Dont despair of the COVID obsessives, they are a cause for hope – Sydney Morning Herald

Unlike accused criminals, hospital patients get to remain anonymous when they do something so dumb it lands them in trouble. Mercifully, there was no name or sex attached to the COVID-positive Patient X admitted to Westmead Hospital after overdosing on the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.

Westmead toxicologist Associate Professor Naren Gunja concluded, Thankfully they didnt develop severe toxicity [from ivermectin], but it didnt help their COVID either. The treatment brought to mind another cure for parasites: the proverbial man who successfully eliminated his bed bugs by burning down his house.

MP Craig Kelly has been spruiking the benefits of ivermerctinCredit:SMH

But we can reconstruct Patient Xs logic. Ivermectin is a drug promoted by medical experts from Donald Trump to Craig Kelly MP, who claim it has anti-COVID-19 properties. Normally, it is used to fight worms, lice and rosacea. Its quite possible that it was Kellys leadership that persuaded Patient X to give it a whirl. I received a text from Kelly last week, being one of the lucky thousands of Australians whose phone number was hoovered up by his supposedly random distribution system. Thanks for the spam, Mr Kelly. I dont have rosacea (not now), worms (not since I was a teenager), and nits (ditto, when I had hair) but if I get COVID-19, Ill keep your musings in mind.

The thing about Patient X overdosing was this: in the remote possibility that ivermectin might work against COVID-19, you have to overdose on it to give it a chance. According to a 2020 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, ivermectin can only act against a virus (in vitro) at eight times the approved dose. The US State of Mississippi has reported that 70 per cent of calls to its poisons centre came from people who bought ivermectin at livestock supply centres. Fourteen other studies involving more than 1600 patients, in a review cited by the Australian Department of Health, have yet to produce evidence of ivermectins anti-COVID properties. Maybe the subjects just didnt take enough to bring on the vomiting and diarrhoea and, as with certain hallucinogenic fungi, its only after the puking finishes that things start happening.

But what would doctors know? We live amid the ultra-democratisation of knowledge, when Dr Google has hijacked our brains and made everyone a freaking expert.

The taps are fully open on instant expertise. Medical know-how is infectious in the community. Theres a public health expert whos been chalking footpaths near my house saying things like COVID 97 per cent survival and suicide rate up 53 per cent. Out on my allotted exercise time, not even the birdsong can keep up with the overheard snippets of expertise: authoritative declarations about vaccination percentages and infection numbers, ICU admissions, post-lockdown jobs data and Delta mortality rates. Some families are so surfeited with their own expertise that they have banned COVID-related conversation after 6pm. You just need a break from all that knowledge.


In these highly strung, data-obsessed days, few can resist the power of a scientific-sounding number. Who is not fixated on that double-dose rate hitting 70 per cent, the daily infection rate announcement to which we tune in every morning, the cultish allure of hard stats? These kinds of numbers used to be divided into two categories: lies and damned lies. The Soviets raised a love of numbers to a fetish: statistics on manufacturing production were one side of the coin on which the dark side was measured by quotas sent to the gulag. Even in benign places like Australia in the 1980s, few can forget Paul Keatings lustful gurglings of a beautiful set of numbers as he sought to educate the public on macroeconomics. Sufficiently educated, the public then hit him over the head with a number of its own, a 17 per cent interest rate. Today, citizens cite data as a cushion against anxiety.

Its easy to deride the epidemic of self-made expertise. But, as I drink from my half-full glass of home remedies, I like to think that what we are living with is a lot better than the alternative: a population which is indifferent, incurious, uninterested, asleep. I grew up in such a population. The so-called Generation X, raised in an atmosphere of post-Vietnam cynicism, pummelled by unemployment and rolling recessions, tended not to look to politics and public policy for solutions. Amid this general withdrawal, politics became a magnet for the mediocre. And now we reap the harvest of our apathy: the flower of Generation X in Canberra, the major political parties led by a charlatan and an incompetent. If you are Generation X or thereabouts, you must be embarrassed what your long-ago apathy has coughed up.

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Dont despair of the COVID obsessives, they are a cause for hope - Sydney Morning Herald

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