Saturday, 15 February 2020

Boeing 737 Max: A 'Plane Made by People That Don't Know How to Make 'Planes?

After the two crashes of the 737 Max and it's subsequent grounding, it would only be right and proper that the FAA do due diligence and go over the aircraft with a critical eye.
After all, was there anything else along with the MCAS system that Boeing slipped past the regulators?

Well, it seems the FAA are unhappy with a number of aspects of the 737 Max. Obviously MCAS itself appears poorly implemented, but the modifications to MCAS threw up other issues with the flight control software systems.

Now it appears the FAA have concerns about the routing of wiring within the aircraft. Given that the 737 is design that has been made since the 60's, how have Boeing not just routed wiring in the same old locations?

The more that comes out about the 737 Max, the more it appears there were several departures from previous 737 iterations. Yet Boeing is on record making out that the Max is just the same or as similar as possible to previous versions.

It makes you wonder if the people involved in the 737 Max project had any experience with the previous models. Did Boeing sack everyone and put new inexperienced team on the job? Did the team have any experience in making an aircraft before? What seems certain is that there are many aspects of the 737 Max that the FAA weren't aware of and are unhappy with now they are coming to light.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) Update

So Novel Corona Virus (2019) has an official title now: COVID-19. Not as snappy as NCoV but hey, officialdom isn't renown for it's snappiness...

So, an update: The Southampton school was deep-disinfected because some kids had a cold when they came back from Singapore. Fair play, better safe then sorry.

Mr Super-spreader has been given the all-clear and sent home. He's no longer infectious. Hopefully.

There's a prisoner in Bullingdon jail that is suspected of having the virus after being shipped over from Thailand. We'll see how that pans out.

A bunch of people (apparently foreign tourists) in London are in isolation at St. Thomas' after having flu-like symptoms after coming back from the far East.

So, thankfully it appears the UK is on top of the situation.

Thankfully we closed down direct flights from China some days ago. I was surprised to see a video that insinuated that the USA hadn't closed down air links to China. A bad move, considering anyone can walk through the border without symptoms but still be carrying the virus.

Even indirect flights might be a risk as it's a way of subverting the bio-security afforded by the closure of direct links.

I've actually got a car part coming from Hong Kong. Hopefully it'll be in the post long enough so the virus won't be a risk factor. ;-) Maybe I'll give it a wipe with a disinfectant wipe, just in case...

But hopefully as we reach the limits of the quarantine/incubation period, the UK will emerge COVID-19 clear.

Then we just nuke China... sorry, I mean hopefully the Chinese can get on top of the virus and get back to normality.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Gamechanger: Novel Corona Virus.

The New infectious disease, the Novel Corona Virus that originated in the Wuhan region of China, is a real gamechanger amongst infectious diseases.

The more we hear about it, the more it seems the "precautions" advised by the World Health Organisation and the various foreign governments are following the curve, rather than ahead of it.

Standard procedures for this sort of thing used in the past for the SARS and MARS outbreaks don't work with NCoV.

Both SARS and MARS weren't infectious until symptoms emerged. That's why an effective method of spotting infected cases at airports and the like was to use temperature sensors.

The first scary thing with NCoV is that those sort of checks don't work with NCoV. Patients are without symptoms (asymptomatic) and still infectious. So a carrier can walk around without a temperature, or a cough or any other symptoms and still spread the virus.

That means the virus is hard to contain. If it's spread without symptoms, ANYONE could be a carrier no matter how healthy they look or feel. The only way to contain it is to contain and isolate the area of the outbreak.

For cases that arrive in new countries, the only effective way to contain the virus is to close down the area around the cases and let the virus run it's course. The current practice of taking patients to hospitals outside the infected area is bad. Believe me, it's very bad. You just end up creating new hotspots.

Travel into and out of infected areas should be stopped.

In the UK we've already seen how a person can pick up the virus in an area away from the initial outbreak (in this case Singapore), then flew to France (possibly infecting a new bunch of people on that flight), he then stopped off in France infecting a whole ski-chalet's worth of people, one of whom flew back to Spain (again possibly infecting a flight's worth of people). The Brit then climbed aboard an EasyJet flight back to the UK, most likely infecting another bunch of people because by now we know he was infectious from the cases in France.

The Brit then infected another person in the UK. There's now a link with a Doctor's surgery in Brighton and a school in Southampton. The details are sketchy at the moment, but if this is true, then the virus is already out in the wild in the UK. We may never isolate the virus or stop it from spreading. Not without drastic measures.

