cases.

(Reuters) - Myanmar reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus in two men who had recently traveled to the United States and the United Kingdom. The Southeast Asian nation had been the most populous country in the world to say it had no cases, despite sharing a long and porous border with China, where the virus originated in the city of Wuhan.

The health ministry said a 36-year-old traveling from the United States and 26-year-old returning from Britain, both Myanmar nationals, had tested positive. “Investigation is ongoing on history of people who have been in contact with these two patients,” it said in a statement late on Monday. The news of the confirmed cases sparked panic buying in the commercial capital of Yangon, with shoppers packing major supermarkets.

Myanmar last week closed land borders and banned mass gatherings, including for the upcoming Buddhist New Year. Cinemas have been closed, though bars and restaurants remain open. Government spokesman Zaw Htay told a news conference earlier this month that the “lifestyle and diet of Myanmar citizens” had protected the country against the virus, while others credited the country’s Buddhist religion.

Some doctors say they fear a major outbreak though in a country with a health system ranked among the world’s worst after decades of neglect under military rule. Many services are run by volunteers and aid groups.

Two doctors told Reuters a likely explanation for the lack of cases in Myanmar was limited testing. Myanmar had carried out around 300 tests as of Monday evening, in a population of 51 million, according to health ministry spokeswoman Khin Khin Gyi. “WHO has said, ‘test, test, test,” she said. “But who should we test? It has said specifically that we should test the suspected cases... We don’t test random people.”

Until recently, each test had to be approved by a central committee based in the capital of Naypyitaw, she said. Thousands of migrant workers have returned to villages across the country in recent days from Thailand, which has confirmed hundreds of cases, raising fears of further spread of the virus.

“If these people have the virus, and it spreads widely, the situation will be very bad,” said Kyaw Ko Ko, a community worker from the city of Meiktila. “All we can do is sit and wait to collect all the dead bodies.”