But even if this person infected 10, 20, 30 or even a hundred people on the flights he took between countries and then infected a bunch more wherever he landed, this UK case proves the infectious nature of the virus. The WHO infection rating of 2-3 is way off the mark. How many other people will these new infections go on to infect?

The second scary thing about NCoV is that if you are infected and survive, unlike the flu, you don't get immunity. China has already reported instances of re-infection. Whether this is just people with colds wrongly diagnosed as NCoV sufferers going on to contract NCo after being dragged onto plague wards with NCoV sufferers, or whether it truly is re-infectious we have yet to really confirm. But governments should be treating it like it is. The best defence is not to get infected, so isolation of infected areas needs to happen and happen quick.

The thing is, if the virus is re-infectious and kills off a small percentage of it's victims. You can be in the first wave and survive, a small percentage dies. In the second wave of re-infections, another small percentage dies off. But if you don't get immunity from previous infection, that cycle continues until there is no-one to infect. EVERYONE DIES FROM NCoV EVENTUALLY.

The third scary thing about NCoV is (and it is only supposition at the moment), but if satellite pictures coming out of Wuhan are correct, there is a chance that even dead bodies are infectious. It seems that China may now be burning dead bodies  on a large scale. This suggest that even dead bodies are not safe to handle and the only way to "sterilise" them is to burn them.

That suggests the virus can live without the host being alive for some time. A very scary thought.

Not only for the management of the bodies of victims, but also for the spread of the virus. If it can live on without a live host, then it can live on door handles and other public surfaces for some time and be passed onto people without direct contact.

The Final scary thing is the incubation period seems to be very long. Initially it was thought to be 12-14 days before patients exhibited symptoms. But reports suggest that patients can actually go as long as 24 days without exhibiting symptoms but still be infectious. So in China, patient that had been released from quarantine after not exhibiting symptoms, went on to not only become symptomatic, but also infect any close contacts at the same time.

The more information we get about NCoV the more scary it gets. The more it seems a very efficient virus. Spreading easily, hardy enough to infect without direct contact and able to re-infect. Fatal in a small number of cases, but with the ability to re-infect ad-infinitum and chip away at the numbers of victims until there are no hosts left.

The amazing thing is I see no action from governments to get a handle on the problem. Right now, the situation is fluid and the more we hear about NCoV, the more it seems the "standard" precautions are inadequate.

If I was an isolated country with no cases, somewhere like Iceland, I'd close the borders now. No-one in or out. No flights, no boats, nothing. If necessary for up to 6 months. Let the rest of the world find out how infectious the disease is and how deadly it is.

For the rest of us, well only time will tell. Hopefully on one of the waves of infection the virus will mutate into a harmless version, or possibly it mutates into a version that allows our immune system to recognise the virus and create some immunity.

Without it and without some pretty serious quarantine measures, we are pretty much toast.

We certainly need to get some truthful and open information from the Chinese authorities about numbers of infections, mortality rates, infection rating, re-infections rates, incubation period, longevity out of the body and other information about the virus, otherwise how could we hope to ever contain it. W eneed to be ahead of the information curve, not behind it.

A final note is about the conspiracy theories about NCoV, especially the rumours about it being a Bioweapon accidentally released. It has all the hallmarks of one: being hard to spot, hard to contain, highly infectious, hardy and finally fatal. But a natural-occurring virus transferring between species also has the same traits.

Normally a virus doesn't kill it's host and probably in the original carrier (Supposedly Bats) and probably in the host organism it doesn't kill them all off. But when transferring to humans, there is no such guarantee. The virus could wipe out this new host quite easily, unless it has the chance to mutate into a less deadly version, or something happens to trigger our immune system to fight it off.

It's not necessarily the trait of a bioweapon, just the risk you take when you transfer a disease from one host to another. Bad animal husbandry is a very effective way to initiate this transfer between species. Just remember that the next time you eat one of your eggs from a battery hen...


Doing a mental exercise here: just think if the Government gave out advice to anyone in contact with an NCoV carrier to self-quarantine. Who would pay their wages while they were waiting the two weeks or a month to see if they had contracted the virus? How would the government stop or encourage people to stay indoors?

Given the severity of the virus and the infectious nature, surely another step for the government would be to underwrite any loss in pay and/or benefits for those that had to self-quarantine?

Otherwise people will just go to work as normal.